Ko Si Chang
Ko Si Chang (เกาะสีชัง) is a small island near Si Racha, population 4,500.
Situated in the Gulf of Thailand, its proximity to the shipping lanes has made it a convenient anchorage for dozens of barges which transship their cargoes to lighter boats for the trip up the Chao Phraya to Bangkok. Ko Si Chang makes a nice weekend outing for local tourists.
While the beaches are not as enjoyable as those on islands further east and south, such as Ko Samet, tourists can explore the remains of a former royal palace which was built as a summer retreat for King Chulalongkorn. The royal residence was abandoned in 1893 when the French occupied the island during a conflict with Thailand over who would control Laos. The Island also has many places of religious interest and value.
Please be respectful of the local culture and wear modest clothes when visiting the temples and religious shrines. Always remove your shoes and cover your shoulders when entering a holy area. Refraining from topless or nude sunbathing/swimming would also be polite.
By Bus You can catch a government bus from Bangkok's Northern Bus Terminal (Morchit) or Eastern Bus Terminal (Ekamai). Both stations have buses that leave everyday, on the hour. The trip to Sriracha takes about 2 hours. At Mo Chit proceed to window 54 to purchase your ticket. Tickets are 92/88 baht one way from Morchit/Ekamai and there is no discount for buying a return fare.
By Boat Upon arrival in Sriracha, take a tuktuk for 50 baht to the pier. Boats to Ko Si Chang leave hourly (or every two hours in low season) from the pier on Ko Loy. The ferry takes about 40 minutes and is 40 baht per person each way (as of December, 2009).
The information counter at the pier in Ko Si Chang provides necessary information and a brochure carrying the information of five important locations of the island written in Thai and English languages. This counter may not be open in low season.
When leaving the island be careful. The ferry may leave from a different pier then you came on. It's best to ask a local moto-taxi driver when you are close to the piers. He/she will direct you.
By TukTuk Motorcycle buffs will be intrigued by the strange motorcycle samlors peculiar to Ko Si Chang, three wheeled motorized rickshaws with outrageously powerful automobile or Harley Davidson engines. These once roamed the streets of Bangkok but were banished to Si Racha years ago. They can be hired for about 60 baht an hour to take visitors on a tour of the island.
For group of tourists, one day around the island transport package can be arranged at the pier. The charge for the three wheeled motorized tuk tuk, which can accommodate 5 persons, is around 250 Baht, and for the pick-up truck, which can accommodate 10 persons, is around 500 Baht. Tourists can spend their own time at each location, and the pick-up time to the next location has to be discussed beforehand (as you get down at the location) or can call the driver's mobile phone when finished at a spot.
By Motorcycle By far the most popular to get around the island is by renting a motorcycle, usually priced at around 300 baht/day. While there are a few steep hills, the island is easily navigated by a novice motorcycle driver. Motorcycles can be rented at the pier, or at many guest houses or rental facilities along the main road
By Foot For travelers who have more time or want to see the Island at a slower pace, the Island is easily navigated by foot. All of the Island's main attractions can be seen in one day, and you can get pretty much anywhere on the island in less than an hour.
Sunsets The island offers beautiful sunsets seen off Taam Pang Beach or Chom Kao Kard. The latter location has a nice walkway, benches, and gazebos build onto all hill, all with the intention of offering great sunset views, and all for free. The walk from the road to the lookout point is quite nice.
Caves Of interest is the large cave known as Tham Saowapha which is said to extend over a kilometer into the limestone interior of the island.
Another cave, the chimney-like Tham Chaprakong gives access to the view from the top of the hill. Other caves on the island are home to meditating hermits, so visitors should take care not to cause any disturbance.
Many of the temples on the island also have caves used for worship which can be explored as long as you are being respectful.
San Jao Phaw Khao Yai Located Northeast of the piers this venerable multi-level Chinese temple is up a high on a cliff and has a spectacular view back toward the mainland. The templ has many rooms and caves to be explored. To the right, just before entering the main hall, you will see stairs leading up to Buddha's footprint.
Buddha's Footprint and Lookout Assessable from the main road, or from San Jao Phaw Khao Yai, this lookout offers amazing views of both the Island and the small lake known as Buddha's Footprint. The lookout has a shrine and a bell. If you wish to notify the spirits that you are visiting, you may ring the bell three times.
Wat Tham Yai Prik This large temple on the hill includes a giant golden Buddha visible from the ferry, as well as many other Buddha statues. The temple has a great view, caves, and many buildings to explore. The local monks will be happy to show you around and offer a blessing for a modest donation.
Rama IV Summer Palace and Gardens Located half way down the East coast is the remains of this 19th century palace. You can spend an hour or two wandering around the old buildings, gardens, the pier, and the small beaches.
Taam Pang Beach The only real beach on the island offers nice swimming and good snacks. Beware of rubbish which can find it's way onto the beach when the tide comes in.
The eatery at the beach is also very good as well with reasonable prices.
Be careful at night. As you move away from the more popular areas, the street lighting is poor or non-existent. If you are planning on walking around the island, a flashlight would be helpful.
As mentioned above, be careful when leaving the island. The ferry may leave from a different pier then you came on. It's best to ask a local moto-taxi driver when you are close to the piers. He/she will direct you.