Ko Si Chang
Ko Si Chang (เกาะสีชัง) is a small island, population 4,500, near Si Racha.
In the Gulf of Thailand, Ko Si Chang's proximity to the shipping lanes has made it a convenient anchorage for dozens of barges which transship their cargoes to lighters 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 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. Refrain from topless or nude sunbathing/swimming.
By bus You can catch a government bus from Bangkok's Northern Bus Terminal (Mo Chit) or Eastern Bus Terminal (Ekamai). Both stations have buses that leave everyday, on the hour. The trip to Si Racha takes about 2 hours. At Mo Chit, go to Window 54 to purchase your ticket. Tickets are 92/88 baht one way from Mo Chit/Ekamai and there is no discount for buying a return fare.
By boat Upon arrival in Si Racha, take a tuk-tuk for 50 baht to the pier. Boats to Ko Si Chang leave hourly (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.
The information counter at the pier in Ko Si Chang provides useful information and a brochure identifying five important locations on the island, written in Thai and English. This counter may not be open in low-season.
When leaving the island, be careful. The ferry may leave from a pier different from the one you came in on. It's best to ask a local motorbike taxi driver when you are close to the piers, and he will direct you.
By tuk-tuk Motorcycle buffs will be intrigued by the strange motorcycle samlors peculiar to Ko Si Chang, three-wheeled motorized rickshaws with outrageously powerful car 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 groups of tourists, a 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 the pick-up truck, which can accommodate 10 persons, is around 500 baht. Tourists can spend however long they wish at each location, and the pick-up time for the next location can be agreed as you get off at each location or you can call the driver's mobile phone when needing pick-up.
By motorbike By far the most popular way to get around the island is by renting a motorbike, usually priced at around 300 baht/day. As there are few steep hills, the island is easily navigated by novices. Motorbikes can be rented at the pier, or at many guest houses or rental facilities along the main road
By foot For travellers 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 walk to most places in less than an hour.
- Buddha's Footprint and Lookout. Accessible 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, ring the bell three times.
- Rama IV Summer Palace and Gardens (Halfway down the east coast). The remains of the 19th century palace. You can spend an hour or two wandering around the old buildings, gardens, the pier, and the small beaches.
- San Jao Phaw Khao Yai (Northeast of the piers). This venerable multi-level Chinese temple is perched high on a cliff and has a spectacular view back toward the mainland. The temple 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.
- 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.
- Caves. Of interest is the large cave known as Tham Saowapha which is said to extend over a kilometre 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.
- 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 island offers beautiful sunsets seen off Taam Pang Beach or Chom Kao Kard.
The cafe on the beach is very good, with reasonable prices.
- Pan and David's. A good mix of Western and Thai food.
- Ban Khun Ning Sichang Resort, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. A nice place to stay. Built in Thai residence style, it offers guests large and comfortable rooms. Air-con, hot showers, free Wi-Fi, coffee/tea, and cable TV. 600+ baht.
- Charlie's Bungalows. A centrally-located guest house. Air-con, hot showers, and cable TV. 900 baht.
- Jeff Bungalows. Spotless rooms with DVD, cable TV, free coffee/tea/soft drinks. 600 baht.
- Malee Blue Hut. Built in an old Moroccan-style mansion called "Dracula's Castle" by the locals. Air-con rooms go for 1,200 baht, including cable TV and breakfast.
- Sichang View Resort. Set in a large, pretty tropical garden near the sea in a prime cliffside location on the west coast of the island. There are good sunset views. There are 13 air-conditioned rooms and a restaurant which serves Thai, Western, and Chinese food. Wi-Fi from the rooms or the restaurant.
- Tham Phang Beach Resort, ☎ . Not the cleanest or cheapest accommodation, but it is on the island's only real beach.
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 torch would be helpful.
Be careful when leaving the island. Your departure pier may not be the same as your arrival pier.