Or Koh Sichang, a Thai island, like they used to be...
A lot of people in Thailand say “Like Thailand used to be” or “The old Thailand,” normally followed with a line about how Thailand isn’t as good as that time anymore. We like Thailand, there’s lots it offers (check out our other articles on Thailand to see what!) but it probably is true what they say; the mass tourism that it has enjoyed over the last few decades (our first visit was in 1998!) has changed Thailand. It’s not as cheap as it used to be, or as undeveloped, or as romantic. There’s too many tourists and too much “mainstream” catering to these tourists. Too many buckets, moon parties, hotels and so on. Thais have also changed, they are not as friendly, not as honest and they often see visitors as personal cash cows. So yeah, maybe Thailand isn’t as great as it used to be.
But! There are some havens. There are some places that have escaped most of this change, that haven’t seen all the tourists and so have maintained some of that original charm. One such place is Koh Si Chang. It’s only 3 hours from Bangkok (from Ekkamai bus terminal), cheap to get to (less than 500baht bus and ferry return) and truly truly magical! We don’t know why more people don’t go.
We were there during Songkran in 2016 and we found it almost completely devoid of tourists (or many people at all). There were lots of places to stay, mostly empty, and most had a real charm about them. There was great food, great swimming, exploring and lots of things to see and do. The people there were the best too, genuinely helpful, friendly and honest. We loved it and we cannot recommend it enough!
We stayed at Benjaporn Bungalows (around 1000 Baht a night), which was really nice, in a good location and with helpful staff. The staff were really great actually, they rented us a motorbike for cheap (200 Baht a day), lent us a fishing rod and helped us navigate the island. There are lots of other cool places to stay though, including at the rambunctious “Madame” Pompoi’s place (Bai Mai resort but it's not on the web, you'll have to find it when you are there!) or more romantic and calm hotels overlooking the sea (Sripitsanu Bungalows but see photos for more details). We also recommend Charlies Bungalows, The place with the cute huts in the photo (you'll need to hunt for that!), and Sichang Palace. Nowhere was much below 1000 baht, but we think it’s worth it to see an old style Thai Island and to visit a little bit of paradise so near to Bangkok.
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The beach is wide, clean and has places to chill or get some food or drink and is called Tampang Beach. There are other beaches though, 3 hidden ones you’ll have to find for yourself near Rama IV house and another completely deserted one on Bat Island. We just asked at the pier and for a small fee got transported for the day to this almost completely deserted and idyllic island just off Koh Si Chang. We highly recommend a visit but take wet shoes as there were quite sharp rocks and sea urchins. You also need to take your own food and water as there’s nothing there (it looks like maybe there’s a restaurant and some huts for the high season time but it was closed and deserted when we were there); it is worth it to be on your own desert island though.
To pass the time you can drive around and find some action and things to see yourself, or you could visit the Chinese temple and surrounding complex, or climb to the top of the big hill that dominates the Island (enter from the Chinese Temple complex), go fishing off the pier, go see Rama IV’s house, visit the Aquarium or go see the Golden Buddha. That’s what we did and they were all great experiences, though there’s a few other things to do which we didn’t get a chance to. More details are available here and in the links below. There’s also a Vipassana temple on the Island (as usual, check photos for details) which we’re determined to get to.
In fact, the Island is of some spiritual import to Buddhists and there’s lots of other history to discover. We enjoyed meditating at various locations on Koh Si Chang, it just felt really good to do it there! We had also a really great massage at Koh Si Change Healing house and the lady there was very knowledgeable about herbs and healing.
For food we loved Pee Noi’s seafood, Sichang Grill, another grill/restaurant place opposite Sichang Palace, Flower Blue for coffee and breakfast, Belinda Pizza and a Shabu place near Flower Blue, and Pan and David’s (who also have more info about the Island). There were others which we didn’t get to try. There wasn’t much nightlife but you could get a drink with loud music at both the grills and there was always something going on at Madame Pompoi’s place!
So, for a truly old style Thai heavenly Island paradise, get going to Koh Si Chang…but, well, at least try to keep the secret!
Check out our photos below:
Koh Sichang photos: Click on the arrows to scroll, or on the image for a larger version (in a pop-up)
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