If you’ve been reading along since the beginning of my adventures in Thailand, then you already know that I’ve traveled to Koh Sichang and written about it before. Since I had my cousin and a friend visiting us for two weeks and my brother had three of his friends staying with us, I thought that visiting the island would be a perfect way to show our guests what it’s like outside the city, without the headache of traveling too far outside of Bangkok and also staying on a relatively cheap budget.
Koh Sichang is located in the Chonburi Provence of Thailand. It’s about a three hour bus ride from Bangkok to the town of Sriracha. From there you grab a tuk-tuk to the pier and take a 30 minute ferry ride to the island. While waiting for the ferry to arrive you have the option to explore local vendors and visit a Chinese Buddhist temple nearby. Koh Sichang is small and you’ll mostly encounter local fishermen and shop owners. In fact, there were probably only a handful of tourists like ourselves on the island.
I learned my biggest lesson about Thailand during our trip to the island.
Thailand is always changing. Never expect what you experienced the first time around, because more likely than not it won’t be the same, for better or for worse.
The mysterious, little, green island I expected to be greeted by was dry and partially burnt this time (due to the drought and a fire that had recently broken out on the island). The island was smoggy, in fact all of Thailand was a lot more smoggy than it was during my first visit. The waters were no longer the crystal clear blue you envision when you think of Thai beaches. Much of the town looked a lot more run down than I remembered. Even my favorite banana pancakes from a local restaurant had been modified from their original fluffy, chunky goodness to a flat, crepe-like version. It was a valuable lesson, to always expect the unexpected in Thailand and be prepared for things to not go exactly according to plan.
Regardless of the changes, it made this trip unique for me. Rather than just acting as the tour guide for everyone who hadn’t been there before, It was almost as if I was visiting for the first time. And I left with brand new memories and experiences that I will treasure forever.
We had about an hour until the ferry was due to arrive so we made our way to the temple to kill time. Walking up the steps, we were greeted by a group of kittens and their mama. We all split up to explore by ourselves. I was busy taking photos when I hear “Chanel, look at Chris”. I turn around to find my brother’s friend with blood pouring down his face. He somehow managed to snack his head on one of the enormous temple bells that were hanging right in front of him and slice his forehead open. I was freaking out – it took a lot of time persuading my parents to let us adults take my 17 year old brother and his friends with us to the island. I was responsible for 4 teenage boys and we hadn’t even made it to the island yet, before shit hit the proverbial fan and someone got hurt! Chris was very calm and reassured me that he was fine, then asked me to take his picture. One of the temple caregivers kindly bandaged his forehead while a monk ironically just sat in the background and laughed. Come on, OMboy. No one would be laughing if you cracked your head open.
Soon after the ordeal was taken care of, we made our way back to the pier and boarded the rickety old ferry for our island destination.
After docking on Koh Sichang, we were immediately bombarded with locals asking if we wanted a tuk tuk ride or to rent their motor scooters.
Scooters are the best form of transportation on the island. You can drive around the entire island in probably an hour, that’s how small this place is. But we decided to wait until we got to our bungalows to rent ours from the owners.
I rented our rooms from Booking.com and decided to stay at Charlie’s Bungalows. This was my second time staying here, and I loved it so much the first time that I didn’t even bother to look at renting other places. It’s cheap, the owners are friendly, it’s conveniently located in the middle of town, and you can rent your transportation directly from them. The bungalows are small and humble, with not a whole lot to them amenity-wise…but in my experince, you aren’t coming to this island for a relaxing, pampered weekend like our stay in Phuket. You’re coming to explore, eat delicious local cuisine, visit temples, ride motor scooters all day, go snorkeling, get chased by monkeys, cut your feet open on coral, and (in our case) spend the evenings getting really drunk on Sangsom.
I was starving, so before we even made it to the bungalows I stopped by the “Pad Thai Lady” who was cooking my favorite Thai dish on the side of the street. This Pad Thai was different than any other I had eaten before. Of course, like all Thai dishes, there is variation to them everywhere you go in Thailand. It was a really small portion (like 4 bites small), made with glass noodles, and had the tiniest, crunchy baby shrimp sprinkled on top. You’d have to taste it and had to of eaten many different Pad Thai dishes to understand the difference I’m talking about, but it was so good I had to go back for seconds (and thirds and fourths).
We stocked up on water at the local 7/11 store, changed out of our sweaty clothes and into our swim suits, then got on our motor scooters to head straight for the beach. There’s really only one beach worth visiting – Tham Phang (Collapsed Cave) Beach. It’s on the other side of the island and has a restaurant and snack bar right next to it. We were still hungry from our three+ hour journey and couldn’t wait to eat. I ordered Pad See Ew – don’t let the name throw you off, it’s actually delicious. It’s similar to Pad Thai in that it’s a noodle dish, but made instead with much thicker noodles and generally has broccoli along with other veggies added to it. This one was made more like a soup, with a delicious gravy broth added to it – Yum.
We enjoyed our first official meal on the island as we watched the sun set over the ocean and took a quick dip in the water after dinner. Then we made our way back to the bungalows, where we drank too much and laughed way too loud until 2am.
The next day, our only full day on the island, we started off by eating breakfast at a place I had visited on my previous trip to the island. A little restaurant called “Food”, located on the front porch of someone’s home. They serve American and Thai food. I ordered the banana pancakes, a fresh banana smoothie, and a side of French fries (don’t ask me why, I just had a weird craving for ketchup). I love this place, It’s so adorable and quaint. This sweet old women and people who I assume are members of her family, cook up the meals right in their own kitchen.
After breakfast, we rode around the entire island to get a feel for everything. The boys were driving so fast, they almost crashed into some wild boar that can be seen roaming all over. We had bought snorkeling gear earlier and found a secluded spot to swim at. I noticed the coral was super sharp and there was broken glass everywhere, so I advised everyone to keep their shoes on when getting in the water.
My brother’s friend, Brooklynn, took his shoes off and jumped straight into the water without thinking. Bad decision, dude. He immediately sliced both of his feet open, probably on some coral. Oh dear lord, not another injury already. The cuts were super deep but he seemed fine once the bleeding stopped, until about 5 minutes later…when his normally tan skin turned completely ghost white. He decided he wanted to lay down, so half of our group rode with him back to the bungalow.
My brother, cousin, brother’s friend, and I stayed behind to ride around the area some more. After a while of doing that we went back to town to see how everyone was doing. We were greeted by my cousin’s friend, Kayden, who had a frantic look on his face. He said that he just got done taking Brooklynn to the local hospital and needed to grab his passport for him!
We immediately drove to the hospital. We waited in the lobby and played with a cat – yes, a cat just chillin’ inside the hospital. While they bandaged his feet up and gave him a shot of something, no one knows what. It cost him something like 200 baht total, which is about $5. I laughed as the Hangover 2 movie quote ran through my head – “8 stitches, it only cost $6, how is that even possible?!”
Then we took the poor kid back to the bungalow to rest, where he threw up violently a few times and then finally felt well enough to eat something and relax for the rest of the night.
While he rested, we decided to stay away from that part of the island and go to the original beach from the day before, to snorkel and swim before it got dark on our last full day on the island. There’s nothing to crazy to see, little fish swimming here and there. Apparently the spot we were at is the best place to snorkel, and you can even swim a few minutes to the tiny neighboring island if you dare. But we decided to play it safe.
After swimming, we drove up to Buddha’s Footprint. We stopped to admire a group of macaques that were eating on the side of the road. So cute. Until I got a little too close to one while taking photos and the thing full on charged at me while I ran away screaming like a little girl. Other than traffic accidents, monkey bites are the second most common reason people are sent to the hospital in Thailand…I think we had our fair share of accidents during this trip already. Luckily, the beautiful, panoramic views of the island and the fact that we had Buddha’s Footprint entirely to ourselves made up for my almost-dangerous encounter with the vicious monkey.
The group made our way towards the Chinese Buddhist temple, Saan Chao Pho Khao Yai, located inside a cave on the Northern part of the island. Two friendly dogs even hopped on some of our motor scooters to accompany us for the ride. The pack of soi dogs who live at the temple weren’t too happy that we brought our canine friends into their territory…but we shooed them away and our little Labrador friend even followed us up the giant steps into the temple. It was completely empty – most likely closed for the night. But we went in anyway.
We admired the magnificent statues, views of the harbor, and wrote wishes on the left over strips of red paper that are meant for visitors to write blessings onto before taping them to the cave walls. There is something about being alone inside these sacred spaces that is so enchanting. I’m glad we got to experience this temple when it was devoid of any other humans besides ourselves – only the presence of ancient spirits, bats that clung to the roof of the cave, and the wishes of thousands of visitors who came before us fluttering in the island breeze.
To end our night we ate at a restaurant called Pan & David’s, which is one of the more expensive restaurants on the island. I ordered their cheese and pickle platter and a delicious tuna melt. Then, after dinner we had a few drinks under the warm, island moonlight and reminisced about our adventures before resting up for our long journey home.
I’ve attached a video montage from Youtube that I made of our latest trip to Thailand. It highlights our flight there, Songkran water festival, and our journey to Koh Sichang. Enjoy!
Safe Travels, xx