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Trevor's Tales

June 2003
Updated July 2006

Ko Si Chang: Meditation Cave Temple
This article, by a Bangkok expat, describes some of the hidden delights, including caves, folk art and a unique temple awaiting the committed traveler at Ko Si Chang Beach Thailand.

Giant freight ships with names like "Transpac" and "Unithai" line up at the harbor around Si Chang, forming a protective barrier of industrial ugliness as if to repel all but the most committed traveler. Not many Western or even Thai tourists ever make it to Ko Si Chang, the small island about three hours outside of Bangkok. There are neither white sandy beaches nor full moon parties and the place just doesn't fit into any resort developer plans for a big return. So, the island remains a small Thai village, comfortable with its role in history and secure in the knowledge that it's special charms are in no way diminished by the lack of acclaim.

The first thing you notice when you get off the ferry from Si Racha, are the tuk-tuks (taxis) that resemble a cross between A Harley Hog and the space ships from the Jetsons. The colorful tuk-tuks sport six cylinder Toyota engines that propel the light-framed vehicles around the hills and valleys of Ko Si Chang. According to our tuk-tuk driver Noy, Ko Si Chang's hilly terrain required a more powerful vehicle than the standard tuk-tuk and also had to be capable of transporting larger groups of people and goods than the tuk-tuk drivers in other parts.

Ko Si Chang is linked together by a series of narrow roads that circle and transverse the hilly terrain. There are pockets of fields in the hills, but they are covered with oblong smooth boulders that would make farming near impossible. I hadn't seen boulders like this elsewhere in Thailand and the terrain bore a similarity to the Hill Country of Texas. The coast of Ko Si Chang is lined with cliffs and caves and there are only a few sandy beaches.

Hat Tham

Our bungalow, Sri Phrisanu, was on Hat Tham (Literally "Cave Beach") and overlooked a bay that was surrounded by partially submerged caves. You could walk to some of the caves at low tide. Other people fished and snorkeled and the rocky water promised lots of fish. The bungalow actually sat on sort of a cliff, and you had to navigate several flights of stairs to get from the bungalow and then again down to the sea. There was very little sandy beach but in a way the cliffs were more beautiful than traditional beach scenery. Each room had a veranda that looked out to the sea.

One of the interesting aspects of Ko Si Chang in general, and our bungalows in particular, was the prevalence of "rock art". We noticed several places where ornate mosaics of stones and seashells were attached to signs and buildings to form a quirky type of folk art.

Wat Yai Prik

Wat Yai Prik is a meditation Wat (Buddhist temple) built into above a series of limestone caves. The temple is open to visitors and there are individual meditation areas, both man-made rooms and natural caverns. The nuns act as guides and introduce themselves when you arrive. Our guide was the pleasant "Buey" and she had lived at the temple for seven years.

Buey was somewhere in between 30 and 40 years old and wore brown monastic robes. Her head was shaven and her features were pleasant. I considered how different she was from so many of the Thai females that have given Thailand a reputation. The bodies were basically the same but the life choices were different. In this vein, I imagined what Buey would look like with long hair, too much make-up and skimpy clothes. However, my imagination failed and I couldn't conjure up a realistic image of a nun-turned-bar-girl.