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.
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.
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
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.
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 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.
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.