Just two kilometers off the shores of Sri Racha (Chonburi province) in the Gulf of Thailand, Koh Si Chang offers a lovely day trip from Bangkok. Clean and calm waters, a relaxed pace, and a family-friendly atmosphere make it a haven from the hustle and bustle of the Thai capital (as well as nearby Pattaya).
In addition, Koh Si Chang boasts some interesting history and culture; former kings (Rama IV, V, and VI) vacationed here with their families, and several palace structures remain, open for visitors. The island also houses a small museum, temples, restaurants, and hotels. For the latter, options include small resorts and bungalow-style accommodations, should you wish to stay overnight for a fuller experience (the sunset is a highlight).
Getting There: The 100 km trip from Bangkok to Jarin Pier in Sri Racha takes approximately 1.5 hours, along either the Bangkok-Chonburi Motorway or the Bangna-Trad Expressway. There is no parking at Jarin Pier so it would be best to have a driver who can park and wait for you in Sri Racha or a hired car with a driver.
From Jarin Pier, catch the ferry to Koh Si Chang, which leaves every hour from 7am to 8pm (weather permitting). The ferry ride takes around 45 minutes. The ferry from Koh Si Chang to Jarin Pier also leaves every hour, from 6am to 8pm. The fare is 50 baht per person each way.
Island Transportation: Private cars are not allowed on the island so there is just light bicycle, motorbike, samlor (a large tuk tuk, essentially), and minibus traffic. You can arrange for the rentals of such modes of transportation at the pier.
Things to Do: So, what is there to do? First, swimming and playing on the beaches! Children will enjoy splashing in the gentle surf; the crystal clear waters also make it good for snorkeling and kayaking. You have your choice of several excellent beaches. Tham Phang Beach, the island’s largest and most popular beach, features a sandy beach with some rocks. Amenities include deck chair and umbrella rentals; kayak, inner tube and snorkel equipment rentals; and a few restaurants serving fresh seafood and simple Thai dishes. It can get busy on the weekends so it’s best to visit on a weekday if you relish peace and quiet.
Many of the smaller beaches around Koh Si Chang are pristine and peaceful; however, many lack any sort of facilities or amenities, so prepare accordingly.
Another popular destination, the cliff-side Chao Phor Khao Yai Chinese temple features peaceful chambers and caves. Further up the cliff, you can find a small lake (referred to as the Buddha’s footprint), a Thai pavilion, and a small shrine to pay homage to the footprint. This is a great lookout point, with expansive views of the old town, port and Gulf of Thailand. In the interior of the island, Wat Tham Yai Prik, a Buddhist temple and meditation centre, also offers views of Koh Si Chang and its surrounding isles.
For a glimpse of history, visit Judhadhut Palace, built by King Chulalongkorn well over a hundred years ago as the Royal Family’s summer residence. Interestingly, the palace was deserted in 1893 when the Koh Si Chang was briefly occupied by the French. The main teak building, Vimanmek Mansion, was dismantled and re-built in Bangkok. On the palace premises, Wat Atsadang Nimit showcases a fusion of European and Thai architecture with its white stupa atop the church-like building.
The ocean, beach, culture and adventure can all be had on Koh Si Chang, relatively inexpensively. Definitely a good destination for the family’s travel short list!