Updated September 4th, 2018.
Not to be confused with the much larger and more popular island of ‘Koh Chang’ in Trat province, Koh Si Chang is a magical little island close to Bangkok that exists mostly unknown to international travellers!
This piece of paradise in the Gulf of Thailand only has one beach, which is quite small, and the mountainous terrain makes this an interesting island to explore.
Unlike nearby islands, Koh Si Chang is not a party destination and doesn’t even have any bars in town! With little tourist infrastructure to attract people, the island stays relatively quiet, especially on weekdays. However, despite the laid-back atmosphere, there is plenty to do to keep visitors busy.
Koh Si Chang is primarily a fishing island, and the town is filled with people who make their living from the sea.
Due to the fact that, for the time being, so few foreign travellers visit the island, the majority of residents don’t work in the tourism industry, although this is rapidly changing.
However, at the moment, instead of trying to sell you a cheap souvenir or a snack, locals typically just go about their day and don’t bother travellers. However, don’t think that people here are rude! When you stop to talk to people, you’ll receive nothing but smiles and gracious hospitality. This is the way Thailand is meant to be!
The ferry pulls up to a pier in the heart of town, which is also where are the restaurants and the majority of the attractions are. However, you can rent a motorbike right on the pier which will allow you to head straight to your accommodation if you’re travelling light. Many resorts also offer pick-up from the pier.
Where to stay on Koh Si Chang?
Most of the resorts and bungalows (of which there are only about 20!) are located in the north of the island in the main town, which is where the main pier is located. There are no backpacker hostels as of yet and, due to the lack of accommodation, the prices remain quite high (competition is often the driver for lower prices in Thailand). However, there are some decent options starting at the 1000 THB mark ($25 USD).
Here they are in order of the cheapest first:
Sichang Shine Khao Resort: (In town) This ‘resort’ is the cheapest place to stay in town, but it’s not very charming and it doesn’t get great reviews. However, if you’re on a budget, it’s perfectly clean and doable and there are loads of cheap restaurants nearby. Rooms from $22 USD.
Wilailak Bungalows: (In town) With brightly coloured concrete bungalows, AC rooms and hot shower, this is a decent option close to the centre of town and about a 10-minute drive from Tham Phang Beach (the island’s only real beach). Rooms have a fridge, TV, wardrobe and they offer free pick-up from the pier which is 1km away. From $25 USD per night.
Charlie’s Bungalows: (In town) Charlie’s Bungalows is one of the most popular places to stay on Koh Si Chang offering bright, clean and modern bungalows located in well-kept gardens. It’s a bit of a drive to the beach (10 minutes) and close to the main road in town where there are a few restaurants. It’s easy to rent a motorbike from Charlie’s to explore the island. Rooms start at $30 USD.
Sichang My Home: (In town) This homely place gets rave reviews and it’s easy to see why. Sichang My Home is an authentic Thai-style wooden house with converted modern and stylish rooms, complete with balcony and hammock. The house is located in a beautiful tropical garden in the centre of town, yet remains super peaceful. The hosts are really friendly and will make you feel very welcome during your stay, which includes free bicycle and free pick-up from the pier. Rooms start at $35 USD.
Paree Hut Resort: (In the south) If you’re looking to stay outside of town in a more secluded location, consider these beautiful eco-friendly cottages by the sea. The resort has a gorgeous natural-style outdoor pool located right next to the sea and the bamboo huts are rustic, yet luxurious. A charming cottage with a fan costs $99 USD and with AC $117 USD. It’s a unique experience to stay here.
Things to do in Koh Si Chang
Haad Tham Phang Beach:
As with any Thai island, the main draw on Koh Si Chang is the beach! Haad Tham Phang is the only real beach on the island, and though it’s very small it has everything that you need.
Despite its small size, the beach doesn’t feel crowded because there are so few people. The crystal clear water is a stunning blue/green, and at low tide, you can walk out far from shore in water that’s shallow enough to stand.
There is a kayak rental kiosk on the beach, and a small shop operated by the Tam Pang Beach Resort that sells beer.
Explore the island by motorbike:
Motorbikes are the primary form of transportation on the island and are a practical necessity if you want to bounce back and forth between town and the beach.
The mountainous topography of the island makes for some amazing riding, though even a beginner motorbike rider could handle most of the roads.
One great place to discover is Cape Nguu, with the postcard-perfect views that backpackers expect to find in Thailand.
Another fun road to find is a route between the beach and town that takes you up the mountain and past the Wat Tham Yaai Prik.
Get in touch with nature:
In addition to the beaches and mountains, Koh Si Chang has other interesting options for getting in touch with nature. There are friendly wild boars who roam the island, and they even will come lie down next to you when you’re relaxing on the beach!
If you’re more interested in marine animals, the Chulalongkorn University Aquatic Studies Program is based on the island and offers a free aquarium. The signage is all in Thai, but the fish are still beautiful to watch.
If you’re interested in learning about Buddhist culture, Koh Si Chang is a great place to do it. In town is the giant Yellow Buddha, also known as Tham Chakrabongse.
There are beautiful views from Buddha’s lookout, in addition to the many smaller Buddha statues and even a cave that’s open for exploration.
Additionally, well worth the trek out of town and up a mountain is the only copy of Buddha’s footprint in Thailand. (It’s a replica that was brought from India to Thailand by the Royal Prince in 1891.) Ring the bell three times to let the spirits know that you are there to pay homage, and then leave a few baht in Buddha’s footprint for good luck!
Understand the local culture of Koh Si Chang:
Koh Si Chang also has a fascinating local culture. The island is the home of a Chinese temple, also known as Saan Chao Pho Khao Yai, which is the Shrine of the Father Spirit of the Great Hill.
For good luck, you can light firecrackers off the temple’s patio, and a small donation will ensure happiness for your family.
In more recent history, Koh Si Chang was the prime vacation destination of the fifth king of Thailand, and the Chudhadhuj Palace is open for tours where you can feel like royalty for a day.
How to get to Koh Si Chang?
All ferries for Koh Si Chang leave from the mainland city of Sriracha about 60-90 minutes southeast of Bangkok, so the first trick is getting there. When purchasing tickets, be careful not to mix up the island’s name; if you say Koh Si Chang they’ll sell you a ticket to Sriracha, but if you accidentally say “Koh Chang” they’ll sell you a ticket to Trat. Very few foreigners travel to Koh Si Chang, so it’s likely they’ll be expecting you to say Koh Chang instead. Always confirm that your minibus or bus is going to Sriracha and not going to Trat.
The easiest and most basic way to get to Koh Si Chang is by minibus from Victory Monument in Bangkok to Sriracha. At the point when the minibus route is closest to the ferry pier they’ll just pull over and put you out on Sriracha’s main road. As soon as you’re out of the minibus, tuk-tuks will stop by and offer you a ride to the ferry pier.
The other option is to take the bus from Bangkok to Sriracha. Buses leave from the eastern Ekkamai bus station and will take you directly to the Sriracha bus station. Tuk-tuks are waiting at the bus station to take you to the ferry port.
The ferry from Sriracha to Koh Si Chang is a 40-minute ride across the Gulf of Thailand. It’s a relatively small boat with no services on board, but the trip itself is fun travelling through very busy shipping lanes and past many small islands. Be careful: The ferry that leaves Koh Si Chang for Sriracha leaves at the pier next to the one at which you arrived! When you’re leaving, make sure you’re going to the pier that’s next to 7-11.
Where to go next?
Bangkok: Koh Si Chang is only a hop, skip, and a jump to one of the largest and craziest cities in Southeast Asia!
Koh Samet: After relaxing in Koh Si Chang’s laid back atmosphere, you’ve earned a trip to Koh Samet, central Thailand’s most well-known party island. If the beachfront fire shows and buckets are calling, Koh Samet’s the place to go!
Pattaya: If you’re looking for an urban environment that’s smaller and less hectic than Bangkok, and even has urban beaches, Pattaya is within easy reach of Koh Si Chang! Beware this place is mighty seedy, only for those looking for a truly wild Thailand experience.
Written by: Chase Berenson.