Ko Si Chang

May, 2022

I’m in Thailand! I’ve been here for a couple of weeks. 

A few days ago I caught a ferry from Si Ratcha to Ko Si Chang, an island.   Danny Yee covered Ko Si Chang in an earlier posting.

Ko Si Chang is a half-hour ferry ride away from the mainland, about an hour and a half south-east of Bangkok.  You can see the elongated island bottom right of the above Google image (courtesy Google Maps), next to Laem Chabang.

There is one town on the island.  You can see my hotel, Sichang Palace, centre, in yellow, just to the left of the bigger white building (the hospital). 

About 1pm, I walked from the ferry docked on the left of the photo, along the pier, and up (centre-right on the photo) into the Sichang Palace.  The journey was less than 500m, but the day was humid and hot, so reaching the hotel I looked as though I had a bucket of water splashed on me.

Siracha Palace, at one time the grandest on the island, is now a time capsule from the 1970’s.   The entrance is grand, the rooms are big, but the resemblance is to a fading beauty. The hotel reception very kindly gave me a “sea view” room, once I asked. 

The view is even grander than this photo from my balcony.  The many ships are waiting to enter Laem Chabang, a major port.  The Chinese-looking tower is, I guess, directing maritime traffic.

A photo of the main road in Ko Si Chang.  Nobody wears helmets.  At the centre of the photo are the flags of the new King (purple) intertwined with Thai flags.

There are a few YouTube videos that give an overview of this island:

There are also some web pages associated with Ko Si Chang, for example here.

I have come on a different mission:

“Just North of town and Tha Lang pier where the ferry arrives is a Chinese temple known as the Chao Pho Khao Yai Shrine, or ‘Shrine of the Father Spirit of the Great Mountain’. The shrine dedicated to the spirit is housed in one of the many caves.  Going back many centuries, the shrine is believed to have been founded by Chinese traders passing the island by boat. During Chinese New Year the shrine is visited by thousands of pilgrims from across Asia.”   

Another website has more detail:

“Back in 1883 AD, a Chinese pilgrim from Hainan Island, China arrived by ship off the east coast of Koh Si Chang. As the ship was dropping anchor off the coast, the pilgrim noticed a fire up on a hill by the coast.  He rushed ashore in a boat, climbed up the hill and had a strange encounter. The source of the fire was a rock that’s shaped like a man’s head hanging from the mountain. The pilgrim recorded his experience in Chinese on a teak tablet and built a temple on the hill to safe keep this record of his encounter.  Years later another Thai of Chinese ethnicity working with the municipality translated this account to Thai. This encounter coincides with a Chinese legend about a deity who lives in a cave up on a mountain in the sea looking out to the east. The Chinese of old believe this deity to be sacred and to have miraculous powers.  During Chinese New Year (the Lunar New Year), many Thai Chinese will flock to this shrine to pray. It is believed that if this is done three years consecutively, one’s wishes will be granted.”

I walked from my hotel to the Chao Pho Khao Yai Shrine.  

This car, pulled by a cable, goes to the entrance-way.  I’ve ridden in it before. Unfortunately on this mid-week day the car was not operational, so I had to walk.

Climbing the 125 steps to the entrance-way.

At the top of the steps.  I can make out some of the Chinese characters on the roof, but not all – time to start studying again!

I’m rewarded with a terrific view.

Moving on into the Shrine.

From now on I was taking these photos with no bracing for my hand, so the quality noticeably degrades. 

A photo of the statue of the Monkey King, Sun Wukong.  I was surprised to find his statue here, as he is a literary figure, created by Wú Chéng’ēn for the novel 西遊記, Journey to the West, one of the the Four Great Classical Novels of Chinese literature.

Around the statue are many red thin papers with writing on them – mostly Thai script, but there were a few 中文 (Chinese writing).

The entrance to the cave.   I have wondered about the prominent sign above the opening, but 胡老師, my Mandarin teacher, says it’s not anything to do with the cave. Apparently a man depressed about life stopped committing suicide because a bird spoke to him, encouraging him to keep on. After he became successful he honored the bird, putting up a sign but omitting the bird.

The cave narrowed, so I had to stoop, then opened up into a chamber.  The walls and roof were painted gold.  A natural formation, not a statue, dominated the room, adorned as you can see above.  It was very strange; I didn’t know what to think.

There were other passages that led me to an open-air space for firecrackers, but I didn’t photograph that.  I climbed back down the 125 steps and returned to the Sichang Palace.

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