For centuries Koh Sichang was considered the gateway to Thailand. The place where large ships stopped to discharge their cargo into barges for onward delivery to Bangkok and Ayutthaya. This practice still occurs today and you will see large ships and barges anchored between Koh Sichang and the mainland on your journey to the island.
The Chinese temple on top of the hill north of Koh Sichang harbor was founded during the Ming dynasty and even today receives pilgrims from as far away as Peking and Jakarta.
However Koh Sichang is most famous due to its royal connections.
In the 1800s King Mongkut (Rama IV) visited Koh Sichang on his steamship. He noticed that the islanders lived longer than most Thais and concluded that this had something to do with the island's clean air. He visited the island many times - but he always slept on board his ship.
King Chulalongkorn (Rama V) went one step further and built a summer palace on the island. His son Prince Asdang Delavudh spent up to nine months a year living on the island.
When King Chulalongkorn took to the throne Koh Sichang was a popular holiday resort with westerners who would rent lodges built by the Thai authorities for both Thai and Western tourists.
In 1888 King Chulalongkorn’s son Prince Maha Vajiravudh became ill and the court doctor suggested he should spend some time by the sea. King Chulalongkorn decided to send him to one of the lodges on Ko Sichang where the Prince stayed for eight months and eventually became better. Not long afterwards he was joined by his sister Princess Saovabha Phongsri who was also recovering from an illness.
In 1891 Prince Asdang Dejavudh (who was just three years old) made it a royal hat-trick. He too fell ill and was sent to Ko Sichang to recover. Unfortunately for him his condition was quite serious so he spent several years on the island.
In 1892 King Chulalongkorn decided to build a royal summer retreat, the Phra Chudadhuj Palace. Building work was still in progress when a dispute between France and Siam spilled into the Gulf of Thailand. French troops invaded and occupied Ko Sichang bringing construction of the palace to a halt. After the dispute was settled the palace was completed, but the King never spent another night on the island.
In 1900 while visiting towns along the eastern coast, King Chulalongkorn visited Koh Sichang and discovered the palace was deserted. He gave orders to pull down the main royal residence and rebuild it in Bangkok where it remains to day as the Vimanmek Mansion - the largest teakwood building in the world.
Today Koh Sichang's Chudadhuj Palace is still a picture of grace and serenity. Buildings within the palace and the gardens have been renovated and restored by Chulalongkorn University but the atmosphere is still tinged with a nostalgia reminiscent of the times of King Chulalongkorn.
The islanders are still friendly and some still live to a ripe old age as they go about their daily lives fishing and working in the various trades that revolve around shipping.
Koh Sichang is a charming relaxed historical island that will take you back in time and show you the real Thailand. It offers a rich diversity of experiences and sites to see minus cars, bars, neon signs, shopping malls and Mc Donald's.