Time seems to move at a slower pace while following the winding coastal road and weaving out of its nooks and crannies. Koh Sirey is a wonderland of trees, rubber plantations and sea views. The neighborhood also has a few interesting sights to see, making it well worthwhile to take the time to explore this little treasure just off of Phuket.
Wat Koh Sirey
Tucked high into a hill and boasting phenomenal views over Phuket and the local neighborhood, Wat Koh Sirey is an unusual, yet interesting, Buddhist temple adorned with golden Buddha statues. Nestled amongst the various shrubs and trees, the temple is equally peaceful if not a bit overworn which adds to its charm.
Many of the golden Buddha statues housed at Wat Koh Sirey appear to be in elevated rooms on the sides of the temple, while others are on the outdoor walkway around the temple. Set against the bold backdrop of the jungle and sea, the outdoor statues provide a vantage point for dramatic photographs awash in gold, blue and green.
Inside Wat Koh Sirey, there is a reclining golden Buddha. Although not as impressive as other similar statues found across Thailand, this particular statue is lovely nonetheless and adds a nice touch to this rather rustic temple. Intricate paintings depicting scenes from the teachings of Buddha and his life can also be found inside.
Replica of Kyaiktiyo Pagoda in Burma
Perhaps the most intriguing fact about Wat Koh Sirey is that on its grounds there sits a giant golden rock, which is actually a replica of the Kyaiktiyo Pagoda in Burma. It was built by local Thai and Burmese construction workers and builders for the Burmese community. The golden rock indeed adds a nice touch to the temple.
The original Kyaiktiyo Pagoda in Burma is located high on top of Mount Kyaiktiyo. It is one of the most sacred Buddhist religious sites in the world and estimated to have been built around 2,500 years ago. Phuket’s replica is rather beautiful. It appears to glisten in the sunshine and showcases expansive views across Koh Sirey Bay.
Sea Gypsy Village
Situated on Laem Tukkae (Gecko Cape) is a ramshackle development that is home to approximately 2,000 sea-roaming people known in Thai as Chao Lay, or sea gypsies. These indigenous people call themselves Urak Lawoi and share a Malay-influenced language and similar facial and physical features to other tribes up and down the Andaman coast.
The sea gypsy village presents an educational opportunity to immerse yourself in the culture of the Urak Lawoi and watch from the sidelines as these interesting people go about their daily lives. Continuous development on Thailand’s beaches and remote islands, as well as well stricter fishing regulations in national park waters, have forced these once nomadic people to settle in villages such as the one here in Koh Sirey.
The staple income of the village still comes from fishing, but many of the men drive longtail boats which take tourists to the waters off of Phuket. Often times, the village women set up stalls selling handicrafts and cultured pearl jewelry.
While the day-to-day life of the sea gypsies makes for interesting photographs, do remember that this is not a human zoo. If you would like to take some photographs, it is always best to ask with a smile before you snap the shot. Chances are you will walk away with stunning photographs of these unique people if you are polite.
Not far over the bridge that brings you into Koh Sirey, you will notice a mangrove forest and a few signs indicating to drive slow, be cautious and watch for monkeys. This is known as Monkey Viewpoint, and although it is a tad dirty, it is a great place to see monkeys in the wild in Phuket.
At Monkey Viewpoint, it is possible to buy bananas and peanuts for a few baht to feed the monkeys. The monkeys are cute; there is no doubt about that. However, it is best to remember that while they are used to being fed and are accustomed to human interaction, they are still wild animals. It is best not to get too close and, in the event that one of the bigger monkeys grabs your bag of bananas, a safe bet is to let them have the whole thing!
Take a day to escape to Koh Sirey. The slower pace of life on this tiny island is likely what Phuket was like 20 or more years ago. Koh Sirey makes a refreshing change from the busier tourist destinations on Phuket and is well worth visiting when you are here.