Koh Sirey on the east side of Phuket Town sometimes feels more like a small cape than an island. Covering only about 20sqkm, most of Koh Sirey is delightfully free of construction and driving along its leafy eastside coastal road with its rubber plantations is a pleasure. It really is like Phuket 20 years ago.
Along this coast is an abalone farm that hosts a restaurant with a view out over Phuket's east coast islands and Sapam Bay. Also, Koh Sirey plays host to sea gypsies and golden Buddhas. The tiny recreation park near a mangrove swamp by the main bridge is where locals feed wild monkeys every evening.
Golden Buddhas on Koh Sirey
Along the way there are several places to pull over and stroll down to the beach. Not being a tourist destination, the island’s beaches are a little scruffy, with rough shingled sand but overall it retains its rustic charm. Life moves at a much slower pace here and it's hard to imagine that the buzz of Patong is only 30 minutes away.
A road bridge from the mainland penetrates the Koh Sirey island then makes a T-junction. If you take a right here, several hundred metres down the road on the right-hand side you will see an ornamental gateway leading into the grounds of a monastery.
Follow the road through here then take a right fork up the hill and you will come to Wat Sirey, an unusual Buddhist temple. It is ringed by what look like elevated rooms, housing golden Buddha images, each with a ladder lending access for maintenance purposes. The wat has a clockwise one-way system around it and on its other side there are steps leading up to the temple from where you can have a good vantage point overlooking Phuket and Sirey.
Koh Sirey's Sea Gypsies
Visitors will also find a colony of Moken Sea Gypsies at Laem Tukkae Village here in Koh Sirey. Known locally as 'Chao Ley' (people of the sea) they are said to be the first inhabitants of the Andaman coastal regions of Thailand, Myanmar and Malaysia and were the original inhabitants of Phuket.
Koh Sirey's sea gypsies are somewhat more settled than their counterparts in Myamnar but still retain their own language and distinctive culture and animistic religion. The sea gypsy village at Koh Sirey is well signed and there is a big open-air seafood restaurant next to it. Generally speaking, these nomadic and simple people are approachable but a little shy. All understand Thai.
Koh Sirey, or Sireh or Koh Siray – all spellings are used in transliterating from the Thai – has no public transportation except the ponderous 'songthaews' (converted pickup trucks) that lumber around the island's coastal road. It's therefore best to hire a car or motorbike to explore the various nooks and crannies.
There have been a number of private villas and sophisticated residences opening up on Sirey over the past decade and upscale hotels also can’t resist its charm (with the Westin Siray Bay Resort & Spa as their pioneer). Stay tuned!
- Location: Just east of Phuket Town. To get there means having to pass through Phuket's port area and it takes only 15 minutes or less by car from the town centre.