San Jao Phaw Khao Yai Chinese Temple_ 4376.JPG
Portrait of a thai boy drinking soya drink.
Dominating the town to the north of the harbor, very conspicuous as you approach on the ferry, is the Chinese temple known as Saan Chao Pho Khao Yai, or Shrine of the Father Spirit of the Great Hill. This predates the palace by centuries, going back to the days when junks from Ming China anchored in the sheltered water on the east side of the island.
Founded around a cave from which seafarers saw a magic light shining into the night, around Chinese New Year the shrine draws tens of thousands of mainly Chinese supplicants from as far away as Djakarta and Beijing. Apart from the Father Spirit himself--whom everyone on the island reveres (probably excepting the stricter Muslim residents, but including us)--there are shrines to the famous Monkey who accompanied Hsuan Tsang in his famous 7th-century pilgrimage from China to India, Kuan Yin, King Chulalongkorn, and others. During Chinese New Year in February, the island is overrun with Chinese visitors from the mainland. This is one of Thailand's most interesting Chinese temples, with shrine caves, multiple levels and a good view of the ocean.