Every year at this time, teachers suddenly quit right before the end of the school year. As a veteran teacher, I’m usually called upon to rearrange my business and private lesson schedules so that I can cover at the schools. Last year, I spent three weeks at Samkong School in the northern part of Phuket Town. This week, I started a six-week substitution at Koh Siray School – on the small island just to the east of Phuket Town. The day before I was due to start I went out to the school to check out the surroundings and ended up scaling the highest peak in the area.
The view from the top of Kao Koh Siray (“Siray Island Hill”) is quite spectacular on three of the four sides (the eastward expanse is of a housing development under construction; over-development may soon ruin this formerly quiet and remote area. I might mention here that Koh Siray is separated by Phuket proper only by a rather narrow causeway now; most of the southern portion of Phuket Town east of Montri Road lies on reclaimed land.
The entire hill is home to Wat Koh Siray, with the school just to the north of the lower reaches of the temple. The “bottom” portion has changed significantly since my last visit here in March 2008 and a huge ordination hall is under construction. It looked as if there would be some kind of dedication ceremony that day as a large number of red silk-covered chairs were being set out under the blazing sun.
There were a couple of sleepy soi dogs loping around and quite a few chickens as well. The only other people I saw were a few construction workers taking naps, several worshipers taking part in a ceremony at the top of the hill and quite a few high school students in their Boy Scout uniforms picking up litter around the monks’ quarters.
The road up was VERY steep but paved all the way to the top. There’s a small cluster of buildings about a third of the way up. These were surrounded by gold-painted Buddha statues and a whole lot of weeds. Thankfully, the route was extremely shady and there was a nice breeze blowing.
There were a fair amount of small Buddha and Royal images (both King Chulalongkorn and HM Bhumibol Adulyadej) along the roadway. I’m never quite sure if these are marking the scenes of accidents or if the trees towering over them are sacred in some way.
As I mentioned, the views were spectacular as the road round it’s way to the top. Phuket Town lay stretched out to the west with its surrounding hills and the Rasada Port could be seen between Koh Siray and the mainland. Supan Hin was visible as was Cape Panwa in the near-distance. Other islands revealed themselves towards the south. I even spotted one of the old sea gypsy villages. A couple of these views were visible from the road but I needed to tramp through the underbrush to see most of them.
Just below the actual summit of Kao Koh Rang, the road rings the hill lined by a number of shrines housing large Buddha images. These are raised up fairly high, requiring a climb up rather rusty but sturdy ladders in order to place your offerings. There are also a couple of larger buildings and you can climb some steep stairs to reach the temple at the peak. As there was a ceremony going on up there during my visit, I didn’t make the last little climb. Next time…
Going down is always easier than going up…
I’m not yet certain of what theme or place next week’s edition of “Friday Photos” will cover but I think I’ll lay off hill-walking for a while. My feet, I’m sure will be happy!