A (very) Brief History of Chaloklum and Koh Phangan

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History of Koh Phangan

Unfortunately, when it comes to the  history of the Chaloklum Fishing Village, and of Koh Phangan in general, there are few definitive sources available, especially in English. There is, however, concrete proof of early settlement in the area.   The 1977 discovery of a bronze  drum, found on neighboring Koh Samui has established that people  frequented the Island as early as 100-500BC.   The drum has been identified as a artifact of the Dong Song culture which is believed to date from Bronze Age Vietnam. This style of bronze casting was later adopted by the Chinese.

Chedi Wat Nai koh Phangan Thailand

Chedi Wat Nai

When it comes to local buildings on the island itself, one report credits  Wat Nai, a  stupa Near Ban Tai, as the oldest structure on Koh Phangan. It is an example of Srivijaya Empire architecture prevalent from the 8th to the 13th centuries. Other reports state that Hainan Chinese were among the first permanent settlers in the area approximately 200 years ago, though seafaring “gypsies” are known to have used the island for approximately 600 years before that. Koh Phangan has always been a melting pot of various cultures, with Malay, Thai and Chinese influences all living peacefully together.

More recently, Koh Phangan was a favoured destination of Thai Royalty, most notably King Rama the Fifth, also known as Chulalongkorn, who lived from 1868 until 1910. Chulalongkorn (shown above) is reported to have visited the island at least 14 times between the years of 1888 to 1909 after he purchased a steamship which allowed him to cruise the Gulf of Thailand. His imprint can be found carved into in the rocks of the waterfall at Than Sadet. Reports from the royal court state that some 300 families had settled on Koh Phangan at that time and occupied themslves by fishing, farming coconuts and producing coconut oil for sale in markets in Bangkok and around the region.

While Chulalongkorn was the first, visits from other Thai monarchs  followed — King Rama VII visited Koh Phangan in 1926 and 1930.  His Majesty, the present King of Thailand and grandson to Chulalongkorn, King Bhumibol Adulyadej or Rama IV, visited Than Sadet Waterfall in Koh Phangan in 1962.

History of Chaloklum

The origin of Chaloklum itself is somewhat vague and more of a legend than an actual history. The following passage is a direct quote from the plaque at the Mid-Bay shrine in the centre of the village:

History of Chaloklum Mid-Bay Shrine

History of Chaloklum Mid-Bay Shrine

Many years ago there was a man named Boh ta. His nickname was Hoiy. No one knows where he came from however Boh Ta and his wife are beleved to be the first people to settle in Chaloklum. They had no children together. Boh Ta decided to build a small shrine for his spirit to stay when he died. This shrine was originally located in front of the Chalokum school and has since been relocated to this (the mid-bay) site.One day, a group of Chinese fishermen decided to also settle down in this place and gave the bay the name of Chaloklum. The fishermen saw the shrine and started to pray and make offerings to it for luck, prosperity, calm waters and also for help catching fish.

One night, Boh Ta appeared in a dream to one of the villagers and asked him to bring the Mae Thong Suk Spiritual shrine and the female spirit dwelling within it to be closer to him. This was done and the second shrine is now represented by the smaller structure situated on thi site.

The shrine has many secrets and is respected by everybody here. When the villagers ask for their wishes to become reality and make offerings and prayers here accordingly, the spirits of this site help them to make this happen. The spirits also protect the village and people of Chaloklum.

While long under Thai sovereignty, the inhabitants of Koh Phangan had primarily been left to their own devices, and until recently considered themselves essentially autonomous, receiving little help or governance from either the provincial or Thai government. There are still many older folks on the island who remember a time when they very contentedly lived on what was a forgotten outpost of the kingdom. It was not until 1970 that Koh Phangan was upgrade from sub-district to district of Surat Thani province in its own right,  encompassing, Koh Phangan, Ban Tai, and the smaller island of Koh Tao.

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