The Story of Koh Chang’s Russian Orthodox Church

The Russian Orthodox Church in Klong Son, Koh Chang

A visit to a church might not be on everyone’s list of activities during a holiday to Koh Chang . The Russian orthodox Church, located in the valley in Klong Son is an interesting spot to visit.  Well worth taking a look inside if the young priest, Father Sergius, is there. 

This article on how the church got started is translated from BBC Russia  –  

At 500 kilometers from Bangkok, almost on the border with Cambodia , is the island of Koh Chang, which in Thai means “Elephant Island”.  In recent years, tourism has been booming on one side of the island, while the other side, with Thai fishing villages, remains fairly authentic.

On the border of these worlds, a small Russian Orthodox church emerged – the Church of St. Sergius of Radonezh. The main shrine of the temple – the particle relics of St. Sergius of Radonezh. The reliquary was made in Thailand.

The idea to build a temple belongs to a married couple from Moscow, Oleg and Darya Bayev. Daria says that in 2013 she had a dream: the Lord lifted her over the island and gave the grain, which she planted in the ground, and from it grew the temple.

Spouses took the dream seriously and decided to try to sell a business in Moscow. They managed to do it right away, and with the money they got, they bought a piece of land on Koh Chang.

Then there were donators from Russia, Thailand, Ukraine and even Singapore. Construction began in May 2014, and in July 2015, priest Sergiy Shapkin was appointed acting head of the parish.

As a result, the temple on the island of Koh Chang was built in less than a year and a half.

Father Sergius recently turned 30. He comes from Murmansk and his wife Julia from the Kola Peninsula.

Batyushka has a higher education in the field of geology and experience in this field in Chukotka and in Karelia. Together, in search of their true home, the couple have already made a long way.

They traveled a lot, got acquainted with various schools of meditation, were interested in shamanic and psychophysical practices. But, as they say, the experience of a spiritual meeting with God took place right here, in Thailand, on the small island of Koh Lanta, where the guys worked as volunteers.

It was in Thailand that Sergei and Yulia became actively interested in Orthodoxy. The first confession and communion in their lives took place in the temple on the island of Phuket.

Then there was the Tomsk Theological Seminary, and in 2015, Father Sergius, then a student, Sergei Shapkin, was ordained deacon, and after a few months – a priest.

Soon the young priest was sent on a business trip to serve in the representation of the Russian Orthodox Church in Thailand.

After a year of living on the island, father Sergius and mother Julia had a son, he was named Makar. The family lives right there in the temple.

Thais, who mostly practice Buddhism, are very tolerant of Orthodoxy. When the site was surrounded by a fence before construction, Father Sergiy says, it turned out that a Thai house for ghosts, installed by the former owners of the land, was on the temple grounds.

During construction, they decided not to touch the house, so as not to offend the religious feelings of the Thais who live in the neighborhood, and simply rounded the building with a fence.

But after a while, a man who had previously lived on this earth said that the spirit came to him in a dream and asked to be moved to another place, since he is very uncomfortable here. The house was carefully dismantled for transfer to a new place, and on this a chapel was built.

Russian-speaking tourists come to the service or talk over a cup of tea. “Our flock is growing,” says Father Sergiy. “Today alone, tomorrow others, you see, will come again next year and bring new people with them.”

Father Sergiy and Mother Julia usually spend the services together – he performs the service, and she sings on the choir – when you are present, you feel a very powerful emotional impulse, a feeling of unity.

In one of the hot days I spent a few hours in the gazebo near the temple – I watched what kind of people were coming. They were mainly tourists from Ukraine and Russia. The Orthodox temple on Koh Chang is first of all a part of the native land in Thailand for believing Christians.

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