If you are looking to explore Thailand off the beaten track, make time in your Thailand itinerary for the southern Thai province of Chumphon. The majority of overseas visitors that do travel to Chumphon tend to rush through in their haste to reach the more famous tourist islands in the Gulf of Thailand. That is slowly starting to change as more travellers become aware of the charms of the Chumphon mainland and nearby islands.
In no particular order, here are seven highlights from Chumphon to introduce you to what this area of southern Thailand has to offer.
Go bamboo rafting in Phato district
The district of Phato is one of the best areas in Thailand to enjoy bamboo rafting. So much so, that an annual rafting festival is held here in February.
The Phato community has earned recognition for their eco-friendly approach to adventure tourism. This has helped to educate tourists about the importance of the forests and waterways and in turn allowed locals to earn an additional income from tourism. Phato district is a hub for bamboo rafting with a number of courses that cover different levels of difficulty. The scenic route takes around three hours to complete with a number of small rapids. Don’t worry if you’re not as fit as you’d like because the local oarsmen will do the work for you allowing you to enjoy the journey and admire the lush landscape. Keep your eyes peeled for kingfishers, hornbills, and spectacled langurs in the treetops. The environment here is ideal for a number of tropical fruits and on your river journey you will pass orchards growing durian, mangosteen and rambutan. The soil and climate in Phato also make for excellent conditions for robusta coffee with Chumphon accounting for around 60% of Thailand’s total coffee production. Rafting in Chumphon is usually open from January to October. February to April is considered ideal while July to September has the advantage of being able to taste the fruits direct from the orchards.
Visit the islands of Mu Ko Chumphon National Park
The Mu Ko Chumphon National Park stretches over a large area of the Chumphon coastline and incorporates more than 40 islands. If you enjoy snorkelling or diving, take time to experience the abundant marine life in the waters near Ko Langka Jiew, Ko Ngam Yai, Ko Ngam Noi, Ko Ran Ped and Ko Ran Kai. Expect to see plenty of colourful marine life including clownfish and colourful sea anemones amongst the corals. Mu Ko Chumphon National Park is also a good location to spot whale sharks.
Experience local life
Chumphon is a wonderful destination to relax into local life and learn more about the communities who live and work here. Stay overnight at a homestay on the island of Ko Phitak where most of the residents make their living from fishing. Join a night time squid fishing trip from Ko Phitak with the added bonus of the freshly caught squid being prepared and cooked for you to eat on board the boat. Other homestays are available around Chumphon province including Baan Mai Chai Klong Homestay where you can embrace the charm of Chumphon in a picturesque setting near the waterways and mangrove forests. Learn how to make local speciality dishes, sample delicious seafood, and help plant mangroves that provide sustenance for wildlife. Trips to nearby islands can also be arranged from Baan Mai Chai Klong Homestay.
Climb panoramic viewpoints
Chumphon is home to a number of viewpoints where you can admire the scenery of this unspoilt coastal province. Khao Dinsor is the highest spot in Chumphon and offers wonderful views of the area. And between September and November this is also one of the best locations in Thailand for birdwatchers who come here to witness birds of prey on their migratory path between the northern and southern hemisphere. For another perspective of Chumphon, make the trip to the viewpoint at Khao Matsee for excellent views of the Chumphon estuary.
Discover quiet beaches
Frequent songthaews run between Chumphon Town and two of Chumphon’s mainland beaches, Hat Thung Wua Laen and Hat Sairee. Although both beaches are popular with Thai visitors, development here is low-key. With your own transport it’s possible to explore even more stretches of quiet sand along the Chumphon coastline with scenic locations including Ao Thung Sang (also known as Thung Zang Bay) and Hat Arunothai. Chumphon is regarded as one of the premier locations in Thailand for kitesurfing with this stretch of coast enjoying excellent conditions when the monsoon winds blow in.
Help the conservation initiatives at Nong Yai
The villages around Nong Yai have fully embraced the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s philosophy of ‘Sufficiency Economy’. For anybody seeking out local experiences, this area of Chumphon is a fascinating destination to visit and an excellent example of the positive impact community based tourism can have. Learn about the water management initiatives inspired by the late King and take part in local conservation efforts.
Enjoy natural attractions
Chumphon is an outstanding destination for nature lovers with a host of attractions including waterfalls, caves and hot springs. Mother nature also puts on some memorable displays in Chumphon with the fireflies lighting up the night sky at Ban Bang Son and and the birds of prey swooping over Khao Dinsor on their annual migration.
How to get to Chumphon
Flights from Bangkok Don Muang airport to Chumphon take just over an hour. Alternatively, Chumphon railway station is conveniently placed near the centre of the town with trains from Bangkok taking around eight hours. Rail services also connect Chumphon with Hua Hin and Surat Thani.
Tourism Authority of Thailand (Chumphon)
Tel: +66 7750 2775-6
Phato Ecotourism Club
Tel: +66 84925 7007