Chumphon province is regarded as the gateway to southern Thailand. It’s from mainland Chumphon where many travellers depart on boats that take them across the Gulf of Thailand to Ko Tao and onwards to Ko Pha Ngan and Ko Samui. Most overseas visitors only see Chumphon as a jumping off point for Ko Tao and relatively few people actually take time to explore the province. This lack of tourists is part of the appeal of Chumphon which is home to some surprisingly good beaches and enjoys a relaxed atmosphere.
Chumphon town is a good base to explore the area with frequent and cheap public songthaews (passenger vehicles) running out to the main beaches. If you prefer to be right by the sea, the beach at Thung Wua Laen probably offers the widest choice of accommodation. However, one of the main draws for Chumphon is the fact that all of the beach areas remain relatively undeveloped so you won’t find the same variety of hotels here that you would in a more developed tourist area like Hua Hin or Ko Samui.
Chumphon has a reputation as being a transit town and for many tourists their experience of Chumphon is limited to the train station and the ferry for onward travel to Ko Tao. Although Chumphon might not be the most exciting city in Thailand, it can make for a pleasant location to while away a few days and is a good base to explore the mainland beaches nearby. Large songthaews to Sairee Beach depart from near the City Pillar Shrine in Chumphon town. Smaller songthaews depart from opposite the Municipal Market to Thung Wua Laen Beach. The fare to each beach is 30 Baht with the journey taking approximately half an hour.
The centrally located night market in Chumphon town is a convenient and cheap option for dinner and you’ll also find more eateries inside the nearby Ocean Department Store. Do sample some of the wonderful variety of fresh fruits picked from the orchards of Chumphon which you’ll see on display at the night market and at the municipal market known locally as ‘Talad Sot’.
Chumphon beaches and islands
Tourists travelling through this part of Thailand usually make a beeline for Ko Tao, Ko Pha Ngan and Ko Samui. With the bulk of travellers heading out to the islands in the Gulf of Thailand, it leaves Chumphon’s beaches blissfully quiet. Although Chumphon’s mainland beaches aren’t as stunningly beautiful as those found on the islands, they are mostly untouched and the absence of commercialisation is a definite plus for the tourists who do stay here. The lack of development means that accommodation options are limited, but it also means that guest houses and hotels near the beach can be excellent value for money.
Mu Ko Chumphon National Park
Mu Ko Chumphon National Park covers a large chunk of the Chumphon coastline and incorporates more than 40 islands. With attractive beaches, coral reefs and diverse marine life, the area is home to some superb diving and snorkelling locations including Ko Talu, Ko Ngam Yai and Ko Ngam Noi. Chumphon Cabana Resort and Diving Centre, and Siam Catamaran Company can both arrange trips to the islands.
Thung Wua Laen Beach
The pick of Chumphon’s mainland beaches is Hat Thung Wua Laen. The name roughly translates as ‘running bison beach’ and comes from an old folklore dating back many centuries. The only bison you’ll see these days on Thung Wua Laen Beach is immortalised in statue form and this picturesque stretch of beach is a great place to visit if you want to escape the crowds. A quiet road runs parallel to the sand with a number of low-rise guest houses and local restaurants all offering sea views. You’ll also find some more unspoilt stretches of sand further along the coastline to the north although these are best explored with your own transport.
Sairee Beach is another pleasant location to visit which attracts a local crowd. Many of the Thais visiting here do so to pay their respects at a shrine to the Prince of Chumphon, the man who is known as the Father of the Thai Royal Navy. Adjacent to the shrine a viewing platform which is shaped to look like the bow of a ship offers views out to sea. To complete the nautical theme a decommissioned navy ship also sits on dry land next to the shrine. A few miles away from Sairee Beach, the viewpoint at Khao Chao Mueang provides fine views out over the Gulf of Thailand.
Sairi Beach Cabanas (Sairee Beach)
Novotel Chumphon Beach Resort & Golf (Parandonpab Beach)
Away from the beach
From home-stays to river rafting to hiking, there is much to do to keep adventurous travellers occupied in Chumphon. Take in the viewpoints at Khao Matsee and Khao Dinsor with the latter regarded as a fabulous location for birdwatchers. Enjoy a homestay at Ban Mai Chai Khlong or on the tranquil island of Ko Phitak. Go bamboo rafting on the Lang Suan River and enjoy the natural diversity Chumphon has to offer. For more water-based activities further inland, the rivers of Chumphon are ideal for bamboo rafting most of the year and this is celebrated with a rafting festival held in February.
Nok Air flies from Bangkok Don Muang to Chumphon with a journey time of one hour. Trains from Bangkok to Chumphon take a leisurely eight hours, but are still a more comfortable option than the six or seven hour bus journey from Bangkok’s Southern Bus Terminal. Chumphon train station is handily located close to the centre of town and the night market. Adjacent to the railway station, the Lomprayah Ferry office can arrange onward travel to Ko Tao as can Fame Tour or any of the other travel agents in town.