Located on the east side of the Malaysian Peninsular on the coast of the Gulf of Thailand, you will probably need to stop at Chumphon en route from Bangkok to the islands of Koh Tao, Koh Phangan and Koh Samui (assuming you’re not intent on cheating and hopping on a flight with Bangkok Airways!). Most travellers just use it as that – a transit point – but Chumphon (meaning: ‘lots of blessings’) is definitely worth a stopover if you have the time.
The main draws of staying here are simple – natural beauty and resources (that include beaches, islands, national parks, and mountains), as well as a variety of cultural events that take place throughout the year, and which beautifully reflect the Chumphon way of life.
Thung Wua Laen beach (just 15km away from the train station) is definitely one of Chumphon’s hot spots. Think gorgeous weather, warm tropical waters and an abundance of wildlife and forests in the vicinity. As would be expected, there’s also an abundance of activities here to take part in, such as kite surfing and kayaking; the atmosphere is also lively (choose from a variety of live music/cocktail/pool/disco bars by the sea) – although all this is nonetheless a world away from the (sometimes) commercial and frenetic bustle typical of its neighbours. Instead, the place has been relatively untouched by tourism. In short, it’s a perfect place for all those who are looking for some respite in some seriously spellbinding natural surroundings, with some cute local inhabitants to hang out with.
The friendly local inhabitants
Places to Stay:
In Thung Wua Laen, you can choose from a vast array of accommodation that will suit pretty much every kind of budget, ranging from basic beach bungalows to spacious and luxurious suites.
Things to do in Chumphon:
- Go caving! There are a number of different tour companies operating now, so you won’t be lacking in choice. Some caves are an easy visit, but other ‘adventure caves’ are more challenging, and involve climbing over rocks using ropes, scrambling over boulders, squeezing through tight crevices and generally getting dirty, sweaty and out of breath! Apparently (we particularly love this bit!) if you find a new cave, you also get to name it!
- Eat! Take your pick from all the Thaï specialities you can dream of: seafood, pad thai, noodle soup, fried chicken, shrimp, squid… Of course, there’s also a good fare of ‘farang’ food available (pizzas, burgers, steaks, pastas…)
- Go motorbiking: Or if you prefer a slower pace, just plain old-fashioned cycling!
- Browse and spend your baht at the Day Market! Runs north-south between Th Pracha Uthit and Th Poramin Mankha. Or you could spend even more baht (and escape from the swelter) at the heavenly air-conditioned Ocean Shopping Mall.
- Have a beer at Farang Bar! ‘Farang’ means foreigner in Thai and that means that you’ll find some foreign faces at this bar in the heart of Chumphon. Guesthouse, restaurant and watering hole, owner Ivor will make sure your visit is a fun one!
Things to do in Thung Wua Laen:
- Beach activities! Which do you prefer? You can relax on the sand, enjoying the view and tranquility, OR you can discover Chumphon’s hidden treasures by diving, snorkelling, kayaking or trekking. October to January is kitesurf season with plenty of wind and waves, whilst February to October is best for diving, with its calm and clear waters.
Diving in Thung Wua Laen:
- The Cabana Dive resort and dive center: Thai dive centre with two big boats and an ecological resort.
- The Wet Cats Center: A nautical sports centre that includes a dive centre, kite centre, and also offers kayaking trips, and all the necessary equipment to rent (snorkeling, beach sports, mountain bikes).
Massage in Thung Wua Laen:
There are 3 massage salons:
- Body & Soul: Found on the main road in front of the beach, with a calm atmosphere, air-con and music…
- Daeng Massage: To the south of the beach, this is a traditional massage room with a friendly atmosphere…
- And the third is currently under construction, right on the beach! Watch this space..
Getting There – Chumphon:
- By train: Both 1st and 2nd class (fan or A/C) trains in Thailand are more than comfortable. Travelling in the daytime is always a good option – it’s your best bet for admiring the Thai landscape, and you’ll be in more of a position (ie not asleep for most of it!) to meet those all-important interesting people along the way… Saying that, the overnight sleeper train will save you time, and the service for food is excellent. Choose 2nd class A/C or fan, and you’ll travel in style all the way. For families or couples we recommend taking 1st class with your own private compartment. Don’t forget a visit to the restaurant for a drink, something to eat, or even for an attempt at a duet with the bartender on his karaoke! The Bar closes at 10:30pm.
Top Tip: Make reservations because trains are a popular means of transportation in Thailand – especially on weekends and holidays.
- By bus: Buses in Thailand are the most popular means of transportation – they’re quick, easy, comfortable and cheap – AND they cover ALL of Thailand. VIP buses are generally more comfortable than local buses. You can easily arrive in Chumphon from anywhere in Thailand by bus and from Phuket or Krabi, buses leave for Bangkok every 2 hours. Since Chumphon is on the way, it’s easy to jump on here and arrive in Chumphon in just a few hours. The companies are Lomprayah, Seatran, Songserm Express, and Chookeenan – all quite reliable, and with excellent safety records. In Bangkok, go to South Bus Terminal (sai tai mai) by taxi. From there, you’ll find many buses leaving all day (and into the evening for overnight trips) to Chumphon. Prices vary from 450 THB to 550 THB (around $13-17) for the VIP buses. We’d recommend the Chokeenan Tour VIP Bus (the direct line to Chumphon town). If you’re on the Khao San Road, travel agencies will hook you up with something convenient.
- By Air: To reach Chumphon from Bangkok, fly with Solar Air.
Getting There – Wua Laen Beach:
Thung Wua Laen beach (or Cabana beach) is just 15km from either Chumphon bus or train station.
- For a tuk tuk, expect to pay 300 bath.
- A taxi-bike will set you back just 150 bath.
Where to go next?
From Chumphon, you can reach many places in Thailand:
- Koh Tao: A small island famous for it’s diving and beautiful beaches.
- Koh Phangan: An island of two halves – peaceful deserted beaches in the North, and the famous Full Moon Party in the South.
- Koh Samui: A big island with beautiful beaches. You can get a flight from here to either Bangkok or Phuket.
- Ranong: Found on the border with Burma, this is a popular place to do a visa run (or get a visa extension).
- Kao Sok National Park: Visit the rainforest and trek to one of the peaks for a spectacular view.
- Krabi, Railay, Phuket and all the west coast islands.