We can’t get enough of Thailand’s beaches. An unexpected trip to Chumphon, one of the lesser known provinces in Southern Thailand, proved yet again how stunning this part of the world is. As it turned out, things to do in Chumphon are perfect for outdoorsy, off-the-beaten-path activity seekers such as ourselves.
Pronounced shoom-pawn, this gem is roughly 500 kilometers south of Bangkok and home to over 200 kilometers of coastline. Evidently most people who pass through Chumphon, Thailand are on their way to more popular, bustling destinations such as Phuket, Koh Samui, Koh Pha Ngan, or Koh Lanta. Few may spend the night in Chumphon before continuing on without realizing that they were sitting on a huge stretch of gorgeous beachfront property that hasn’t been flooded by mass tourism.
If you want a quiet beach town, Chumphon is it. But there are also amazing snorkeling and sites, mountainside viewpoints, and (obviously) beaches worth exploring.
Snorkel off Koh Ngam Yai & Koh Ngam Noi
Just three days ago we were #swimming in the #beautiful clear #water off the coast of #Chumphon #Thailand. We took a private #boat and were able to #explore #coralreef as we went #diving during a bright #blue #Thai afternoon. If you haven’t been able to #travel to the area you should definitely include it in your next #trip to the country. It is still mostly untouched, and offers the charm and tranquility that has been lost in some of the more commercialized cities in Thailand. We recommend staying at #Nanabeach and arranging trips through your #hotel or #guesthouse. #Enjoy this #paradise while it’s still off the radar of most #travelers and #holiday – makers | #Amazingthailand #thai_ig #thaistagram #traveling #instatravel #instago #Travelling #lovethailand #beach #island
This was our first ‘WOW’ snorkeling experiencing. Koh Ngam Yai and Koh Ngam Noi (เกาะง่ามนอยและเกาะง่ามใหญ่) are two sister islands in the Gulf of Thailand that tie with Koh Rok (which is in the Andaman Sea) as our favorite snorkeling spot in Thailand.
The water was cool but clear and the reefs were thriving. The thing that really stood out to us were the sheer number of fish. There were schools of silvery, torpedo-shaped fish and yellow and black-striped species. Shape-shifting schools were in the distance as well as within inches of our toes. Unfortunately, they didn’t stay still long enough for in-focus photos!
Our snorkeling company, Chumphon Speedboat took us to two fantastic spots where we snorkeled for almost an hour both times. Nattaporn, our tour guide, looked out for us while we swam and helped to point out some of the hard-to-spot fish species.
Full day snorkeling trips cost 1,250 baht per person. This includes visiting both islands, all equipment and gear, a boxed lunch, and an English speaking guide like Nattaporn.
There were two other interesting facts about these islands. For one, Koh Ngam Yai is famous for its cliff formation in the shape of Buddha’s hand.
Secondly, these islands are home to the little edible-nest swiftlet. They produce the greatly prized and very expensive principle ingredient of bird’s nest soup. Looking closely, we spotted the shacks on the rocky island. These were resting places of the men who harvest or ‘farm’ the nests that are housed within the rock crevices.
Overlook at Khao Matsee
Speaking of bird’s nest soup, we had our first (and decidedly our last) taste of this ‘delicacy’ at the Khao Matsee (เขามัทรี) rest stop. We also enjoyed iced espresso drinks with views of Pak Nam Chumphon and its fishing village below.
Relax at Ao Thang Sung | Thung Zang Bay
Of all the places we visited, Ao Thang Sung (อ่าวทุ่งฃาง) was the most peaceful, somewhat forlorn beach. Not a single business, house, or hotel was anywhere near the beach. We arrived just as the sun was setting and there was only one family finishing their late afternoon picnic and getting ready to head home.
Escape to Koh Khai | Egg Island
A photo posted by Chris and Angela Scott (@tielandtothailand) on
After arranging our boat through the Baan Mai Chai Klong Homestay (บ้านไม้ชายคลอง โฮมสเตย์), we putt-putted out to a secluded island called Koh Khai for an afternoon of swimming. For 1,500 baht, the boat can take up to ten people and the price of boxed lunches.
We were the only people on Koh Khai and it was spectacular. There were spotless white sand bars and a jungle-covered island. We spent some time swimming in the water with views like this:
Swimming off Koh Khai was one of our favorite things to do in Chumphon. After drying off, we hopped in our longtail boat and circled the island before heading back to shore. Evidently, there’s an ongoing project to implant coral back into the area around Koh Khai. In fact, officials have already submerged eight Bangkok buses in the hopes to create a habitat for fish and encourage coral growth.
Beachcomb on Thung Wua Laen Beach
Thung Wua Laen Beach (หาดทุ่งวัวแล่น) was the largest stretch of beach that we visited on our particular trip. It had fine, light-colored sand speckled with boutique hotels, small restaurants, beach bars, and sport shops. It was refreshing to see that these businesses were set back from the beach and (as far as we could tell) that no one claimed the waterfront property as their own. Although we could see the beach from our hotel, we didn’t mind taking a short walk to get there. We crossed the small road first before kicking off our shoes and picking through the tiny treasures in the sand.
Catch the Sunrise at Khao Dinsor | Pencil Hill
Unless we’re traveling, we hardly ever wake up before the sunrise. But in this case, we caught the sun just as is rose over the Gulf of Thailand. Khao Dinsor (เขาดินสอ) is the tallest point in Chumphon province and there’s a viewpoint that’s easily accessible by car or bike and has a parking lot, bathrooms, and a vendor selling coffee and hot snacks.
After the sun rose, we spend the next 30 minutes climbing to the very top of the mountain. The hike was quite steep and unlike other hikes we’ve done, we had to come back down the way we went up. But wow, the effort to get to the highest viewpoint was worth it. We had an amazing 360 degree view of the coves and inlets of the coastline and the mist enshrouding the nearby uninhabited hills.
We’re not birders but we learned that Khao Dinsor is one of the best places in Southern Thailand to watch the seasonal migration of several species of raptors. Since it’s the highest point in the area, bird watching enthusiasts can capture outstanding shots of the birds while they fly overhead.
More Things to Do in Chumphon
We spent three days in Chumphon but managed to squeeze in a fair amount of activities. Other things to do in Chumphon that we did (but didn’t include above) or didn’t do but heard about include:
- Visit Thailand’s unique sand dunes, which cover nearly 800 acres at Ban Nam Phu
- Snorkel or dive in the reefs off the coast of the Mu Koh Chumphon National Park
- Enjoy a seafood feast at the Baan Koh Pitak Homestay
- Learn about the reforestation of mangroves, coral replanting, and crab nursery through the Ban Bang Son Community Tourism Group
- Sample coffee and watch how it’s harvest and brewed at the plantation of Baan Tham Sing
- Visit the Prince of Chumphon Shrine (Father of the Navy) at Sai Ree Beach
For more information about any of these activities, contact the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) Chumphon Office at (077) 502-7756 or the Chumphon Tourism Business Association at (077) 504-833.
Getting to Chumphon
We flew to Chumphon on a very early morning flight through Nok Air. So early, in fact, that we got to see the sunrise. Alternatively there is a train that runs from Bangkok (from either the Hualamphong or Thonburi Railway Stations) to Chumphon. Otherwise, vans or buses to Chumphon Town or Pathiu are another option both from Bangkok and Phuket. Otherwise, Chumphon seems like the perfect place for a roadtrip.
Since Chumphon is a sleepy town and activities and hotels are spaced far apart, we think it’s best to get around using a private vehicle. Usually we’d opt for a motorbike rental, but this town seemed to have roads (and speeds) more conducive to cars. There’s a rental car agency at the Chumphon Airport.
DISCLOSURE: We were invited to the Chumphon Fam Trip hosted by TBEX Asia 2015. A big thanks goes to Go Thailand Tours, which organized the trip. All opinions are our own.