I have written a number of entries on the various places of interest in Thailand, but it’s weird how nothing has been written thus far about this very place I had worked and stayed in for two years. This is also my second home, the place where I got to know my then girlfriend. This is where my now fiancé hails from – the relatively more laid-back and lesser-known province situated in southern Thailand called Chumphon.
Now that some of my friends may have heard – my wedding will take place sometime this year. I’m both surprised and pleased to see that before I have even announced anything, several of them have already come asking me about the details of my wedding ceremony in Thailand because they wanted to book tickets and accommodation in advance.
To be honest, I hadn’t expected any of my Malaysian friends to attend my Thai wedding mainly due to the inconvenience – one will require a few transfers if travelling from Malaysia – and the fact that I wouldn’t have time to show them around when they come. And of course, the distance being another setback if they were to travel by train or bus. It would be some 500km from Hatyai to Chumphon alone!
Since some of my friends will be visiting Chumphon anyway, I just thought to compile a list of to-do’s in Chumphon knowing for a fact that this humble province of Thailand does offer a number of hidden gems unbeknownst to many.
Let’s take a look:
1. Eat Famous Pad Thai at Street Night Market of Chumphon
Situated along the Komluang Chumphon Road right after the intersection in front of the Chumphon Railway Station, the street night market is easily one of Chumhon’s signatures.
Look for Phad Thai and Hoi Tod (Thai-Style Fried Mussels) when at the night market. If you’re a Muslim, halal food can be found a couple stalls/shops down the Komluang Chumphon Road. Just search around the area opposite Chumphon’s Ocean Shopping Mall.
2. Go Island-Hopping
Among the most prominent islands in Chumphon would be Koh Tao and Koh Nang Yuan. Besides, there are also a number of smaller islands such as Koh Samet (Samet Island), Koh Tiap (Tiap Island), Koh Kai (Egg Island), Koh Ngam Noi (Ngam Noi Island), Koh Ngam Yai (Ngam Yai Island), among many others.
These islands may not be as popular as the bustling ones such as Phuket, Koh Samui, Koh Pha Ngan, and Koh Lanta, but they are both unique and beautiful in their own rights. Since they are not habituated to mass tourism (just yet – and I hope not), they prove to be the quieter alternatives to the regular ones that people always throng.
One can indulge in activities such as island-hopping, snookering, diving, and even squid-fishing at some of these islands.
3. Picnic at Thung Wua Laen (a.k.a. Cabana) Beach
Thung Wua Laen is a long stretch of beach covering about 2km along the gulf of Thailand. One can easily travel to Thung Wua Laen by hopping on the yellow songthaew (passenger pickup truck with two rows of seats at the back) that takes off regularly from the city center of Chumphon for just tens of Baht.
People would throng this white, beautiful sandy beach on evenings and mostly weekends for picnicking. There are some restaurants, bars, and hotels along it.
One can order food from any restaurant from within the vicinity and they would serve it to you at the beach; most restaurants would provide a picnic mat free of charge.
If you’re into beaches and swimming, do check out the beautiful Ao Thung Sang (Thung Sang Bay) and Ao Bo Mao (Bo Mao Bay) situated in the district of Pathiu too. I had stayed there for two wonderful years!
4. Visit the Prince of Chumphon Shrine
Also known as the Kromluang Chumphon Khet Udomsak Royal Palace, the Prince of Chumphon shrine commemorates the accomplishments of Prince of Chumphon, the 28th child of King Rama V.
Prince of Chumphon established the modern Thai navy and is therefore known as the “Father of the Navy.” He passed away in Chumphon in 1923 but still commands deep respect from the Thais, especially those in the marine industry, to date.
The Prince of Chumphon shrine, which is painted white all over, is located at Haad Sairee (Sai Ree beach), some 12 kilometers away from the city center. It has a great view overlooking the sea. There is a memorial – an old torpedo warship – within the vicinity.
5. Climb up Wat Phra Yai
Located in the Wisai Nua sub-district and some 20km South of the Chumphon town, this little temple with a giant golden Buddha statue overlooking Highway 41 (or Asian Highway 2) and the surrounding area is sitting on top of a hill. It is also referred to as Wat Khao Chedi and Wat Tuprasong.
If you don’t wish to climb up the temple, there is a track at the back of the mountain for you to drive up.
6. Dip in Cold Water of Wisai River Waterfalls
Not too far from Wat Phra Yai are the Wisai River Waterfalls. While there is another waterfall in Tha Sea, Chumphon, I feel the Wisai River Waterfalls are more interesting ones to check out if you have the time.
This place of nature features a number of waterfalls, but the most popular one is the Pho Sa Le Waterfall. There are little huts along the river bank where the waterfall is connected, so you can order some food and enjoy it beside the river.
7. Enjoy the View of Pak Nam from Top of Khao Mudsee/Matsee
This very remarkable viewpoint about 20km from the city center of Chumphon is accessible both by foot and by car via a steep, paved road.
It beautifully overlooks the Pharadonphap Beach and the nearby fishing village of Pak Nam. Heck, even its toilet offers a five-star view!
There is a little cafe on top of this hill, so one can enjoy a cup of coffee while appreciating the panoramic view of Pak Nam there. Besides, there is also a small little Mahayana temple on the hilltop to pay respect to.
8. Try Out Thai Dessert in Pak Nam
There is an old dessert shop offering a variety of traditional Thai desserts in Pak Nam, Chumphon. In Pak Nam, which is a fishing port, there are rows of old shops, beaches, and two temples to explore.
9. Visit Chumphon City Pillar Shrine and the Weekend Market
While this provincial landmark situated right opposite the Chumphon Provincial Administration Organization is nothing more than just a small monument, there is a evening market in the same area where the shrine is located, every weekend.
When visiting a province, the locals would drop by the city pillar shrine to pray for blessings and a safe travel.
10. Explore Mu Ko Chumphon National Park
Situated only about 23km from the town, the Mu Ko Chumphon National Park comprises over 300 square kilometers of both land and sea areas in Chumphon. It also consists of a group of islands in the Gulf of Thailand off the coast of this humble province.
This national park of Thailand boasts some amazing beaches, permeable limestone islands, mangrove forests and a long, nature trail, waterfalls, caves, as well as some holy shrines.
11. Get Drowned in Gold at Wat Pa Yang
This stunning temple is located in Saphli Village, 22km from the Chumphon town. The buildings and statues in the temple complex are mostly covered in gold, so much so that the entire temple complex will leave you in awe.
12. Watch Raptors at Khao Dinsor (Hawk Mountain)
Every year between mid-August and mid-November, it is estimated that between 250,000 to 500,000 raptors of more than 25 species will flock to this mountain situated in the district of Pathiu, to escape the cold in countries such as Mongolia, Chiana, Japan, Korea, and Vietnam.
This makes Khao Dinsor a fantastic spot to watch such raptors. The peak of this mountain also allows you to enjoy the panoramic view of Pathiu and the nearby Thung Wua Laen Beach, really stunning!
13. Enjoy Viewpoint of Pathiu at Wat Khao Chedi (Phra Yai)
Situated about 12km from Khao Dinsor, this temple is sitting on top of a hill that allows one to enjoy the hillscape of the lesser-known and quiet sub-district. This temple features a Chedi (stupa) and a huge, tall Buddha statue.
This viewpoint overlooks the beaches nearby and the town of Pathiu.
14. Experience the Serenity at Wat Tham Thale Sap
Situated some 30km from the city center, this quite, beautiful getaway is a hill cave, temple, and reservoir/lake combined. It has a temple sitting right beside the hill cave, and within the temple complex is a large hall that was built using tree trunks.
Beside the hill is a picturesque reservoir. Check out the amazing view surrounding the reservoir:
15. Experience “Hell” at Wat Kaew Prasert
Founded by Luang Pho Jong, Wat Kaew Prasert is easily one of the most remarkable temples in Chumphon as this Thai-Chinese temple incorporates elements of Mahayana and Theravada Buddhism, Hinduism, as well as local Thai beliefs.
Kaew Pra Sert is located on a hill that sits along the coast of the Gulf of Thailand, where this part of the coastline is one of Chumphon’s finest. The most prominent statue at this temple is a 10-meter high Buddha Maitreya statue overlooking the beautiful sea and islands opposite it.
In the woods behind the temple complex is a “park” with statues depicting the lives in the three realms of heaven, earth, and the underworld according to Buddhism. Wat Kaew Prasert is located in the Pak Klong sub-district of Pathiu, 52km from the town. There, free food is served very Sunday.
Alright, that’s it, guys! I hope this little guide will come in handy for you when you visit Chumphon.