There are lots of hidden gems in Thailand, especially for those who are prepared to travel a little bit off the beaten track. One of those is the southern province of Chumphon – perfect for those who love nature, adventure and the general outdoor life.
If you are unfamiliar with Thailand you may be surprised to know that Chumphon has 222km of coastline and 44 islands. This coastline has beautiful, peaceful, sandy beaches but if you move inland you’ll find stunning green forests with magnificent waterfalls, not to mention the mangroves and rivers. This is certainly a contrast to the major tourist destinations with locals living a typically Thai way of life. When you visit Chumphon you will be welcomed by friendly locals keen to show you their picturesque province.
Tourism is certainly expanding in the area and some communities have decided to embrace this. One of the most notable communities is on Koh Phithak, in the Gulf of Thailand. The island only has 42 households and a Homestay but this island, made up mainly of fishermen, welcomes around 100,000 visitors each year. On the cape of the island is a viewpoint, where on a clear day, it is possible to see some of the better known islands such as Koh Samui, Koh Phangan and Koh Tao.
If scuba diving is your passion then you won’t be disappointed with several excellent sites available in the Mu Koh Chumphon National Park such as Koh Ngam Yai, Koh Ngam Noi and Koh Rang Ka Chiu. The marine life may not be as varied as in other popular destinations but it is certainly plentiful so you are sure to see some fantastic sights. At present, tourists are forbidden from entering Koh Ngam Yai and Koh Ngam Noi due to bird-nest collection but the boats stop at buoys so you can take in the splendour of the islands from a distance.
Another of Chumphon’s major industries is coffee production and indeed the province provides 60% of all Thailand’s coffee. The valley where the coffee is grown is heavily promoted by TAT’s Chumphon-Ranong office, describing the area as “an attraction for adventure” especially for cycling enthusiasts. The area is particularly attractive in the morning when the sea mists can cover the valley with the highest peaks dropping having temperatures that can be in single digits.
As tourism is new to Chumphon, the province is focusing on driving growth by ensuring that all tourist sites are clean, easily accessible, but most importantly safe. The infrastructure of the area is being improved all the time with THB100 million set aside for road improvements and THB15 million made available for CCTV cameras.
Tourism will certainly help an area that has previously relied on agriculture but has suffered with falling rubber and palm oil prices in recent years. Along with tourism, the locals are encouraged to grow hot-season fruits such as durian, bananas and mangosteen. This will give a further element of stability and diversification.