Beachfront living in Chumphon

Published on 19 September 2023 at 00:00

With 200 kilometers of coastline and the gateway to the islands of the Gulf of Thailand, it’s curious that Chumphon is not on the tourist trail. Were we wrong to have this on our itinerary?

We’ve shared previously that one of our main sources of inspiration for this trip was following Paddy Doyle’s motorbike adventures on YouTube, and his episode driving up the coast of Chumphon reminded us of a similar day we had driving a Mustang along the coast of Waikiki in Hawaii some years ago, so we added it to our itinerary.  This coastal province on the Gulf of Thailand is often overlooked as tourists head straight to the famous neighboring islands of Koh Tao, Koh Pha Ngan and Koh Samui, but having extra time gave us the chance to stay a while to see if this could be a hidden gem.

After dropping “Harris the Yaris” at Surat Thani airport, I had a arranged a private car to take us the two hours north, as there are limited transport options to Chumphon.  There is a train that stops on route to Bangkok, but it takes much longer, reserves air conditioning carriages for those making the full journey and stops in Chumphon late at night. From there we would then need to find out way to our hotel, which was out of town.  Taking everything into consideration, we felt it was worth the extra cost for a door-to-door service. 

You also won’t find the same variety of accommodation options here that you would in a more developed tourist area. We found that Novotel Chumphon Beach and Golf Resort was the best option available in our price range.  The Novotel is located in Pharadonphap Beach, 20 kilometers south of Chumphon city.  The hotel has two pools, a massage spa, a restaurant, and a gym, but the golf course has been closed since COVID.  The pool has a covered cabana which offered a good place to catch up on blogging and to chill out. We were surprised to learn that none of the hotel staff spoke any English. Well, they could say “Yes, OK”, so did - even when they really did not understand.  This led to some funny experiences during our stay as things were lost in translation.  “Two Chang Beers” somehow became “Two Pool Towels”, and “One Fried Banana with Ice Cream” became “Fruit Platter for Six People”.  We should have studied our “Fast Talk Thai” book a little more closely for this local experience!

Unfortunately, we found we were far from the pristine beaches we saw online and were instead on the part of the coast that is the heart of the fishing trade.  Each evening, the sea lit up in an eerie green glow which we learned is from hundreds of fishing boats in the Gulf who use colored lights to attract algae, which then attract fish and squid into their nets. 

Personally, we found this location to be too remote for our liking.  By day three I was asking myself whether we should simply move on.  We decided instead to relax by the pool for a few more days, write blogs in the sun, and then hire another car to self-drive to our next location further north where Paddy had recommended.  There were no Mustangs to be found, but we eventually hired “Snoopy”.

The next spot redeemed the province of Chumphon in our eyes.  “Maliblues” is a small and quirky art gallery and blues bar located right on the white sands of Thung Wua Laen beach. They also offer a handful of unique accommodation options onsite.  As we pulled up, I could see the beach with clear blue ocean, and I was excited! Absolutely beachfront! Our “house” is made of cast concrete, and its rounded edges inside and out make it look like a house from the Smurfs or the Flintstones. For any readers older than Gen-X, please Google those references....

As you enter the room you automatically get teleported to Greece.  The white concrete beach themed room is large, cool, and well decorated.  Our double aqua blue doors opened onto five steps which lead you straight onto a very long stretch of beach with warm, crystal blue ocean.  This is why Paddy and the other travelers spoke so highly of Chumphon’s beaches, now I get it! We relaxed into beach life quite quickly and enjoyed the live blues band and the homemade Italian food from the onsite restaurant.  A short walk down the road is one of the more unique temples we have encountered, entirely gilded in gold.

Now that we had Snoopy, we decided to head north and explore. We packed our day packs and headed out, stopping along the way at several temples and viewpoints.  One to mention is Wat Kaeo Prasert.  There are two aspects to this temple, the first is an impressive white Buddha statue standing some 30 meters tall and offering spectacular views over the Gulf. 

During the hike up the hill, we noticed a collection of other statues slightly visible through the forest at a neighboring temple, so decided to investigate.  We were very surprised at what we found.  At the base is a “standard” temple which is beautifully decorated as per many of the others we have seen.  In the forest behind, we were surprised to find life-sized sculptures of dinosaurs.  I’m not sure how they fit into the story of Buddhism, but there they were.  OK, that is unexpected but kind of cool.  As you follow the path through the forest you find many more sculptures that depict scenes of Buddhist’s living a good life – praying and offering gifts to the deities. 

Then things take a serious turn. The next section can best be described as a traumatic way to educate kids on what happens if you’re a bad person and end up in “hell”.  An entire section of the forest is depicting scenes of straight up torture.  Naughty people being boiled, flayed, stabbed, strung up from various orifices, nails in places nobody wants nailed, and being eaten by various beasts.  The directors of horror movies like Hellraiser and Saw would be inspired.  Note to self: Be a good person because you never really know what comes next.

We wiled away the remaining days enjoying our little beach house, the live blues bands that performed, and the hospitality of the team at Maliblues.  Our routine became walks along the beach during the day, then watching the sunset across the bay in the evenings. 

After seven nights in Chumphon our time came to an end.  Though we did not fall in love with this part of Thailand, our time at Maliblues was something special.  Our recommendation is that if you do take a trip to Chumphon, either on route to the islands or driving north to Bangkok, you must stay on a beach in the northern part of the coast to enjoy the coastline of gorgeous beaches and slow authentic life of Thailand.

Feeling fully refreshed, we are now ready for a week of physical activity as we head to one of the world's best diving spots – the island of Koh Tao. 

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gordon douglas
8 months ago

the horror of other cultures ! if it's set in stone than it probably happened

Gina Gerrard
8 months ago

What a grand adventure, I'm afraid I'll just have to stay a snob as I like my comforts a little to much to go all out bush in Thailand, but i take my hat off to you both.

Sandra Jones
7 months ago

Sounds like you had a lot of smiles and giggles at Pharadonphap Beach.