Off the Rails in Chumphon Province
If you’re traveling to southern Thailand for your holiday, the chances are you’ll be heading for one of the many stunning beach destinations that the country has to offer. Whether it is Phuket in the Andaman Sea, or Koh Samui in Gulf of Thailand, the south has countless beaches with something for everyone.
But what many people don’t realize is that Thailand’s coastal destinations have a lot more to offer than just a bit of R and R in the sun. One such place is Chumphon Province which lies on the narrowest part of the Malay Peninsula. Known as the gateway to the south, this rural province is famous for its rubber, palm and fruit plantations, due to its fertile soil and tropical climate. But for most travelers it’s just one of many destinations that you pass through by train on your way to more popular places like Surat Thani, Phuket or Krabi.
There are, however, many interesting things about Chumphon Province that can be easily overlooked, even by domestic travelers. For example, very few people know about the province’s robusta coffee-growing plantations in the Ban Panwal Valley. There is little interest either in Chumphon’s finishing industry, despite the fact that it has been an important part of Thailand’s economy for centuries. Follow the coastal road through Chumphon Province and you will see many fishing villages with boats bobbing off the shore.
In Chumphon Harbour, which is also home to the Baan Pak Nam village community, colourful wooden fishing boats can be seen everywhere; a great photo-op for those wanting to take away some memories of traditional Thailand. When in Baan Pak Nam, we recommend taking a walk through the village. The maze of small alleys and lanes gives you a glimpse into daily life: people gossiping at the grocery store; others drying or gutting fish from the morning’s catch; older members of the community just sitting and observing life go by – it’s a truly fascinating scene that hasn’t changed for generations. After your stroll through the village, head down to the water and take a long-tail boat for a ride through the harbor itself. Make sure you have your camera ready to capture some of the colourful life on the boats in this vibrant fishing community.
Another place to learn about local life is the little island of Koh Phitak. Located only 20 minutes off the coast of Chumphon, there is only one village on the island. It’s possible to stroll around the whole island in only about two hours, but for those keen to spend the night, there are a number of families offering homestays and you can also join the villagers in their daily activities. The islanders depend on fishing and in the evening you can hear the boats departing for their overnight fishing trips. Most families fish for squid and it’s also possible to join one of the boats for the trip. Crab fishing is also popular and the villagers are known to make their own crab pots.
The pace of life in here is slow and predicable, but it’s real. If you’re looking to get more out of your Thailand trip and discover the genuine spirit of local community life, you won’t be disappointed with your visit to Chumphol.