Chumphon is a jump-off point for people going to the Islands of Koh Tao, Phangan, and Samui.
If you’ve come down from Bangkok, this is the jumpoff point if you are aiming for the Islands of Koh Tao, Koh Phangan, and Koh Samui. If you haven’t already organised your onward bus and ferry connection, you shouldn’t worry. Bringing people like you to the islands is an industry in and of itself.
Getting to the ferry terminal is about a half-hour drive, but could take you a lot longer by a shared van service because of dodgey practices by the local van cartels and rackets. If you want the cheapest option, expect dishonesty and delays, but hope for the best. I admit to having lost my cool personally. If pay more for a private taxi if you can. Its too far to walk – about 10km as the crow flies or 17km by road.
If you’re getting off but not going to the islands, Chumphon has plenty to offer. Its long white beaches are often overlooked in favour of the islands, which make them less populated. There are also great coastal mangrove forests, which don’t offer easy tourism, but are important ecosystems often with great wildlife.
Otherwise the town itself hasn’t got a lot on. Its worth noting that shortly after invading in 1943, Imperial Japan built a 90km railway from here to the Indian ocean port of Kra Buri so that they could advance their troops into Myanmar, which lay just across the river from there. But the line was short-lived because of heavy Alied bombings of these efforts. They instead moved all the equipment, slave labourers and steel up 450 kilometres to the North, and added a whole lot more slave laborers and Prisoners of War to build the famed Death Railway, which was a lot more successful (despite what you might have seen in the Alec Guinness movie).