Mae Hong Son – The jungle paradise in the north of Thailand

Mae Hong Son – The jungle paradise in the north of Thailand

Mae Hong Son – The jungle paradise in the north of Thailand

Mae Hong Son is a true paradise in the middle of the Thai jungle:

Mountains.

Waterfalls.

Lakes.

And apart from that far and wide especially one thing: jungle. The far north of Thailand is a green paradise and I couldn’t wait to explore this place where relatively few tourists venture.

The journey to Mae Hong Son

The journey from Chiang Mai takes about five hours in a minivan, which has to make 1,864 bends to reach its destination. Alternatively, you could fly from Chiang Mai, but the journey has something to offer. There is also a bus to and from Bangkok: for about 30 euros you can get here and back from the Thai capital several times a day. So it is not that difficult at all! And you won’t regret it, even if you might have to take a pill or put anti-nausea plasters on your skin to get through the curves safely.

If you don’t want to take all the curves at once, you can make a stopover in the famous hippie village of Pai. This village is about halfway between Chiang Mai and Mae Hong Son City. You are already in the province of the same name and can enjoy the special flair of the village on the Night Market on the main street.

 

What is there to see in Mae Hong Son?

Mae Hong Son actually has something to offer for almost every taste. The only thing missing is the sea…

Lovers of nature will find themselves in a green thicket that occasionally offers views of breathtaking valleys, roaring waterfalls or expansive lakes. You love Thai culture? Then Mae Hong Son offers you numerous temples and monasteries where you can experience it first hand. And you can also relax here. Whether in a Hot Spring, a Mud Spa or with a typical Thai massage… Treat your body to something good!

 

Nature

Raise your hands if you’re a waterfall fan yourself! Then you’ve come to the right place in Mae Hong Son…

Cool waterfalls

I visited the 10 meter high Pha Sua Waterfall, which can be reached very easily and quickly via footbridges. So you don’t have to go on a long hike to see it and take some pictures. It is about 45 minutes away from Mae Hong Son City and is located in the Tham Phla Namtok Pha Suea National Park, which also offers a lot more besides this waterfall.

Pha Sua Waterfall

Other waterfalls are the Huay Pong-on and Mae Sa-nga Klang or in the other direction, south of Mae Hong Son, Mae Surin Waterfall.

Idyllic lakes

Afterwards I drove straight on to the water reservoir Pang Ung. This is a Royal Project, meaning a project that was brought to life by the royal family. These projects are meant to support the local population. Soon you can read more about this topic here.

Pang Ung

The lake is a wonderful destination and it is best to bring a little time with you. Because here you can even stay overnight. There are camping sites if you want to fall asleep and wake up with a view of the lake, as well as guest houses. This is the perfect place to relax and just switch off.

Camping Pang Ung

A stray sunflower field

My probably biggest highlight was a small natural spectacle. Because once a year sunflowers bloom 80 kilometres south of Mae Hong Son and at the beginning of November they make the whole mountain shine in green and yellow for two weeks. The journey by scooter takes two whole hours, but it is worth it!

Die Sonnenblumen von Mae Hong Son

Die Sonnenblumen von Mae Hong Son

 

Culture

Ban Rak Thai – A Chinese village in Mae Hong Son

First, I can recommend the village of Ban Rak Thai. It is Chinese and not Thai, but it is part of the local history. It’s foundation goes back to the time when the Chinese soldiers of Kuomintang left communist China and went into exile. Even today, the majority here speaks Mandarin.

Ban Rak Thai

Here you can not only take beautiful pictures of the lake where Ban Rak Thai is located, but also dive into the world of tea cultivation and jade import, which are essential parts of the history of the region.

Buddhist temples in Mae Hong Son

Apart from that, Buddhism is of course an important part of the culture here as it is in the rest of Thailand. So you should not miss the temples and monasteries. Here my recommendations:

In the city of Mae Hong Son itself you can visit the two temples Wat Chon Klang and Wat Chong Kham, which are both situated directly at the lake Chonh Kham. Around the lake there is also the night market which I recommend you to visit at least one evening for a walk and dinner.

Wat Chon Klang und Wat Chong Kham

Mae Hong Son Nachtmarkt

At least once you should experience the sunset over the roofs of the city – namely at Phrat That Doi Kong Mu Monastery. It is situated on a mountain, so you can enjoy the view and look at the monastery at the same time.

A little outside the city – about 15 minutes by scooter from Mae Hong Son – another temple is waiting: Wat Su Thong Pae is enthroned on a hill above a rice field and is connected by a 500 meter long bamboo bridge with the next village Kung May Sak. The temple is wonderful and offers many photo motives as well as the possibility to attach a wish written on a piece of wood to the temple. But the highlight for me is the bridge, which divides the idyllic valley seemingly in two parts.

Su Thong Pae Bridge

Wünsche Wat Su Thong Pae

Vipassana at Wat Pha Tam Wua Forest Monastery

And as the last cultural point I recommend the Wat Pha Tam Wua Forest Monastery. There I made a stay of several days for a Vipassana. Because meditation is just a part of Buddhism. So if you want to learn more about these topics, you should consider a stay in this monastery.

Wat Pha Tam Wua Forest Monastery

 

Wellness

If you want to do something good for yourself and your body, I have two cool suggestions for you:

Mud Spa for the special spa experience

Have you ever been to a Mud Spa? Close to the Pha Sua waterfall there is a natural mud source, rich in minerals that are good for the skin and stimulate the circulation.

Mud Spa

For about 1000 Baht you can get a mud treatment here. But there are also hot springs and the possibility to get a classic Thai massage or to relax at the pool with a beautiful view of the rice fields.

Hot Springs for a small purse

Alternatively you can drive to the Pha Bong Hot Springs. They are about 15 minutes south of Mae Hong Son and for only 20 Baht (a little more than 50 Cent) you can enjoy the warm pool. The main pool is really hot and bathing is forbidden here. You are allowed to put your feet in, but even that is almost torture. So I just went for the normal pool, which is really nice.

Pha Bong Hot Springs Mae Hong Son

Pha Bong Hot Springs Mae Hong Son

 

Tips for your stay in Mae Hong Son

Hotel in Mae Hong Son

I stayed overnight at the Tee Nont Guesthouse, which is run by a young, Thai couple who are incredibly friendly and make a big effort to run the guesthouse. For breakfast, for example, every morning a small bast bag is waiting outside your door, filled with local delicacies like dumplings and coconut rice in banana leaves.

The guesthouse is simple and you can’t expect luxury here, but it has a familial atmosphere and they offer a lot of help when you plan your day.

To book with Booking please follow this link: Tee Nont Guesthouse*

Here you can check for accommodation in the city in general: Hotels in Mae Hong Son*

 

Scooter in Mae Hong Son

At Tee Nont Guesthouse I was recommended KTY Motorbike. There you can get well maintained scooters for 250 Baht a day. You also have to leave a deposit of 1500 Baht. Personally, I prefer this to leaving my passport there, as it is regularly done especially in the south.

If you dare to ride a scooter or even have experience, this is definitely the best choice to explore the region on your own.

 

My conclusion

I enjoyed every minute in Mae Hong Son and in the end I was a little disappointed to have been there for only four days. I would have loved to stay at least twice as long – maybe even longer. The region is big and offers so much wonderful nature where you can get lost that I probably could have stayed here for a whole month. After all, it never gets boring here with the numerous possibilities for trips.

Have you ever been to Mae Hong Son or are you planning a trip there?

Deine Barbara

The Chiang Mai Guide for Digital Nomads

Chiang Mai Guide for Digital Nomads

Live Like a Local

Du suchst nach einem coolen Spot für digitale Nomaden in Südostasien? Dann solltest du dir unbedingt die Hauptstadt der digitalen Nomaden Chiang Mai anschauen!

Newsletter

Subscribe to my newsletter so I can keep you posted about my life of travels and as a digital nomad! You will never miss a new blog post, a new ebook or where my next adventure is going to bring us. Because it’s never going to be boring!

THAILAND
DOI SUTHEP
THAILAND
PAI
THAILAND

WAT PA TAM WUA FOREST MONASTERY

Red Lotus Lake – A trip to Thailand’s most beautiful lake

Red Lotus Lake – A trip to Thailand’s most beautiful lake

Red Lotus Lake – A trip to Thailand’s most beautiful lake

Just a short moment is sometimes enough to make a decision. That’s how it was for me when I saw a photo of Red Lotus Lake. I saw the pink sea of flowers and knew: That’s where I want to go! So I looked directly at a map to find out where this Udon Thani, of which I had never heard anything before, was located. Since I saw the post in December and planned another trip to Thailand for January, I included Udon Thani and Red Lotus Lake in my planning.

Udon Thani – What, how, who?

Udon Thani is a province and at the same time provincial capital in the north-eastern region of Isaan, the largest region of Thailand. The Mekong River separates it from the neighbouring country of Laos.

This is your starting point if you want to visit Red Lotus Lake. You will soon be able to read more about the city itself and what there is to see in a separate article. But you can easily plan one or two days for sightseeing.

You can fly from Bangkok, but bus or train are both greener and cheaper, so I would recommend one of them. I myself arrived by train in third class and paid 250 Baht for it.

In Udon Thani I rented a scooter for 300 Baht a day and left very early the next morning to be at Red Lotus Lake for sunrise.

 

The Red Lotus Lake

Mainly local, but also some foreign tourists flock to Red Lotus Lake about 40 kilometres away from the city of Udon Thani. Its real name is Lake Nong Han. It is about eight kilometres long and three kilometres wide and an important source of water in the region. It is home to a variety of fish, birds and plants. The lake flows into the Lam Pao River, an important waterway for the inhabitants of the province.

Every year in December and January an incredible natural spectacle takes place here. When the lotus blossoms bloom, the lake turns into a sea of bright pink flowers.

Red Lotus Lake

 

You want to see the pink fairytale? That’s how!

When I arrived at the lake around sunrise, I was disappointed: No lotus flowers in sight. Although I had seen boats in the photos, I didn’t know that the flowers were not visible from the shore. So I drove a good 15 minutes further north along the lake until I reached the place where the boats leave: in Ban Diam.

Boote am Red Lotus Lake

Red Lotus Lake

Here you can either book a small boat for 300 Baht for two people (the next photo shows a small boat), or alternatively there are big boats waiting for you, in which more people fit and which cost 500 Baht. The tour takes about one to one and a half hours.

Red Lotus Lake

Since I would have had to wait an hour for a small boat, I decided to go for a big boat. As it turned out afterwards, this was not too bad, as I had enough space for equipment and co. and could even stand up in the boat.

Then you climb aboard and after about twenty minutes you reach the heart of Lake Nong Han. There the scenery begins to change. And suddenly you can see the ‘Talay Bua Daeng’… the sea of lotus flowers.

Red Lotus Lake

 

Lotus flower or water lily?

Locals say that the pink flowers are actually tropical water lilies. They resemble the flowers of the lotus flower and can easily be confused. The leaves and flowers of the lotus flower usually protrude a few centimetres above the water surface, while the leaves and flowers of the water lily usually float directly on the water surface. Tropical water lilies are an exception to this rule, however, because although their leaves float on the surface, their flowers protrude about 15 centimetres above the water. This is exactly the case with Red Lotus Lake.

Lotusblume

Lotusblume

Barbara macht ein Foto von den Lotusblumen

All I know is, lotus or water lily… The flowers are indescribably beautiful!

 

The inhabitants of Red Lotus Lake

As previously mentioned, Red Lotus Lake is the natural habitat of many birds. A dream for ornithologists! But even I couldn’t help but sit there with my mouth open when I first saw one of the numerous herons open its wings. Watching it swing into the air and glide across the pink sea is breathtakingly beautiful.

Reiher im Red Lotus Lake

Reiher im Red Lotus Lake

 

After the tour

When you return after one and a half hours, you can let the experience sink in in one of the cafés and go through your photos for the first time. When I arrived early in the morning, they were still closed, but when I came back around 10 o’clock, everything was open.

There are also small stands where you can buy, for example, grilled bananas or grilled sticky rice.

Local Frühstück

Kaffeehaus

 

My conclusion about Red Lotus Lake

For me, the trip to Red Lotus Lake was a perfect start into the new year 2020, and if you have been following my travels and adventures for a while now, you know that 2019 was not really my year. My mother died after a severe cancer and several months in hospital. This has put a dark veil over the whole year. The lake with its breathtaking splendour was a ray of hope for me that the mourning period is slowly over. That there are still wonderful things to discover. That I can and want to go on further discovery tours with a smile.

Photo of a photo

Besides this very personal reason why this was a particularly magical hour for me, I can also say that objectively speaking, it is simply a magical place. So if you want to go to a less touristy place and experience a completely different Thailand than you might have seen in Bangkok, Koh Samui or Chiang Mai, I can warmly recommend Udon Thani and Red Lotus Lake.

Did you like this blog post?

Share it in your social networks!

Newsletter

Subscribe to my newsletter so I can keep you posted about my life of travels and as a digital nomad! You will never miss a new blog post, a new ebook or where my next adventure is going to bring us. Because it’s never going to be boring!

THAILAND
DOI SUTHEP
THAILAND
PAI
THAILAND
KOH CHANG

Lumphini, Chatuchak & Co. – 5 Parks and Green Spots in Bangkok

Lumphini, Chatuchak & Co. – 5 Parks and Green Spots in Bangkok

Lumphini, Chatuchak & Co. – 5 Parks and Green Spots in Bangkok

Bangkok’s parks and green areas such as Lumphini and Chatuchak Park are a welcome relief in the urban jungle. If you have ever been to the Thai capital, you know how overwhelming it can be. Honking cars and scooters as well as the at times scorching heat can be a real pain. So it’s no wonder that there are some retreats where you can relax and leave the hustle and bustle of the big city behind you. Therefore, I would like to introduce you to 5 parks and green spaces in Bangkok in this post:

Lumphini Park

The Lumphini Park is one of the most beautiful and most famous parks in Bangkok. It is the ideal place to relax, have a picnic or do some sports. The park extends over 500,000 km² and is home to numerous plant and animal species as well as a lake with a boat rental service. To rent one of the swan boats for 30 minutes costs 40 Baht (a little more than one Euro).

Lumphini Park Bangkok

The trails around the park with a total length of approx. 2.5 km are mainly frequented by joggers in the morning and evening. Officially, cycling is only allowed during between 10:00am and 15:00pm. Smoking is prohibited in the whole park and dogs are not allowed.

The Lumphini Park was created in the 1920s by King Rama VI on royal soil and named after Lumbini, the birthplace of Buddha in Nepal. At the time of its creation the park was located on the outskirts of the city. Today, it is located in the heart of the main business district and Lumphini sub-district, on the north side of Rama IV Road, between Ratchadamri Road and Witthayu Road.

Lumphini Park Bangkok

In the park you will come across a statue of King Rama VI, erected in 1942 to commemorate the construction of the Lumphini Park.

Every last Sunday of the month from 7:00am to 9:00am, there are activities that follow the teachings of Buddha – the Dharma. These take place together with Buddhist monks and include for example the offering of rice to the monks and lectures on various teachings.

Music Festival – A western and Thai music festival takes place in the park on Sundays, from January to April, from 17:30-20:00.

 

Sri Nakhon Khueang Khan Park and Botanical Garden

To get into this park, you have to cross the Chao Phraya. To do so, you should take a taxi to Khlong Toei Pier. From there you can get to the other side by a small boat for only 10 Baht. Since there are no fixed times when the boat leaves you can just go there whenever it suits you.

Khlong Toei Pier

The crossing takes only a few minutes and gives you an excellent view of Bangkok.

Once on the other side you can treat yourself to some refreshments in a small shop. Soft drinks and small snacks are waiting here. You can also rent a bike if you don’t want to explore the park on foot. As this part of Bangkok is hardly populated but offers a lot of nature, you can also consider a tour outside the park.

Sri Nakhon Khueang Khan Park and Botanical Garden

Since I like taking photos, it is more comfortable if I am not on two wheels and don’t have to dismount for each photo.

If you walk to the left at the first bend, you will come to the upper edge of the park after about 200 meters and to another small shop, where I had a chilled cola. I did not see another possibility to buy something to eat or drink. Don’t forget how the heat can get to you and better drink too much than too little.

Sri Nakhon Khueang Khan Park and Botanical Garden

Sri Nakhon Khueang Khan Park and Botanical Garden

Sri Nakhon Khueang Khan Park and Botanical Garden

The tour through the Sri Nakhon Khueang Khan Park took about two hours. I also climbed up to the Bird Watching Tower, which looks on the map as if it is located outside the park, but does not appear to be there. Just follow the signs if you also want to go up there.

Bird Watch Tower Sri Nakhon Khueang Khan Park and Botanical Garden

If you continue the tour afterwards, you will reach some houses after about 20 minutes. Here you can find the only toilets I have seen in the park.

Sri Nakhon Khueang Khan Park and Botanical Garden

 

Chatuchak Park

Chatuchak Park is an elongated park along the MRT (Chatuchak Park) and BTS (Mo Chit) line with an area of 0.304 square kilometres. It is located, as the name suggests, directly at the popular Chatuchak Weekend Market. There are outdoor tennis courts and football pitches as well as outdoor gyms, which are very popular with locals and expats.

Chatuchak Park

This is one of the oldest public parks in Bangkok. Construction began in 1975 on a site provided by the Thai state railway. Chatuchak Park was opened on December 4, 1980. It was later extended to include Queen Sirikit Park and Wachirabenchathat Park, which are separated from Chatuchak Park by Kampaeng Phet 3 Road.

Chatuchak Park

Chatuchak Park

Chatuchak Park

Chatuchak Park

Personally, I would prefer the already mentioned adjacent parks that I will describe in the following, as they are more quiet. The Chatuchak Park is longish and arranged alongside a much frequented road, so that one cannot escape the hustle and bustle of the big city as well as in the other parks. However, if you want to combine your visit to Chatuchak Weekend Market with a picnic or a walk in Bangkok’s greenery, this park is best suited.

 

Wachirabenchathat Park

The Wachirabenchathat Park was opened in mid 2002 and named by Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn. Before its transformation into a public park, it was a golf course owned by the Thai state railway.

Wachirabenchathat Park

Wachirabenchathat Park

Bordering Queen Sirikit Park and Chatuchak Park, it is the largest park in the complex at 0.6 square kilometres. It is one of the most popular parks in Bangkok – thanks to its three kilometres of paths, especially for cyclists. A bicycle can be rented in the park if required.

Wachirabenchathat Park

Wachirabenchathat Park

Pedal boats can be rented on an artificial lake. So you can explore the park from a completely different perspective.

There is also a butterfly garden and an insectarium.

Butterfly Garden Wachirabenchathat Park

Butterfly Garden Wachirabenchathat Park

Butterfly Garden Wachirabenchathat Park

Butterfly Garden Wachirabenchathat Park

Like most other parks, the Wachirabenchathat Park has outdoor gyms, numerous children’s playgrounds and tennis and basketball courts. You can also watch countless squirrels, which are used to people and therefore anything but shy.

Wachirabenchathat Park

Wachirabenchathat Park

Over a bridge you enter the adjoining Queen Sirikit Park.

Wachirabenchathat Park Brücke zum Queen Sirikit Park

 

Queen Sirikit Park

Queen Sirikit Park is a botanical garden in the Chatuchak District and forms a unit with Chatuchak Park and the Wachirabenchathat Park. With an area of 0.22 square kilometres, it is the smallest of the three parks and is considered by many to be part of the Wachirabenchathat Park. It is my personal favourite on this side of the Chao Phraya, because the trails are wider and more majestic and the plant diversity is much greater.

Queen Sirikit Park

Queen Sirikit Park

Queen Sirikit Park

It was built in 1992 and named, in honour of her 60th birthday, after Queen Sirikit of Thailand. It contains many fountains and ponds in which lotus flowers bloom.

This park is very well maintained and the different plants you can find here are not here without good reason: Certain areas of the park are dedicated to certain plant species that are important for Thai culture. Near the middle of the park there is a large area of lotus ponds, while on the north side there is a large palm grove. On the eastern side, near the children’s museum, there is a bamboo grove that includes some small rice fields. Here you will learn that rice and bamboo belong to the same family.

In contrast to the neighbouring Wachirabenchathat Park, which was explicitly designed for cyclists, two-wheelers are not allowed in Queen Sirikit Park. So leave your bike at the entrance and pick it up after you have finished your exploration on foot.

 

My Conclussion

I love to lose myself in a city’ s green lungs, to breathe deeply and find peace. That’s also where the most beautiful photos are often taken.

I have two favourites in particular: Queen Sirikit Park, which stands out from the other parks with its beauty, elegance and biodiversity. I really liked it and I would probably choose this park if I wanted to go to Bangkok in the future to relax in the green.

I also enjoyed the Sri Nakhon Khueang Khan Park very much. However, it is much more remote and with the river crossing you have to plan a little more time for the trip.

All in all I am grateful for the small oases like the Lumphini or the Chatuchak Park, which Bangkok offers within these parks, so that one can escape the big city jungle at least occasionally a little bit.

Did you like this blog post?

Share it in your social networks!

Newsletter

Subscribe to my newsletter so I can keep you posted about my life of travels and as a digital nomad! You will never miss a new blog post, a new ebook or where my next adventure is going to bring us. Because it’s never going to be boring!

THAILAND
DOI SUTHEP
THAILAND
PAI
THAILAND
KOH CHANG

Wat Pa Tam Wua Forest Monastery – Vipassana in Thailand

Wat Pa Tam Wua Forest Monastery – Vipassana in Thailand

Wat Pa Tam Wua Forest Monastery – Vipassana in Thailand

Some do it to find themselves, others just to disconnect for some time. For me, the four days at Wat Pa Tam Wua Forest Monastery were a mix of both.

After my mother’s death, some things in my life were just too much for me. I had also changed a lot to be near her during her last months. Now I didn’t know where my place was anymore. Friends asked why I couldn’t just restart where I left off the year before. At the beginning, I didn’t know how to answer that. I just knew it felt wrong.

And so it came, that I wanted to spend a few days in silence. Only with my thoughts accompanied by the monks’ and the other participants’ chanting.

Two side notes: First, you can stay between two and ten days as long as you want. You can just go there without kind of “booking”. I know that sounds a bit scary, but it’s really no problem. And second, I originally wanted to stay there for five nights, but then I shortened it to four, as you will read below.

How to get to Wat Pa Tam Wua Forest Monastery

The trip by minivan takes about four hours from Chiang Mai. Book a trip to Mae Hong Son (about 250 Baht) and tell the driver that you want to be dropped off at Wat Pa Tam Wua Forest Monastery.

The road is curvy and can be quite stomach-churning. I have done this trip several times and I have to say that it seems to change. Sometimes I get extremely nauseous, sometimes I can relax and enjoy the landscape, even look at my phone. But maybe it is also due to the driving style of the respective driver…

If you don’t want to take all the curves at once, you can make a stopover in the famous hippie village of Pai. This village is about halfway between Chiang Mai and Mae Hong Son City. In the province of the same name you are already here and can enjoy the special flair of the village on the night market of the main street.

Alternatively you can take the bus from Bangkok directly to Mae Hong Son and from where you can take the minivan to Pai or Chiang Mai. From there it takes about one hour.

 

Arriving at Wat Pa Tam Wua Forest Monastery

Wat Pa Tam Wua Forest Monastery is paradise. The compound is quite large although it won’t feel like it if you spend a lot of time there. Try to explore it a little bit and maybe sit quietly at the idyllically rippling brook or the big pond.

Das Wat Pa Tam Wua Forest Monastery

The most important place for you is the Dharma Hall. This is where the meditations take place, or in the case of walking meditation (I explain the different meditations in the following), this is the starting point. By the way, men and women sit separately, which the volunteers always remind you of in case you forget. There is an area with cushions and there are chairs at the edge, so if you don’t want to or can’t kneel for that long, it’s absolutely no problem. You can also switch from the seat cushion to the chair during the meditation if you are in pain.

Die Dharma Hall von außen – Wat Pa Tam Wua Forest Monastery

Die Dharma Hall – Wat Pa Tam Wua Forest Monastery

This is also where the “reception” is located, meaning your first point of contact and your hub in case you have any questions.

Next to the reception is a small library, where you will find numerous books on Buddhism, as well as the book Walk to the Knower, which is a kind of guide for your time doing Vipassana in Thailand.

Library – Wat Pa Tam Wua Forest Monastery

On the wall opposite to the library there is a little ‘buffet’ waiting for you: tea, coffee and sometimes powder for hot chocolate.

On the other side of the shelves are tables where you can read during the day and at the appropriate time this area turns into the dining room.

 

White clothing

When I got there, I got my white clothes. You can either bring your own or borrow some there. It’s free and you can always go to the cottage with the clothes if you need a new t-shirt or trousers. Right next door is a cottage with a laundry. There you can hand in used clothes.

Ich im Wat Pa Tam Wua Forest Monastery

 

Kuti vs dormitory

Then, I was assigned a Kuti – a small hut. I was lucky enough to get a Kuti of my own. Because there are dormitories there, too, where dozens of people sleep.

For me, personally, it was important to be alone with myself in silence. I probably wouldn’t have been very happy in a dormitory.

Whether it’s a dormitory or a Kuti, your ‘home’ is very simple: you get a mat that to put on the floor, a blanket and a pillow. I personally got very cold at night, although I additionally had my own blanket and slept with long clothes. I think the cold just goes through the wood. Fortunately, I always travel with a hot water bottle, so it was ok. But I was never really warm at night.

Mein Kuti im Wat Pa Tam Wua Forest Monastery

Even if you have your own Kuti, there’s nothing else in the room. There is a small bathroom attached. However, there is no hot water and you will not find mirrors in the whole monastery.

Kutis im Wat Pa Tam Wua Forest Monastery

 

Silent Badge

It’s not obligatory to go silent at Wat Pa Tam Wua as it is the rule in other Vipassana places. Therefore, 90 percent of the other visitors chatted and laughed. This is not very pleasant and makes it extremely difficult if you want to be silent yourself. If you want to try yourself to stay silence during your stay, you can always take a Silent Badget from the reception and put it on.

Silent Badges im Wat Pa Tam Wua Forest Monastery

I tried to stay as far away as possible from the talking people, but that is not always possible.

Besides, I had an awful lot of questions buzzing around in my head. And I am not talking about the questions that silenced me and needed silence to be answered. I’m talking about questions for which one has to talk, because one can’t find the answer in oneself, like “Where is the monastery shop or café?” or “How do I get to the caves and how far away are they?” Also, many questions about meditation or Buddhism in general started to come up in my head. It was hard for me to concentrate on meditation when I wanted to know in which language people chanted, what Dharma was or why monks’ robes were brown/orange and their heads usually shaved.

 

Routines at the monastery

Every day follows the same pattern. There is a timetable that must be adhered to. As a guest you commit yourself on arrival to always participate in at least the activities in bold print. Absence requires good reasons.

The timetable

  • 05:00 Morning meditation in your kuti.
  • 06:30 Rice offering to the monks.
  • 07:00 Breakfast.
  • 08:00 Morning Dharma talk, and meditation class.
  • 10:30 Food offering to the monks.
  • 11:00 Lunch.
  • 13:00 Afternoon Dharma talk and meditation class.
  • 16:00 Cleaning the area and helping in the monastery.
  • 17:00 Free time.
  • 18:00 Evening Chanting, meditation and Dharma talk.
  • 20:00 Meditation on your own, or have tea, coffee, hot chocolate & relax.
  • 22:00 Rest time.

 

Meals

Buddhist monks are vegans. Therefore you will not find any animal products at the monastery. Whether you like it or not: During your time here you have to eat vegan or bring your own food.

At 6:30 am the Rice Offering will take place at the Dharma Hall. All guests line up on their knees to give each monk a spoonful of rice in a bowl. This is a tradition of Buddhism that can be observed every morning not only in monasteries and temples, but also in the streets of Thailand and other Buddhist countries.

Rice Offering to the Monks – Wat Pa Tam Wua Forest Monastery

Only then you can help yourself: There is a buffet with Thai breakfast. So you’ll mainly find rice, rice soup, vegetables and maybe roots and fruits.

Lunch is at 11:00 am, which also follows an offering. This time you don’t offer rice to the monks, but the food in general, which is then part of the buffet. This is of course vegan again.

Lunch is the last meal of the day. After lunch there is some fruits and otherwise only the small shop at the other end of the compound where you can buy noodle soup, chips or soft drinks.

 

Meditation

There are three mandatory meditation sessions per day. First of all everyone meets in the Dharma Hall and before the morning and midday meditation one of the monks talks about Buddhism. Afterwards, there is a 45-minute walking meditation. The main point is to be mindful while walking and let your mantra become one with the walk. The recommended mantra is Bud (when inhaling) – dho (when exhaling), but you can also find your own mantra. This was important to me because Bud-dho didn’t mean anything to me. It worked much better when I found my own, meaningful mantra after two days.

Walking Meditation im Wat Pa Tam Wua Forest Monastery

Walking Meditation im Wat Pa Tam Wua Forest Monastery

After the walking meditation we continue with 45 minutes of sitting meditation in the Dharma Hall and directly afterwards 15 minutes of Lying meditation. Theoretically there is still the standing meditation after Buddha’s teachings, but in Wat Pa Tam Wua it is not part of the program.

Lying Meditation im Wat Pa Tam Wua Forest Monastery

The morning and noon meditation is roughly the same. The only difference is that the monk in charge stays after the noon meditation and answers questions. This was also a situation where I was unsure whether I’m allowed to ask questions wearing the Silent Badge.

The evening meditation is a little different from the other meditations. It starts with chanting. There is a Chanting Book for this and the monks tell you which page to open. This is followed by a 40-minute Lying Meditation and then a short speech by the leading monk.

Sitting Meditation im Wat Pa Tam Wua Forest Monastery

The chanting is in three languages: Thai and English I recognized immediately, but I didn’t know the third language. Then I found out that it was Pali.

On the last pages of the Chanting Book there is a FAQ section, which I unfortunately only found out about on my last day. A lot of questions are answered there and I wish I had known about it at the very beginning of my stay.

 

Cleaning and helping

This point is optional, but from my own experience I can tell you that sweeping leaves, for example, can be incredibly meditative. This is one of the tasks that you have to do every day and which you can almost never finish. It is important that you practice mindfulness. So it is not the point to talk to others while doing it. But in practice it happens naturally and I am also guilty. The peer pressure was just too strong and I’m really bad at ignoring what’s going on around me.

 

Free time

At first glance, it may seem like you have a lot of free time. But believe me: you will not have a lot of time for yourself in Wat Pa Tam Wua. For example, I had the problem that I usually go to bed at midnight at the earliest. Among other reasons, that has something to do with the fact that Thailand is five or six hours before Germany and midnight in Thailand is 6 pm in Germany. This means that I’m usually chatting with friends, family and customers until late at night. Also, my posts in social media do not go online until around 6 pm German time.

Even being offline at Wat Pa Tam Wua, I could not get used to this completely different rhythm from one day to the other. I had problems to fall asleep before midnight and then I was completely tired the next day. Because of this I often fell asleep during the meditations.

But you should try to take your time and explore the compound and surroundings. It is beautiful! Also the caves are worth a trip. Plan about two hours for it.

Caves – Wat Pa Tam Wua Forest Monastery

Caves – Wat Pa Tam Wua Forest Monastery

Caves – Wat Pa Tam Wua Forest Monastery

 

My experience and thoughts

About being silent

For me, it was clear: Even if it is not obligatory to go silent in Wat Pa Tam Wua, nothing else would be possible for me.

However, I started to think about the silence. Am I allowed to talk to myself when I am alone? Can I ask short questions like “Where is the toilet?” What is the reason for the silence?

I came to the conclusion that silence has nothing to do with the physical state of not talking, but with the fact that you are left alone with your thoughts. So in my opinion it’s okay to talk to yourself even if you wear the Silent Badge. But on the other hand, it’s not ok to listen to conversations and somehow be passively part of them, even if you’re not talking and actively participating in the conversation. Because that way you would no longer be alone with your thoughts, but you would be thinking about the conversation.

On the second day, I swept the leaves in front of my Kuti. After about ten minutes a girl came and asked if she could help me. I nodded. Another girl came five minutes later. And then another one. All three of them had no Silent Badge and chatted happily about meditation and the meaning of mindful cleaning. So it didn’t take long until I decided that there was no point in remaining silent if I followed their conversations mentally and laughed with them, even without answering. Because by my definition I had already broken the silence IN MY HEAD… So I put my Silent Badge aside.

To cut a long story short: Although I managed to keep silent for a few hours a day and really stay with myself, I didn’t manage to keep silent all the time. If I had really wanted to pull through with it, I would have had to go somewhere else in a situation like when I was sweeping the leaves in order to continue being undisturbed and mindful.

 

About being offline

BUT… yes, there is a but. I went to Wat Pa Tam Forest Monastery for a reason. I wanted the answer to a burning question I was trying to find in the silence. And I found it! Surprisingly, I did not find it in the silence, although I believe that the answer was already within myself. But for some reason I could not see it. I could only see it when I was talking to the people I met at the monastery and talking to them about my question!

Then, I had a thought:

Maybe I still found the answer in the silence. Not in the silence of my voice or my thoughts, but in the silence of the modern world. Without all the “noise” that phones and computers create inside of us… Because even if I have not managed to stay physically silent, I have managed to stay offline and, therefore, silent in social media and messengers. So there was no noise or anything else from the outside world. I’m sure that this “silence” had a huge impact and was much more important than not talking!

When I understood all this and found my answer, I decided to leave the monastery earlier than planned. Although I enjoyed the stay and my answer was a great success, I also realized that it was not good for my health to stay there:

I was always cold (I’m just not made for walking barefoot all the time, and in my little Kuti I was cold day and night), I was always hungry (no food between 11am and 6:30am is not for me), and I was always tired (as I said before, the times just don’t match my biorhythm and I couldn’t get used to it). In addition, half of the visitors were sick, wore thick scarves, drank tea, coughed and took medication from the publicly accessible medicine cabinet.

I was therefore not surprised when, on the same day I left, I got a sore throat, fever, and then a pretty bad cold that accompanied me for four weeks.

 

Final thoughts

I wrote at the beginning that I did not know why I could not pick up where I had left off the year before. After my time in Wat Pa Tam Wua Forest Monastery I knew it: I am not the same person anymore.

Walking Meditation im Wat Pa Tam Wua Forest Monastery

We all keep changing constantly. Normally we don’t even notice it, because we continuously adapt our decisions and lives to these changes. At least as far as we can. But for eight months I was in the situation that I did not adapt anything to my preferences, but only to my family. After that you can’t go back as if nothing had ever happened.

Of course, the time in the monastery does not change reality. I was and still am very busy to process the death of my mother and I still don’t know exactly who this new Barbara actually is, who is so much more anchored in Germany and Europe than the old Barbara.

Nevertheless, I am grateful for the days of multi-layered silence, for the hours of meditation, for the valuable insights into the life of Buddhist monks. I wouldn’t want to miss this experience at all!

The Chiang Mai Guide for Digital Nomads

Chiang Mai Guide for Digital Nomads

Live Like a Local

Du suchst nach einem coolen Spot für digitale Nomaden in Südostasien? Dann solltest du dir unbedingt die Hauptstadt der digitalen Nomaden Chiang Mai anschauen!

Newsletter

Subscribe to my newsletter so I can keep you posted about my life of travels and as a digital nomad! You will never miss a new blog post, a new ebook or where my next adventure is going to bring us. Because it’s never going to be boring!

THAILAND
DOI SUTHEP
THAILAND
PAI
THAILAND
MEA HONG SON

Things to do in Koh Samui – My Highlights in Koh Samui

Things to do in Koh Samui – My Highlights in Koh Samui

Things to do in Koh Samui – My Highlights in Koh Samui

In January, I went to Koh Samui, where I spent a week with a friend who is also a digital nomad. The island is located in the Gulf of Thailand and is very popular with tourists. The things to do in Koh Samui make sure that you won’t get bored…

Koh Samui – Paradise for Travelers of Any Age

Koh Samui is an island off the east coast of Thailand, on the Kra Isthmus. The island belongs to the province of Surat Thani, although Koh Samui has had a municipal status since 2012 and is therefore self-governing. It is the second largest island in the country after Phuket.

The origin of the name Samui is unknown. The theory that I personally like best is that it comes from early Hainan traders. It is said to be similar to the Hainan word for “first island” or “door”. Since Samui was the first island of Thailand the traders passed by, this word became its name. Koh (or Ko) is the Thai word for “island”.

Until the end of the 20th century, Koh Samui was rather an isolated community. Until the early 1970s, there were hardly any paved roads, and the 15 km from one side of the island to the other had to be covered by foot – through the mountainous jungle.

Today, Koh Samui is heavily dependent on tourism. But also the export of coconuts and rubber are primary sources of income.

Koh Samui is popular with travelers of all ages. The infrastructure is very good, there are four hospitals on the island and the inhabitants are prepared for the tourists. This is reflected in the high number of hotels and restaurants. Last but not least, the island is popular because it simply has a lot to offer. Breathtaking waterfalls and beaches around the island are a tourist magnet.

 

Koh Samui – How to Get There

If you are not already in the country, the journey to Koh Samui usually takes you to Bangkok. From there, there are three possibilities to travel to Koh Samui:

  • By plane: Koh Samui is the only island in the Gulf of Thailand with its own airport. However, it belongs to Bangkok Airways. Due to the monopoly position, the flights are correspondingly expensive. If you are willing to pay around 100 euros for a domestic flight, this is an option. Alternatively, you can fly to Surat Thani and continue your journey by bus and ferry.
  • By Bus and Ferry: The cheapest option is the bus. For my first trip to Koh Samui in 2015, I decided to take a bus. All in all, I paid around 30 euros back then. This is probably the cheapest, but also by far the least comfortable way.
  • By Train and Ferry: I have been a big fan of trains in Thailand since I first took a night train from Chiang Mai to Bangkok in 2017. That’s why I decided to take the train in January and didn’t regret it. From Bangkok to Koh Samui you pay 1400 to 1500 Baht (about 40 Euro), but you can sleep in the sleeping compartment and arrive early in the morning in Surat Thani, from where you take the bus to the ferry station and then the ferry to Koh Samui. When booking, make sure you get a lower berth: you will have much more space!
    .

 

Koh Samui – Things to do

Koh Samui has a lot to offer. Waterfalls, hikes and beautiful beaches await nature lovers. If you want to get in touch with the Thai culture, you can visit temples and stroll through the markets. I recommend a good mix of both to get to know the island better!

 

Waterfalls

There is an incredible number of waterfalls in Koh Samui. The best known are the Namuang Waterfalls. There are two of them, which is why they are commonly referred to as “Waterfall 1” and “Waterfall 2”.

Waterfall 1 is easy to reach by scooter and not even five minutes from the parking lot.

Waterfall 2, on the other hand, is a bit tricky. First, you have to get from the parking lot to the entrance of the waterfall. Either you walk (it’s one kilometer) or you take one of the jeeps. The cars leave every 15 minutes and act as shuttles.

Jeep Tour Koh Samui

Waterfall 2 Koh Samui

From there, you will have to hike up the hill to get to the top of the waterfall. I’ve seen travelers with flip flops, but I strongly advise you to wear sturdy shoes. Also bring enough water (you will get a small bottle when you pay 200 Baht for park entrance and jeep costs), as the ascent is very exhausting in the Thai heat and you can easily dehydrate.

Once you reach the top you will have a fantastic view:

Waterfall 2 Koh Samui

If you want a little thrill, you should make a day trip to the Tartain Waterfall. The waterfall itself is rather unspectacular and the hike of about 20 minutes is not very exhausting. But the ride with the scooter is quite a challenge. The roads in the interior of the island are not in good condition and some parts are extremely steep.

In my opinion, it is still worth it, because there is not only a river and the waterfall but also a natural pool – a tiny wellness retreat – that gives the feeling of having landed on another planet in the middle of nowhere. The entrance fee is 200 Baht and you get a soft drink of your choice.

Tartain Wasserfall Koh Samui

On the way back, the road is much less frightening and I actually wondered why I sweated with fear on the way there.

You also pass the Tar Nim Waterfall & Magic Garden on your way to Tartain Waterfall. The entrance fee is 80 Baht and even if the waterfalls are small I liked the short stop.

Tar Nim Magic Garden Koh Samui

In the east of the island, there is also the Hin Lad Waterfall or the Wanorn Waterfall. Unfortunately, I didn’t make it there.

Beaches

If you like beaches, you’ll find at least one in Koh Samui that you will love. The main tourist beaches are Lamai and Chaweng in the east. Personally, I preferred the more lonely, narrow sandy beaches in the west. However, the beaches in the west are also dirtier, as the inhabitants only clean up the beaches where tourists go.

Strand Koh Samui

Also, the beaches in the north are worth seeing. Maenam and Bophut – where I had my accommodation during my first Koh Samui stay four years ago – are much less touristy than Chaweng and Lamai. Why not combine a walk along the beach with a visit to the night market? There is only one row of houses between the two. You can either walk between the houses or through a restaurant or massage studio – ideal to get pampered for an hour.

 

Buddhist Temples

Buddhist temples are an important part of Thai culture. No matter where you travel in this country, countless temples will await you. Here in Koh Samui, the Big Buddha at Wat Phra Yai Temple, which you can see on its small peninsula on arrival or departure by ferry to Koh Phangan, or Wat Plai Laem are especially popular. This complex, where the statues of the gods sit on platforms in an artificial lake, is located only 2 km from the Big Buddha, so that you can combine a visit to both temples very well with each other.

Wat Plai Laem Koh Samui

Wat Plai Laem Koh Samui

There are also temples in the south. In Wat Khunaram, for example, you can admire a mummified monk. The Laem Sor Pagoda is not far from there and is situated directly at the sea. Also nearby is Wat Rattanakosin.

 

Viewpoints

In Koh Samui, there are numerous viewpoints offering a wonderful view of the island and the sea. I wanted to have a look at some official viewpoints, but in the end, I never didi. I do not see it the point in paying an entrance fee for a simple viewpoint if I have at least an equally beautiful view completely free of charge from a waterfall or from the street in the hills.

If you want to visit the official viewpoints, take a look at the following:

  • Samui Viewpoint
  • Lamai Viewpoint
  • Jungle Club Viewpoint
  • Lat Ko Viewpoint
  • Wat Phra Yai Viewpoint

 

Hin Ta and Hin Yai

These two rocks, the Grandmother’s and Grandfather’s Rock, are called Hin Ta and Hin Yai in Thai and have the shape of a male and female intimate parts.

Legend has it that an elderly couple shipwrecked here and got petrified on the coast to be united forever. Although this is a tourist attraction, Hin Ta and Hin Yai are especially popular with locals. A visit is said to increase fertility and make the wish to have a child come true.

 

Walking Streets and Markets

Walking Streets and markets are as much a part of Thailand as temples and should not be missed during any stay in the Land of Smiles. In every city, there is a night market. The best thing to do is to ask at your accommodation when it will take place in the area. We stayed near Lamai Beach, where it’s especially big on Sundays. I went to the market at Bophut Beach twice. The biggest one is on Fridays.

What can you on such a market? Starting with Thai delicacies, with which you can fill your stomach for small money until you almost burst, clothing, decorative items, and souvenirs to electrical goods.

 

Koh Samui – Scoot Around the Island

If you feel safe on two motorized wheels, for me, there’s nothing better than exploring Koh Samui on a scooter. It gives you flexibility and you can easily drive to all the places I mentioned. In most accommodations, you can rent a scooter. For this, you should expect 150 to 250 Baht per day – depending on the model and the rental period. In addition, there is usually a special price for weekly or monthly rentals. I rented my scooter directly from a scooter rental company because there was no weekly price in the hotel.

If you are afraid to get lost: The orientation on Koh Samui is very easy. There is a main road around the island. From there, there are small roads leading either to the sea or inland. When you don’t know where you are, you just drive back to the main road.

You can either refuel at one of the few real petrol stations or stop when you see a cupboard with glass bottles containing a yellowish liquid – petrol – in front of a house.

I especially liked the quiet south of the island, where you can drive a while directly by the sea.

Rollertour Koh Samui

 

Koh Samui – Spots to See The Sunset or Sunrise

If you’ve been following me for a while (for example, on my Instagram account for Barbaralicious) you know how much I love sunrises and sunsets. For me, there’s nothing more beautiful than watching the sun spread its warming rays across the sea or follow the last seconds until it disappears behind the horizon. Therefore the following places were my personal highlights…

Beryl Bar

Located on the western tip of the northern coast, Beryl Bar awaits you with an exceptional view of the sunset. Because the coast is a little bent here, the sun does not set over the sea, but over the rocks of Koh Samui. Thus, it is best to be there at least one hour before the indicated sunset time in order to really see something. I didn’t know that and came just in time to photograph the last rays before they disappeared behind the rock, which was half an hour before the actual sunset time.

Beryl Bar Koh Samui

The food is super delicious and very cheap for Koh Samui and the portions are huge.

At low tide, you should consider coming even earlier. Then you can go through Beryl Bar and walk around the rocks. After about 400 meters you get to a temple in a cave where some monks live. However, I would like to ask you for moderation at this point! A temple is always a place of worship, a sanctuary. Dress accordingly and behave humbly, as is rightly required in every other temple.

Samui Sunset Garden

The Samui Sunset Garden is not quite as much of an insider tip as Beryl Bar. Here you should be there early to grab a seat or even a bean bag. The view is great, but the food… Well, let’s say the bar doesn’t need to score with the quality of the food. Apart from that, it’s tourist-expensive and the service, unfortunately, left a lot to be desired when I was there. Parts of the order were forgotten or misplaced. The best thing to do here is to plan on just enjoying a cocktail at sunset and go to another restaurant for dinner.

Sunset Garden Koh Samui

 

Four Seasons

Now it gets even more expensive…

After seeing great pictures of the Four Seasons in Koh Samui on Instagram, I thought I’d drop by and see if I could get in. The bar with pool and sea view is open to the public, even if you have to register at the reception and then get there with a buggy (the hotel area seems to be huge!). To be honest, that alone is worth it. To drive up and down the hills with the buggy with a pleasant wind and to see the wooden bungalows on your right and left, the staff on the roadside make way with folded hands and a cheerful “Sawasdee Kha”…

Arrived at the pool, you can relax nicely. Unfortunately, the pool is only available for hotel guests or for a fee, but if you are satisfied with the sight, you can spend a few relaxing hours here. My non-alcoholic juice cost 400 Baht. My friend had a cocktail for 650 baht. So the prices are quite high by Thai standards. But one afternoon you can treat yourself to it, I think.

Four Seasons Koh Samui

 

Lamai Beach

And now comes my tip for the early risers: Our hotel was right at Lamai Beach and it turned out to be perfect for sunrise photos. For me, getting up early was really worth it and I would do it again anytime.

 

Koh Samui – Hotel

I stayed with my friend at the Beluga Boutique Hotel*. This is located directly at Grandfather and Grandmother Rock on the east side of Koh Samui. Personally, I especially liked the delicious breakfast with sea view and the friendliness of the staff. I felt like home!

Beluga Boutique Hotel Koh Samui

Do you want to look at other accommodations? Then have a look at  Booking*Tripadvisor*Airbnb* or Hostelworld*!

 

Koh Samui – Where to go Next

If you’ve come from Bangkok, it’s a good idea to explore the south of the country. Possible destinations would be:

  • Chumphon: Chumphon is a province next to Surat Thani that is great for snorkeling, admiring nature in the mangrove forest or taking pictures of great photo spots. There is also a ferry between Chumphon and Koh Tao if you want to visit another island in the Gulf of Thailand before returning to the mainland.
  • Ranong: Ranong is a province bordering Chumphon. It is great for exploring secluded beaches and relaxing in hot springs and spas. From there you can easily travel on to Myanmar.
  • Phuket: Why not also explore the islands on the other side of Thailand in the Andaman Sea? The region around Phuket with Krabi and the islands Koh Lanta and Koh Phi Phi is a popular region for digital nomads.

Chumphon

 

Koh Samui – Final Thoughts

I think Koh Samui is very beautiful. For me personally, the island is a bit too big with too long distances, if you want to drive back and forth between the ends to watch for example sunrise or sunset. Maybe a hotel on the north shore of the island would have been strategically better so that one is in the middle and does not need that long to get to the sides. From our hotel, which was located on the east side and therefore ideal for sunrise, it takes a good hour by scooter to the next Sunset Spot. I would have liked it better to spend the time at the places instead of sitting on the scooter for several hours a day to get from A to B.

Nevertheless, I liked the island very much and I can only recommend it if you like waterfalls, temples and incredible sunsets!

PS: The links marked with an asterisk (*) are affiliate links.

The Chiang Mai Guide for Digital Nomads

Chiang Mai Guide for Digital Nomads

Live Like a Local

Du suchst nach einem coolen Spot für digitale Nomaden in Südostasien? Dann solltest du dir unbedingt die Hauptstadt der digitalen Nomaden Chiang Mai anschauen!

Newsletter

Subscribe to my newsletter so I can keep you posted about my life of travels and as a digital nomad! You will never miss a new blog post, a new ebook or where my next adventure is going to bring us. Because it’s never going to be boring!

Posts You Might Like

THAILAND

CHUMPHON

THAILAND

RANONG

THAILAND
KOH CHANG

Chumphon – Of Coffee Plantations, Lonesome Islands and Mangroves

Chumphon – Of Coffee Plantations, Lonesome Islands and Mangroves

Chumphon – Of Coffee Plantations, Lonesome Islands and Mangroves

ADVERTISEMENT

After the ITB – the International Tourism Exchange in Berlin – I got an invitation from the Tourism Authority of Thailand and Thai Airways to two regions of Thailand that I had never heard of before: to Chumphon and Ranong. I have already written a post on Ranong. Therefore this article is about beautiful Chumphon. A small warning first of all: If you suffer from wanderlust, this post could lead you to book a flight to Bangkok with onward ticket to Chumphon.

Chumphon – A Province in the South of Thailand

Chumphon is a southern province of Thailand on the Gulf of Thailand. The neighbouring provinces are Prachuap Khiri Khan, Surat Thani and Ranong.

Chumphon, like Ranong, lies on the Isthmus of Kra, the narrow land bridge that connects the Malay Peninsula with the Thai mainland. To the west are the hills of the Phuket Mountains and its northern continuation, the Tenasserim Mountains. In the east, the coastal plain lies on the Gulf of Thailand. The main river is the Lang Suan River, which originates in the Phato District. With 222 kilometers of coastline and 44 islands, the Chumphon Archipelago, Chumphon has rushing waterfalls, secluded beaches, lush forests, impressive mangroves and numerous rivers.

Chumphon View Point

The province is best known for its coffee plantations, which produce 60 percent of Thai coffee.

Chumphon – How to Get There

Normally, the journey to Chumphon takes you to Bangkok first. Bangkok is a major hub in South East Asia. From there, there are three ways to travel to Chumphon:

  • By plane: Chumphon has its own airport. Thai AirAsia and Nok Air fly to the provincial capital’s airport CJN and connect Bangkok Don Mueang (DMK) with the city of spas. From Souvarnabhumi, there are flights with Thai Smile.
  • By bus: Chumphon has a bus station from where you can reach Bangkok in ten hours. Tickets are available from 400 Baht (about 12 Euro).
    By train: If you went to the islands in the Gulf of Thailand before, you might have taken the night train to get there. Chumphon is one of the stops on the way south to Surat Thani. Personally, I’m a huge fan of night trains in Thailand and would always recommend choosing this option. It’s cheap yet comfortable.

 

Chumphon – The Coffee Region of Thailand

The Ban Panwal valley in the Tha Sae district is famous for its Robusta coffee plantations. More than 24 million tons of coffee are produced there every year. The Chumphon province contributes 60 percent of Thailand’s total coffee production. We visited a Robusta coffee plantation and were able to see for ourselves how the production takes place. It takes over a year from harvesting to several drying processes – with a dryer, in a greenhouse, and under the sun – to the packaging.

Chumphon Coffee Plantation

Dryer at a coffee plantation in Chumphon

At a coffee plantation in Chumphon

But what exactly is robusta coffee?

Robusta Coffee

Robusta coffee comes from the Coffea canephora plant, one of over 100 coffee plant species. After Arabica, it has become the second most popular variety in the world and it is the bean that is usually used to make the famous Italian espresso. The name says it all. The plant is much more robust than the Coffea arabica and can withstand high temperatures, for example. The reason for this is the deeper roots, which still find enough water in their depths to thrive happily even at an outside temperature of 30 degrees and the associated dry soil. Robusta plantations can also be found in the lowlands, while Arabica plantations are mostly planted in mountainous regions with temperatures between 15 and 24 degrees.

Coffea canephora tree at a coffee plantation in Chumphon

Robusta coffee tastes more earthy and stronger than its opponent and contains more caffeine (2.2 to 2.7 percent), but less sugar.

 

The Robusta Coffee Bean

The flowers are white and have a sweet jasmine scent. The fruit of the Robusta coffee plant turns deep red when ripe, which takes between six and eight months.

There are usually two coffee beans in each berry, and you can tell by the notch in the middle of the bean whether it is a Coffea arabica or Coffea canephora bean. In the former, it is curved and in the latter, it is straight.

Coffea canephora coffee beans

 

Chumphon – Islands, Beaches, And Snorkeling

Chumphon is a little paradise for you if you love lonely islands and white sandy beaches. Here you can snorkel or just relax in the sun in the sand.

 

Mu Koh Chumphon National Park

Mu Koh Chumphon is a national park consisting of about 40 very lush islands: Koh Ngam Yai, Koh Ngam Noi, La-Wa Island, and Lung-Ga-Jiw Island are the islands we have visited. The diverse landscape of each island makes the Marine Park unique, some have pristine white sandy beaches, others picturesque, though rough, rocks that rise dangerously and beautifully out of the water.

Mu Koh Chumphon National Park

Between the rocks, you can sometimes spot wooden huts that give shelter to the park rangers. If you look closely, you can see one of these huts in the next picture. Among other things, these rangers are there to take care of the nests of the birds that hide in the crevices. Our guide explained that the birds build a new nest as soon as they are finished with the old one. So they are rarely used for nesting. As soon as an old nest is finished and abandoned, the rangers come and collect it. Attention, now it gets a little disgusting: From these nests, soup is made! the Bird’s Nest Soup is a delicacy of this region!

Mu Koh Chumphon National Park

Here you can also snorkel. The rock islands are surrounded by coral reefs and offer a wonderful backdrop for the underwater world. Colorful fish cavort everywhere and come close to you. But be careful, because the water near the rock islands is often shallower than expected and you can easily be hurt.

Mu Koh Chumphon National Park

Thung Wua Lan – Chumphon’s Most Beautiful Beach

Thung Wua Lan is not only a beautiful sandy beach it is also incredibly long, so you can surely find a place here that you will enjoy. One section has bars and restaurants to enjoy the view with a delicious coconut or Pad Thai.

Thung Wua Lan - Chumphon's Most Beautiful Beach

As if it wasn’t enough to be at the most beautiful beach in the region, the weather (we were there at the beginning of the rainy season) and the sky rewarded us with a breathtaking rainbow.

Thung Wua Lan - Chumphon's Most Beautiful Beach

Before I went to dinner, I had a closer look at this photogenic palm tree. Don’t you think that such crooked palms have their own charm?

Thung Wua Lan - Chumphon's Most Beautiful Beach – Crooked Palm Tree

 

Chumphon – The Mangroves

I remember very well the trip to the mangrove forest, which is also part of the Mu Ko Chumphon National Park mentioned above. I was already in some mangrove forests, but I liked this one best by far.

Maybe we were just lucky with the tides here, while I was unlucky at the other parks. Because it was low tide here and we could marvel at the rooting of the trees.

Mu Koh Chumphon National Park – The Mangroves

In the places where there was no water at all, we could see little crabs scurrying quickly into their holes as they noticed our presence. In the water, on the other hand, there were little water monitors, most of them just curiously showing their heads. But not only flora and fauna were exciting to look at, but also the background noise. It cracked and clicked at an incredible volume. Unfortunately, I don’t know which animals make these noises, but it was somehow magical.

Mu Koh Chumphon National Park – The Mangroves

Mu Koh Chumphon National Park – The Mangroves

Mu Koh Chumphon National Park – The Mangroves

And I would like to add one comment: After we had returned from our tour through the mangroves, I bought something to drink at a small kiosk at the entrance. Normally, in Thailand, you automatically get a plastic straw with your drinks. Not so here. With hands and feet the lady who sold me the drink made me understand that she apologizes, but she wouldn’t give out any more plastic straws. She gets a thumbs up from me and this extra mention in my blog post. I am happy about every Thai (and tourist) who helps to make my beloved Thailand more environmentally friendly!

 

Chumphon – Accommodation

We stayed at the Loft Mania Boutique Hotel in Chumphon.

Loft Mania Boutique Hotel Chumphon

 

Chumphon – Onwards Travel

If you’ve come from Bangkok, you’ll be able to make a wonderful journey from Chumphon to Ranong or further the south of the country.

  • Ranong: Ranong is a province next to Chumphon that is great for exploring secluded beaches and relaxing in hot springs and spas. From there you can also easily travel on to Myanmar.
  • Koh Samui: Koh Samui is not quite around the corner, but is quite easy to reach from Ranong. If you’ve never been there before, it might be a good idea to combine these destinations.
  • Phuket: Also to Phuket it is still a good six-hour ride by car or bus from Ranong. Nevertheless, it is worth driving further south. The region around Phuket with Krabi and the islands Koh Lanta and Koh Phi Phi is a popular region with digital nomads.

 

Chumphon – Final Thoughts

I didn’t have Chumphon on my bucket list until I was invited on this trip. I must have traveled through several times because I was already twice in the south of Thailand and had taken a bus or train.

I am incredibly grateful that I got this insight into the traditional life of the Thais.

View Point in Chumphon

For digital nomads, I would recommend Chumphon for a stay of several days without hesitations. But be prepared that the internet here is not nearly as fast as in Chiang Mai. But if you want to take a few days off to snorkel and unwind and don’t want to spend a lot of time at one of the tourist spots, Chumphon is the perfect place.

PS: I was invited by TAT (Tourism Authority of Thailand) and Thai Airways to travel to Chumphon and Ranong. I did not receive any financial compensation. My opinion was not influenced by this collaboration.

The Chiang Mai Guide for Digital Nomads

Chiang Mai Guide for Digital Nomads

Live Like a Local

Are you searching for a cool spot for digital nomads in South East Asia? You should check out the world's digital nomad capital Chiang Mai!

Newsletter

Subscribe to my newsletter so I can keep you posted about my life of travels and as a digital nomad! You will never miss a new blog post, a new ebook or where my next adventure is going to bring us. Because it’s never going to be boring!

THAILAND
DOI SUTHEP
THAILAND
PAI
THAILAND
KOH CHANG