Expat stories

Khao Thalu Figure Eight

Chumphon is on the narrow Kra Isthmus of the Malay Peninsula and is known as the Gateway to the South. Those touring generally go through the gateway and onto the tourist destinations of southern Thailand without maybe even stopping. In doing so missing some rather nice places. When planning your next trip just take a day out of the drive and explore a bit of Chumphon.

Now you could look up the ’10 things to do in Chumphon’ off the Amazing Thailand website. But that’s what everybody does and it’s nice to do something different! Below is a suggestion that can be done in one day (a busy day) giving you a taste of what Chumphon can offer.

Running the full length of Chumphon’s western border is the Tenasserim Mountain Range. The suggestion is to explore a part of these mountains at Khao Thalu. Here you will find mountain top views, canyon rides, nature trails, caves and coffee from locally grown beans.

Khao Thalu is in the Sawi district of Chumphon. Sawi is primarily a farming area where crops of durian, rubber, palm and coffee are grown. It’s a robuster coffee bean they grow here so for some it might be a bit bitter. There is even a brand of coffee named after the area of Khao Thalu . You will pass many coffee shops which will serve the local brew, well worth a try.

In order to see the main places of interest the suggested route does a figure eight going through three mountain passes and down the centre one twice with its spectacular walls of rock towering above you on both sides.

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First to get there. Khao Thalu is 75 km south of Chumphon town. Take Highway 41 (Asia Highway) from Chumphon town for some 50km til you reach the Khao Pip intersection (it’s the first set of traffic lights after Chumphon town, a Tesco store is on the right just before the intersection). Turn right at the intersection onto road No. 4139 and travel for 25km where it is impossible to miss the first place of interest on the listing below.

1 The Khao Thalu Hole
Location – https://goo.gl/maps/z4e6zN4f9jDexr5CA
When you drive up from the Asia Highway you will know you are getting close to Khao Thalu for you will see a large hole towards the top of the mountain. About 100m after the junction with the 4014 (you need to stay on the 4139) there is a good place to view the hole and take photos. Do not often see this and it’s the symbol of Khao Thalu. The location given above is for the start of the road that runs parallel with the mountain range. You need to turn left at the crossroads here. As you travel down the road you will pass right under the hole and notice some large caves. A nice drive with a towering mountain to your right.

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2 The Grand Canyon
Location – https://goo.gl/maps/dKFWXDstw22sMaSQ8
Blog – https://chumphonplaces.blogspot.com/2019/01/hin-bam-gorge.html
The Hin Dam river has cut its way through dark limestone rocks to form a small gorge. Locally known as The Grand Canyon. The best way to experience the gorge is to rent a lorry tire and float down the river. It’s about 1 km long and the water is generally not deep nor fast flowing. By the Gorge are food stalls and they will rent you the tires. Any food you buy is served on eco friendly plates which the stall holders have made from dried out betel nut tree leaves. A giant press is used to form the shape which is then heated over charcoal to stiffen. They are happy to show you the process. Beside the gorge can also be found a series of round boulders which look a little out of place. The locals have named this their Stonehenge.

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3 Thip Prida
Location – https://goo.gl/maps/ToT13WWdnEoPTLHB6
Blog – https://chumphonplaces.blogspot.com/2015/07/thip-prida-cave.html
Thip Prida is a temple where a series of caves can be found. They are small caves and most have been made into places of worship. If worried about bats (covid19) there are very few here having been scared away by the construction. The cave to visit is the one on the far left as you face the mountain. It feels like a small tunnel for you are soon back out into sunlight. In fact, you have entered a sinkhole where a very long time ago the cave ceiling collapsed. The sinkhole is not that big, would guess not more than 40m across, but inside it has not been touched and is as nature has left it. In the center is a huge Ta-khian tree which towers out of the sinkhole. Also found in the temple grounds is a 10m tall sitting Buddha.

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4 Doi Tapang Viewpoint
Location – https://goo.gl/maps/WYoGiyK3fCAwr3vt5
Blog – https://chumphonplaces.blogspot.com/2020/07/doi-tapang-viewpoint.html
The location given is for a coffee shop for it is advised not to drive yourself up to the viewpoint (you will see for yourself why). Beside the coffee shop is a place that operates pickup trucks that will take you up the mountain. The cost is 500 Baht for the truck and within this price 10 persons can go. The drive to the summit is about 2 km, takes 15 minutes and you go through rubber plantations, durian and coffee orchards including a little bit of raw jungle. The view from the summit is amazing and you can look across the hills to the mountain with the hole in it. From the summit the truck takes you round to the north eastern side of the mountain where there is a campsite. Possible to rent a tent at 300 Baht a night, or if you are going to pitch your own tent it’s 100 Baht. In this area the local farmer is growing coffee and durian, and amazing how he is doing it considering the steepness of the mountain.

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5 Nam Lot Yai Cave
Location – https://goo.gl/maps/vk1ERMYpn5XJQNVGA
Blog – https://chumphonplaces.blogspot.com/2015/07/tham-than-nam-lot-yai.html
Nam Lot Yai Cave is the longest cave in Chumphon at 1095m. The Sawi river which flows through Khao Thalu runs under the mountain by way of this cave. This is where the river exits the cave (Resurgence Entrance). Access is easy with steps provided for steep sections. During the dry season the river nearly dries up so it’s possible to walk the cave by its entire length. However due to the virus no lighting was installed this year and not sure what will be done in 2021.

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6 Buddha Shrine above Nam Lot Cave
Location – https://goo.gl/maps/EwQFK9YF3ewgeTt8A
Blog – https://chumphonplaces.blogspot.com/2017/07/buddhist-shrine-above-nam-lot-cave.html
Not sure the reason but the local Temple here has built a shrine high up on the side of the mountain range. From the shrine you get some lovely views to the east. What is particularly nice is that the trail up to the shrine gives you a real touch with nature. In one part you can find giant Elephant’s Ears (the plant not the mammal). It’s amazing how they have established halfway up a rocky mountain when supposedly they need moist soil or shallow water. Those growing beside our local stream are half the size. It is a long, steep in places, climb up to the shrine and generally takes about 40 minutes. Counted a total of 562 steps! No climbing over rocks etc for a concrete path/steps are installed all the way and for steep sections steel ladders. Also 90% of the time you are under the shade of trees. Similar to Nam Lot Yai Cave, the cave here has been made by a river passing under the mountain. Shorter at 600m.

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7 Wat Tham Ruesi
Location – https://goo.gl/maps/ECXAJeJwWXJmWW8Q6
Blog – https://chumphonplaces.blogspot.com/2020/07/tham-ruesi-viewpoint.html
Wat Tham Ruesi you will find another Buddha that has been built at an elevated position offering great views northwards. Unlike Nam Lot you can drive most of the way up, so no long climb. You will find a cave that is actually still higher up and from the entrance you can look out over the top of the Buddha.

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From Tham Ruesi you travel back into the village of Khao Thalu. At the crossroads those travelling to west coast destinations (Phuket) can turn right and go over the mountains. The road is very steep in places so take care but it’s a very scenic way. Otherwise turn left at the crossroad, through the gorge and eventually find your way back to the Asia Highway.

If you have time there are these other places of interest in the close area
Phra Yuen Waterfall – https://chumphonplaces.blogspot.com/2020/07/phra-yuen-waterfall.html
Kangkrome Waterfall – http://chumphonplaces.blogspot.com/2017/05/kangkrome-waterfall.html
Khao Namthip Cave – http://chumphonplaces.blogspot.com/2016/12/khao-namthip-cave.html
Phu Khao Thong Cave – http://chumphonplaces.blogspot.com/2017/05/phu-khao-thong-cave.html

I have been exploring Chumphon for 18 years now. In the last few years I have been using a blog as a means to catalog my findings and photo’s. It’s done on an amateur basis but now has over 150 places to visit – https://chumphonplaces.blogspot.com/

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Thaivisa has teamed up with the Tourism Authority of Thailand and 5 great sponsors to encourage expat travel across all of Thailand. We must thank the Dusit Hotels & Resorts, Blue Haven Bay, The Riviera Group, Global Insurance - for all your Expat Insurance needs and Dan about Thailand for their huge support with this project. 

Nina

Nina loves to travel Thailand and is always looking for the best offers.

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