About 140km south of Chumphon, CHAIYA is thought to have been the capital of southern Thailand under the Srivijayan civilization, which fanned out from Sumatra between the eighth and thirteenth centuries. Today there’s little to mark the passing of Srivijaya, but this small, sleepy town has gained new fame as the site of Wat Suan Mokkh, a progressively minded temple whose meditation retreats account for the bulk of Chaiya’s foreign visitors (most Thais only stop to buy the famous local salted eggs). Unless you’re interested in one of the retreats, the town is best visited on a day-trip, either as a break in the journey south, or as an excursion from Surat Thani.