South Thailand officially starts at CHUMPHON, where the main highway splits into west- and east-coast branches, and inevitably the provincial capital saddles itself with the title “gateway to the south”. Most tourists take this tag literally and use the town as nothing more than a transport interchange between the Bangkok train and boats to Ko Tao, Pha Ngan and Samui, so the town is well equipped to serve these passers-through, offering clued-up travel agents, efficient transport links and plenty of internet cafés. In truth, there’s little call for exploring the fairly average beaches, islands and reefs around town when the varied and attractive strands of Ko Tao are just a short hop away, while the Chumphon National Museum is little short of pitiful.

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