Chumphon was mostly just a two-night/one-day layover between Koh Phangan and Bangkok, but we did find some neat spots while we were there. On Friday, September 11, we rented a motorbike and headed out of town to do some exploring. At the top of a hill that overlooked the ocean, we passed what I call the "spirit house graveyard."
Many homes in Thailand have a small shrine or “spirit house” built in the front yard to honor the spirits of the property. The family will frequently leave little offerings in the house to show their respect for the spirits or to ask for good luck. I don't know what they were doing there, but there were dozens of discarded spirit houses spread along the side of the road, in varying states of decay. It was a very poignant scene.
Descending the hill, we arrived at a beach. Nearby was a memorial to the man who created Thailand’s navy. There was a big shrine that contained a statue (that people are slowly covering in gold leaf) and a tray of gifts people have left for the shrine (see the photo). I got a kick out of the offerings—they are in true sailor fashion. Notice the money, lighters, and cigarettes (cigarette packages in Thailand all have the most grotesque photographs on the outside: images of people with throat cancer, or a mouth with teeth rotting out, or a baby breathing second-hand smoke. I wish our surgeon general would be so proactive).
After checking out the shrine, we got back on the bike, and it promptly started to rain. With not much else to do, we drove for about half an hour to a national park, where we had some lunch, paddled a kayak around some mangroves, and stopped by the visitor center. It must have been “local fieldtrip day,” as there were dozens of cute little school kids in their uniforms both at the shrine and the national park, checking out the same things we were checking out with varying degrees of interest. They enjoyed watching us and practicing their English.
As we were headed back into town we passed a boatyard. I can never resist a boatyard; they are always so colorful and toxic and interesting. We stopped, and this one didn’t let me down. There were all sorts of poisonous paints and petroleum products dripping right onto the ground and eventually getting washed into the water. The boats were colorful tubby teak fishing boats. I am sure all the guys working thought we were very odd, stopping by randomly to stare at the boats, but I am getting used to that feeling.