I'm heading back to Thailand with my boyfriend in June and the places we want to visit, in a rough order, will be Bangkok-Phuket-Phi Phi-Samui-Pattaya-Koh Samet-Bangkok. Obviously some of the distances are quite big and while we're up for the night train/mini bus from Bangkok-Phuket at the start of the trip, we'll stop off in some places in between Samui and Pattaya on the way back up.
I have a few questions:
1) What is the best route from Samui to Pattaya in terms of most interesting places to stop off along the way and getting as much travelling done as possible in as few days as possible. We don't want to stop at Koh Phangan or Koh Tao, so were considering Chumphon instead...
2) What is there to do in Chumphon? Can you do a boat trip to Nang Yuan from there?
3) Is it possible to get from Chumphon to Pattaya, or should we stop somewhere like Hua Hin aswell? Is Hua Hin worth a stop over?
I hope this is all clear and look forward to your advice!
The Chumphon-Prachuap coast is one of the nicest "unseen" parts of the country, and most tourists bypass it for the islands. The southern railway is a nice way to get from point to point, and good stop-overs are Ban Krut (endless quiet beaches and cool hilltop temple), Prachuap Khiri Khan (Burmese fishing town with nice beaches north and south of it and scary monkey temple with awesome views), and Petchaburi (not near the beach but interesting caves and hilltop temples). I'd also consider the Khao Sam Roi Yot national park which has good hikes and scenery, but hooking up transport takes some planning (songthaew from Pranburi maybe). I'm not a fan of Hua Hin or Cha Am, especially when there are these other better options.
You might also check out http://thailivingferry.com a ferry service from Hua Hin to Pattaya. I can't vouch for it personally, but might be an interesting way of avoiding Bangkok.
Thank you for that answer- I'm really interested to see some of the places you've mentioned. Could you recommend any accomodation in Chumphon? Do you know of anywhere nice with a/c and in the 500-1000thb price range (preferably at the lower end of that bracket!)
I noticed Lomprayah's fast ferry service out of Chumpon now stops at the Nangyuan pier so it would probably be possible to do a daytrip. Maybe check the website.
Bangkok Air used to fly Samui to the airport just out of Pattaya (U Tapao or similar?)