Over the new year holidays, I swept myself away to Koh Mak, which is known to be “Thailand’s preserved treasure island”, and an ideal destination for escaping mass tourism during the holidays. After such a busy and fast-paced 2015, this 5-night tranquil getaway with some friends was exactly what I needed to recharge for 2016.
I was warned in advance that Koh Mak was quite underdeveloped (which is always a good thing when it comes to islands!), which got me feeling nervous about two things:
- Are there ATMs on the island?
- Will the island have gin? And more importantly, tonic for the gin?
Being my proactive self, I decided to take out a chunk of cash before arriving at the island. I also decided to pack a bottle of Tanqueray, a bottle of the Botanist, and take a dozen cans of tonic with me. Okay, you can judge me. I judge me too.
Luckily, taking the money was the right decision as there were no ATMs on the island. The gin and tonic on the other hand, not so much! There was ample amounts of it on the island. But hey… better safe than sorry!
A Slice of Paradise
- Sipping on coconuts
- Laying on hammocks
- Getting massages
- Playing Kubb, a Swedish game, on the beach
- Drinking some GTs while watching the sun go down
- Exploring the island on a motorbike for a day
- Eating breakfast at the The Chill café
- Playing human-sized chess on the beach
- Going on an excursion to Koh Rang for some snorkeling
That about sums up my 5 days on the island. If this isn’t paradise, I don’t know what is!
Adding to the topic of paradise, during high season this island barely has 300 visitors. From sheer observation, my best guess is that about 100 people were out and about on the stretches of the beach at any given time. The island was mine to explore, and I was loving every minute of it.
Getting Around on the Island
You can either rent a motorbike for 200 THB per day, or you could take a Song-Thaew taxi to get to your destination. They will charge you 50 THB per person for each trip to make with them, so if you’re a lot of people, it can get expensive. I highly recommend renting a motorbike to explore the island, especially considering the fact that there are many hidden treasures to be discovered here. It’s much more exciting if you make those discoveries yourself, either by just off-roading or stumbling into them.
Koh Mak’s Highlights
Cinnamon Beach: The main attraction of Cinnamon beach is the 1km pier. The pier is absolutely stunning and worth the walk. Since the water is waste deep for a good 900 meters, you can even walk in the ocean almost to the end of the pier if you like! However, I definitely recommend walking the entire pier to the end, and then jumping off the edge with your snorkelling gear. You might not see nice coral here, but you’ll definitely enjoy swimming with some beautiful fish.
Warning: There is no place to hide from the sun on this pier, so if you don’t like heat or being in the sun, it might not be the wisest idea for you to walk all the way to the end and back, as it’s a 20-minute commitment.
Koh Mak Seafood: A great restaurant and dinner option if you want to enjoy a traditional Thai seafood meal with some fresh catch of the day!
Ao Kao White Sand Beach Resort: This resort has it’s own private beach sectioned off from the rest of Ao Kao beach making it a very relaxing place to spend the afternoon. There is also a human-sized chess board, so you can spend your day playing chess at the beach!
Hunting for Food
There are very few restaurants on the island. You could easily generalise the restaurant description to the the Song-Thaew taxi driver by saying you want to go to the Seafood place, the Pizza place, or the Swiss food place and he would take you to the restaurant you’re looking for. It was that simple. Another thing to take note of is that there are no 7-11s on the island.
You won’t be spoiled for variety here, which means making decisions is just that much easier! If you want to go back to the basics, then Koh Mak is definitely for you.
Day Trip Excursions from Koh Mak
When it comes to day trip excursions from Koh Mak, you’re most likely to encounter the following options:
- Day trip to Koh Rang: We had initially booked a day trip to Koh Kood, only to find out in the morning that we would be headed for snorkeling to Koh Rang. SURPRISE!! This was clearly a miscommunication between us and our resort receptionist, but that’s okay. We went with the flow, and the flow rewarded us greatly!
- Day trip to Koh Kood: For some reason excursion companies rarely plan group day trips to Koh Kood, although it is only 20 minutes away by speed boat. This might have to do with the fact that Koh Kood is known to be a luxury travel destination and island (I’m speculating). Vendors and service providers will recommend that you hire a private speedboat for the day to take you to Koh Kood and back. This will cost 7,000 THB. If you have the budget for it, then it’s highly recommended, as Koh Kooh is simply prestine. I have yet to make my way there. Clearly, this option was out of budget for me.
- Day trip to Koh Chang: If you’re looking for a lively, busy, and very well developed island compared to the likes of Koh Rang and Koh Kood, then you should consider heading to Koh Change. There is an influx of tourists and come to this island all-year around, so it can get crowded, but on the upside, there are so many activities on this island to keep you entertained if you’re looking for some adventure.
Getting to Koh Mak
The first step of getting to Koh Mak is to make your way to Trad. You can either do this by taking the bus (approx. 800 THB each way, from Bangkok), or taking a flight. Bangkok Airways is the only airline flying to Trad airport, with 3 flights a day. Opting to take a flight will burn a hole in your wallet like it did mine (6000 – 8000 THB roundtrip from Bangkok, seasonal prices). Your decision all depends on if you’re racing against the clock, and in my world, time is just too valuable.
Once you’re in Trad, you’ll have to find your way to the Laem Ngop Pier. Speedboats are 450 THB per person, and have specific timings of departure, so make sure to do your research in advance!
Where to Stay
I might almost be an expert on this topic considering I had to switch between 3 resorts over the course of 5 nights! Due to my last minute planning and spontaneous decision to join my friends in Koh Mak during high season, finding a resort that had 5 nights of accommodation was impossible. As such, I got the chance to resort hop from night to night, which wasn’t actually as exhausting as it sounds (I’m a light packer). I stayed at the following locations, ranked from my favourite one first:
Baan Koh Mak: Probably the coolest place to stay because of the cottage styles, their clean rooms, and beautiful bathrooms. The main attraction here is their beach bar! It was just the most inviting aspect of this place, not because of the alcohol, but the ambiance (…okay, and maybe a little bit because of the alcohol).
Makathanee Resort: If you manage to get a beach front bungalow, then you’re pretty lucky, because you will literally wake up to the sound of the waves crashing into the shore, which I absolutely loved. You’ll also hear it throughout the night since the island is so quiet. If you’re a light sleeper, you might not want to be so close to the beach! Makathanee also happens to be located right at the pier where the speedboat drops you off, and their beach restaurant is equipped with a pool table! Also, it’s the only hotel I saw in the area with a swimming pool. But really… who needs a pool when you have the ocean?
Holiday Beach Resort: If you’re on a budget, then this resort is still in a great location with lots of greenery and empty land separating the bungalows. You might even then the best sunset view from here. However, the quality of bedrooms are sub-par, and definitely cannot compete with the above two mentioned.
Note: All of these resorts are within 1km vicinity on Ao Kao Beach with a sunset view.
I guess it’s about time you book that getaway that you’ve been craving 🙂