Koh Mak is one of the smaller islands off the south coast of Thailand near the Cambodian border. From what I can tell, Koh Mak’s economy is largely based on rubber plantations but like many of the islands around this area, expanding tourism is also starting to play an important role. A speed boat from the mainland leaves daily and makes Koh Mak an easy destination to get to. There are a number of resorts offering reasonably-priced accommodation and you can find everything from youth hostels to luxury bungalows. There are many beach bars and restaurants which serve fabulous food and tasty beverages whilst offering a chilled-out atmosphere in the tropical sunshine.
The first travel blog I read about Koh Mak was, unfairly I think, very uncomplimentary about the entire island. It described the beaches as ‘decent enough’ but nowhere near ‘good enough’ in comparison to other Thai islands when you’re looking for a true Thai tropical paradise. To be fair, I have never been to the neighbouring islands of Koh Kood or Koh Chang to compare, but I have been to enough stunning tropical islands that my level of beach snobbery is up there with the best, and I certainly wouldn’t discount Koh Mak as a place to visit based solely on its beaches. Even in the high season, the island is not overpopulated with tourists and it’s very easy to find your own deserted patch of white sandy beach with turquoise warm waters to swim in. I must admit that the snorkelling could have been a little better, but it’s possible to rent a kayak from one of the various resorts and paddle to small neighbouring islands which offer clearer waters and healthier coral reef for snorkelers to enjoy.
The ambience of the whole island was wonderful. For me it offered a characterful mix of peaceful, quiet relaxation with the vibrancy of night bars, markets and clubs for the times when I felt more energetic. Also, the best Thai massage I’ve ever had was in Koh Mak for the bank-breaking sum of 250baht an hour (about £5.50)!
Koh Mak is quite a small island and it’s easy to explore the whole thing in just a few days if you rent and bike or scooter. We visited the main view point overlooking the bay, a local Buddhist temple, various market stalls, piers and beaches and enjoyed the interesting art sculptures scattered around the place.
New Year’s Eve was one of those wonderful evenings that ended up being unexpectedly fabulous. We’re all familiar with those New Years Eve events which are planned for months in advance, the expectations are wild and when it comes to crunch time – the result is a big fat disappointment. This year was not so! Despite some initial difficulties finding somewhere to have dinner, we ended up eating at our favourite pizza joint, followed by a visit to a fun beach bar where we danced to some great music and enjoyed the midnight fireworks. We took the party back to our Airbnb which just so happened to be one of the nicest places to stay on the entire island – Garden Villa. This house is beautiful, large and very luxurious, not at all what Alex and I are used to and it was a real treat for us. It was great fun to spend New Year with my wonderful family in such a stunning location. We were all very merrily drunk and danced in our living room until the not-so-small hours of the morning. Alex even demonstrated his super-cool skanking abilities, by the end of the night, we were all ‘skanking’ – he’s such a trendsetter.
People on the island are very friendly and there’s a general laid back attitude that really soothes the soul after the hustle and bustle of Bangkok. Even though Koh Mak was more ‘built-up’ in comparison to many of the Pacific islands we’ve visited, it was nice to be back in a somewhat familiar environment.