If you have the chance to venture away from Bangkok and go to the smaller islands and islets, you’ll find that Thailand has a lot of offerings that haven’t been discovered yet. According to one guide, Ko Mak or Koh Mak is Thailand’s best kept secret. It has all the prerequisites of paradise - blue waters, white sands, the tropical weather almost all year long. One thing missing from it though are the droves of people that you can’t seem to escape from in places like Pattaya or Phuket. This combination makes it an ideal place for a relaxing holiday.
Ko Mak is found in Eastern Thailand’s National Marine Park. It is the biggest privately owned resort in Thailand, about 40 kilometers from the mainland and owned by the descendants of Chao Sua Seng, a Chinese-Thai businessman. The government has agreed to keep the careful balance of the island’s silence and providing visitors with enough activities to keep them entertained. Most water activities such as windsurfing are regulated so that the island isn’t overrun by noise pollution.
So, here are some activities that you’ll want to do in Ko Mak:
1.Enjoy the isolation of Ko Mak
One of Ko Mak’s advantage is its distance from the mainland. It is nearer the Cambodian border, about 300 kilometers (188 miles) away from Bangkok and 23 kilometers (15 miles) from the bigger island, Koh Chang. Public transportation is limited to a wooden boat that leaves Ao Nid pier on the way to Ko Mak. The slow boat takes about three hours and is scheduled to go to Ko Mak only every Tuesday and Saturday. It returns to the mainland every Monday and Friday. It can only accommodate around 80 people. This is the classic way to go to Ko Mak where you’ll be going to and coming back with locals who are out and about, getting supplies from the mainland. That said, you’ll be sure that you’ll be sharing Ko Mak’s 10,000 palm trees and beaches with just a handful of people.
There are several beaches to choose from that are perfect for lounging. There’s Ao Kao in the North and Laem Son in the Northeast. The best waters for swimming though is in the hidden beach of Ao Phra in the Northwest. You can also check out the sunset at Ao Suan Yai. You won’t see much development from these beaches other than a fisherman’s shack serving home cooked meals.
2.Visit their rubber tree plantations
Before tourism came along, most of Ko Mak’s citizens relied on the rubber tree industry for their main livelihood. Ko Mak was the first island in Thailand to be planted with these rubber trees. If you rent a motorcycle or have a local take you to the center of the island, you’ll see a good number of these plantations. The well tended ones usually let tourists in to try the process of collecting rubber during daybreak or early in the morning before the day gets too hot. You can also coordinate with local government units for a tour on one of the plantations and see how they mix the white latex and mix it with chemicals, hand rolled and then hung out to dry.
If you’re looking for a massage, Ko Mak has around 30 small resorts to choose from. These range from budget resorts to more intimate luxury resorts. Many of them fill up easily during the busy season which spans from December to February. If you want reduced rates, you can try visiting during the off-peak season from May to October. The majority of the resorts are located in the western part of the island where the piers are. These are in Ao Nid, Ko Mak Resort on Ao Suan Yai and Makathanee Resort in Ao Kao. Most of these resorts will have their own staff who are excellent at Thai massage and other spa treatments. Each massage is around 250 to 300 THB (6 - 9 USD) . You can also have the massage at the beach for an excellent view of the sea.
Address: 63/14 Moo 1, Baan Yai Beach, Koh Mak Island, Trat , 23120 Ko Mak, Thailand (see map)
4.Learn Thai Cooking at Smile Ko Mak
Located in Baan Ao Nid, Smile Ko Mak is a cooking school that was started by Leng, a cook who has been teaching traditional Thai cooking in Ko Mak for the last couple of years. The classes are flexible. You can request for private classes or a group class in an open air kitchen by the beach. Leng teaches you how to make and present traditional dishes such as Pad Thai, Tom Yum, Steamed Fish with lime, Green Curry dishes, and Sticky Rice with mango. Leng teaches the classes in English, and she usually gives you tips on where to buy ingredients or what to substitute with them when you’re back home. The cooking school is located close to the Ko Mak Seafood Restaurant near the Ao Nid Pier. All the recipes will be given to you in cookbook form after the class.
Smile Koh Mak Thai Cooking School
Address: 49/15 Moo1 Ao nid, kohmak, kohkood, Trat 23120, Thailand
Website: Smile Koh Mak Thai Cooking School
5. Go to the homey Ko Mak Museum and Ko Mak's Erotic Art House
One person can change a whole landscape. When you go around Ko Mak, you might notice some surreal but beautiful sculptures like a giant crab or a female rubber tapper. These are from a local artist named Khun Somchai. Somchai has a garden called “The Kingdom of Somchai’s Affection” near the Ko Mak Resort. While some of his works may be a little too surreal for children, bring them there anyway to learn more about art (and consequently the female anatomy.) At Ko Mak Seafood you’ll also find an intimate museum in an 80 year old house, showing the history of Ko Mak. The owner, Khun Tarin, is almost always available to explain to you everything you need to know about the island.
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