Koh Mak: Not Quite a Thai Island Paradise
So, you’re looking for a Thai Island paradise…? You’ll want perfect white-sand beaches, crystal clear water, colourful sunsets and swaying palm trees. The beaches should be almost deserted and the interior of the island should be full of waterfalls and emerald green hills. Koh Mak isn’t that island. It’s nice enough, and some may even describe it as pretty, but “nice enough” doesn’t quite cut it when you’re looking for a Thai island paradise, especially when there is a neighbouring island that ticks all the right boxes. Koh Kood, just an hour away by speedboat, is everything that Koh Mak isn’t.
I don’t generally compare places but it’s unavoidable in this case. Imagine you’re a director looking for a star for your next movie…would you cast Mark Walberg even though Christian Bale or Leonardo Dicaprio were interested? Marky Mark would probably do a perfectly serviceable job, but if the best is available then you’d be crazy to turn them down. Koh Mak is fine, but there’s a superstar nearby that is so much better than fine.
Despite all that, I wouldn’t be a good travel blogger (the jury is still out on whether I am or not) if I didn’t give you a proper look at what Koh Mak has to offer.
Suan Yai Bay
The speedboat dropped us off at Suan Yai Bay, which is apparently one of Koh Mak’s best beaches. We checked in at the cheapest bungalow joint on the beach (which at 800 baht was still pretty expensive) and started to explore. Suan Yai Bay is actually pretty good; the water is inviting and the sand, assuming you don’t look at it too closely, is decent enough. You could do a lot worse than this beach, but you could also do a lot better. We heard there was a good beach further around the coast but we failed to find it. We walked for a few minutes on an increasingly shabby beach until finally giving up.
The rural interior
Koh Mak was purchased by a Thai / Chinese guy over a hundred years ago — its main purpose since then has been farming coconuts, rubber and various other produce. Unlike many other Thai islands, tourism has never been the main money making industry on Koh Mak. The interior of the island is flat and pretty uninspiring — there are some strange looking fertility carvings scattered about though which are kind of interesting.
Haad Khao Bay
Koh Mak is quite a confusing island to walk around. We took a few wrong turns but eventually found Haad Khao Bay. It was nice enough and it’s definitely the best place to stay if you’re on a budget. We saw some bungalows (Island Hut) for 200 baht which were pretty close to the beach, and some proper beach front ones for 500 baht. They were obviously a bit run down but you’ll struggle to get cheaper beach bungalows anywhere else in Thailand.
Sunset at Suan Yai Bay
My main advice would be not to watch the sunset at Suan Yai Bay. By the time we realised that we wouldn’t see it properly it was too late. In my defence, it is a strangely shaped island. Luckily the sky still looked nice and it was probably the most enjoyable part of our time on Koh Mak.
So, should you go to Koh Mak?
Probably not. Sure, if you’re on an extreme budget and you aren’t too fussy with your beaches, it could be a fun place to hang out for a while. There are also some nice looking resorts at Suan Yai, but if you’re spending big money on a resort in Thailand then surely you want the beach to be top notch. The beaches on Koh Kood are some of the best in Thailand, so I’d recommend almost anyone to visit it instead. If, like us, you are island hopping between Koh Kood and Koh Chang (in either direction) it could be worth stopping off at, but then again you’d probably be better off spending longer on Koh Kood. If you’re a young backpacker looking to party you’re better off on Koh Chang and there is also far more there to keep active travellers busy. The interior of Koh Mak is pretty bland and the beaches pale in comparison to those on Koh Kood. Basically, there are better islands nearby!
Further reading: Koh Kood: The Most Beautiful Island in Thailand?
Have you been to a Thai island paradise (or an island which didn’t quite qualify)? Let me know in the comments below!