We didn’t really have any expectations of Koh Mak. But it turned out that this island in the Trat Province of Thailand was one of the best places we visited on our Southeast Asia trip. We had an incredibly good time and met some fantastic people with whom we are still in contact today.
Koh Mak is a small island with an amazing vibe. Everyone knows everyone, there are beautiful beaches and delicious food. You can literally live the “island life”. You live for the day and never know what the time is. I think older people might say it feels like what Thailand was like 30 years ago!
Welcome to My Koh Mak Travel Guide
In this guide, I will be sharing my experiences in Koh Mak and providing you with some recommendations for your trip. But before I get started, let me introduce myself. My name is Franzi and I’m 25. I come from a small but very beautiful town called Minden in the northwest of Germany.
My desire to travel started at an early age. My mum was born in Portugal, and as a child we went there a few times and I loved it. Also, whenever I went grocery shopping with my parents, I always took the travel brochures home with me and dreamed of traveling to these places. I tried to persuade my parents to go on one of these trips, unfortunately without success!
My first trip without my family was with a friend. It was shortly after leaving school at the age of 18. Our destination was Mallorca. I actually wanted to do a year abroad after school but for various reasons it didn’t happen. Instead, I started studying and didn’t have enough money to go on longer trips. However, I still tried to travel as much as possible in Europe during this time and I have seen a lot. My goal now is to travel to every continent.
The pandemic then came along almost four years ago and at that time I never would have thought that this global “crisis” would enable me to do so much. Please don’t take this the wrong way: the pandemic caused a lot of harm and suffering, but for me it has also been a blessing in disguise.
Traveling was no longer possible and I lost my part-time job in the catering trade. But, as luck would have it, I got a new job as a working student at a COVID-19 test center where I earned 30 euros an hour (a lot for a student in Germany). This job enabled me to save a decent amount of money.
During this time, I also met my boyfriend, whose dream was to travel the world as well. So we set ourselves the goal of traveling to Asia after the pandemic and saved up for it. He then picked some locations in Southeast Asia where we could stay, which is how we ended up in Koh Mak.
Spending 3 Amazing Months in Thailand
My boyfriend and I knew that we wanted to take a big trip in Southeast Asia and somehow it was clear that we would visit Thailand. Apart from Thailand we visited Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia, Singapore, Sri Lanka, the Philippines and Indonesia. Our journey in Southeast Asia took nine months and we spent three months of that time in Thailand.
Thailand was the country we spent the longest time in because we liked it so much. We visited Bangkok, Ayutthaya, Kanchanaburi, Chiang Mai, Chiang Khong, Koh Chang, Koh Mak, Koh Wai, Koh Yao Yai, Krabi, Koh Phi Phi, Koh Lanta, Koh Samui, Koh Phangan, Koh Tao and Koh Lipe. We spent about a week on Koh Mak which is a long time for the size of the island.
How We Discovered Koh Mak as a Destination
We stumbled across Koh Mak when we were in Vietnam and the weather was extremely bad. The plan was to travel from the north of Thailand to the south and from there on to Cambodia, as we had arranged to meet friends for Christmas and New Year’s. However, as the forecast was so bad, I tried to find an alternative that would still allow us to get to Cambodia.
That’s how I came across the Trat Islands which are close to Cambodia. My boyfriend had seen videos about these islands on YouTube and wanted to visit, but we hadn’t planned this stop until then. It then became clear that we would escape the weather in Vietnam and travel to Koh Chang. None of us would have thought that these islands would become one of our favorite destinations of the trip and that we would return so quickly!
When we were in Koh Chang, we wanted to visit one of the other islands too – so we had Koh Wai, Koh Mak and Koh Kood to choose from. From the recommendation of our host and a diving instructor who had already stayed on Koh Mak, we decided to go for Koh Mak and it was fantastic!
5 Awesome Things To Do in Koh Mak
- Kayak to Koh Kham: Grabbing a kayak and heading to the small neighboring island of Koh Kham is definitely one of the best things to do in Koh Mak. There are incredible beaches here and it’s a great place for snorkeling. When we were there, a film shoot for MasterChef Thailand was taking place – which added to the uniqueness of the visit.
- Relax on the Beaches of Koh Mak: When relaxing on the beautiful beaches of Koh Mak be sure to jump from the swing into the crystal-clear waters, grab yourself an ice cold Chang beer and just enjoy life. That’s what we did almost every day and we can’t recommend it enough!
- Watch the Sunset at Banana Sunset Bar: While there, make sure to order a passion fruit shake and try the Khao Soi – both are delicious! In our opinion, this restaurant/cafe is the best place to watch the sunset as it has a very relaxed vibe. The owner is also lovely and will welcome you.
- Go to an Island Party and Meet the Locals: This is one way of getting to know the locals of the island, who were some of the loveliest people we met on our entire Southeast Asia trip. If you stay on Koh Mak for a week, like we did, you might have a better chance of experiencing this.
- Eat a Yellow Thai Curry at Om Restaurant: This was the best yellow Thai curry we had in Thailand and it was very cheap too. As a general rule, the food in Koh Mak is wonderful and this is just one place to visit.
My Favorite Experience on the Island
One evening we stayed at Banana Sunset and had drinks with a friend. We talked to the owner and she told us that only 600 people live here, and that there’s a group chat where everyone is connected to each other and where everything is discussed. She said you can even leave the key in your scooter, since nothing would happen, and you know who owns each scooter!
Afterwards we went to a “party” where there were a few tourists as well as locals. We had good conversations, and were generally very impressed by the community and the solidarity on Koh Mak. We were even invited to a local’s birthday party, but unfortunately we couldn’t go as we had left the day before. If you want to have a sing-off with Koh Mak’s very own version of Prince – ask for Topsy! The people will tell you where to find him.
Why Book Your Stay at Koh Mak Homestay
We stayed at Koh Mak Homestay and highly recommend it! The homestay belongs to a couple, she is Thai and he is Italian. Both are hospitable and courteous. We felt very comfortable there. And it’s not even that expensive. The location isn’t directly on the beach, but as the island is so small, you can actually get to all the places you want to by scooter anyway.
Need to Know Before You Go
We traveled by boat from Bang Bao Pier (Koh Chang) to Koh Mak. It took about two hours. I believe you can also get to Koh Mak from Koh Kood or Trat. If you have any doubts, it’s best to ask locals or book via 12go.asia.
One important thing to keep in mind before you go is to bring enough cash with you, just in case the one ATM on the island doesn’t work. Another heads up is that, unfortunately, there are sand flies on the island and their bites can become extremely itchy. One thing that can help is coconut oil. The sand flies don’t like movement or shade, so if you like lying in the shade on the beach you should rub coconut oil onto your skin regularly. It helps!
You should know that Koh Mak is very flat. You won’t be going hiking and therefore don’t need any clothing or equipment for that. However, if you have any, you should bring snorkeling gear. The island is also so small that it only takes about 20 minutes by scooter to get from one end to the other. So, if you love scooter adventures, this place will be heaven for you.
For the best cocktails on the island, you have to go to the Hidden Beach Bar. Moreover, you can enjoy the island’s best pizza at Little Red Oven. This is a growing pizza chain in Thailand that actually originated in Koh Mak. For breakfast, we can recommend Food Art Hut! They have a great menu and delicious food. Other foodie recommendations include Ball Cafe for great coffee and cakes, and By the Sea for an amazing bar and lovely staff.
Finally, to experience something different, we suggest Trash Hero Koh Mak – where you can meet people and clean up the beaches – and Koh Mak Animal Clinic – where you can go and ask for the puppies, and if your timing is right you can get the chance to pet them and even take them for a nice walk. Thanks for reading and I hope you make plans to visit Koh Mak!