An idyllic paradise of white and golden sand beaches and transparent waters, Koh Mak may feel too sleepy and quiet for some, but it is a great escape from hefty development which continues to swallow other islands of the Gulf. Koh Mak is a very private and meditative experience: swimming and sunbathing, snorkelling and canoeing, exploring rural inner part of the island overtaken by rubber and coconut plantations makes you feel miles away from more touristy resort islands like Phuket or even Koh Chang. Nightlife is literally non-existent on Koh Mak, but the real tropical island atmosphere combined with endless marine vistas and palm-fringed secret bays and beaches do compensate.
How to get from Bangkok to Koh Mak
Koh Mak sits just a few kilometres south of Koh Chang in the upper part of the Gulf. Many travellers choose to visit Koh Mak as a part of their tour of the Trat islands, which may include the largest island of the group, Koh Chang, a more remote Koh Kood and a smaller and unbearably romantic Koh Wai. From Bangkok you can first travel to Trat by bus and then buy a ferry ticket to Koh Mak which normally includes complimentary pick-up from any location in Trat and transfer to Laem Sok, the pier from where ferries to Koh Mak depart.
There are combo deals for getting from Bangkok to Koh Mak, which are the easiest solution, especially for those based in Khao San Road area.
From Bangkok to Koh Mak by van and ferry
By far the most convenient and fastest way to get from Bangkok to Koh Mak is to opt for a joint van+ferry ticket (THB750). Boonsiri High Speed Ferries company picks up passengers from their office in Khao San Road area in Bangkok, brings them to Laem Sok Pier near Trat and then transports by high speed ferries to Koh Mak and Koh Kood.
In Bangkok, the meeting point for Boonsiri vans is located in Tanee/Tani Road which runs parallel to Khao San Road and Soi Rambuttri. Note that some travellers report delays of departure of the vans due to passengers coming late – please plan your time accordingly and arrive to the meeting point at least some 15 minutes prior to departure.
Note that Boonsiri high speed ferries are passenger ferries only and do not take on board cars and vans. At Laem Sok you will need to get off the van and board the ferry with all your luggage.
There are two departures a day from Boonsiri’s office in Bangkok: the earliest one leaves at 5.30am bringing you to Koh Mak by 12.30pm, the last one is at 8am with the ferry reaching Koh Mak by 3.15pm. Vans cover the distance between Bangkok and Trat in approximately five hours; the whole travel from Bangkok to Koh Mak lasts about seven hours.
Tip: The 5.30am bus catches 11am Boonsiri ferry at Laem Sok. Note that this ferry first calls to Koh Kood and then Koh Mak; the sea travel to Koh Mak in this case lasts 1½ hour. If you are prone to seasickness, opt for the second, 8am departure from Bangkok which uses the 2.30pm ferry from Laem Sok. It heads first to Koh Mak and brings you to the island in sheer 45 minutes.
From Bangkok to Trat and to Koh Mak
From Bangkok you can as well buy a van ticket to Trat and then a separate ferry ticket to Koh Mak. Trat is the nearest transfer point to Laem Sok, 22 km southeast of the city, from where ferries to Koh Mak depart.
There is van service from Morchit Bus Terminal in Bangkok to Trat Transport Station by T.T.T. company with tickets sold at THB300 and 8 departures throughout the day from 5am till 6.30pm (THB300). Vans take five hours to get to Trat where you will have to opt for a public songthaew going to Laem Sok Pier (THB50, one hour) or buy a ferry ticket with transfer to Laem Sok already included into the price (THB450), eg. that of Boonsiri.
Boonsiri picks up their passengers in Trat and transports them directly to the pier in Laem Sok to board their Koh Mak-bound ferry (sea travel lasts from 45 minutes to 1½ hour). Separate tickets will not cost you less, but will take more time for sure.
Other islands to visit from Koh Mak
There is an inter-island ferry which connects the islands of the archipelago: Koh Kood, Koh Rayang, Koh Mak, Koh Kham, Koh Wai and Koh Chang. From Koh Mak, tickets cost THB300 to Koh Wai (30 minutes), THB400 – to Koh Kood (one hour) and THB600 – to Koh Chang (one hour).
Boonsiri has one ferry a day at 2pm from Koh Mak to Koh Kood with travel time of about 40 minutes and tickets sold at THB300. There is also direct service to Trat, Bangkok (THB750) and Pattaya leaving Koh Mak at 12.30pm.
A great way to get from one bay to another on Koh Mak is by kayak. Many resorts offer kayaks free of charge to their guests. If kayaking is not your thing, bicycles and motorbikes are readily availably for rent nearly in every guesthouse. There is even a kind of public transport on Koh Mak in the form of pickup trucks offering rides at relatively acceptable prices (THB50 from the southern part of the island to the northern one).
Where to stay
Koh Mak boasts surprisingly good accommodation options in different price ranges. The majority of budget guesthouses congregate in and around Ao Khao. Many are cheap, no frills, rustic and right on the beach – a combination which is getting increasingly hard to find on other more developed islands. Ao Suan Yai caters for those seeking upscale and mid-range accommodation. Secluded bays on the eastern shores of Koh Mak often house one resort each and are an excellent choice if you want to get away from it all.
Obviously the major activity you are going to be involved in on Koh Mak is lazing on the beach or in a hammock hanging on the terrace of your bungalow. And frankly speaking, both are a great way to pass your time on the island. That said, there is something what can if not totally ruin, but spoil to a certain degree your vacation on Koh Mak: there are constant reports of sandflies – escape to the eastern beaches or Ao Suan Yai then which are not their favourite habitat.
Other things worth trying on Koh Mak include snorkelling and diving. There are a number of operators offering both. A short list of usual holiday pleasures is also available on Koh Mak and includes Thai massage and spa shops, delicious little local restaurants and Thai cooking courses. You will be rewarded with inspiring panorama of the island which unfolds from the highest point on Koh Mak, but to reach it you need to do a fair share of trekking and – more importantly – find out the right trail which is hidden between Baan Leam Tukta and Baan Ing Kao Bungalows. For the most inquisitive travellers a short trip to the neighbouring Koh Maisee island is highly recommended. There is a pearl farm located there and visitors are welcome to see the process of cultivation of pearls – and to buy some pearls at quite reasonable prices, too.