Anchored in the northeast of the Gulf of Thailand, on the edge of Cambodia, Koh Mak and Koh Kood, satellites of the very busy Koh Chang, could prove to be two island jewels of the Kingdom.
Koh Mak, Koh Kood (or Koh Kut) and Koh Chang, three jewels set in the crystal clear waters of the Gulf of Thailand. However, the last one, “Elephant Island”, turns out to be a victim of its own success and gradually loses its soul. So much so that the Thais are annoyed: “It has become an international island!” The nocturnal and festive activity is intense there, the traffic complicated and the exploitation of the pachyderms raises questions. Turning towards the serene and authentic Koh Mak and Koh Kood is a nice option.
It all starts at the Laem Sok pier in Trat, 350 kilometers from Bangkok. From the Thai capital, it is first by air-conditioned bus that the long journey (6 hours) takes place to the ferries which serve the two islands. In Bangkok, the majority of guesthouses offer the precious voucher. For 850 baht (24 €), Boonsiri Ferry, the only operator to provide drop-off at Koh Mak, picks you up by taxi or tuk-tuk in front of your hotel and takes you to the bus that leaves from Khao San Road. Departures are at dawn (5 a.m. and 7:30 a.m.). If you want to save yourself this journey and save almost a day on your stay, you can take a domestic flight to Trat with Bangkok Airways in an hour (from €40 one way). This formula is practical on the way back since the plane drops you off directly at Suvarnabhumi, Bangkok’s international terminal. At Trat airport, Boonsiri has a counter and drops you off by van at the pier, allow another three hours by boat to Koh Mak. If you opt for a stay on the two islands, plan two good weeks on site.
Koh Mak, the beautiful stranger
With only 800 French visitors in 2018 (figures Thai Ministry of Tourism, NDLR), under the radar of tourist destinations, an islet seven kilometers long, bordered by sublime deserted beaches of white sand. The ferry drops you at the port ofAo Nest, where many resorts pick you up free of charge. There are very few cars on the island, apart from the few taxis and private vehicles that criss-cross it with caution. Koh Mak is revealed on foot, by scooter or by bicycle. Here, tourists are welcomed with kindness, but sparingly. Unlike Koh Chang and Koh Kood, the territory is flat and easily lends itself to exploration on two wheels. The roads are well maintained and allow you to criss-cross the island under the shady foliage of the luxuriant jungle and under the remonstrances of the mynahs. The heart of the activity is concentrated three kilometers from Ao Nid, the only port of arrival, along the beach ofAo Kao : resorts, bars, stalls, pharmacy, restaurants, fruit and vegetable stalls that give off their exotic scents to the wind. On the island, the Smile Koh Mak Thai Cooking School is a must. Four hours of initiation and tasting, which open onto the owner’s garden. Discovery of spices, their medicinal virtues and the fundamentals of Thai cuisine. The school is a few hundred meters from the port, very close to the temple. The package is 1200 baht (30 €). Further north, a 10-minute drive away, the beach of Laem Son is the starting point for Koh KradadThe mysterious island.
In Koh Mak, for a typical cuisine, it’s at Chill Restaurant let it happen. The last establishment in the lively area, along Ao Kao beach, is a small family canteen open on three walls, with a charming decor. The welcome there is exceptional. Pok, its owner, fled Koh Chang “for the serenity of Koh Mak” and provides a high-flying culinary score. Chicken red curry will long be remembered in your memory (The Chill Koh Mak, Facebook ).
Where do we sleep?
On the accommodation side, the Big Easy is the right choice. 5 minutes walk from the shopping area by the beach, here is a beach resort very simple of half a dozen bungalows with Thai architecture and decoration. Red wood, identical parquet flooring, terrace with a bamboo hammock with sea view, bathroom in black Trat stone, refrigerator, air conditioning and private beach. Paul, its owner, is English, he “love the French” and left the City for this little paradise. Opt for bungalow n° 1, the view is inalienable (3000 bahts per night in a double room in high season, i.e. 90 €, bigeasykohmak.com ).
Koh Kood, the lush
Although a little busier than Koh Mak, its postcard beaches, its waterfalls, its century-old trees and its fishing villages remain easily accessible. Because if Koh Kood (or Ko Kut) is one of the largest islands in the kingdom, it is also one of the least inhabited. With its winding hills, it was not so long ago completely covered by tropical forest. To get there, 45 minutes by ferry from Koh Mak (300 bahts/person, €9) or two hours from the Trat pier (750 bahts/person, €22) for an arrival at the port ofAo Salat, northeast of Koh Kood. Resorts and restaurants are shared throughout the island, however, activity is concentrated in the north. Count around thirty minutes to cross the island by taxi (100 bahts, €3 per person) or by scooter (250 bahts per day, or €7, French license required). The beaches have made the reputation of the island, Ao Phraoto the south, or Klong Chao, in the center, provide a brilliant demonstration of this. To the south-east, a guaranteed escape to the fishing village ofAo Yai : sidewalks and houses on stilts, colorful boats, repairing fishing nets, scaling fish, restaurants… Don’t miss the viewpoint, two kilometers from the finish, for a bird’s eye view of the village.
On the catering side, the offer is plethora. For authentic cuisine, don’t hesitate to try the little eateries along the road. For a beautifully crafted Italian, near Bang Bao Beach, the Heaven Senserun by an expatriate from La Botte, will reconcile you with European cuisine (facebook/kohkutheavensense ).
Where do we sleep?
To land, the Rest Sea, at the southern end (Ao-Phrao-Beach), offers comfortable small villas with terraces, some with jacuzzi. The resort is out of the way, twenty kilometers from the port and lively areas, but has a swimming pool, a restaurant and a private beach (6200 baht, €170/double room, for a Pool Villa Deluxe, restseakohkood. com).
Avoid the monsoon from May to mid-October, the temperature remains mild (30°C) but you will be limited in your movements. As proof, the ferry connection is closed on Koh Mak during this period.
Provide cash on Koh Mak, the only cash dispenser (ATM) delivers its bahts in dribs and drabs and very randomly. It is substantially the same on Koh Kood where there are only 2 ATM. In the same area as the hospital and the police station, opposite the main government buildings, there is a bank and an ATM (pink). A second ATM can be found between the Sea Dog restaurant and BB Divers, at Klong Chao Beach itself.
Small precaution, it is not uncommon for dogs to be drowsy in the middle of the road, not aggressive, they are content to raise a baleful eye, borderline contemptuous, but will not move one iota. Be careful after dark. Finally, on the beaches, beware of the shade of palm trees to avoid the possible fall of a coconut…
When to go to Thailand? Weather, festivities… The best period by region
National Tourist Office of Thailand, 90 Av. des Champs-Élysées, 75008 Paris.