Being so flat, Koh Mak is ideally suited for exploring by bicycle, on foot or if need by, by motorbike.
To this end, the island authorities created a network of signed trails, paths and roads, with an accompanying simple coding system of A, B or C, alongside a number. When you are out and about you will see the small concrete posts with their dual language information snippet and there is a booklet which guides you round the different routes.
Even without the booklet, it is easy enough to set off along a trail and see where you end up. You are unlikely to get lost but bear in mind that is gets dark at 18.30, so leave yourslef plenyt of time.
Paths on the north and north west coast
Kingdom of Somchai
Within a few hundred metres of leaving Ao Suan Yai from the back of the pier, two trails, on the left hand side, lead off from the main road into the forest. The first of these almost immediately passes the path to The Kingdom of Somchai, a surreal collection of sculptures, in a papiermâché-like style, of naked women. These figures are posed as tables, as water spouts, as chairs or just standing, bending and kneeling, with nothing left to the imagination.
A brief explanation of the artist and his inspiration is found on an accompanying board by the entrance. The sculptures are also dotted by the roadside elsewhere on the island and in particular, two or three stand or bend around the main Koh Mak sign near Ao Nid Pier.
The Old House and Turtle Beach
After continuing on for another few hundred metres through the coconut trees, the trail bends back onto the beach and arrives at the oldest building on the island, Luang Prompakdee House. From here, it is possible to pick up a trail that runs parallel with the beach and walk towards the far north of the island. The easy option, however, is to cut down onto the sand, past the new resort of Happy Days and continue to the end. An old tree bough should have a sign indicating where you should turn in and from there, you can rejoin the old house trail.
It is now a simple 10 minute walk, straight on through the trees along the muddy path, avoiding the temptation to turn off onto any other trails, before you arrive at Ao Tao Kai (Turtle Beach), a perfect place to take a dip, cool off and more than likely, be totally alone.
The Original Community
The second track, with its entrance well hidden a few meters further along the main road, leads down an avenue of trees and emerges in a cleared and recently logged area. At the end, one wider track leads to another clearing and a rubbish dump but before this, on the right hand side, a tiny opening in the treeline marks the entrance to the labyrinth of paths that criss-cross the forest and run along the shore of the northern coast of Ao Ta Long.
You can really explore now, with left or right choices, the odd wooden sign tacked to a tree with which which to get your bearings and a dense canopy above. If you go west or north west, you will be heading towards the paths for the old house and for Ao Tao Kai (Turtle Beach). If you go east, you will be heading back to what is known as the pioneer community, one of the original settlements on the island with stilted houses, rubber drying sheds, smokehouses and fishing piers.
The far easier and more conventional way to reach this pioneer village is by heading to the crossroads at the end of the Ao Suan Yai road and taking a left. After a couple of kilometres of good road, you reach the houses. If you go straight through the village to the end, you can pick up the start of the path into the forest, which will link up with the network described above. Still further east along the northern coast, another trail begins at Green View Resort at Ao Taan, which after about 30 minutes walk, reaches the the road above to Ao Ta Long – take a right when you emerge out the forest.
To get to Green View Resort, follow the Ao Suan Yai road from the pier to the crossroads and proceed straight ahead, with the turning for the resort found after 4 to 5 kilometres. This is the same crossroads where a left would take you to the pioneer village.
Out to Laem Son for Koh Kradat
Just by the turning to Green View Resort, the main road curves to the right towards Ao Pai in the north east corner. If you continue till the end by following the signs for Little Moon Villas, you eventually come to more of track than road.
Take this until you reach the sea and you have arrived at another wonderful deserted beach, Laem Son, with its views across to Koh Kradat. As is the excellent Thai way, food is on hand with the Laem Som Somtam serving up exactly that from its coconut wood shack, along with grilled chicken and pork, sticky rice and cold beer.
Trails out on The South West and East Coast
The south western peninsula near to Laem Tookata is another good spot for walking, with more trails and viewpoints, including Map Mountain (Khao Phaen Thi, with khao being mountain and phaen thi, map), the highest point on the island. Heading out from Cococape Resort, the road gives way to track and then potholed as it is, wends its way for a good few kilometres down towards Laem Tookata at the end. Elephant trekking used to take place in this area and the remnants of the camp can be seen on one of the bends. Shortly before the drop down to the beach, a track leads off which takes you to the viewpoint.
Over on the south east coast, another inter-connected set of small roads makes a good diversion, with a chance to get to the island’s most southern point, where an abandoned restaurant battles the elements. Here, too, the views are fabulous. Nearby, Pano Resort sits below a curious folly of an old crumbling resort, optimistically built for hundreds of guests, none of who turned up. From here, you can trace your way back along disused roads and tracks to Ao Nid Pier.
The tourist offices at Koh Mak Cottages, Makathanee Resort or Koh Mak Resort are good bets to pick up one of the trail booklets.
Mountain bikes are available at 150bt a day from most resorts, try Koh Mak Cottages, Island Huts and Ao Kao Resort on Ao Kao and Koh Mak Resort on Ao Suan Yai. As well as decent mountain bikes, Coco Cafe at the top of the road down to Ao Kao Resort offers ordinary pushbikes free for a couple of hours with a coffee, but you won’t want to go too far on them. Motorbikes are from 250bt to 300bt a day, available everywhere.
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