Koh Mak, Thailand: One of a Thousand Islands

Thailand has over a thousand islands. This is because the gulf these floating paradises inhabit is a shockingly shallow 85 meters at its deepest point. You could say that it’s harder to choose which one to visit than it is for a new one to peek its white sandy beaches above the surf of the crystal clear waters. Lucky for me, I’ve lived here long enough to acquire a few type-A locals to make that decision much easier for me. My girlfriend Karn and I picked Koh Mak island, the smaller and quieter neighbor to the expat favorite Koh Chang.

After putting our fifth grade math to good use, Karn and I decided that driving ourselves wasn’t much more expensive than the 300-400 baht bus to the port city of Trat, and we packed her Suzuki Swift (it’s like a Mini Cooper but with less Mark Wahlberg movies devoted to it) for three days of adventuring in the ocean. The drive to the port was about five hours from Bangkok and we set out after work with plans to sleep at the port and make an early morning embarkation.

Heinz Albers / Own Work
Heinz Albers / Own Work

Passing the F.C.B.


Whether it’s relevant to an article focusing on the island or not, I feel it’s important to mention that there’s a bizarre oasis of restaurants along the otherwise barren highway. I’ve since begun referring to it as the F.C.B.: Franchise Cluster Bomb.

After getting out of the city limits, the view is a fairly predictable puzzle of rice fields cut into oddly shaped subplots that are either a lively green, dull brown or flooded, depending on the time of year. Suddenly and without warning, you’re forced to adjust to the reds of KFC, the yellows of McDonalds and the blacks of Pizza Hut. We slowed as if we were passing through the main street of a small town — only one where the citizens were grouped like gangs by the primary color polo shirts and nametags of their rivaled fast food franchises.

F3rn4nd0 / Own Work
F3rn4nd0 / Own Work

Like a violent sneeze in the middle of an orchestral performance, the F.C.B. was behind us in less than a minute and our peaceful panorama abruptly resumed until we reached our hotel in Trat late that night.