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Weekend In Koh Mak

Koh Mak Island, Thailand - Robyn Around the World

 

Koh Mak is a small island off Southeast Thailand, a 35-minute speedboat ride from Trat. Koh Mak has a unique history in that five families own the island. These families inhabit 80% of the land. Mainland locals and foreigners run the other 20%. Koh Mak wasn’t open to tourism until 1974 but really started targeting tourists in the late 1980’s. Unlike other islands like Phuket, the families have agreed not to allow tourism to grow too big. There are only 25 resorts on the island, allowing only 600 people, which keeps the tourist numbers low. The family’s primary goal is to keep work, life balance while also sharing their beautiful island to others.

Koh Mak is a green island, which they brand as low-carbon. Starting the movement in 2007, all the streetlights are run by solar power along with many of the resorts and restaurants. You will see many bikes for rent on the street as the island is only 16 square kilometers (6 square miles) and is best seen by bicycle with its accessible roads.

Surrounded by 27 Km (16 miles) of beautiful coastal beaches, you’ll have your pick of a private oasis to hang out and swim. The island also has a coconut and rubber tree plantation. Drinking coconut water is a daily staple of the locals and tourists alike. There’s nothing like sipping a coconut, cut fresh from the tree.

While I was there, I took a tour with Royal Silk Holiday and got a feel for how the locals live and how they stay green.

KOH MAK MUSEUM

The first place we stopped was the Koh Mak Museum, which is run by one of the five families. The owner gave a history of Koh Mak and showed us the family tree. He also explained how important it is to him and the other four families to not bring in too much tourism to keep a healthy balance. Koh Mak being champions of the low-carbon movement, are continually looking for ways to make their island green.

Koh Mak Island, Thailand - Robyn Around the World

Koh Mak Island, Thailand - Robyn Around the World

Koh Mak Island, Thailand - Robyn Around the World

Koh Mak Island, Thailand - Robyn Around the World

Koh Mak Island, Thailand - Robyn Around the World

 

KOH MAK SEAFOOD

Next to the museum is a seafood restaurant that runs solely on solar power. They get all their seafood from local fisherman and serve only fresh fish that was caught on the day. The fish are kept in nets and containers in the water to stay in their natural environment, instead of tanks.

Koh Mak Island, Thailand - Robyn Around the World

Koh Mak Island, Thailand - Robyn Around the World

Koh Mak Island, Thailand - Robyn Around the World

Koh Mak Island, Thailand - Robyn Around the World

Koh Mak Island, Thailand - Robyn Around the World

 

CASTAWAY

The second day we did an activity called ‘Castaway.’ It started off taking a 2-hour solar powered boat ride to the island of Koh Kradad. Here we learned how to open a coconut by hand just using the edge of a tree to open. We then learned how to make a fire using magnesium sticks, then cooked bamboo rice over the fire. This was such a fun activity, and I will totally be showing off my coconut opening skills to friends and family in the future!

Koh Mak Island, Thailand - Robyn Around the World

Koh Mak Island, Thailand - Robyn Around the World

Koh Mak Island, Thailand - Robyn Around the World

Koh Mak Island, Thailand - Robyn Around the World

Koh Mak Island, Thailand - Robyn Around the World

Koh Mak Island, Thailand - Robyn Around the World

Koh Mak Island, Thailand - Robyn Around the World

Koh Mak Island, Thailand - Robyn Around the World

 

COOKING COMPETITION

After our day on the island, we went over to the island’s organic farm which produces 70% of the vegetables for the island. Here is where we had a friendly food competition where we made Som Tom (Papaya Salad), a green salad, and spring rolls. After getting a tour of the farm, we went through and picked all the ingredients we needed for our dishes. We then created them to be judged by our three tour guides. In the end, each tour guide chose a separate dish they liked so in the end, we all won!

Koh Mak Island, Thailand - Robyn Around the World

Koh Mak Island, Thailand - Robyn Around the World

Koh Mak Island, Thailand - Robyn Around the World

Koh Mak Island, Thailand - Robyn Around the World

Koh Mak Island, Thailand - Robyn Around the World

Koh Mak Island, Thailand - Robyn Around the World

Koh Mak Island, Thailand - Robyn Around the World

 

KAYAKING

On our last day, we went kayaking to the private island of Koh Rayang Nok. The island was purchased 30 years ago for $50,000 and is now on the market for a mere $6 Million. Any takers?

Koh Mak Island, Thailand - Robyn Around the World

Koh Mak Island, Thailand - Robyn Around the World

Koh Mak Island, Thailand - Robyn Around the World

Koh Mak Island, Thailand - Robyn Around the World

I really enjoyed all the activities on tour. The island is great if you’re looking to get away from the party islands and just want a quiet weekend to enjoy the beach.

 

Koh Mak Island, Thailand - Robyn Around the World

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I’d like to thank Royal Silk Holidays and DASTA for sponsoring me on their low carbon tour of Koh Mak. As always all opinions are my own.




3 Day Cruise in Bai Tu Long Bay



Bai Tu Long Bay - 3-Day Cruise

Halong Bay is famous for its majestic pillars and the beautiful bay filled with junks (boats) with gorgeous sails. The littler known is Bai Tu Long Bay – meaning little dragon – only allows a certain amount of cruises to enter this magical area. When choosing between the two, it was a no-brainer to visit the Bay less traveled. Only 5% of tourists get to go here, and you can tell. While I was out there, I only saw another boat or two during the whole cruise. I did a 3-day cruise, and it was a nice way to end my trip in Vietnam.

There are many cruise boats to choose from, 50 cabins, 25 cabins, four cabins, and private boat. I joined the quiet four cabin with Indochina Junk, and it was every bit of luxury that you would expect from a small boat tour.

CRUISING BAI TU LONG BAY


DAY 1


We boarded our junk and had a brief on the main deck and met the other five passengers. After our briefing, we were escorted to our cabins, which had a huge bed and two big windows looking out into the bay. If there weren’t so many tours and stopped planned, I could have stayed in the room the whole trip! After having lunch which was 6-courses, we went for a kayak around the bay for an hour or so then came back in for a swim. I was jumping off the boat doing cannonballs into the water, hoping not to land on a Portuguese Man-of-war! No joke. They are everywhere in the bay, and they’re huge. No worry, though, we had the captain and our guide looking out for them to warn us and they are so big and swim right at the surface you can’t miss them! After a shower and quick rest, it was onto dinner which was 8 or 9 courses; I lost count!. We retired to our cabin letting the water rock us to sleep.

Cruise Bai Tu Long Bay and Halong Bay - Robyn Around the World

Cruise Bai Tu Long Bay and Halong Bay - Robyn Around the World

Cruise Bai Tu Long Bay and Halong Bay - Robyn Around the World


DAY 2


After breakfast, we headed out in our kayaks again to paddle around through caves and coves for a couple of hours. We parked the kayaks on a private beach to relax for the day and had a seafood BBQ cooked for us right on the beach. After the beach, we cruised around for a bit then stopped at a cave where some of the fishermen used to live until the cruise company bought them out to use on their tour. It’s also where the bigger boats make their private dinner. They said in turn for taking over the land from the fishermen they built them houses on stilts and supply them with rice and water weekly. Still not sure how I feel about them kicking multiple families out for tourism, but I guess the fishermen got an upgrade in the end. Our captain also put the sails up while we were in the cave so we could get some pictures of the junk with the sails up. After relaxing for a bit, we had our last dinner and the captain and crew all got involved. The chef cooked a shrimp dish in front of us, only using hot stones, and after each course, the team would bring out a fruit carving with each one getting better and bigger! At the end, the captain and crew came out to serenade us. A great ending to a fantastic day.

Cruise Bai Tu Long Bay and Halong Bay - Robyn Around the World

Cruise Bai Tu Long Bay and Halong Bay - Robyn Around the World

Cruise Bai Tu Long Bay and Halong Bay - Robyn Around the World

Cruise Bai Tu Long Bay and Halong Bay - Robyn Around the World

Cruise Bai Tu Long Bay and Halong Bay - Robyn Around the World

Cruise Bai Tu Long Bay and Halong Bay - Robyn Around the World

Cruise Bai Tu Long Bay and Halong Bay - Robyn Around the World

Cruise Bai Tu Long Bay and Halong Bay - Robyn Around the World


DAY 3


On our last day, we took a boat out to the fishing village and learned about how they live. Many live on their boat their whole life and some live in small homes on the water, but none is better than the other. They are an established community which looks after one another. If one had a good fishing day, they would share their wealth with the rest of the village. We also learned the children get married pretty young 15-16 years old and when they get married the parents give them a boat (without engine) to start their life together and live on that boat the rest of their life and build their family on the ship. One form of income from the fishing village comes from the pearl farm, where they harvest and export most of their pearls to China. They, of course, have a store for the tourists to buy if they find something they like. After the tour, it was back to the boat for lunch and to head back to the bay. Although it was a short 3-days, it was fun, relaxing, along with being educating about how some of the Vietnamese live. I’m glad I got to experience it.

Cruise Bai Tu Long Bay and Halong Bay - Robyn Around the World

Cruise Bai Tu Long Bay and Halong Bay - Robyn Around the World

Cruise Bai Tu Long Bay and Halong Bay - Robyn Around the World

Cruise Bai Tu Long Bay and Halong Bay - Robyn Around the World

Cruise Bai Tu Long Bay and Halong Bay - Robyn Around the World

Cruise Bai Tu Long Bay and Halong Bay - Robyn Around the World

Cruise Bai Tu Long Bay and Halong Bay - Robyn Around the World

If you are thinking about doing a cruise in either Halong Bay or Bai Tu Long Bay, do it sooner than later. Our guide let us know the government will be shutting down all overnight cruises to both bays by 2020 and will only allow boats to go out for day tours.


A Week Barefoot – Koh Phi Phi



A Week Barefoot On Koh Phi Phi - Robyn Around The World

Ah, Phi Phi. You grabbed my heart and I didn’t want to leave.

Koh Phi Phi is known for being a party town, which is true if you stay at the pier. I didn’t. I took the ferry over from Krabi and a few minutes later was whisked away by a long-tail boat to a private beach for the week.

Koh Phi Phi, Thailand

My hut was up on the hill and had a view of the sea from my deck.  The best part? there was absolutely no reason to wear flip-flops here. With the beach steps away, my day consisted of snorkeling in the morning, then laying on the hammock reading and drinking mango rums in the afternoon.

Koh Phi Phi, Thailand

Koh Phi Phi, Thailand

The snorkeling was the best I’ve done up to this point. My resort was located in front of a popular snorkel spot. I’ve been snorkeling in the Caribbean and Mexico, but they didn’t compare to what I saw 200 meters off my beach. I went out every morning around 8:00 am to swim in my private aquarium. By early afternoon, our bay was overrun with 5-6 speedboats filled with snorkelers. It was fun to watch all these snorkelers in their life vests swimming on top of each other to see the fish, knowing I could go out there when no one else was around.

Koh Phi Phi, Thailand

Koh Phi Phi, Thailand

I was able to break in the GoPro Hero4 this trip too. I was the first time I really used it and had a blast filming and photographing all the fish and coral.

The beach was small but beautiful and the resort was only about 50% capacity since I went in low season. There are many private resorts on Phi Phi and so glad I booked my stay away from the pier. My stay was very relaxing.

Koh Phi Phi, Thailand

Koh Phi Phi, Thailand

The sunrises are beautiful. Some of the most beautiful sunrise/sunsets I’ve witnessed have been in Thailand. After my stay, I took the long-tail boat back to the pier and had an hour to kill before my ferry. I got to see the other side of Phi Phi which feels a little like Jersey Shore. If partying is your thing, then stay at the pier, I heard there’s even fire shows every night. If you want peace and quiet on a secluded beach, head to one of the many private resorts available.

Koh Phi Phi, Thailand

Koh Phi Phi, Thailand


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