What to bring…
Bring plenty of money: there are no ATM’s on Koh Mak—and most of the island’s economy operates on cash. Fortunately, the prices on Koh Mak are very reasonable, and there is very little to no crime—so you need not worry about carrying extra cash. Most of the larger and more expensive resorts can and will accept credit cards, but many/most of the smaller businesses do not. If you run short of money, there are several places on the island where one can get a cash advance on a credit card (preferably your own!). Most will charge a 5% fee for this service. There are also several places where one can exchange currency.
Insect Repellant w/ Deet
In my opinion, Deet is perhaps (arguably) the only good thing to have come from the U.S. Army. It works. You can purchase all sorts of different kinds and types of insect repellent at the convenience stores and shops on Koh Mak, but the cost is often higher than on the mainland or what one can find at home—and they do not all contain deet. I rarely see mosquitoes in the middle of the day, but they are definitely present in the mornings and evenings. And since most of the food and beverage businesses on the island is “open-air,” it’s good to keep some repellent with you in a purse, belly bag or backpack. While there is very little Malaria in Thailand, there is Dengue Fever; so be safe—not sorry.
Sand Flies: are present on many of Koh Mak’s beaches—but notably not on Koh Kham or Koh Rayong. The presence of sand flies varies depending on the beach, season, time of day, wind, temperature, humidity, etc. Sand flies like some people—and don’t like others, which goes a long way towards explaining the conflicting online testimonials. Deet helps, especially if mixed with your sunscreen, but it is not a 100% guarantee. If the sand flies like you, it’s still best to go where there are no sand flies, and there are beaches around Koh Mak where there are no sand flies. Some locals claim that lots of coconut oil will protect one from sand flies; but coconut oil is NOT a repellent. One must apply the coconut oil heavily enough so that when the sand fly tries to bite, it drowns instead in the coconut oil. You can then pick the dead sand flies off your body. I’m lucky; sand flies don’t like me, so I’ve never gotten any bites. I also wear lots of deet… coincidence?
Remember, it’s a jungle out there! So if you get itchy reactions to insect bites, you may also want to bring some Hydro Cortisone cream—or the likes.
Koh Mak is small and mostly flat, with many fun restaurants and pubs, beaches and bars within 5-minutes walking distance of Thaidaho Vista. But there are few street lights on Koh Mak, and the nights can be dark. Moreover, there can be a number of undesirables on the road at night that you don’t want to step on—particularly when wearing flip-flops. I’m talking about snakes, jungle centipedes and scorpions.
Many backpackers carry LED head lamps, which are great for seeing what you are doing or to whom you are talking. But most people (outside of New York, London and Tokyo, that is!) don’t walk while looking only down at their feet. So bring a flashlight (or torch!) for walking home at night, and use it to see if there are any undesirables in your path (two-legged or otherwise).
You can buy sun screen all over the island, but it’s usually overpriced. So bring your own and save your money for fun, food and drink!
Refillable water bottles
This is a personal “pet peeve;” leave your Perrier or other bottled water at home or on the shelf. Bring a good reusable water bottle and start demanding that resorts refill them with good, clean drinking water. It breaks my heart to literally see boatloads of disposable water bottles transported to the island every week; many of which end up in the ocean, along roadsides and on beaches. Fresh water is a problem and concern on every tropical island in the world, and Koh Mak is no exception. But there are better environmental solutions available than proliferating the use of disposable water bottles. Bring a refillable water bottle and make your green voice heard! We provide our guests and customers with free drinking water.
Thai Cell Phone
Thailand works by phone. If you have a cell phone, put a Thai SIM card in it and bring it along. If not, rent one at BKK’s Suvarnabhumi Airport. It’s simply the best way to get around Thailand. Plus, if your bus is late and you will miss your boat—you can call us! If you need help with translation or making yourself understood to a Thai—you can call Kat. If your rented scooter and get a flat, you can call for help… etc.
Bring less clothes than you have planned; you won’t need them. Koh Mak is warm—generally sunny—and very informal; comfort reigns supreme. The standard Koh Mak tourist uniform is a light t-shirt, shorts and flip-flops; and it’s welcome island-wide. While you walk around sweating, the Thai’s and Cambodian’s will likely be complaining about how cold it is, and be wearing long sleeved shirts, long pants and jackets in the evening. Just seeing them dressed this way will make you sweat even more—so pack light. Don’t forget a hat, sunglasses and your camera; but leave your high heels at home—they make walking on the beach very difficult!
There is only one pharmacy on Koh Mak, so bring whatever medicines you may need/want. If your prescription requires refrigeration, you can put it in the shared-use guest kitchen refrigerator at Vista, or give it to us for safe keeping in the kitchen.
Miscellaneous / Other
Jellyfish are a seasonal hazard throughout all of the Gulf of Thailand, and over the years there have been some stings and sightings of the dangerous box jellyfish in and around Koh Mak. The Koh Mak Tourism Club has done a wonderful job of placing vinegar first aid stations on Koh Mak beaches for use in the rare event of a jellyfish sting. Whether associated with climate change or not, jellyfish are slowly becoming an increasing problem throughout the entire South Pacific Region—from Australia and New Zealand northwards. Some people are beginning to protect themselves and their children by purchasing lightweight jellyfish stinger suits. If you are interested, email us and we will send you links to some manufacturers of these new technology suits.
Moonlight walks on the beach is a holiday requirement, so if you have a pair of water shoes—bring them. There are areas where if you are not paying attention, you can accidently step on sharp rocks, coral or sea urchins while wading.
Finally, bring your appetite for spicy Thai food—it’s some of the best in the world! You can enjoy wonderful Thai meals on the island for an average cost of $3 to $4 (USD) each. Conversely, western cuisine on the island is—for the most part—over priced and poorly done. Do yourself a favor: when in Thailand, eat Thai food—you will love it!