Muay Thai or Thai boxing is the national sport and cultural martial art of Thailand. Muay thai was the primary and most effective method of self defense used by Thai soldiers on the battlefields. During this time, a warfare manual named "Chupasart" was written. The underlying philosophy of this manual implied that fighting was more than the use of weapons, but should engage total commitment from mind, body and soul.
The first known practice of Muay Thai as a "sport" occurred during the reign of King Prachao Sua in the 17th century. With a great love of the combatart, he often fought incognito in local village contests, beating many local champions. When the nation was at peace, to keep the army fit, he ordered them to train in Muay Thai. It was the time when the first Muay Thai competitions began.
In the early 1930s, Muay Thai was officially codified, with rules and regulations created and introduced to make Muay Thai an international and safe ring sport of the early 20th century. Rounds were introduced along with eight divisions based on international boxing, and boxing gloves replaced the original rope bindings on the fighters hands. Muay Thai is now recognised in many countries worldwide, creating a new era of a proud Thailand history.
The gym behind the Coco Bike Rental is the first Muay Thai gym on the island, established in 2016 in order to promote the sport among tourists and let them to train under the eye of experienced coaches.
The idea to bring rubber trees to Thailand was first considered when the Commissioner of Month on Phuket visited Malaysia in the late 19th Century and saw the Malays planting rubber trees with good productivity. He wanted to take rubber trees back to Thailand, but at that time the owners of the rubber plantations did not want to give him the seeds. In 1901 his adopted son visited Indonesia and was able to bring back rubber seedlings on his personal steam boat. There were 4 wooden boxes of rubber seedlings which were then planted. The planting area was expanded to about 45 plantations. After that, a group was sent to study methods of rubber growing abroad. They were then directed to teach and spread what they had learned about growing rubber. The booming era of rubber growing called "Tesa Rubber" began and rubber trees were planted in the South and the East until there were about 9 million trees owned by 5 hundred thousand families. Rubber is now the most economically significant plant of Thailand after rice. It creates an income for the country of billions of baht per year.
On Koh Mak, the first rubber plantation was introduced in 1915. Natural rubber is produced from the para rubber tree which initially grew only in the Amazon rain forest. Indian people there also called it "Caoutchouc" which means a weeping tree. This is because when cutting a thin strip of bark from the tree, the latex sap exudes for many hours.
Today, thousands of useful products are made from rubber. Everything from tires to balloons to boots. It takes several years for the rubber tree to mature before the sap is ready to tap. Tapping is the process where the latex is collected from the rubber tree. It is done at night or in the early morning before it gets hot, so the latex will drip longer before coagulating and sealing the cut. A rubber tapper removes a thin layer of bark along a downward half spiral on the tree trunk. If done carefully and with skill, the tapping panel will yield latex for up to five years. It flows down a metal badge inserted into the tree below the slash and then goes into the ceramic cup. On Koh Mak, plastic cups are usedinstead. The sap flows for about 5-6 hours partially filling the cup.The rubber tapper waits couple of days for the tree to recover before tapping another section of the tree. As the rubber dries,it get sthicker and stronger and the color darkens. The resulting rubber, now in a form called ribbed smoked sheets, is folded into large bales for shipment to a processor.
Sitting in front of the Baan Chailay Resort is the historic Wongsiri House. The Wongsiri family is one of the five families who founded Koh Mak. The road is called Wongsiri Road in honor of the family.
The first settler on Koh Mak was probably Chao Sua Seng who established a coconut plantation on the island at the end of the 19th Century. He was a Chinese Affairs Officer during the reign of King Rama V. Later he sold his coconut plantation to Luang Prompakdee, who was Chinese Affairs Officer as well and emigrated to Thailand during the Great Revolution in China. In a sense the history of Koh Mak is also the history of Luang Prompakdee and his family, as their descendants still own most of the land in Koh Mak. Prompakdee's family is known to have established more coconut and rubber plantations, effectively covering most of the arable land on the island. Further on the way you will have the chance to visit Luang Prompakdee's house as well. After he died, his children divided the land for their children and grandchildren. One of these descendants was the Wongsiri family.
Nowadays about 95% of the land on Koh Mak is private property that belongs to the five original families. Koh Mak has an area of about 9,500 rai (3,800 acres), 500 of which only are state property. The rest has been managed and occupied for decades by the same five families: the Taveteekul family, the Wongsiri family, the Suttitanakul family, the Chanthasutra family and the Suksathit family.
The first bungalows for tourists were built around 1974 at Ban Ao Nid. However, tourism was not yet flourishing and transport and telecommunications were difficult, which delayed the development of tourism on Koh Mak for some time. Later in 1987, beach areas of the island were developed into tourist attractions and bungalows and resorts were built to serve both Thai and foreign tourists. Today there are more than 20 resorts and many bars and restaurants.
You could have a walk to the beach in front of the Baan Chailay Resort where you have a beautiful view of Koh Rayang Nai and Koh Rayang Nok islands. In the bar you will also see some books (mainly in English but not only) to rent or buy.
Vista Lookout Point offers some of the best views on the island. The Vista Cafe and Coffee Shop serves the island's only real Northern Thai Coffee - purchased directly from Thai farmers by one of Kat's friends, and then roasted in Bangkok before being sent on Koh Mak. Kat is one of the many multi-talented Thais: she is a certified barista who makes all of her hot and cold drinks to order; a professional translator who reads, writes and speaks three languages; an artist and painter,and a talented musician who plays guitar and sings. Youmightwantto lookather gallery inside the coffee shop, as you will not find more beautiful handmade postcards on the island.
Vista Lookout Point provides views of Koh Kham and 13 other islands to the North, part of the Koh Chang National Marine park archipelago of 52 islands. On particularly clear days, you can even see the Cambodian highlands (Cardoman Mountains), Salak Phet Harbor on Koh Chang, and the Thai mainland to the distant north. Koh Kham is a private island but tourists are still welcome to enjoy the tranquillity of this truly special tropical gem. The entrance fee is 100 Baht. The island's natural beach has a set of black volcanic rocks protruding from the beach and water; the only island in this area with such a feature. Relaxation is the key word there, with emphasis on the natural beach, its unique location, low environmental development, quiet atmosphere and tall coconut palms. The island also has some reasonably good places to snorkel, especially off its southern shore.
Koh Kham is just 1.5km offshore from Koh Mak and is within easy kayak reach from Ao Suan Yai beach. A paddle out to the island should not take you more than 25 minutes. Kayaks are available for rent from Koh Mak Resort and Seavana Resort, and motor boat rides to the island from Koh Mak Resort and Cococape Resort.
The DASTA campaign encourages resort owners to use only organic products. Originally, there were two Organic Farms on the island. The pioneer was Ao Khao Harmony Farm, started and managed by the Australian Paul Willett. With more than 12 years organic farming experience, Paul planted many vegetables and fruit trees. Paul ultimately left the island, but the idea of organic farming became more and more popular. Now there are three organic farms on the island: at Koh Mak resort, Wild Heart and Koh Mak Seafood. This is the biggest one and it was opened 3 years ago. Koh Mak Resort grows many different fruits, vegetables and herbs.
They also farm fish, using leftover food from the resort's restaurants as feed. Recently they began raising chickens, but the challenge is compounded by the island's snake population! Most of the products grown on the farm are used by Koh Mak and Seavanna resorts for their restaurants, but some local people are also customers .
Two decades ago, a sculptor named Somchai came to Koh Mak from his Mon homeland. He brought with him his exotic taste in art. He began sculpturing life-sized nude art in the coconut plantations along Luang Prompakdee road. He initially sculptured nude women from wood, but then shifted to cement as the main media of his art. Somchai's sculptures reflect his personal passion for art and freedom.
Somchai has created his art with very little outside money. He never had the opportunity to attend art school and creates his art from pure inspiration. His friends refer to him as a decent man who likes to help others. He has made many sculptures of Naga (mythical serpents), fish, turtles, women, and monkeys, many of which conceal motorized water pumps which provide water for consumption. For example, as one pulls the rope in the monkey's hand, water will be pumped out.
Somchai's Kingdom is open to anyone free of charge. But if you enjoy Somechai's art, there is a donation box where you can contribute to the artist. Somchai's motto is "My art will live when I die".
If you continue straight on the dirt road for 500m more, you could visit the Historic Prompakdee House next to the Happy Days Resort. Prompakdee House was built in the old Thai style with a high steep roof and verandah looking
out over the ocean. It remains in its original location, although it has been rebuilt many times. The original color was white, while today it is blue.
The recycling centre on Koh Mak was opened in 2013. Every day the island's garbage truck goes around the island to collect refuse. After returning to the Recycle Center, recyclable materials are separated from the garbage, so they can be transported to the mainland for recycling. The remaining rubbish is buried in the island's landfills.
Ban Koh Mak School was founded in 1939. Money was donated by the three of the main families on the island. As you could see the school is beautifully painted and provides a friendly atmosphere for its students. You could have a walk in the front yard and a quick look of the classrooms.
Education in Thailand is provided mainly by the Thai government through the Ministry of Education from pre-school to senior high school. A free basic education of twelve years is guaranteed by the constitution, and a minimum of nine years' school attendance is mandatory. Uniforms are compulsory in Thailand for all students with very few variations from the standard model throughout the public and private school systems, including colleges and universities.
The coconut palm is a graceful tree that shades tropical beaches and thrives wherever the climate is warm and moist. It is the primary source of materials used to build rural houses,and is also used as mooring poles for fishing boats. Coconut is a common ingredient in Thai food. But for Thais, the coconut palm is also a cultural icon - a tree that plays an important role in their way of life. There are many ways in which the people of Thailand use the coconut in connection with traditional beliefs. When a family builds a house, for example, it is customary to plant a coconut palm at the eastern corner, as it is believed this will bring happiness to the household. And in fact, doing so also provides cooling shade when the sun rises in the morning. In Buddhist religious ceremonies, young coconuts are included when offerings are made, as coconut juice is very pure and thus suitable for deities.
Commercial cultivation of coconut palms is concentrated in the Central Thai provinces. The first coconut plantation was introduced on Koh Mak in 1906. All of Koh Mak's coconut plantations are owned by locals, and most of them are organic. Organic coconuts are a niche market and a few years ago some local growers signed a contract with a company that produces only organic coconuts. The numbers on the trees show that no chemicals were used to grow the coconut palm. Local families can still collect "wild coconuts" that are not marked.
Another type of palm growing on Koh Mak is the areca palm. In fact the island is named after the areca nut, which is also commonly referred to as betel nut.
The Koh Mak Temple was built in 1947. At the center of the complex you will find a big tree surrounded by several images of the Buddha. Religion plays a big role in the life of Thai people. There is at least one Buddhist temple in each Thai village. Wat Koh Mak serves as a venue for religious as well as social activities on the island.
You can walk around the temple. Facing east, the Temple is the perfect place to watch and take photos of the sunrise. There are also benches and steps down to the water on the east side of the complex.
The only cooking school on Koh Mak, located next to Koh Mak Seafood and the Koh Mak Museum. The school was established by Leng in 2009. Leng studied agriculture during her University days in Bangkok, where her family used to have a catering business.
It was always her dream to have her own business, so after many jobs in different parts of Thailand she arrived on Koh Chang and together with friends opened a restaurant and a cooking school. The business was going very well, but Koh Chang was changing very fast and becoming a very busy island. Leng didn't like this, so she left Koh Chang and came to Koh Mak.
Leng liked the peaceful nature of Koh Mak, so she decided to stay and open Smile Cooking School. Leng teaches only four students at a time, in English, on the front porch of her house by the ocean. She offers one morning class and one afternoon class, and she can customize her classes for novices, vegetarians and/or professional chefs.
Founded in 2008 by Tanin Suttitanakull, a descendant of one of five old families of Koh Mak, and owner of Koh Mak Seafood restaurant. He spent about 200,000 baht to renovate his father's 90-years-old, two-storey house into what is now the museum. He started collecting exhibits two years before opening by visiting local people and various descendants from the first families. He also traveled to the mainland for additional research and materials, and in the end met descendants of one of the workers of Prompakdee.
Exhibitions in the Museum include the island's history, old pictures, tableware and various collections of his family and other locals. Lights in the museum are solar-powered. The museum is open daily, 10.30am - 9pm, and free of charge. Please take few minutes to have a look inside.
In Buddhism, a Chedi is the place where Buddhists bury their family members. Chedi is an alternative term for stupa that is primarily used in Thailand. A chedi is normally built only for the people who did something good for the community. Most Buddhists are cremated, with the ashes placed in a special box that is then placed into a stupa or kept by the family. Funerals in Thailand represent rebirth and the passage from one existence to another.
They could last from couple of days to a year or two. At the funeral Thai people wear either black or white or a combination of the two. The Chedi on Koh Mak was built for the Suttitanakul Family. The grandparents of Tanin Suttitanakul, owner of Koh Mak Seafood and the Koh Mak Museum, are interred in the middle of the Chedi, and around them are their children. The elder Suttitanakull did not want to be cremated, so his is the only body that was not cremated after death.
Ao Nid Pier is the main cargo pier for the island that connects Koh Mak with Trat province. It is situated in a wind-protected bay, so locals have been using this pier as a gateway to mainland for many decades. It is also a communal gathering point for the island. In the late afternoon, you will often see men and women, young and old, hanging out near the pier, talking and chitchatting as they wait for the arrival of goods and people from the mainland. Ko Mak Festival takes place here as well on the second Friday of January (also The National Children's Day).
Ao Nid Pier provides good views of Koh Kood island to the south, which is famous for its great natural attractions including three waterfalls, two huge ancient trees and several fishing villages. For passenger service to and from the mainland and Koh Kood, Ao Nid Pier is home for the Boonsiri Catamaran, the Suansuk Speedboats and the SeatalesSpeedboats. It also serves as the pier for most local scuba and snorkeling trips, such as Koh Mak Divers and BB Divers.