A quintessential island paradise Ko Muk is not, but its decent beaches, affordable accommodation and terrific day-trips draw a handful of travellers each high season. Also commonly spelt Ko Mook, the mid-size island sits off the coast of Trang province in the Andaman Sea and supports a modest Muslim-Thai lifestyle focused on fishing.
The only part of Ko Muk ever seen by many travellers is the spectacular Tham Morakot, or “Emerald Cave.” After swimming through a dark sea cave, you emerge onto a hidden beach circled by vast cliffs where pirates once stashed their booty. Staying on Muk makes it possible to experience this awe-inspiring attraction when it's not full of boat-touring hordes from Ko Lanta and Pakmeng.
Another advantage of dropping anchor on Muk is its selection of bungalows at far cheaper rates than what you'll pay on Ko Ngai or Ko Kradan. The superior beaches on these neighbouring islands can be reached by day trips from Muk, perhaps with some snorkelling at the islets of Ko Chueak, Ko Waen and Ko Maa peppered in between. Rainbow Divers at Charlie Resort and Sea Open Diving next to Rubber Tree offer day dives around Muk, Kradan and further afield.
A hammock with your name on it.
While you won't find stunning reefs immediately off Muk's shores, its two primary beaches are no slouches. A sand bar that feels more like a bright white-sand peninsula known as "The Wing" on east-facing Ao Kham (aka Sivalai Beach) affords tremendous views towards Hat Chao Mai National Park on the mainland. On the west coast, the shorter but wider Haad Farang (aka Haad Sai Yao or Charlie Beach) offers tranquility amid the towering limestone cliffs.
Narrow lanes ramble through parts of the island's interior, and it's a pleasure to stroll amid the bountiful flowers and butterflies that mingle with rubber trees and pristine jungle. Forested hills and cliffs cover the island's entire western half. If you've been put off by the massive development on islands like Ko Lipe and Ko Phi Phi, Muk could be just what the doctor ordered
Though many of Muk's Muslim inhabitants now lead boat tours for a living, most have stayed true to their traditional fishing lifestyle. Others have opened small restaurants or shops selling wares and toys handmade from coconuts. A wander through the north-coast village takes you past men building longtail boats, women sorting fish and colourful homes perched over the sea. Unfortunately, piles of garbage lie scattered in the larger and notably dirtier east-coast village, which was hit hard by the 2004 Asian Tsunami.
What colour do I want today?
As with other Thai islands populated by Muslim communities, such as Ko Yao Noi
, Ko Jum
and Ko Sukorn
, do be respectful of the local customs by dressing appropriately and refraining from getting too drunk or loud around the villages. Literally translated as “Foreigner Beach,” Haad Farang is occupied entirely by resorts catering to Westerners — feel free to don your Speedo carefree here.
There are no ATMs on the island
, so be sure to bring enough cash for your stay. The larger resorts (Charlie and Sivalai) accept credit cards for a fee. A small medical clinic is located in the main northeast-coast village, but anything serious will require a trip to Trang
Muk enjoys year-round, 24-hour electricity. Many resorts offer free (but slow) WiFi, and cell phones with SIM cards from all major Thai providers work well. You'll find a smattering of hole-in-the-wall convenience stores in the villages, and a mini-mart at Charlie Resort on Haad Farang. An increasing number of traveller-oriented restaurants are also popping up in the main village, where you'll also find a small internet cafe.
Ko Muk can be reached at any time of year by local ferry, but the high season for tourism runs from November through April. Advance reservations are recommended around the Christmas / New Year holidays. Some resorts close for all or part of the rainy season from May to October; major discounts can be expected at the ones that stay open.