Low-key fishing lifestyle meets low-level tourism on Ko Muk, a fine alternative to the busier islands in Thailand’s Andaman Sea. This mid-size island off the coast of Trang province boasts a pair of good beaches within easy boating distance of a sea cave opening to a stripe of coral sand rimmed by vertical cliffs.
What’s special in Ko Muk?
Muk’s claim to fame, Tham Morakot or “Emerald Cave,” starts with a swim or kayak through a dark passage where echoes resound from the surf—and sometimes the cries of freaked-out travellers. After 10 minutes an emerald shade grabs the water, brightening as you approach a sheltered sinkhole biome and beach. The beauty and drama of it are unforgettable, so it’s no surprise that boats full of travellers venture here from Ko Lanta, Pakmeng and other places every day in high season. Staying on Muk makes it possible to hit Tham Morakot when it’s not crammed full of people.
Longtail drivers will also whisk you to the superior beaches and reefs of Ko Kradan and Ko Ngai, or further out to stunning Ko Rok, and prices for private boats are very reasonable. Though Muk is far from a big tourism hub, it is the busiest of Trang province’s islands and makes a fantastic base for island hopping.
Beaches in Muk
Muk’s two main beaches are no slouches, even if you won’t find stunning reefs off their shores. A white-sand bar known as “the wing” on east-facing Ao Kham affords tremendous views to Hat Chao Mai National Park on the mainland. On the west coast, the shorter but wider Haad Farang is just beautiful, with deep water no matter the tide and a fat stripe of fluffy white sand stretching up to a karst cliff.
In between you’ll pass through fishing villages where many of the 3,000 islanders dwell in stilted houses above the tide. Goats, butterflies and beach dogs hang around. Kids in bright-pink school uniforms shout “Hello!” to passing travellers. Potted flowers sit next to fishing nets as men hammer repairs into boats and women crack open coconuts. To the north you can trek into the jungle on trails ending at beaches with only hermit crabs and hornbills.
While the local tourism industry has grown steadily in recent years, Muk has retained a balance, for now, in which travellers can soak up the tranquility without interfering too much with the local ways of life. Some of the mostly Muslim islanders lead boat tours or sell food or souvenirs made from coconut wood and seashells, reverting to fishing and agriculture during the rainy months. Do be respectful of them by covering up away from the beach resorts.
The relatively large population means that Muk is unkempt in places, with garbage being burned or lying discarded around villages—unfortunately common on inhabited islands throughout the region. Nearby Kradan and Ngai are cleaner and have better beaches, but Muk offers a far-wider selection of budget accommodation along with cheaper boat tour prices, more opportunities for exploring on land, and better, more affordable food. While Muk doesn’t have a rep for nightlife, poke around and you’ll find a lot of interesting people, both Thai and foreign, at some fun little bars.
A great island for anyone from solo backpackers to families and even luxury seekers, Muk could be just the right remedy if islands on the mainstream tourism trail, like Lipe and Phi Phi, have put you off. If it sounds good but you could go even quieter, you might also dig Ko Jum, Ko Libong and Ko Bulon Lae.