Koh Maak Attack
Koh Maak, Thailand, near the coast of Cambodia: Jan. 25 – Feb. 2, 2013
Red dragonflies. Blue pool. Green palms. Violet flowers. Golden sand. Bright sunshine. Rolling surf. Twittering birds. Sizzling fish. Ahh… what more could one ask for?
It was the day before the full moon. The tide was up, the water a bit rough, but the air was hot and the sun shone bright. Lots to look forward to at our newest destination: Koh Maak, a quiet 16-square mile jungle and rubber tree covered volcanic island about an hour speedboat ride from the pier near the town of Trat. We picked Koh Maak out of the many islands that hug both coasts of Thailand because it promised little in the way of activity except tropical breezes and good eats, and after the pace of Chaing Mai we were ready to scale down the excitement level.
We had booked what seemed like a fairly nice bungalow on the beach for our first night; we knew that if we didn’t like it, there were plenty more resorts to choose from. One night was all it took – a rivulet of water down the wall onto the floor every time we used the bathroom sink, a rock hard bed, breakfast and bottled water not included (don’t drink the tap water in Thailand!) no lounge chairs on the patio, it smelled bad and the topper – no pool – just didn’t cut it. Definitely not worth the $50 bucks a night. Makathanee, the resort next-door, was situated right at the dock, HAD a pool, (hard to come by on this island it seemed) and had much prettier bungalows, so we immediately checked it out.
Lucky us… a bungalow with loungers a few steps from the beach was available, breakfast and plenty of drinking water were included, and Chris was able to bargain the price down as we were staying the whole week. By noon, we were happily ensconced in our new abode. It was still a bit steep for Thailand – $80 a night – but worth it.
On previous travels in hot climes we had decided that staying anywhere in the tropics necessitated a place with a pool. We initially thought being right on the beach in Koh Maak would make up for going pooless, but all the plastic crap we spied when we walked off the dock upon arriving, and during our walks along the shore made ocean swimming less than appetizing. We were absolutely appalled at the quantity of debris (plastic bottles, bags, straws, Styrofoam and other detritus every few feet) and there was more floating in all the time. And if you went off the sand into the grassy or jungly area, there were veritable dumps full off it. How could it all float to what was essentially a remote island? Of course, a lot of it likely came from the island itself due to all the plastic bottles of water that were consumed, plastic bags used, etc. but still, it was all rather shocking.
When the full moon waned, the water calmed and the ocean no longer disgorged so much plastic. Staff at all the resorts were fairly diligent at cleaning up the refuse, so we slowly began to let our guard down and allow the mellow island life to seep into our bones.
Along the narrow cement road behind the resort was a string of small open-air restaurants as well as stands offering fresh fruit for sale (we’d bring our own bags – our little basically useless effort to staunch the flow of plastic). We sampled a few of the eateries, soon deciding that “The Chill” was the best – great value and amazing Thai and western food and shakes (my fav was the lemon, orange and mint and Chris liked the orange, banana, cinnamon). We could watch the “action” along the road (the occasional group of meandering tourists, buzzing motorcycles and island taxis – pick up trucks rigged up with wooden benches in the back). Dinner or lunch for two was about $8. It was amusing to watch the very laid-back owner charge off on his motorbike to bring back some necessary supplies every single time we ate at his establishment.
The beach resorts set up enticing bbqs on the beach every night. After trying the spread at our first resort, we were hooked. The music was super too. There’s just something about tucking into a freshly grilled baby tuna, your toes in the sand while gazing up at the stars and listening to great tunes that can’t be beat. Their Thai curries were absolutely delicious as well so we became regulars.
The irony of eating at the resort we had rejected and not eating at the resort we preferred (the food was overpriced and hardly anybody ate there – except for breakfast, which was very good) was not lost on us. Fortunately, the staff at both places didn’t mind a bit. We appreciated their smiling faces and attentive service, a welcome respite from the decidedly chilly reception from virtually all of the guests we encountered.
I don’t know when we’ve ever seen such a bunch of gloomy faces, sitting there looking all dejected as they smoked like chimneys. Admittedly, the travelers every other places we had been to thus far were generally not exactly happy campers either, but it was so discombobulating to see this group. You would think these people were in jail instead of on a beautiful tropical island where they didn’t have to lift a finger. Absolutely no one said hello without us saying it first and their response was so lackadaisical we just had to laugh to ourselves.
It was actually rather sad to see families with young children sitting just a few feet apart who would behave as if the other group didn’t exist. I would listen to detect whether there was a language issue but not the case. We never gave up smiling and saying hello to everyone we met, just in case there was somebody who would actually feel like talking. Unlike that lot, we had realized that the one of the best parts of travel was getting to know our fellow travellers.
One day a boatload of Thai people on holiday showed up and wow, did they have fun! Wearing their bright yellow t-shirts they weren’t hard to miss. They played countless games on the lawn in front of the bungalows, swam in the ocean and pool (with their clothes on), and laughed, sang and ate with great gusto. It was so refreshing to see. We explored a fair bit of the island on foot, including a trek up and down a couple of red dirt hills to the other side to check out Coco Cape Resort, which was a spectacular spot yet more gloomy, smoking faces. So the week passed without us ever meeting anyone interested in chatting but Chris and I had each other, the warm attention from the staff wherever we went and all in all, we had a marvelous time.
(photo gallery to follow)
Next appearance: Sihanoukville, Cambodia
Leave a Reply
You must be logged in to post a comment.