Sunday, 22 August 2010

Thailand: Ko Mak

Monday 16 August: Minibus from the border at Hat Lek to Trat, sorng-taa-ou to Laem Ngop pier, then speed boat to Ko Mak. A sorng-taa-ou (63rd mode of transport), literally 'two rows', is a small pick-up truck with bench seats along both sides of the rear and a high tin roof - common throughout Thailand. Ko Mak is a small idyllic island with sandy palm fringed beaches in the Gulf of Thailand - where else would a Scotsman choose to spend his birthday?
Tuesday 17: It's off-season so I'm given Island Huts' best en-suite beach hut - right on the shore with private beach and views across the bay to tiny Ko Rayang - all for just 200 baht a night (about £4). I'm the only one staying so I get the entire beach to myself - wonderful.
I've just finished reading Bill Bryson's book A Short History of Nearly Everything (2005) which, incidentally, is a very good read (for a science text), much better than his earlier travel titles. Clearly Bill saw an opportunity when Stephen Hawking's A Brief History of Time
(1998) sold more than 10 million. So instead of seeing the island as a poet would, I see it as a physicist does. A bright azure sea with gently lapping waves becomes a bubbling chemical soup, poisonous to mankind, only held in place only by gravity, where life first emerged into a hostile world. How lucky we are to be here.
There's no TV so I do, on my own, what we all did before there was television
- yes, build a fire, of bamboo and coconut husks. I spend my beer-sipping evening watching the flickering orange flames, white lights of night-fishing boats bobbing in the bay and the bright green-tails of fireflies skimming past. Not a care in the world, well, except the danger of injury or death from falling coconuts. What a great way to spend your birthday.
Thursday 19: I could swim but I'm offered a free trip to Ko Rayang aboard the short-tailed supply boat that feeds the islands small cat population (it's uninhabited off-season and I didn't realise cats ate rice). I'm there all afternoon with a few beers, a kayak, snorkel and mask - another great day, but no camp fire tonight as the skies open and a storm begins.
Next day is bright and clear - old palm trees have toppled but wondrous new flowers bloom.
Sunday 22: Slow boat to Ko Chang.
Photos of Ko Mak.

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