This is pre-warning that this is probably going to be an excessively long post. Read what you wish.
Although we celebrated Christmas at school, the real holiday this time of year is New Years. People started celebrating Thursday night and carried on until Tuesday night. Therefore, we were told that students wouldn't actually go to class on Friday. My typical efficiency-focused mind thought, "Well that is silly. Either make them go to class or cancel school if no one will go." But efficiency is not really a part of Thai culture. Anyway, we went to school on Friday ready for the kids to probably not go to class. My first class actually showed up and we did a New Years lesson, but the rest of the day kids hung out on campus having little parties with treats and giving each other and the teachers gifts. It was actually really fun seeing all the kids hanging out and having fun and we got some delicious coconut ice cream cones with sticky rice out of it, which was enough to make going to school worth it. By 11 the other teachers told us that they were all leaving (either to go to lunch and come back or just leaving) and we found out we could leave for the day. We had a taxi pick us up and vacation began!
Eric and I had booked a hotel in Bangkok for Friday night so we could get an early start for Ko Maak on Saturday, but with this change of plans we were able to go all the way to Trat (the port town for the islands on its coast). The bus station was crazy busy, but we were able to get an express bus to Trat, which was 5 hours and got us there around 10. We woke up Saturday morning and took a very crowded Song Taew (pick up truck with two benches faces each other) to the pier. It was a beautiful 45 minutes ride and the local Thais riding with us thought we were pretty silly and we thought the same as we sat with their huge sacks of produce from the market. Unfortunately, we went to the wrong pier and mild panic ensued. We eventually made it on another Song Taew to the right pier where we bought our 11 am boat ticket to Ko Maak. It turned out they overbooked the 11am and we had to wait for the 1 pm. This type of incident is all too common, so we sat down and waited. We eventually made it to Ko Maak and were overcome with excitement as we neared the island and drove to our pre-booked bungalows.
The term bungalows is used very commonly here when talking about accommodations, but these were bungalows in every true sense of the word. Not just some cutesy hut, but a real hut that we were grateful enough to have a toilet (although not a typical flushing toilet--sidenote: They have toilets here that don't flush, but that you just keep pouring cups of water in into everything washes away). We also had a great view from our front door. It was a secluded little beach and the family running the bungalows was hilarious in the way they worked together and very laid back.
We planned this trip with two other couples from orientation (yes, it was a couples vacation) and everyone made it by the evening (it was touch and go there for a bit). We had a great evening swim and dinner and met some of the other people that were staying at the bungalows, including an older Canadian man stuck in his 20's, two really nice (and not stereotypically creepy) Italian guys and one of their Thai girlfriends who was super cute.
I woke up Sunday morning and went on a little run by the many rubber trees and palm trees. It was so humid that it felt like I was running at altitude since it was so hard to breath. Luckily, the ocean was right there and Eric and I went for a long and tiring swim to a beach north of our little beach. Everyone else left us to rent bikes and ride around the island and unfortunately the run and swim combo kind of wiped me out for the rest of the day. However, this wasn't all that unfortunate since I spent the afternoon reading and laying on the beach and that was okay with me!
Monday morning, we all woke up and got our bikes to ride to this bakery that the others had found the day before. It was great riding around the island, which is much more farming focused than tourist focused. This was the busiest weekend to travel in Thailand and besides the issue of getting a boat to the island, it was barely crowded compared to popular tourist spots. We hung out at this beautiful pier connected to a nicer and really neat hotel and I talked with a friendly British woman for a while staying there with her friend and friends. Someday I will travel in style like her, but for now I am happy doing it on a budget and with a backpack!
New Year's Eve was very relaxed at our bungalows and we spent the evening hanging out on the beach with the other people staying there. We also enjoyed some coconuts that we literally watched being plucked from the trees on our beach and hacked open to drink the coconut water and eat the coconut meat. There was a bon fire that kept us entertained and everyone let off lanterns and fireworks to bring in the New Year. Eric was sick after the big swim and until the morning we left so he didn't get to experience our vacation very much besides having some quality bungalow time.
Tuesday morning we woke up and started our very long journey back to Suphan. It ended up taking 14 hours to get home, which put a little sour taste in our mouths about the trip, but Ko Maak really was wonderful and I would definitely go back if I could spend more time there.