Picture one of Thailand’s islands and you automatically conjure up the stereotypical images of long stretches of powdery white sand, sparkling blue water, palm trees, bars pumping out music and large groups of tourists.
Set Sail to Koh Kret!
But there is one island that is very different from this. Situated just a short boat ride from the heart of Bangkok, Koh Kred is like the land that time – and tourism – forgot. Steeped in culture, this is the perfect place to escape from the frantic pace of Bangkok for an afternoon.
After crossing the Chao Phraya River and stepping onto the island, the sight of WatPoramaiYikawat, with its gleaming white walls and squat chedi, first strikes visitors. Inside the temple grounds is a small museum, where a collection of temple treasures awaits inspection.
Arriving on the Island
A narrow lane winds its way past narrow houses. Lining the lane are stalls displaying collections of pottery for which the island is famous. Red clay pots hang from stalls, some cleverly crafted with the faces of cartoon characters to attract children. The pottery comes in all shapes and sizes, from small pots to incense holders to huge pottery sculptures.
As visitors follow the single road they will find that the stalls gradually melt away and are replaced on both sides by tall grass, small wooden shacks and wild-looking fruit orchards and farms. There are no cars on Koh Kred, and the only transport is bicycles and occasionally passing motorbikes. Those who want to explore the entire island, which is a little under 4kms in circumference, can hire a bicycle near the pier.
Get indulged in the world of pottery.
One of the island’s highlights is the Ancient Mon Pottery Centre, which is known locally as Kwan-Aman. The pieces of pottery displayed here were created by the Mon people and are displayed to show the ancient skills and traditions.
Visitors can watch as local artists use foot-operated pottery wheels to craft and shape the clay and the lump of wet, red clay slowly takes the shape of an elegant vase. Once finished, the potter carefully places the vase on wooden slats to dry in the sun. He then moves over to a squat jar and begins carving an intricate design into the clay with a flat piece of wood. Later, the jar will be fired in a kiln to finish it.
Before you leave, be sure to stop at the food market near the ferry pier to sample some Mon snacks. Some of the delicacies here include KhaoChae; rice in jasmine water, accompanied by tempura vegetables. Sweet tea is served in clay pots, which makes a great souvenir.
Getting to Koh Kred is as easy or as challenging as your sense of adventure and wallet allows. For those with more money than time, the Chao Phraya Express Koh Kred Tour is a good option. Leaving every Sunday from Bangkok’s Central Pier, the tour costs just 300 Baht and includes a trip to the Pimonrart Floating Market. Groups may want to split the 500 Baht river taxi fare for an easy, direct journey.
Alternatively, take a ferry down the river to Nonthanburi (N30), which costs just 10 baht. From here, take an air-con van or public bus 32/505 to Pak Kret and catch a ferry across the river to the island. The van and bus drivers do not usually speak English, so it is a good idea to ask someone to write Koh Kred in Thai for you before you go.
By Kirsty Turner.