Have you ever heard of an island in the middle of a river? It sounds absurd, right? But there is an island 20 kilometers away from Bangkok where a lot of locals and foreign travelers/tourists frequently go to escape from the noise in the city. In fact, according to "Lonely Planet," Thailand's travel information and guide, this place ranks #7 out of 792 things to do in Bangkok.
So, guys, if you have never been yet to this tourist attraction, one of these days, drop by with your friends or loved ones. I knew of one little Thai boy who always asks his father to go to Ko Ket or Koh Kred. Instead of going to Central in Chaengwattana, Big C or Tesco he prefers to go to the island. I have been there myself several times. What's really on the island and what is it that keeps people from going?
On one excursion to the island I met an old lady tending a vendor's stall. I asked her if she liked living on the island. She replied. "I have lived here for 40 years, so I guess I like it here. What I do not like is that nowadays, the young people no longer speak our Mon language. They only speak Thai." Furthermore, I asked how the island came about. She told me the story which had been handed down from one generation to another.
During the Ayuthaya era, 1722, when Thailand was invaded by Burma, Mon people, one of its ethnic groups, settled in various places near the Chao Phraya River and along major khlongs in several provinces south and west of Bangkok. Some of them stayed in Ko Kret, an island that merely originated from a canal. Now, how did the island exist? Due to the fast flow of Chao Phraya River in Pak Kret area where there was a bend, they built a canal to slow down its flow and to prevent Pak Kret river banks from eroding. Surprisingly, through several years of widening, the islet turned into 2 kilometers long and 1 kilometer wide. From that time on, it was was isolated from Pak Kret mainland.
The Mon people, who were craftsmen, took advantage of the abundance of red clay soil in the island and used it as raw material for its main industry-pottery. In fact, even today Ko Kret island is best-known for its unglazed pots and earthenware which are considered to be the best in the country.
Progress and development in nearby districts of Nonthaburi changed the people's way of life here. After the island became a tourist attraction, inhabitants expanded their industry from pottery to selling kanom, clothes, unique arts and crafts, and commercial items for visitors of the island. A bike ride or plain walk will entice you to buy things of interest in stalls and houses on both sides of the cemented narrow alleys around the island.
If you haven't made up your mind to go - do it now. "I experienced a little Chatuchack in that island, "a friend of mine once said. If you are coming from Bangkok, go to Victory Monument and take bus 166 going to PaK Kret. Via tang duan for only 19 baht, you will get there in 30-40 minutes. When you reach the last bus stop in Pak Kret (in front of Wat Boa School) you can ask anyone you meet and he/she will tell you where Koh Kret is.
You can walk or take a motorcycle for just 10 baht and reach the vicinity of Wat Sanam Neua. At the port, a ferry boat will take you to the island in less than a minute. As one writer describes it - it's a "blink of an eye "ride. When you disembark, you will see the welcome sign to the island and pay only 2 baht for entrance.
If you come from Bangsue, take bus 505 and you will get to Pak Kret. If you come from Bangyai, take bus 388. One can tell whether a Thai or foreigner has just come from Koh Kret if he/she is carrying an unglazed clay pot container with handle in which iced tea or soft drink is serves.
Places worth seeing are Wat Sao Thiong and Wat Poramaiiyikawat, a museum housing ancient pottery of the Mon people, tiny dessert shops, stores, native restaurants, and pot-making demonstrations.
If you want to further explore the island, a boat ride is available for only 60 baht. This will take you 20 kilometers around the island and you can admire the rural scenery. If you are a photography enthusiast or hobbyist bring your SLR, video, ipad or camera to capture the interesting temples, houses, shops and views.
Be sure to go to the island on weekends because shops are closed on weekdays. Bring money too for there are so many kinds of souvenirs distinctively made on the island worth buying and keeping as souvenirs at reasonably low prices. As a reminder, don't expect a beach where you can sunbathe or dip for a swim. But there is an area where you can watch and feed huge numbers of fish in a sanctuary.
If you're a gourmet, there are a lot of small restaurants overlooking The Chao Phraya River, where you can pick any Thai delicacy of your choice. Just a word of caution, "Don't ever compare this island with other islands you have visited because Ko Kret is an island with a people all of its own - simple , rich customs, traditions, art, and culture all has its own unique beauty." Why wait to go there when summer is gone. Go now. Wanee pai kap.