Ko Kret – the island in Chaopraya river, Nontaburi, Thailand
Ko Kret is a small island in the Chaopraya River, very close to the north bounds of Bangkok. It is formally located in Pak Kret, a district of the Nonthaburi province, which borders on the northwest side of Bangkok and constitutes, along with the city itself, one giant urban sequence. The border between the two practically goes unnoticed.
Ko Kret’s history dates back to 1722, when it was decided to dig a canal in order to create a shortcut to the local river bend. The canal was widened and ultimately created an island, known today as Ko Kret. The island served as a haven to the Mon Tribe people, who brought along the art of traditional pottery. Some of the tribe people live on the island to this very day and practice the ancient, traditional art.
The island creates a square shape and it is not too big; 2 kilometers long and 1 kilometer wide. Its population consists of some 6000 residents, who live in in 6-7 villages, the biggest of which is titled Ban Mon.
Ko Kret was severely damaged during the floods around Bangkok a few years ago. As you can see in one of the attached Map, the island is very close to my workplace, in the Thai Ministry of Public Health, and I have watched closely to observe its restoration, which occurred quite recently. Even though the island has yet to be completely restored, it practically regained its full function. Hence, I decided to write this article now, and not during the recent months.
On the island you’ll find several temples, the largest and most important one of them titled Wat Poramai Yigawat. It is an ancient temple, which is built in the Mon style, and plays a significant part in the tribe’s live by hosting most of their activities. One of the island’s symbols is the temple’s slanted Chedi (as you can see in the photo to the left).
Ko Kret island conveys the complete opposite of Bangkok’s busy, urban atmosphere. The distinctly different vibe that prevails in the giant metropolis, can be found only meters away from the pastoral island. Much like Bangkok’s green lung – Bang Krajao, Ko Krett offers a lovely feeling, as though you are visiting a small rural area, far away from the capital. Since Ko Kret is much smaller then Bangkok’s green lung, it is very easy to visit the island independently and find your way throughout.
The temples are hardly the main attraction on the island. Rather, the 3 prominent are handcrafts, various foods and pottery. All three are attributed and ‘bound’ under the title OTOP, which is probably known to those of you who already visited in Thailand, and I’d like to briefly elaborate on that.
OTOP are the initials of One Tambon One Product – a project that was initiated in the early 2000’s by Thailand’s former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. The project aimed to encourage and assist the villagers who live across the entire Tambon sub-district, in producing a distinct product. Focusing on a specific product would allow them to enhance their specific expertise and self-sufficiency, while improving the particular product quality and its marketing, and enjoying the guidance and financial support offered by the Thai government.
Today there are some 36,000 OTOP associations creating various products – from traditional handicrafts through weaving, fabrics and clothing, fashion products and accessories, various foods and pottery creations – all can be abundantly found in Ko Kert island.
You can find here a huge variety of delicacies, sweet and savory dishes, local desserts and snacks – some of them extremely unique and only produced in the island. One of the most unique desserts here is called “Khao Cher” – a local specialty of rice served with chilled fragrant water and a few small side dishes. Khao Cher was a royal favorite for the hot summer days, made by the Mon tribe people. Today, you cannot find it anywhere besides here, in Ko Kert.
While the wide variety of foods draws Thai crowds to the island over the weekend, for us tourists it seems far more interesting to explore the small boutique shops selling unique, local handicrafts, clothing and home décor supplies I haven’t been able to find anywhere else in Thailand. It’s an extraordinary experience to stroll through the shops and enjoy the endless number of unique products and creative ideas you probably won’t find elsewhere.
We cannot possibly review the island without mentioning Ko Kert’s unique pottery, which is one of the main reasons the place gained its fame. The island is not only a home to plenty of different pottery shops, but you will also find here 2-3 villages who focus on creating traditional vases and vessels, using the unique methods and designs of the Mon tribe. In these villages, you can witness the artisans while they work, which is a unique, fascinating experience.
Before I get to the important know how of the directions to the Ko Kret island, it is important to specify how you move through the island, as it has no roads and cars and contains just 2 routes – one by walking and the other by bike, which you can rent for a very low cost. The island is netted by concrete roads and it is very easy to travel.
For those of you who only want to travel in the markets area – there is no need of renting bicycle and a walk is certainly preferable, particularly on the weekends when the place is crowded and busy. For those who wish to explore the natural part of the island – I highly recommend renting a bicycle, but the ultimate solution is to combine the two – use the bike for a small round circling the island, and then return them and stroll through the markets by foot. Another option is to join a big boat which travels around the island and has several stops (which costs some 60 Baht).
Directions to the Island
As I have previously mentioned, Ko Kret is located in Pak Kret, in the Nonthaburi province, which borders on the northwest side of Bangkok. The place can be reached in several ways but I will list the simplest ones:
By car: in a 35-40 minutes’ ride from the center/south of Bangkok using the highway. Head north in the highway and turn left to Ngam Wong Wan street. Hundreds of meters later, in the first junction, you must turn right (under the bridge) to Tiwanon street. Drive along the street until you reach a main junction (Chaeng Watana). Then, turn to the left, and immediately to the left again (where you will already see signs). The street will then take a turn to the right and eventually you will reach Wat Saman Nua temple. There, you will see the pier to cross the river, and a parking place for those who arrive by car.
By bus: line 166 will take you from the Victory Monument to Wat Saman Nua temple, by the pier to cross the river.
By public transportation – a public boat: green flagged public boats are available during the early morning rush hours, sailing to Pak Kred (N33). However, to visit the island during regular times, take the orange flagged boat and travel until it gets to its final destination – the last stop is Nontaburi pier (N30). The cruise takes an hour but allows you to enjoy the beautiful river view. From Nontaburi pier grab a taxi to Wat Saman Nua (a 15-20 minutes’ ride). You can read more about the public river boats in an article I published on this website à my item on the public river boats.
On your way back – take a Cycle rickshaw (Salmor) from the temple, and it will take you back to the main road where you can easily find a taxi.
When to arrive and how to plan your visit
During the week, the island is rather slow and drowsy; most shops are closed during the week days, so I highly recommend visiting the place during the weekends, when the island is active, lively and bubbly. Most of those visiting the island are Thai people, rather than tourists. I’d advise you to get there around 10 AM to avoid the hot noon hours and the crowded late hours.
Your visit to the island will probably take some 3-4 hours so you should finish it by noon. Those of you who wish to continue shopping/eating etc. in a big, new, air-conditioned shopping center, have two of those nearby: Central Plaza Ratana Thibet on Ngam Wong Wan street and Central Chaeng Watana on Chaeng Watana street.
You can also continue your day by exploring one of the interesting exhibits or fairs held in the Impact Arena fair center, located in the nearby Muang Thong Thani.
In conclusion: not that there is anything wrong with it – but the real Thailand has nothing to do with tourist designated shows like the long neck women of the north or the Damnoen Saduak floating market. You won’t find the real Thailand in MBK either, but rather in such places like the Ko Kret island, within easy reach.
As you can see in the video below, Ko Kret island is a wonderful microcosmos which depicts – and thus allows you to experience – the good old Thailand, a country that is well connected to its roots, affected and respectful of its heritage. Here you will witness and experience, in a small property, the actual Thai culture as is, its graceful magic and warm, welcoming residents, well beyond the market shops and food stalls.
Please notice: At the moment, Ko Kret island does not appear in the travel plan posted on the website (it may certainly appear in the future). However, if you would like to visit the island and need some assistance, please don’t hesitate and use the “contact us” tab. I will do my best to help you.
The video: Ko Kret’s versatility and richness cannot be accurately described in words nor captured by few images. I hope that the video I have filmed and edited will give you a proper glimpse of the unique, wonderful atmosphere of the island.
Thailand Expert : Thailand Travel Guide