Relaxing on an island in Bangkok
- Published on Wednesday, 16 September 2015 08:45
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Exploring an island for a day without leaving Bangkok sounds like you’ve got your guidebooks mixed up, but there’s a peaceful little island that makes an ideal morning getaway. Ko Kret sits in the north of the city in the center of the Chao Phraya River, and all you need to do is take a bus, taxi or a boat to Wat Sanam Nua Pier, and it’s just a short ferry ride across to the island. When you land, it feels like you’ve entered another world.
The inhabitants are predominantly Mon, an ethnic group that originated from Myanmar. These are the people who brought Theravada Buddhism to Thailand, and you can get a real feel for both the traditions and their local culture on the island. While you’re here be sure to wander the markets, where sellers offer a wide assortment of baked red clay pots that make a great souvenir, and it’s the only place in Bangkok where cars aren’t allowed, so you don’t have to worry for the traffic. If you’re running out of space in your luggage don’t worry, order an iced coffee from just about any seller on the island and they’ll give you a small clay pot as a souvenir.
Strolling around the island soak in the lush greenery, and enjoy the feel of heading backwards in time, as the wooden-shack style houses, temples, and village feel make it the perfect place to visit with your family or if you just want a little peace and quiet. It’s totally different to the buzz of Bangkok, especially if you visit during the week. On the weekends it can get crowded, especially in the evening in the market areas, and the narrow paths through the stalls reminiscent of almost any popular area in the city. Apart from the pottery, there’s a famous dish you need to try, known as tort man nor galah. It’s really just a snack, made from ground fish that is turned into patties and then deep fried. What makes it special is the fresh herbs, colorful flowers, mushrooms and the aquatic vegetable nor galah that are cooked in. Served with sweet and sour sauce, it really is excellent.
Because there’s so little to do in Ko Kret, which doesn’t particularly sound like a selling point, but it actually is. The whole reason to visit is the fun of seeing the rural life in Thailand. There’s a winding path around the entire island, with small little restaurants for lunch and shops that sell pottery (of course) as well as many other interesting souvenirs. Around the island there are temples, a museum and plenty of kilns to see, and the best way to navigate is to forget the map and just start ambling along the path. It takes around an hour to circle the island, but if you need to hurry back there are bicycles to rent, water-taxi’s and even motorcycles to take you back to the pier. The wooden huts that line the road, encroaching jungle and exotic flowers make this a place to visit, and you can’t miss the flower garden which is packed full of blooms you never knew even existed. Following the walkways it feels like you’re in your own secret garden.
The biggest sight on the island is Wat Poramai Yikawat, which is a Buddhist temple that’s directly opposite of the main pier in Ko Kret. The Buddha statue inside is crafted in typical Mon-style, and the museum inside is packed full of local pottery and religious artifacts. But this isn’t the most popular landmark. Visitors come to see the leaning stupa, a landmark on the north-eastern corner of the island that is over 200 years old. Don’t miss this one.
You can take a tour with an English speaking guide around the island, and there are plenty of tourist boats that depart every morning. Personally though, you’re much better off getting to Ko Kret on your own, it can take a little effort, but you’ll be able to enjoy the island at your own pace. For accommodation you do have a couple of choices to stay on the island, but most people are able to get their fill of peace and quiet in just a few hours, and then head back to the city for the evening. It really depends on you.
Most of the shops on the island are dependent on tourists, but the majority of visitors are Thai’s, coming to take a breather from Bangkok. Foreign tourists usually miss Ko Kret as they head in search of Thailand’s white sandy beaches, but stop in for a visit if you have the chance, you’ll get to experience a totally different side of the country.