Ko Kret (also Koh Kred) is an island in the Chao Phraya River, in Nonthaburi province 20 km north of Bangkok, Thailand.
The island dates only to 1722, when 10,000 people were given shovels and put to work digging a canal to bypass a bend in the Om Kret branch of the Chao Phraya river. In a month and a half, the 12m wide by 3m deep canal was completed which cut journey times on the river significantly. The river responded to this shortcut by changing course completely, and over the years the canal has become the 30m wide and 10m deep main course of the river seen today. In 1757, Mon people from southern Myanmar were permitted to settle in areas around the Chao Phraya, including Ko Kret and adjacent Pak Kret. Due to laws at the time banning foreigners from farming, the Mon people used river clay to make traditional pottery. This same group dominates this area even today. They have retained a distinct identity in their flavour of Buddhism and, particularly at Ko Kret, their pottery.
The easiest way to reach Ko Kret is to take the once-weekly Chao Phraya Express, which leaves the Central Pier (BTS Saphan Taksin) every Sunday at 09:00 and visits a number of attractions before returning at 15:30. The cost of the cruise and guided tour is 300 baht (no lunch). Many other companies also offer similar tours, often just as a stop on a longer upriver trip to Ayutthaya.
Independent travel to Ko Kret is a little more challenging. The easiest option is to take public bus 166 from Victory Monument (at the footbridge's end) or bus 505 from Central World to the end of the line in the Pak Kret market. From there, you have to walk about 500 m (or take a motorbike taxi/samlor) towards the river to the ferry pier, which is located behind Wat Sanam Neua.
More fun, though, is to arrive by boat. If you plan to stay overnight the "green flag" Chao Phraya express boat offers a direct service from BTS Saphan Taksin to 1 Pak Kret (Pier N33). but only M-F. Boats run to Pak Kret 16:05-18:05 every 20 min, and to Saphan Taksin 06:10-08:10 every 15 min. The trip costs 31 baht and takes just over an hour.
Outside peak hours, the closest you can get is 2 Nonthaburi (Pier N30). the last stop of the "orange flag" Chao Phraya Express Boat. From here, the options are:
- Take the air-con van service (just 10 baht) or public bus 32 to Pak Kret, then head to the ferry pier serving the island. The catch is that there's no signage in English, so finding your way can be tricky.
- Hire a river taxi, for which touts will quote prices around 500 baht. With enough haggling this may be a reasonable option for a group.
- If you can't get a return trip for less than 200 baht (and you probably can't), it'll be cheaper to take a taxi to the temple of 3 Wat Sanam Neua (วัดสนามเหนือ). (80-90 baht) in the neighbouring district of Pak Kret, from where ferries shuttle across the river to the island pretty much non-stop for the princely sum of 2 baht (return). Just tell the cabbie "Ko Kret". He will understand.
Getting back is more interesting still, the easy way out again being the river taxi, plenty of which lounge about near the pier. If not, take the ferry back to Wat Sanam Neua, then take a moto or samlor out of the soi (5 baht) to the main street. From here you can easily grab a taxi back to the pier, or try your luck with the many buses, minibuses and songthaews heading back to central Nonthaburi and Bangkok. The pier you want to return to is Tha Nam Nonburi or simply Tha Nam Chao Phya in Thai (Chao Phraya Pier).
Compared to getting in, getting around is easy. The most popular option is by foot. The island is roughly square in shape, each side measuring about 2 km, and a path runs around the entire island. The walk at a pleasant pace takes about 1.5–2 hours. Other options are renting a bicycle from the company located in Moo 6. From the 2 baht ferry crossing make your way counter-clockwise around the island about 200 m. At about the same point, which is near the end of the tourist area, motorcycle taxis wait to take people around. If you walk and get tired, you can proceed down one of the paths leading out to piers by the river. From these local piers, you can flag down a small water-taxi. These miniature versions of the famous Thai long-tailed boats will zip you around the island and back to the Pak Kret pier on the mainland if you like. Prices are reasonable, maybe 20 baht per person for a group of four and the ride warrants a Disneyland "E" ticket, but better know how to swim as life vests are not included. Also do not expect to use English with the boatman.
You can also rent a bicycle at couple of places (for example in Village #1), yet do not expect to find one with a seat for small children.
Sightseeing boats that do a loop of the island (see itinerary below) leave the pier every hour from 09:00-17:00, costing 50 baht/person. There is also the possibility of renting a boat at the price of 500-4,000 baht depending on the distance and the size of the boat. It will take around 1.5 hr for the whole trip. For more information, contact Wat Poramaiyikawat Pier at +66 2 5845012.
While the locals speak little English, there are useful multilingual maps of the island near the ferry pier and at a couple other points around the island. There are occasional distance signposts along the footpath, and most sights around the island have been labelled in English.
A sample one-day Ko Kret tour:
- Take the ferry from Wat Sanam Nuea to Wat Poramaiyikawat Pier to worship Nonthaburi’s Buddha image then take a look around Rama V Museum.
- Walk from Wat Poramaiyikawat to Moo 6 and Moo 7, enjoy the walking tour and the shopping of various style of pottery then visit the museum of Kwan Aman Pottery.
- Drifting along the river from Wat Sao Thong Thong Pier to Ko Wat Yai Sawang Arom in Tambon Om Kret. Feed the fish in front of the temple. In addition, various kinds of aquatic animals are reserved in this area. Before leaving, don’t forget to taste the sweet scented coconuts which are on sale here.
- Go downstream to the south then turn right to Khlong Bang Bua Thong or Khlong Khanom Wan admiring the beautiful scenery of the Dessert Village and shopping sweetmeats as souvenirs.
- Drifting back to the mouth of the canal where the chimney of the first brick kiln of Thailand can been seen. Pass Ban Kret Trakan, then head north for Wat Chim Phli Pier and shop for agricultural products. Carry on with the walking tour starting from Wat Chim Phli to the Assembly of Pottery Craft. Take a look at the demonstration of how to make a pottery and end the tour with shopping for porcelains before getting back to Wat Klang Kret by ferry.
- Kwan Aman Pottery Museum, ☏ +66 2 5845086, +66 2 5834134. This pottery museum is notable for its large collection of the distinctive ancient Mon design ceramics (see Buy below). Mon people have always been skilled in pottery since their settlement in the delta of Irawadi River. Later, at the time of Mon's installation to Thailand during the Thonburi era, pottery has become since then Nonthaburi's oldest handicraft and symbol with the notably beautiful characteristic Mon design. Daily, 09:00-17:00.
- Phra Wiharn. Daily, 09:00-16:00. This is the venue where the 9.5 m long reclining Buddha of the late Ayutthaya period is enshrined. The edifice’s outside is decorated with King Rama V’s emblem. Nonthaburi’s Buddha image named "Phra Nonthamunin" enshrined here behind Phra Wiharn was formed in the late Ayutthaya period. Besides, a charming marble Buddha image offered to King Rama V by a Burmese named Sang Sew Sun is placed in front of the Viharn.
- 1 Wat Chimpli Suttahawat (วัดฉิมพลีสุทธาวาส). Is on the east bank, about 1 km south of the ferry landing and a good point to turn around if you're not planning to make the full circuit. The temple has a beautiful small chapel in a very good condition.
- 2 Wat Phai Lom (วัดไผ่ล้อม). This monastery built in the late Ayutthaya period and called by Mon people "Pia To" has a charming chapel.
- 3 Wat Poramai Yikawat (วัดปรมัยยิกาวาส) (At the NE corner right next to the ferry landing). The main temple on the island, this old monastery is constructed in Mon (Burmese) style and is a focal point of Thailand's small Mon community: both the scriptures and the daily prayers here are in Mon. The ubosot is decorated in Italian marble brought in by King Rama V, and a wooden pagoda near the pier houses the remains of one of the abbots. The white, Burmese-style stupa, modelled on Phra Tat Chedi Mutao in Hongsawadi, Myanmar, is said to contain the Buddha's relics.
- Wat Poramaiyikawat Museum, ☏ +66 2 5845120. Open M-F, 09:00-16:00. Next to the temple, this small museum displays various interesting items such as votive tablets, crystal ware, porcelains including "hem", a masterpiece made by Colonel Chatwat Ngamniyom. Some say that Hem must have been created by a Mon who had an inspiration from the coffin of the Lord Buddha. Dried remains will be put in the normal hem coffin but the hem of monks is different with a tiny window where the body can be seen from outside.
- 4 Wat Sao Tong Thong (วัดเสาธงทอง). This long-dated temple used to be called ‘Wat Suan Mak’ is the site of Amphoe Pak Kret's first primary school. Behind the chapel, the tallest pagoda of Pak Kret was constructed in the Ayutthaya style. Inside the chapel, the gorgeous ceiling paintings finely decorate the edifice. Another name of the temple in Mon is "Pia Arlart".
Ko Kret is another world compared to Bangkok and much of it retains the air of a rustic village, with wooden shacks propped against palm trees and the occasional dilapidated temple slowly crumbling. Hence the main attraction is just walking around, browsing the merchandise in the many pottery shops.
- Mon Songkran Festival at Ko Kret, Amphoe Pak Kret, one week following 13 Apr with a caravan and shows of traditional Mon playing and entertainment
- Mon classical Dance Dating back long time ago, the traditional Mon dancing accompanied by the Mon gamelan remains till today as an invaluable heritage to the descendants of Mon at Pak Kret, Phra Pradaeng and Pathum Thani.
Ko Kret is renowned above all as a centre for kwan aman, a style of Mon pottery, which is fundamentally just baked unglazed red clay carved with intricate patterns. Prices for the simplest and smallest pots start from 5 baht, but can go up to hundreds or even thousands of baht for large ornate pieces. Particularly popular among visitors are candle and incense holders with ornate patterns of holes to let the smoke or light out, costing around 200 baht.
There are around 20 pottery workshops on the island and you will see many kilns as you walk around, but the primary shopping districts (perhaps too grandiose a word) are the imaginatively named:
- Pottery Village #1 (Mu Neung) - on the east coast south of Wat Poramai Yikawat.
- Pottery Village #6 (Mu Hok) - on the north coast to the west of the wat
Eat & Drink
- Although not considered an activity, this is one of the primary attractions for Thais visiting the island. There are numerous vendors cooking up a number of local treats mainly Thai and Mon snacks and desserts. Favourites that the island is known for include "Khao Cher." This dish is a Mon specialty of rice served with chilled fragrant water and a number of little side dishes. It was a royal favourite for hot summer days, but now is hard to find most anywhere besides here. "Tod mun pla nor gala" is another treat. This is spiced fish cake with the shoots of local ginger.
- There is a food market near the ferry pier featuring the usual suspects, but also including a local specialty best described as Mon tempura: deep-fried vegetables, fish, shrimp and such served in a large banana-leaf krathong (leaf-shaped bowl). A number of stalls also serve chaa yen (Thai iced tea) and other drinks in red clay cups with carrying handles, which you can keep as a souvenir for a few baht extra.
- Ko Kret (เกาะเกร็ด), 105/2 Moo 1 (Close to Wat Chim Phli), ☏ +66 2 9608788. Daily, 10:00-23:00. For a more relaxing lunch, try this pleasantly airy blue-tiled riverside restaurant just past Village 1. Thai basics (noodles, som tam, etc.) cost around 30 baht per dish. No English menu or sign but some English spoken.
- Banpasoon Dessert Home, in Village #1 along the main tourist path 50 m before the bicycle rental. Very pleasant place with simple Thai cuisine and great desserts, cost around 30 baht per dish. No English menu or sign but English spoken.
- Around the island in the touristed section, there are a number of other riverside restaurants and many vendors selling snacks and desserts, so a taste as you go approach works well. On the less touristed section, there are a few places but more spread out and just the basic noodles and Thai "aharn tam sung" dishes.
- Dessert Canal (Khlong khanom waan). The local people living in the compound of the dessert canal as well as other canals around Ko Kret earn their living by selling several traditional Thai home-made desserts and sweets. Tourists can also enjoy the show on how to make Thai desserts and shopping all the sweetmeats as souvenirs from Khlong Khanom Wan.
There are only a few simple places to stay on the island. Most visitors visit the island as a day trip from Bangkok.
- Kho Ket Guesthouse (Koh Kred Home stay), Moo 6 (Praket Nonthburi), ☏ +66 818320637, email@example.com. Check-in: 06:00, check-out: 15:00. Guesthouse in a real Thai-style bamboo hut. Double, 500 baht with breakfast.
- Baan Dvara Prateep 53/3 Moo 5; ☏ +66 2 5384212 A low-key retreat offering yoga and meditation courses with accommodation included. Prices vary but expect to pay around 5,000 baht for a 3 day/2 night course, including meals and transfers to Pak Kret. Reservations required.
- Sipim's House. Homestay for daily, weekly, or monthly. It is located on Cho Praya Riverside, Ko Kred, Nonthaburi. The house is just 3 min walk from Wat Poramai and the crossing pier. It is wooden 2 storey modern Thai style house equipped with full-size mirrors in the front facing to the river where you can see the river view from the bedroom and living room. 3,000 baht (up to 6 persons).