One of our favorite Bangkok day trips is to an island you have probably never heard of. There are no cars, no fast food outlets, no convenience stores or ATMs. However, Koh Kret does offer the quiet serenity of years gone by, a look at village life the way it used to be in much of Thailand, ceramics workshops, and the kind of home cooking you will not find in restaurants.
A sleepy little island famous for its terra cotta and festive food weekends
On the outskirts of Bangkok, in the middle of the Chao Praya River, lies a little-known island that preserves the lifestyle of Thailand's ethnic minority Mon people. It is an ideal place to lose yourself for a day of exploring, by foot or on rented bike. There are no cars on the single road that circles the island. Along the way you will see banana plantations, quiet temple compounds, fine terra cotta workshops, and a great variety of fresh Thai food specialties and you will feel far removed from the hectic pace of life just across the river.Our guide will accompany you upriver by boat or taxi to the very edge of the city, where you will board a long-tail boat bound for Koh Kret. This wonderful natural haven is filled with small joys waiting to be discovered.
The best way to begin the day is to wander along the elevated walkway which rings the island. You can spend most of the day on a leisurely walk, or rent a bicycle if you like. Beautiful old wooden buildings line both sides of the walkway. Monks in saffron robes stroll in quiet temple courtyards, where animist shrines sit astride soaring trees and Buddhist stupas. Village compounds are often decorated for upcoming festivals. Small, family-run shops are filled with treats and the colorful clutter of old-timey goods that are fast vanishing from modern urban neighborhoods. One home proudly displays dozens of marathon trophies won by a local sports hero. Eventually the village gives way to emerald swathes of banana and coconut trees. Stroll around the island and soak up this peaceful respite. You will hardly believe you are on the edge of Bangkok!
Eventually you will come full circle and end up near the pier. Here you will find small stalls selling Thai specialties like fresh fried shrimp cakes, kao chae jasmine scented rice in ice water eaten in combination with delicate savory treats, and lemon grass juice served in ceramic jars that you can take home with you. Speaking of ceramics, Koh Kret is famous for its earthenware clay pottery. You will see enormous walk-in kilns used for firing the wide variety of designs on sale. Local potters are happy to welcome you to their studios where you can watch artisans at work. This is a great place to pick up traditional terra cotta cookware. Other shopping treats include home-made cosmetics and perfumes made by the Mon community.
Koh Kret is very quite on weekdays. However, on weekends, Thai people love to visit the island, which becomes a bustling, festive outdoor market. Do not eat a big breakfast if you visit Koh Kret on a weekend. One of the island's great attractions is the huge variety of delicious food, much of which is cooked in outdoor stalls. In particlar the island is famous for a vast array of traditional sweets from every corner of Thailand that have virtually disappeared elsewhere.