Twenty kilometers northwest of central Bangkok is an isolated island known as Koh Kret. This small island is full of village charm although it is just a short boat trip from Bangkok along the Chao Phraya River. Koh Kret is known for its rural atmosphere, its distinctive pottery and its busy weekend market.
A visit to Koh Kret gives you the opportunity to quickly escape Bangkok and get lost in a unique island culture where the feeling of stepping back in time awaits you around every corner.
Koh Kret is home to Thailand’s Mon people, who immigrated from Burma more than 200 years ago. The Mon people in Koh Kret have managed to preserve much of their unique culture and lifestyle due to the fact that the island remains very isolated from the surrounding area.
A visit to Koh Kret is a truly unique experience. The Mon culture can be seen in the design of traditional riverside houses, which have remained unchanged for hundreds of years, and can be felt in the level of hospitality that visitors are shown by locals. If you are looking for one of Bangkok’s hidden gem destinations that few foreign tourists take the chance to visit then Koh Kret is a definite recommend.
Koh Kret is especially known for earthenware (hand-thrown terra-cotta pots) and ceramics that are all handmade in the kilns of the island’s pottery villages.
Another one of the island’s reputations comes from the villages along Khlong Khanom Wan, where you can see sweet local desserts being made. Don’t visit Koh Kret without tasting one, or more, of the local desserts. Loading up on a few takeaway desserts as ‘souvenirs’ is a good idea, but they probably will not last long enough to make it back home. Better to eat the desserts yourself and buy T-shirts for the friends and family back home.
Customer feedback – “Just got home from this wonderful place. A quick ferry ride across the river takes you away from the madness of Bangkok and into the tranquility of Koh Kret. Pottery, gifts and food is all very reasonably priced and plentiful. I chose to walk around the whole island, took about 1&1/2 hours.”
Much of the island is accessed by elevated walkways where many shops sell local handicrafts and restaurants serve traditional Mon cuisine. The narrow market lanes are more charming than touristy, and are relatively uncrowded on weekdays.
No destination in Thailand is complete without a few temples to add to the peaceful ambiance, and Koh Kret is no exception. The temples in Koh Kret date back to the Ayutthaya period and one of the island’s most revered temples is Wat Paramai Yikawat. This temple, which has a small adjoining museum, remains a pilgrimage site for people of Mon descent. Resident monks continue to perform chants in the Mon language. The temple also features the signature lopsided Mon-style chedi, a ten meter long reclining Buddha and a seated Buddha, considered to be Nonthaburi province’s most sacred Buddha image.
Some of the island’s other temples are:
- Wat Palelai – a shrine to the ‘Buddha in the Jungle’ celebrating the time Buddha spent in the wild with animals and nature
- Wat Chimpli – an older temple with a bell shaped top and colored glass tiles
- Wat Salakun
- Wat Sao Thong Thong – a typical Mon temple with an Ayutthaya-style chedi showing how the Mon adopted elements of their new home in Thailand while mindfully preserving their own culture
- Wat Phai Lom – temple with two huge golden cockerels guarding the entrance
What to eat on Koh Kret:
- Tort man nor galah – a dish of deep-fried patties of ground fish, various fresh herbs, colorful flowers, mushrooms and an aquatic vegetable (nor galah).
- Kanom Jeen – fermented rice noodles eaten with a variety of different curries.
- Kow Chae – delicious combination of camphor-scented rice in chilled water with savory additions. Particularly popular during the Thai summer.
- Gai sarong – minced chicken wrapped in egg noodles and deep fried, resulting in crispy golden balls.
- Dokmai tort – colorful arrangements of edible flowers and leaves stuffed into banana leaf bowls.
Few tourists visit Koh Kret mostly because it is not featured in many guide books and the combination of transport options that are necessary to reach the island can be daunting to figure out. Having a private tour guide enables you to enjoy the experience while leaving the logistics of your tour to a professional and knowledgable local.
Koh Kret can be visited any day of the week. The best time for visiting is all day, from early morning until 4pm. Weekends are more crowded than weekdays.
Things you should be aware of when visiting Koh Kret:
- Comfortable shoes and clothing are highly recommended since you will need to climb in and out of boats.
- Photography is highly encouraged along every part of this tour.
- Bring your appetite and your sense of adventure.
- Respectful attire is required if you plan to visit any of the temples on Koh Kret.