Koh Kret – A Blast for the Past
Hidden just north of Bangkok is a place that time forgot: Koh Kret. The word ‘koh’ refers to an island and so many associate this with a location within a sea or ocean. In fact, Koh Kret is an island located along the Bangkok river of Chao Phraya.
What previously should have just been a large peninsula caused by a bend in the river, has been cut off to form an island.
This seems odd, and it is. The people who live on Koh Kret, despite their proximity to Bangkok, are completely isolated from the busy hubbub of city life. Instead, these people live like many Thai families situated in the rural areas. It’s like stepping into a timewarp and being transported twenty years backwards.
How to Get There
Getting to Koh Kret can be easy and boring, or difficult and fun, the decision is yours. The first way to get there is to hail a taxi which runs on a meter and ask them to drop you at Pak Kret pier. From the centre of Bangkok, this should take between 20 minutes and half an hour.
Pak Kret pier is directly opposite Koh Kret, on the other side of the man made ‘cut off’ stream. From here, a small boat runs every ten minutes throughout the day at the minimal price of 3 baht, allowing you to cross the river to the island.
Alternatively, if you’re feeling adventurous, you can independently travel from BTS Saphan Taksin. Directly next to the BTS station is a pier with a boat, costing 20 baht, that runs all the way to Pak Kret pier, and takes just over an hour.
The only catch with this is that you have to be up and ready to travel at the crack of dawn as the Chao Phraya ‘green flag’ express service only runs from 6.15am to 8am. The positive of this is that if you catch an earlier boat, you can watch the sun come up as you travel down the river. From Pak Kret Pier, you take the 3 baht boat.
There are also buses that run from town, and songthaews can be picked up from Nonthaburi, but both are slightly more expensive, and nowhere near as fun!
Getting back is slightly more tricky as the last boat heading back to BTS Saphan Taksin leaves at 6pm. If you miss it, you have to take the taxi option.
What to Do When You’re There
The island itself isn’t amazingly huge so it’s quite easy to get around. There are no cars on the island. so besides walking, cycling is the best way to travel. You can easily pick up a bike at the pier for 40 baht for the whole day.
With one long road that circumnavigates the island, there’s no way of getting lost; your bike will also usually have a map attached. When you’ve collected your bike, you’ll be asked to go clockwise around the island; try to stop at as many places as you can:
1. The first kilometer or so is a twisted winding path that can be difficult to wind along. Take note of the old style houses and small trinket stalls. Stop in a few of the bars to have a quick drink and take in the river passing by.
2. Take a detour into the first pottery row. They have a gallery of their work, a kiln to admire, and several of the locals are willing to run a hands-on workshop for you.
3. Park your bike at Wat Chimphli Sutthawat and admire the gold-painted animal statues and modern shrines within the temple. Those bringing oms can take part in the receiving ceremony with any passing monks you see. Take time to sign the guestbook.
4. As you round on to the straight, flat road, you’ll find plenty of places to stop for some traditional, authentic cuisine. Leave the decision up to the cook and they’ll provide something wonderful. It should cost no more than 40 baht for a meal.
5. Take the time to stop at the local vegetable plantations; the main financial inflow for the island. Growing pineapples and bananas, as well as whole host of vegetables is the income for most farmers on Koh Kret. Local farmers are willing to take you around the plantations and show you how everything works.
6. The further you go round, look out for other small temples and shrines that have been on the island for many years.
7. Towards the end of the cycle, you’ll come across the main market place, selling souvenirs, trinkets, food, drink, clothing, textiles and handmade crafts. This area can become busy, so it’s best to walk with your bike to weave through the flow of people and give yourself enough time to see everything that’s on offer.
A trip to Koh Kret is the perfect way to get away from the big bustling city of Bangkok, and kick back in the relaxed peacefulness of a place lost in time. With all the residents moving at such a slow pace and the island being filled with lush greenery, you won’t want to take that boat ride home to the overwhelming crush of Bangkok’s streets.