Text & Photo : Mette Solberg Fjeldheim
Just an hour or so from Bangkok I got to visit a small island anditsMon community, known for its pottery, desserts and small temples.
Up the river Chao Phraya, arrivingby boat from Bangkok,Ireach the small island of Koh Kred (also spelled Koh Kret). This car-free, manmade island definitely feels much further from the skyscrapers of the capital of Thailand than it really is.
The island offer insight into the Mon tribe and is famous for its terracotta pottery and desserts. Thai tourists come to visit in the weekends, enjoying street food at the market and long lunches at the restaurants dotted along the shore. Besides the locally made food and pottery, the temples are a reason to visit for many. Not to forget the rural atmosphere outside the most busy village.
The shores of Koh Kred are lined with wooden houses on stilts, which is best seen on a boat trip around the island. Its streets are paved, but too small for cars. Walking in the main village and market, I find them filled with food vendors selling everything from noodle dishes to delicate chocolate and colorful cakes. There’s even a pottery village, an establishment with traditionally made pottery – and an option to make our own pottery, too.
Upon arrival Koh Kred, I first notice lines of small buckets filled with water and small living creatures, such as frogs, tiny turtles and eel-like fish. I see people buy them, only to throw back into the river.
– They believe that if you let them free, you will have good luck in your life, the tour guide, Mrs. Patchanee, explains. It is a Buddhist merit-making returning living creatures into the wild. Fascinated, I stop to watch for a little while, before I join my group further into the island.
– The island was made about three hundred years ago, when a channel was dug through a sharp bend in the river, our guide explains. This would shorten the travel along the river. Mrs. Patchanee tells me how the Mon tribe first came to settle on the island during the reign of King Taksin, and how there is much Mon history and culture to be found on this island today.
Wat Poramai Yikawat is the main temple on the island and the last temple in Thailand to have preserved Buddhist prayers in the Mon language. But there are five more temples on the tiny island, with a seven main villages. The most visited of the villages is where the market is and where we walk the streets between stalls filled with temptations. There’s even local food on display, not found any other place. And even though it would be too heavy for my suitcase to bring back home, I find visiting the Pottery Village of importance: For their famous terracotta is their main occupation. You see, the island is only open to visitors on the weekends – which gives a highly interesting insight to a rare, local community close to Bangkok.
How to get there
Chao Phraya express boat to Thanam Nonthaburi (Nonthaburi pier), followed by a short taxi ride from there. You may also charter a long tail boat along the Chao Phraya river.
Location click here