Koh Kret: an island on the Chao Phraya

Koh Kret

Escaping the bustle of Bangkok need not mean anything more strenuous than a quick hop down the Chaophraya river. Koh Kret, an island in the mighty brown river that weaves its way through the capital, makes for a refreshing day getaway from the pollution and bumper-to-bumper traffic of the City of Angels/Big Mango/Big Durian/whatever you want to call it.

Koh Kret

So near to Bangkok, and yet so far…

Though administratively placed outside the capital in Nonthaburi province, in most people’s mind the area of Pak Kret is really just a Bangkok suburb. The Chaophraya Express river boat from just alongside the Skytrain station at Saphan Taksin in Sathorn, and with stops in such places as Phra Athit, a short distance from backpacker paradise-hell Khaosan Road, will take you to its terminal pier in Nonthaburi; jump on a 15-baht, orange-flagged boat.

Koh Kret

Welcome to Koh Kret. With a large Mon population, signs are in Burmese as well as Thai script.

From there, take either a 10-baht minivan ride or bus number 32 to Pak Kret, from where it’s a short walk to the pier to Wat Sanam Neua temple, or take a taxi all the way from the Nonthaburi pier for around 80 baht. Alternatively, a peak-time green-flag boat service runs Monday to Saturday direct from Saphan Taksin to Pak Kret pier in around an hour. The ride costs 20 baht and operates between 06.15-08.00 and 15.30-18.00. However you make the trek, once there a short 2-baht ferry hop across the river will drop you on Koh Kret itself. But do make a brief stop at the pier on the mainland, before you hop aboard the ferry, to buy yourself a carton of kanom tuay coconut custard puddings from a stall in the temple grounds. They’re too good not to.

Koh Kret

Expect your Koh Kret day trip travel companions to be predominantly locals.

While bicycles, motorbike taxis and more are on offer to cart you around the island, it is in fact easily navigable on foot, probably in any case the best way to see all that the island has to offer. Paths run all around the island and are relatively well signposted; you’ll pass through small, narrow lanes that branch off to homes where the island’s inhabitants of Mon descent are carrying out their traditional pottery trade, with the finished products on sale there and then. The interior of the island, pointing to the growing number of Thai and foreign tourists who visit largely at the weekend, is also home to a number of cutesey, in places somewhat kitsch coffee shops that are worth a quick pit-stop. Some also tout unique postcards and the odd souvenir.

Deep fried flowers on Koh Kret

Deep fried flowers, anyone?

Unsurprisingly for me, though, the best thing about Koh Kret is the food – the large market, open only on weekends, offers an array of deliciousness to be tried, ranging from guay deow noodle soup to an assortment of fried flowers. Though they all bear some resemblance to just about anything that has been deep fried in batter, there is a somewhat floral subtlety of difference between the varieties and, dunked in a chilli dipping sauce, they are worth a try.

Fried flowers on Koh Kret

Heaps of deep-fried floral goodness.

For those living in Thailand or others looking for some useful and cheap-as-chips kitchenware to take back home, this market is also a good bet – I was pleased as punch to pick up an enormous, sturdy and very, very heavy Lao-style pestle and mortar for a measly 60 baht, and it’s getting good use in my kitchen.

Wat Saeng Siritham, Koh Kret

The crumbling building of Wat Saeng Siritham makes for an atmospheric stop on a round-island boat tour

If you don’t fancy walking the whole island, a quicker and less energetic way to take in a number of its sights is to join the regular boat tour departures that leave from the same pier that the 2-baht ferry drops you at. You can buy your ticket on land just after you jump off the ferry, and at 60 baht for a good couple of hours’ ride they represent good value. Expect the boat, most of the time much like the island as a whole, to be filled entirely with Thai tourists – largely Bangkokians on their day off – which in my book is a good thing. Attractions include the peaceful and stunning beautiful old temple at Wat Saeng Siritham, a house near the island’s mosque selling souvenirs and with free tasters of deep blue coloured anchan butterfly pea flower tea, and an admittedly rather contrived dessert house demonstrating traditional Thai sweets being handmade, including this foy tong, a commonplace and sickly sweet Thai khong waan made from egg yolks.

Homemade foy tong dessert

Homemade foy tong dessert

There’s also a stop at a so-called floating market, which while technically floating is probably not what you have in mind from a talat nam – essentially it is a collection of stalls on a jetty. There’s more good food to be had here, though, including tasty tod man pla fish cakes and a yum luk chin pla salad of (highly processed but always good) fish balls. But the real high point of the tour is simply gliding along the river around the island, with silky, smooth, glistening and incredibly quiet waters that are a world away (and then some) from the choppy waves ridden by the Chaophaya Express just a little upstream. It’s the perfect chance to unwind just a little, and also an opportunity for some enviable snaps as you turn corners into tight waterways alongside stilted houses and past stunning temple stupas.

Koh Kret

A day trip to Koh Kret offers the chance of unique snaps from the water.

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3 Comments

Filed under Bangkok, Day Trips, Evergreen, Food, Islands & Beaches, Thailand

3 Responses to Koh Kret: an island on the Chao Phraya

  1. hi Chris

    I live a few km south east of Koh Kred on the ‘mainland’ as it were and visit regularly.

    “While bicycles, motorbike taxis and more are on offer to cart you around the island, it is in fact easily navigable on foot, probably in any case the best way to see all that the island has to offer. ” < I'd argue that I agree with this for the market section but if you want to see the whole island a bicycle is the best bet. It's around 13km if you take the local paths around the south west of the island. I did walk around the island once, not doing it again!

    Regarding the boat tours you mentioned I'd not spotted that, 60B for a 2 hour tour is waaaaaay better than the price I was offered when I was with 2 kiwi friends 1.5 years ago. Are you talking here dragon boats or large several seat wide boats? FYI there is also a free tour called the 'Nine Temples Boat Tour' (nine being a lucky number in Thai) that starts from Wat Tha It from 10am to 1pm on the hour (one temple north of Wat Saeng Siritham). One could get a taxi from say Mochit to get there, and then bail after you've had too many temples (around 5 is enough for myself and the wife). That also allows time for one to walk through the market at one's leisure.

    Did you go to the sweet canal also – a canal with a sweetshop on it, I think near Om Kret, but I've only been once and that was before I knew the area from cycling around it many times. I still don't know exactly where the shop is.

    Also at Wat Saeng Siritham there is a wonderful beef noodle shop – walk through the riverside houses to get there. One sits on the floor and dangles one's legs over the river whilst simultaneously eating one's noodles off a bar in front of them. If you've had too much food, simply drop some noodles over the side.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/gordonbanderson/sets/72157629988856633/
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/gordonbanderson/7002000114/in/set-72157629613544040

    You also missed out on the steam rooms at Wat Bang Bua Thong!

    Cheers

    Gordon

    PS The area has some great cycling, I've worked out a circuit from Phranangklao to Rama 4 bridges that avoids main roads for almost all of it, sticking to local roads or canal paths. Always cool to get a kid giving you high gives as you cycle through their community 🙂

    • And link fail – this is the pic with Ginger and @bkkgreg at the noodle shop http://www.flickr.com/photos/gordonbanderson/7002000114/in/set-72157629613544040

      This panoramic composite shows the setup better http://www.flickr.com/photos/gordonbanderson/7005270274/

    • Thanks for dropping by, Gordon – and nice spot to live! Nice insight on the island and its surrounds, and I’ll try cycling round next time I go. The boat we took was a larger boat that was a good few seats wide (perhaps 8 or 10, with an aisle down the middle). I hadn’t heard about the nine temples boat tour, another one I’ll have to give a go! I’m not sure if the sweet canal you’re talking about is the one we visited – it was certainly on a canal as we did it as part of the boat tour. But I found that one a little bit contrived, so perhaps this is another one that you know. Whereabouts is Om Kret, off the island? The noodle soup shop sounds great, yet another one to add to the list – and I’m especially intrigued by the steam rooms at Wat Bang Bua Thong, do tell me more..! I’d love to hear more about your cycle trail, too. Great photos by the way, thanks for such an insightful contribution from a real local! 🙂

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