Return to Ko Kret, Thailand


In September 2011, my family and I visited Ko Kret (Koh Kred) Island in the Chao Phraya River north of Bangkok, Thailand. Our outing then was cut short when we were stopped by the rising floodwaters that inundated the river. You can read about that adventure here.

Six months later after a long dry spell, we decided to try visiting again, this time on bicycle. A two meter decrease in the water level since late last year made the island much more accessible. Here are some photos showing the flooding six months ago and after the waters receded:

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My wife, son and I hauled our bicycles to the ferry dock at Wat Sanamnau Buddhist temple across from the island and carried them over. Along the way, we ran into places we had seen six months earlier that had been flooded during that visit. This time, they were dry.

The ferry ride on the rickety wooden boat overloaded with passengers was an adventure in and of itself, especially with bicycles in tow. The passengers rushed on and off the ferry and fought for space, making it a logistical challenge to negotiate passage.

We made it across the river safely and stopped for lunch at a roadside food stand that offered Thai cuisine. I ate Pad Thai, the national dish of Thailand — always a “safe” dish to order if you don’t recognize any other dishes on dingy laminated menus with faded photos and Thai descriptions. My son ate crab fried rice, and my wife a seafood soup that looked a bit iffy to me but that she claimed tasted good.

We left the market located next to the ferry dock and set off on a five-kilometer (2.5 mile) bicycle ride around the island. We first headed toward the “Koh Kred Pottery Village.” What we thought was another pottery market was in fact a functioning township home to pottery makers and several large brick kilns where local artisans baked ceramic pottery.

We rode past some Buddhist landmarks, including Wat Chimphi temple, where I spotted one of the few golden phoenix statues I’d seen in Thailand, as well as shrines dedicated to the elephant god Ganesha and other Buddhist deities.

Small canals and homes elevated on stilts added to the flavor of the island.

We turned inland and rode on raised concrete thoroughfares that passed above canals and swamps dotting the island. Although the passageways were generally flat, we ran into a number of dips, speed bumps and dogs that could have sent us tumbling into the murky water and marshes on either side. In spite of the risk, the scenery made for some beautiful photo opportunities.

My wife, son and I rode through countryside filled with homes on stilts, soggy fields growing whatever the locals could cultivate, Buddhist temples, and the occasional store lining the road. The buildings were in varying stages of decay or disrepair. The hot, wet weather and repeated flooding took a heavier toll on structures here than it would have in other climes.

Turning once more, we rode back to the central market on Ko Kret. We stopped for coconut ice cream moments before a rainstorm passed over and dumped buckets of precipitation, a common but unpredictable occurrence during the rainy season. The coconut ice cream — a local concoction topped with fruit jelly, condensed milk, and sticky rice — was a real treat. Vendors who waited beside us for the rain to stop shared laughs with us without exchanging a word. We couldn’t speak Thai, and they couldn’t speak English, but the auspiciousness of eating dessert while waiting out a rainstorm transcended our language barrier.

After the storm, the vendors swept away the water with brooms, and we inched our way through the narrow, crowded alleyway with our bicycles. I joked to my wife that we got wet every time we visited Ko Kret. Getting doused by rain was a sight better than succumbing to a flood.

The rain started again as we left Ko Kret Island, and we darted back to our car with bicycles in tow. Although we ended up soaking wet, we enjoyed a great day riding on an island that’s not far from Bangkok — but a world away.

To read about our previous visit to Ko Kret during the Bangkok flood, click here for part one and here for part two.

Map picture

buythumb[3]M.G. Edwards is a writer of books and stories in the mystery, thriller and science fiction-fantasy genres. He also writes travel adventures. He is author of Kilimanjaro: One Man’s Quest to Go Over the Hill, a non-fiction account of his attempt to summit Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain. His collection of short stories called Real Dreams: Thirty Years of Short Stories available as an e-book and in print on Amazon.com. He lives in Bangkok, Thailand with his wife Jing and son Alex.

For more books or stories by M.G. Edwards, visit his web site at www.mgedwards.com or his blog, World Adventurers. Contact him at me@mgedwards.com, on Facebook, on Google+, or @m_g_edwards on Twitter.

© 2012 Brilliance Press. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted without the written consent of the author.

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Koh Kred, Thailand (part two)


The water level rose higher the farther we walked and flooded the market on Koh Kred. We assumed the corridor where we were walking would reclaim the high ground and pressed on with bare feet, wading through the water until we reached dry ground again. I enjoyed the exotic feel of wading through floodwater; my son and wife did not share my enthusiasm and fretted over whether critters lurked in the water waiting to nip their toes or infiltrate their bodies. I was reassured by the flowing water that it did not carry waterborne diseases common in stagnant cesspools. Just to be safe, I gave my son a piggy back ride through the water, much to his relief.

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We crossed two more flooded areas. Again on dry land, we dried our feet and put on our shoes. The floodwater was a novelty but distracted us from shopping in the market, a sentiment likely shared by other visitors around us judging by the empty shops with nary a shopper. Performers dressed in ethnic Thai garb entertained a nonexistent crowd at a small outdoor theater. The water held their potential audience at bay.

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Water overtook the corridor again, and we waded into it one more time. The flooding was more extensive here. We wandered through the flooded corridor for a few minutes vainly searching for dry land, but none was in sight. My wife and I decided to turn around and head for lunch instead. We had had enough of the submerged market!

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We stopped at a riverside restaurant on stilts jutting into the Chao Phraya River. Delicious Thai food simmering in trays wafted from a small counter in the middle of the restaurant. I played it safe and ordered pad Thai, the quintessential Thai dish; my son ate his usual fried rice with shrimp; and my wife chose pad see ew, a noodle dish she’s taken a liking too since she arrived in Thailand. The restaurant staff cooked our meal in the dining area not far from our table. About fifteen minutes later, we were feasting on a cheap, delicious Thai meal overlooking the mighty Chao Phraya.

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A giant gold Buddha more than 25 meters tall sat cross-legged across the river from us in of Koh Kred Island. The Buddha is a most prominent feature of Wat Bangchak temple on the northern bank of the river. The beautiful Buddha meditated serenely with his hands pressed together in prayer at the edge of the flowing river, shining ever brighter amid the deep greenery.

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Ferries from felucca-style boats to something out of the African Queen traversed up and downriver to drop off or pick up passengers. A few fishing boats skimmed the water with underpowered motors in search of abundant fish churning the water as they jumped to catch insects on the surface. We sat next to the water and looked down at the cauldron of fish below us.

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After lunch we waded back through the water to higher ground protecting the island’s largest temple, Wat Paramaiyikawatworawihan, from flooding. The sun fried us from all sides, from the heavens and to its reflection on standing pools of water. We tried to enter another market known selling for Monam Lai Wichit terracotta pottery, but the floodwaters barred our way. We aborted our shopping trip and vowed to return after the rainy season ended.

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As we waited to take the ferry back to the urban sprawl of Bangkok, we indulged in one more helping of coconut ice cream, and I filled out a survey for a group of Thai students who wanted to improve their English. The day ended with an unfulfilled shopping trip and more than our fill of aquatic adventure.

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Koh Kred, Thailand (part one)


September 3, 2011

My family and I recently moved to Bangkok, Thailand. Our inaugural outing took us to Koh Kred, also known as Ko Kret, an island in the Chao Phraya River in the Pak Kret district of greater Bangkok. It was a fun but wet adventure.

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Created in 1722 when the Thais built the Khlong Lat Kret navigation channel, Koh Kred is the home of a popular form of terracotta pottery known as Monam Lai Wichit and a peaceful atmosphere far from the buzz of nearby Bangkok. A Buddhist temple, Wat Paramaiyikawatworawihan, dominates the northeastern part of the island and features a unique pagoda, Chedi Mutao, that leans over the river as if inspired by the Tower of Pisa.

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The temple (wat) is one of several dotting the island influenced by the Mon (Raman), and ethnic group that preceded the Thais in the Chao Phraya delta region and flourishes between the 6th and 10th centuries A.D. (The other temples on the island are Wat Phailom, Wat Saotongthong and Wat Chimphi.)

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The Mon, who are prevalent among the island’s inhabitants, run many pottery and souvenir shops and stalls in Ko Kret’s markets. One village on the eastern side of the island known locally as the “Koh Kred Pottery Village” is supported by the Thai government’s “One Tambon One Product” (OTOP) local entrepreneurship program. (A “tambon” is an administrative subdistrict. OTOP-style programs are popular in Asia.)

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We took a ferry from the western bank of the Chao Phraya River to the island at Wat Sanamnau. We should have known what lay ahead after wading through muddy waters that washed over the ferry gangway. Flooding on the Chao Phraya River had raised the water level a meter higher than normal, foreshadowing a soggy visit to Koh Kred. Ferry operators overloaded the boat with tourists, whose weight caused the boat to list and elicited startled gasps from trepid Western and Thai passengers. I surveyed the river as the bloated wooden ferry struggled to cross over to the island. The river was swollen and churned brown with silt and debris floating from upstream. The lush green landscape fed by heavy rainfall was interspersed with rambler houses bedecked with orange Asian tiles crowding either side of the river. A few more meters of floodwater would have submerged the entire area in a murky soup.

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The boat dumped us on a metal gangway superheated by the morning sun. Barefoot from traipsing through the water at Wat Sanamnau, I did an involuntary “hot, hot, hot!” dance on the pier until the crowds subsided and let me pass to shore, where I could put on my shoes. My family and I wandered briefly through the Wat Paramaiyikawatworawihan temple grounds as the sun beat down on us. I admired the mixture of ornate Buddhist architecture with traces of Mon influence most apparent in facades of some wooden structures.

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Snapping photos and video, we stopped to enjoy some delicious coconut ice cream before wandering into the covered market. (The ice cream was a concoction of vanilla ice cream, sticky rice, and processed coconut milk.)

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Stalls turned to shops in a covered area flanking the north side of the island. We browsed the stores but did not buy much. I purchased an over-the-top faux Thai “silk” shirt for a few dollars while my wife sampled and bought delicate Thai desserts made from boiled egg yolk and other confections.

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Our disinterested son bumped along with us and zeroed in on some items he thought might make good toys, but the shops at Koh Kred didn’t make many products appealing to young boys.

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As we walked along an elevated corridor about two feet above ground, we noticed that water had flooded shops with floors at ground level. The shop owners did not seem to mind standing or sitting in water and were more preoccupied with making sales to the few visitors who had braved the flooding. Accustomed to the flooding, the vendors tended displayed their wares on tables in standing water as if it did not exist! Some of the wealthier shop owners installed raised flooring that helped keep their stores dry.

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Click here to read part two of our adventure on Koh Kred Island.