Saturday, May 06, 2006

2 Dollar Tours Bangkok-Koh Kret-Pottery Island

Pottery Island Tour

Its 6.00 AM, your in your hotel and you’re wide awake. You jetted in on a red eye non-stop flight arriving in Bangkok around midnight. You can’t sleep anymore. What to do at this hour? Nothing opens ‘till 10.00 AM and the night life doesn’t start pumping until after 10.00 PM.

Get up, get ready and get a little Thai culture under your belt. Go visit the well known and beautifully located pottery island of Koh Kret, at Pak Kret, Nonthaburi province the way Thai’s do. By ferry boat and bus. This trip will take you between 3-5 hours depending on how long you spend on the island

The start point for this tour is Sathorn Pier (Stop # 0) on the Chao Phraya River.

Koh Kret is a tiny island in the Chao Phraya River, accessible by boat from Pak Kret’s Wat Sanam Neua Pier.

On Koh Kret lives a community of craftsmen famous for their distinctive style of pottery which dates back many centuries. Koh Kret pots are known for their fine, red-black glazed surface and intricate design. The islanders are the descendants of the Mon people, originally from Burma and they have managed to retain the skills of their forefathers.

Step one. Print out this article before you leave home, or download it into your PDA, and take it with you. If you forget that’s okay you can go online in Bangkok at any of hundreds of Internet cafes, download & print it there.

Step two. Go to the concierge desk in your hotel lobby and get the following information:
• Ask how to get to Sathorn Pier on the Chao Phraya River. This tour starts from Sathorn Pier (Stop # 0) also known as Central Pier.
• A hotel business card with the return address in Thai writing on it. This is important. You may get lost and have to take a Meter Taxi back to the hotel! Hey, there’s no extra charge for getting lost!
• The nearest ATM machine location or money changer.. You want some small Baht bills.

Step three. Get yourself to Sathorn Pier (aka Central Pier # 0) on the Chao Prahya River anytime between 8.00 AM - 2.00 PM. I suggest you use the BTS (Sky Train) and get off at the last stop, Saphan Taksin you will need to walk towards the Chao Phraya river (West) about 200 yards.

Step four. You can take any ferry to Nonthaburi, fast slow or express depending upon you mood. They all travel the same speed it’s just the number of stops that differ. Ask the information booth attendant at Sathorn Pier, they speak good English.

You can buy tickets either at a small table on the Pier (If available) or onboard the boat from the attendant. Ferry fare 17 Baht. Settle back, relax and enjoy the river’s ever changing action for a trip that can take up to one hour to Nonthaburi.

Free Tip. When you arrive at each new destination, look back to see what it will look like when you return!

Step five. Get off at the last stop Nonthaburi Pier (Stop 30) and walk straight ahead to the street (50 yards). Get into a small air-conditioned minibus waiting for passengers from the ferry going to Pak Kret’s Wat Sanam Neua. Price 10 Baht. Just say “Koh Kret to the driver. He will understand. When you get to Wat Sanam Neua get out of the minibus and walk through the temple grounds towards the river. At Wat Sanam Neua pier pay 2 Baht for the crossing to Koh Kret. Ferries arrive & depart regularly until sunset.

Be aware that other local boats and ferries use this pier. The easy way to know which boast to get on is to watch the boat coming from the other side of the river. When you get to Koh Kret note the pier you arrive at. Take a digital photo of it is my suggestion. The name is in Thai but you can recognise it if you look back across the Chao Phraya river and can see Wat Sanam Neua on the far side. There are several piers going to several points on the main land so make sure you come back to this pier after your time on Koh Kret.

Take a look at the map on a sign near where you arrive on the island. You can either walk or hire a bike. 40 Baht for a day. I prefer to walk as the pathways are narrow and there are many motor cycle taxis and cyclists using the same path. You can walk right around the Island (About 2-3 hours) or you can go to just the village shopping area. Follow the signs in English to aptly named Village #1 or Village #6. Either way you are in for an intriguing cultural experience.

With little motor traffic noise pollution is pleasantly low. Most of the island is covered in luxuriant tropical orchards. Jack fruit, bananas, coconuts and many other fruits grow on either side of the slightly elevated sealed pathway around Koh Kret. Note the ruins of ancient pottery kilns along the way.

The island dates only to 1722, when a canal was constructed as a shortcut to bypass a bend in the Om Kret branch of the Chao Phraya River. The island continues to serve as a refuge to the Mon tribes who dominated central Thailand between the 6th and 10th centuries and have retained a distinct identity in their flavor of Buddhism and, particularly at Koh Kret, their pottery.

The only two things to remember are:

1. The pier you arrived at opposite Wat Sanam Neua.
2. The time of the last ferry back (Usually at sunset).

Step six. After you have finished eating, sight seeing and shopping make your way back to the previously noted ferry boat pier before sunset. After crossing the Chao Phraya River to Wat Sanam Neua take a samlor or motor cycle taxi to the main highway. Nonthaburi bus stops are on the opposite side of the road. Vehicles tend to u turn under the flyover at that point. Get on an air conditioned minibus similar to the one you used to get to Pak Kret. Simply open the door of every minibus and say”Tah Nam Nonthaburi.” Fare 10 Baht.

If you don’t want to wait for the minibus take a number 32 Red BMTA bus back to Nonthaburi pier. Fare 6 baht. At Nonthaburi pier (#30) board the ferry boat located to your left as you walk towards the river on the pier. Fare 10 baht. Get off at Sathorn Pier (# 0) and retrace your steps to your hotel.

If you have a car or have friends who have a car go along Thanon Chaeng
Wathana (Hwy 304) heading west. At the major intersection with Thanon Tavanon (Hwy 306) bear left into Thanon Phumwet, continue to Wat Sanam Neua and find a park nearby. Walk through the Wat grounds to the pier and cross the Chao Phraya River by ferry boat. Fare 2 Baht one way.

Enjoy your day on Koh Kret!

Feedback please to: Bouquets & Brickbats gratefully accepted.
(C) Copyright Geoff Ogilvie 2006-2010


jayjay said...

Thanks for all your fabulous information. We followed almost all of your ideas, last week, when we were in Bangkok. Since there were four of us we splashed out on a cab from Nonthaburi to Pak Kret and back (about 90 baht each way). We didn't put a step wrong thanks to the wealth of detail provided. Koh Kret was great and we would recommend it to anyone. PS: Express boat now costs 17 baht(phew)!

jo ford said...

Well thanjs Geoff for doing all the hard work for us! We're in Bangkok for a few days and I'm a ceramics 'nut' so looking forward to following your footprints in the nexr couple of days...stay tuned and thanks again! Jo

jo ford said...

Well thanjs Geoff for doing all the hard work for us! We're in Bangkok for a few days and I'm a ceramics 'nut' so looking forward to following your footprints in the nexr couple of days...stay tuned and thanks again! Jo