Stickman Readers' Submissions August 27th, 2008

A Haven On The Outskirts Of Bangkok

Koh Kred is an island on the Chao Phraya River in Nonthaburi Province, almost opposite Don Muang International Airport on the outskirts of Bangkok. If you live in the city and want to experience Thai rural life and the charm of the countryside without having to venture too far, then this is the place.

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The history of Koh Kred is a unique one. The village, known as “Kwarn Ar-marn, or pottery village, was established more than two centuries ago at the time when Thonburi, not Bangkok, was the capital of the Siamese Kingdom during the reign of King Taksin the Great.

Up until the beginning of the seventeenth century the island was part of the mainland through which the mighty Chao Phaya River flowed. It is here that the river takes a particularly sharp bend and in 1636 A.D., King Prasart Thong commanded that a canal be dug as a shortcut from Ban Talat Khwan to the mouth of Bang Kruai Canal. The canal was only 1, 5 kilometres long (compared to 6, 5 km for the bend) and was called Klong Lad Kred Noi.

Originally, it was only about 8 metres wide, but with erosion caused by swift currents over several centuries, it became a major waterway measuring over 100 metres across. Due to this erosion it was cut off from the mainland, effectively creating an authentic island. The initial name of the islet was Koh Salakun, but was subsequently changed to “Koh-Kred” when the district of Pakkred was given its name by the administration.

The island was further developed by King ‘Tai Sa’ in 1722 A.D. Legend has it that in those days, large communities of Mon people were migrating into Siam. King Tai Sa, in his infinite wisdom, allowed them to settle in Koh Kred as not only was the island ideal for containing the migrants, it also allowed the king to monitor their movements easily.

Originally, their ancestors lived in Mon country (in the central and southern parts of Myanmar), but in 1757 when Hongsawadi or Pegu, the Mon capital, was sacked and destroyed by Burmese troops, thousands of Mons came to live in the Kingdom of Siam.

They were accepted as refugees and were permitted to settle down in Nonthaburi province. Encouraged by King Taksin the Great, they established the “Kwarn Ar-marn” pottery village, as they were skilled potters. They set up kilns to produce many types of domestic wares, such as jars, pots, bowls and mortars, needed for everyday use.

Even today, their products are considered to be amongst the most practical as well as the most beautiful of all unglazed earthenware. There is now a market of authentic Mon-style pottery as well as an exhibition and a demonstration of how they are made at the Ceramics Centre and museum. Here, you can buy fine pieces of pottery handicrafts at very low prices.

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The area is also popular for its tropical fruit orchards, schools, open markets and riverside restaurants. There are a fairly large number of historical temples around the island too — Wat Paramaiyikawat, Wat Klang Kret and Wat Chimplee. Pra Chedi Mutao, the old Caitya, has such a steep incline it almost drops into Chao Praya River. Another place to visit is Wat Pak-Oaw, where there is an old temple built in the time when Krung Sri Ayuttaya was the capital. Some of these wats bear the mark of Burmese influence.

In addition to Wat Poramai, Wat Pilom and Wat Chimplee, another interesting place to go, on the north-eastern corner of the island, features a very large tree as well as a large number of chedis/caityas in various states of decay.

Apart from earthenware, here is also a centre where they serve Thai desserts (Thongyod, Thongyib, Foithong, Khao Chae and the raw banana soup), many of which are so traditional they are rare to find elsewhere.

There are also boat rides around "Koh Kred" island and Khong Khanomwarn, leaving from the piers at Wat Poramai Yikawat. A trip around the island and Khong Khanomwarn is 40 baht and depart at 09:00 a.m., 11:00 a.m., 13:00 p.m., 15:00 p.m., and 17:00 p.m.

Most tourists get to the island by boat and a number of river tour operators have day trips to Koh Kred. Some overnight trips move on to Ayuthaya. You can also take the Chao Phraya River Express Boat Service running between Wat Rat Sing Khon (Soi Charoen Krung 74, near Krungthep Bridge) and Nonthaburi pier, where you can get a connecting boat to Koh Kred for about 100 baht. Otherwise hire a tuk-tuk to Pakkred town for 50 baht. Ferries cross from Wat Sanam Nua to Wat Poramai every few minutes for 2 baht, and it also possible to find a tuk-tuk or rickshaw driver to take you to the ferry pier for 20-30 baht.

Raymond Vergé

Stickman's thoughts:

10 years in Bangkok and I still have not been there… Pathetic, I am!

nana plaza