Monday, April 25, 2011

Koh Kret Island: Haven of Mon Tribe Artists

Most people in Bangkok headed to the provinces to celebrate New Year. Because of that, me and my friend Neil decided to cancel our plan of unwinding in Kanchanaburi, a province in Central Thailand. We were desperate to escape from the fast-paced, city life in Bangkok and be one with nature but couldn’t think of any place as the crowd go to the countryside.

Our officemate Ying recommended Koh Kret Island where her Aunt lived. The word “island” stimulated my senses for adventure, relaxation and longing for the rustling sound of water as it reached the shore. Without much thought, we braved the glaring heat of the sun and made our way to the little land of the Mon Tribe, Koh Kret Island.

Getting there wasn’t very hard. Since Neil haven’t really got around Bangkok by bus out of our laziness to get caught in a heavy traffic – and the irresistible convenience of taking the train- we decided to take the bus that day to Sapan Thaksin Pier which only cost us 8 Baht. A ride on Chao Phraya boat for 14 Baht took us to the last pier 30, Nonthaburi.

Pots sold in Koh Kret Island

Handmade pots in Koh Kret Island

The adventure started after we got off the boat. According to the blog I read on how to get to Koh Kret, we have to walk about 50 yards – which brought that flying stars on my head, how far is 50 yards?- tsk tsk, I should have paid more attention to my primary lessons. Aside from the 50 yards, we don’t know what bus number goes to Pak Kret Market.

We asked a few vendors and no one seemed to understand us or could speak English well enough to give us the right information. I almost freak out and press the SOS button to call Ying. Finally, a woman told us to take bus 32 and by luck the bus stopped right in front of us, so off we go. Unfortunately, the bus wouldn’t go for reasons we don’t know as we can’t understand Thai that much, so we have to get off at the next bus stop and wait for another bus to come.

We were lucky to find a seat in the bus and the next thing we realized was we don’t know where to get off. I know it’s Prak Kret Market but I don’t have the slightest idea how to know it’s already Pak Kret.  Thanks to this guy who sat beside me, he got off at the same place and talked to the motorbike driver which took us to Wat Sanam Neua pier. From there we took the boat for only 2 Baht (I wish we have this price in the Philippines for a boat ride). It took us less than 10 minutes to get to the island.

Contrary to my imagination of an island – a parcel of land in the middle of the vast ocean with lots of trees, few inhabitants, no infrastructures and far from civilization just like those islands I’ve been to before- Koh Kret has almost everything there is in a town. They even have 7 Eleven, only that it is now abandoned, but knowing that it existed before is already something.

The first things that caught my attention were fried Santan and Bougainvillea flowers which I never dared to eat. We trekked towards the right side of the island where we found a mini park. We walked through the long array of shops selling various things creatively made by the Mon tribes. Since their expertise is on pottery, we marvelled at the creative pots most shops sell.

Lanterns made of plastic bottles

Sketched photos by Mon Tribes

A Mon tribe molding figurine

We were extremely fascinated by the creativity of the Mon tribes – from food to home decorations – it’s amazing how they came up with such beautiful styles. We stumbled upon an artist selling photo frames. He specifically chose photos of nature and put water and sand on the frame. Once you flip the frame upside down, the sand gradually drops to the bottom of the frame forming natural designs that looked like mountain ranges against the photo. I was in total awe of his creation.

Our last stop before heading home was a coffee place beside a narrow canal. It was very relaxing with its wooden motif. They served a really good iced-coffee that quenched our thirst and delicious fried bread with minced pork crumbs and fries. The jazz music in the air was an added treat!

A place to eat and relax in Koh Kret Island

Coffee shop in Koh Kret Island

Though Koh Kret was not as I expected from a typical island, the place, the warmth of the Mon tribe and their creativity that stimulated the lazy artist in me were more than enough to consider that trip worth remembering.

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