Thursday, May 24, 2012

Ko Kret

Last weekend, we took what should have been a short drive down to the Chao Phraya river in hopes of catching a ferry over to the island of Ko Kret.  Ko Kret was formed in 1722 when a navigation channel was dug to bypass a loop in the river. Given its location - in the middle of a major river in a country that is barely above sea level - Ko Kret floods early and floods a lot.  In fact, last Fall, Ko Kret was under knee-high water well before there was even a threat of Bangkok flooding.    The island is about 15 kilometers north of Bangkok and is only reachable by ferry from the Wat Sanam Nau Pier.  This pier is very close to Nichada - just 15 minutes to the West - and it seemed like a great destination for a Sunday afternoon activity.  
I thought I had a pretty good idea of where the pier was but, alas, it was not to be found.  The Thai names on the street signs did not correspond to the English street names on my map, the fork in the road (where we were to go left) never materialized and the road dead ended exactly where the map showed it should "T".  As usual, there was not one sign in English to be found.  Along the river's edge and also in the vicinity of the pier, was a large temple and a popular "wet" market (fish, poultry, meat, fruits and vegetables, etc.) - the car, motobike and pedestrian traffic in and around that area on Sunday was insane.  We couldn't find the pier and we couldn't find a place to park so we turned around and went home without even a glimpse of the river.  There is no such thing as going out for a leisurely Sunday drive in Bangkok, that is for sure.  We learned our lesson and hired a driver to take us there this weekend.  I will pay close attention to the route he takes there and back so we will be able to drive ourselves if we ever want to go again.  
The photo below is an aerial view of Ko Kret.  This photo was taken from an area just to the southwest of the island.  
If you click to enlarge the photo below, Nichada is directly East of Ko Kret - just beyond the edge of the map and right off the thick yellow line (Route 304 - Chaengwatthana). So close but so far away.
The Mon are an an ethnic group from Burma that dominated central Thailand between the 6th and 10th centuries and members of the Mon tribe have a very old and well established settlement on Ko Kret.  Although the Mon are Buddhists and have lived on Ko Kret for many generations, they have maintained their own traditions and cultures. The Mon are skilled potters and craftsmen and the main industry on Ko Kret is pottery. In fact, the Mon selected to settle on Ko Kret because of the high quality of the local clay available. The Mon produce pieces of pottery in the distinctive kwan arman style (baked, unglazed clay carved with intricate patterns), which dates back many centuries. Many regard the pottery produced by the Mon as the most beautiful of all unglazed pottery available in Thailand.

Ko Kret is not a large island at all.   There are no paved roads or cars so people get around by walking and riding bicycles or motorcycles on paths.  A concrete path rings the edge of the island and it takes about 90 minutes to walk on it around the entire island.  Ko Kret's population lives in several small and very rustic villages on the island. I couldn't find any information as to whether or not electricity and running water are available on the island.  While I would expect them to be available, I am sure access is very limited and service is probably not the most consistent.  A few temples, the pottery workshops and a market for local products and souvenirs are the main tourist attractions.  There are a few banana plantations on the island and some organic farming is also done here.  

We have had a few storms (or the threat of storms) this week and I hope the weather will hold for the weekend so we can get to the island and have a good look around.  

It has been a busy but quiet week.  Kevin has been in Tokyo and will return late tonight. Say Jon and the rest of the babies in his "house" are still in quarantine so I have taken care of random toddlers when I have gone the last two weeks.  I can't wait to see him and hope to get out there tomorrow if possible.  The kids have been preparing for final exams so there has not been a lot of homework or projects assigned.  Basketball (for both Cailtynne and Christopher) is going well and there are only two weeks remaining in this Spring session.  Netball (for Caitlynne and I) is heaps of fun.  I play with the adult women Tuesday nights and help train the middle school girls on Thursday afternoons.  I am nowhere near a good player but I have a lot more confidence in my ability and feel like I understand how to play the game better than when I played in Australia.  The numbers for both the teams have been low because of all of the end of the year activities but we still manage to get some semblance of a game in.  The woman who is coaching both the teams plans to do some recruiting and advertising for our Fall session which should help fill the teams.

Have a great Thursday!

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