Exploring Bangkok’s Unknown Island

When we normally think of islands in Thailand, we imagine white sandy beaches, drinking fresh coconut water, and the occasional fire dance show on the beach when it doesn’t rain. Although, what if you could travel 40 minutes instead of four hours to reach an island?

In the northern region of Bangkok, there exists a secretive, quaint island, with its own culture, cuisine, and Chit (the name of their own beer brand). Koh Kret was formed artificially in 1722 when a canal was constructed for a shortcut to overcome a bend in the Chao Phraya River. Over time, the canal was widened, creating this isolated island. The first known settlers were the indigenous Mon people, who were refugees from Myanmar. Today, the island is rich in a blend of Thai and Mon cultures, offering a diverse range of cuisine and handicrafts that are specific to the island itself and nowhere else. The location isn’t easy to find, though, unless you know a local Thai to point you in the right direction.

Sign displaying boat times to Koh Kret, notice there’s no English.

Thai islands such as Koh Samet, Koh Chang, and Koh Samui seem gargantuan in comparison to Koh Kret. The only modes of transport on Koh Kret are by foot, bicycle, and motorbike; there’s literally no room for cars. The most popular method to get around is renting a bike, as walking around the island can take from one to two hours; this was certainly no burden for me, and definitely one of my favorite Sunday-afternoon adventures.

A map detailing the sights to explore.

Along the primary footpath there are interlocked stalls, each one selling unique goods and food I had never seen before, and I felt that this was a reflection of the Mon people’s cultural influence. There was a great wealth of meticulously decorated clay pottery accompanied with workshops showing tourists the traditional craft of creating them. Due to the warm weather and excessive walking I started to feel myself becoming more tired, but it was my discovering of deep fried coconut pancakes that gave me the sugar boost I was desperately craving. If you don’t have a sweet tooth, then you shouldn’t worry because Koh Kret has a few, small independent cafés and coffee shops offering rice dishes or fresh fruit.

Some of the beautifully decorated clay pots on Koh Kret

Food and gifts aren’t the only things that the island offers visitors. There’s also an area where traditional Mon people perform dancing, and it’s free to watch. Although once you witness an elegant, mesmerizing performance, you’ll hopefully feel compelled to donate some money, anyway. Other points of interest to check out on Koh Kret are temples and a museum that highlights the island’s cultural heritage.

A traditional dance performed on stage.

When I eventually completed my 40-minute trip around the whole island, I was yearning for a good, freshly-brewed Chit, Chit beer that is. The craft beer was created in 2012 and has been successful ever since. I reminisced on my day while relaxing and sipping on this frosty beverage. During my walk, I also found a hostel that serves incredible, local coffee. It’s an excellent sanctuary for writers on a weekend, or a place to hide from a crazy girlfriend.

Might as well learn pottery while I’m here.

Even to this day, so many of my friends that travel to Bangkok still have no idea of this getaway, but maybe that’s what makes Koh Kret so special. It isn’t overcrowded, and it’s easy to explore—the opposite of most known tourist attractions in the city.

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