Chao Phraya River and Ko Kret
February 16, 2015
It seems that the only time I travel to a local attraction is when I have a visitor and he makes a suggestion. I suppose that I am so busy planning my next international journey that I forget that my own locale around Bangkok offers many rewarding adventures. (I think I am not alone in this contradictory situation.)
The latest case: My old family friend, David L. made a stopover in Bangkok after he completed his work in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. He had read about Ko Kret.* We decided to visit.
Our route was a bit complicated: We took the BTS, the elevated subway known here as the Skytrain, to the Saphan Taksin stop. Then we boarded a passenger ferry for a one-hour ride up the scenic Chao Phraya River to Nonthaburi. There was a threat of rain but by the time we reached Nonthaburi, the sky had cleared. In Nonthaburi we took a taxi to the Pat Kret pier and then a short two minute mini-ferry across the river to Ko Kret, a small island in the river.
The Ko Kret market is busy with weekend visitors. With one or two exceptions, David and I are the only “foreigners” here as we weave our way down the crowded narrow lane with shops on both sides. The obligatory tee shirts and souvenirs are on offer. But the real treat is the display of the combinations and permutations’ of food items for which Thailand is justly famous. We spot Thai style lasagna, fried fish and egg, and coconut milk custard all served in small circular bowls.
An infinite variety of sweets presents a big dilemma. I choose a thumb-size nutty-brown concoction. David agreed that I had chosen well. “Aroi mak mak!”
We stopped for a riverside lunch of chicken in a hearty red curry sauce topped with crunchy noodles.
The large temple complex here is used today but not so much for prayer. Young visitors on the grounds pose for portraits or selfies.
For entertainment, young girls in traditional Thai dress perform traditional dances to an orchestra of percussion and wind instruments.
David and I decide to leave the commotion and take the circular pathway around the island. We find a typical Southeast Asian village scene: homes on stilts, children at play, cats asleep, and friendly folks chatting and agreeing to “take a photo.” Two Burmese style Buddhas sit peacefully in a small village temple. (The island has a population of Mon people who emigrated from Burma many years ago.) We also find a typical green scene of part jungle and part agriculture: coconut palms, banana trees, papaya trees, and a tree bearing a small fruit that encases a fiber used for pillows. (Probably, a kapok tree.)
I spot a green-yellow field with row upon row of stakes. I ask the men nearby what is growing here. They respond with the Thai word “melON.” I take a chance and use another Thai word: “CantaLOUPE?" Yes!
(Actually No! I found out later that the plants are green beans.)
So, after an hour-long hike in the Asian sun, what could be more delightful and restful than the ferry cruise down the river at sunset? Tug boats hauling barges and long tail boats and hotel shuttle-ferries all seem to be at peace on the calm waters. The dinner cruise boats are preparing to welcome their guests. Children are feeding fish from the river bank.
The sun is setting. Bridges, hotels, condominium buildings and temples are now silhouettes along the shore. The five towers of Wat Arun (the Temple of Dawn) is a particularly striking sight. My camera is already stowed so I miss shooting that special image.
So……..my friend…..Come on over!
You won’t need to make the suggestion to take the river cruise to see Ko Kret or Wat Arun. I’ll be happy to make the suggestion myself and happy to accompany you … at dawn. Or at dusk!
*To Thailand With Love. ThingsAsian Press. 2013. (I contributed three of my Travel Letters to this collection of travel essays. jp)