A Day at Pottery Island

by Ian Douglas, Mar 6, 2001 | Destinations: Thailand / Nonthaburi province
This fine terracotta elephant stands to attention among many unique example by one of the islands younger potters.

This fine terracotta elephant stands to attention among many unique example by one of the islands younger potters.

This fine terracotta elephant stands to attention among many unique example by one of the islands younger potters.
As you explore the maze of footpaths, you?ll notice the family kilns sprouting at every twist and turn like red-brick toadstools.
Here 4 larger specimens stand proudly in the window of one of several small family galleries.

It may seem hard to believe but it only takes a couple of cents to reach fantasy island. At least that's how Ko-Kret strikes its constant trickle of visitors. It's as if a scrap of Never-Never land had floated down from the sky and settled gently in the confluence of the Chao Phraya and Kret rivers.

What makes this little island so remarkable is the community of potters who have lived here for around a century or so (nobody's counting, they're all too busy with their pots). Originally from Myanmar these ethnic Mon families have dedicated their lives to perfecting their art, the manufacture of terracotta ceramics. Over the years they have transformed their sleepy atoll into one of Bangkok's hidden treasures.

To reach Ko-Kret you must first find one of Nonthaburi's riverside temples, Wat Pakkret, just north of Bangkok. Walk through its maze of chedis and shrines until you come to a small, flimsy pier. This is where you pay the two cents of Thai money to the ferryman to board his elderly but spry steamboat. A few wheezy groans from the engine deliver you to the shores of Ko-kret!

Passing through a quiet food market, you are now free to explore the wonders of this colorful realm. Turn left for the narrow, winding lanes that take you deep into the Mon village. Souvenir shops burst out of unassuming wooden homes. Redbrick kilns sprout from the earth like hobbit-houses. Old ladies tinker away in their workshops, joyfully ignorant of modern technology, where the ancient tools of string and plank shape their mud-colored raw pots. Not only pots, in all conceivable shapes and sizes, but terracotta turtles, fish, elephants, monkeys-the whole ceramic menagerie! Silently they wait for their turn in the ovens, from there to the souvenir stalls, and from there to ....who knows.....maybe a shelf in your home. Such is the charm of these pocket-sized and inexpensive creations that few tourists can resist stocking up. Unlikely as Ko-kret may seem as the HQ for global domination, turtle by teapot, these products are finding their way all around the world!

You may wish to tour this leafy labyrinth for hours, seeking out that perfect salad bowl or melodious wind-chime, but don't forget the tongue-tickling delights of the food market, where the aromas of Thai and Mon cuisine compete for your senses. (Order a glass of nam pao or chai yen in advance as the spices may curdle your taste-buds!)

Turning right at the landing pier will take you up to the steps of the island's temple, stuffed full with Buddhist antiquities. After that unwind along the shady river banks, where Ko-kret's notorious landmark, the lop-sided white chedi, stands,well,- totters- to be more precise, proudly over the Chao Phraya River.

When you've had your fill of terracotta trinkets, it's back to the steamboat and the delights of modern day Bangkok. Ten minutes back on the mainland and Ko-kret is already slipping into the stuff of daydreams and fairy-tales, and all for the price of two cents!