(Photo by Andrew Hiransomboon)
As I was waiting for my friend Andrew to show up in front of Emporium Suites, a bird flew head-on into a clear window, lured by the delights of Au Bon Pain, and fell to the pavement, twitching and bleeding before eventually lying still. I thought it might be a harbinger for our trip to Koh Kret, a man-made island that is home to a Mon community who settled there after the fall of Ayutthaya. It’s considered a short day trip from downtown but is a trip that neither I nor Andrew ever remembered making. Following the advice I took from a cursory Google search, we would take the boat to Nonthaburi from Saphan Thaksin and get a long tail boat from there to the island.
When Andrew arrived, of course he took a photo of the dead bird before we got on the Skytrain for the very easy trip to Saphan Thaksin. And that is where our plans started to fray. For if we had bothered to extend our Google search to the Chao Phraya Express schedule, we would have known that service is suspended on Sundays. Ha ha, some people pay me to do online research.
So we got on the first ferry we saw, the one to Icon Siam, and got a taxi from there. Thus began a trip that I imagine the three wise men must have taken to see the baby Jesus in his manger. Crossing the river multiple times, it was at least 200 baht before we got to Nonthaburi Pier, where we encountered a napping dog, a few Thai people with luggage milling around, and absolutely no ferry at all. A man selling fish food near the entrance offered to take us to the island on his long tail boat for 200 baht apiece (what is it with 200 baht?) After promptly agreeing, we joined a family of equally clueless Thais on a trip up the river that easily took about 30-40 minutes.
Don’t get me wrong, it was a nice trip, even if my butt was numb by the time we disembarked. Buoyed by promises that our driver Tow would wait for us for the three (!) hours he thought we would need, we were released into the wild and headed smack into the midst of a lively outdoor market in full swing. Set in the shadow of Pramaiyikawat Temple, the market offers everything you would expect of a Thai market: noodles, sweets, those Thai popsicles made out of soft drinks, and of course, fried things.
Some fried things are better than others. I am always partial to chicken of course, and some fish, even fish fins and bones. But the fried flower vendor we found near the water’s edge (Pa Oud, 081-632-8681) was the first of its kind either of us had found anywhere, offering more than a dozen varieties of varying levels of crunch and scrumptiousness. I was partial to the juicy yellow buds, the name of which I was told three times and promptly forgot each time.
(Photo by Andrew Hiransomboon)
The vendor was happy to serve us a number of different varieties that she thought we’d enjoy, and then because there was no seating, we took up space in front of the temple and made our hands sticky with the sweet chili sauce (bring wet wipes like Andrew).
The next stage of our traveling lunch was past the temple at the water’s edge, where a vendor promised us khao chae (summertime rice), even though we were well past the season. And then I remembered, yes, khao chae is a Mon dish, and of course we should have it while visiting Koh Kret.
Sitting down by the river with a cooling bowl of fragrant rice was all very well and good, but then we discovered the ferry from Wat Sanam Nuea, which is the normal way that everyone else who knows better comes to Koh Kret. Ha ha again.
Finally full, we thought we should probably try out what everyone was banging on about when it comes to this island: the Mon-style pottery. Many of the places that we passed have a kiln, even the seemingly abandoned ones. Because of a recent flood in October, many places had not been cleared up yet and we could still see marooned boats and bits of buildings along our walk. But the signage was up and stores were open, all offering examples of the distinctive terracotta-colored vessels with elaborate carvings on the top or side. I finally bought a trinket at the only store that offered us the chance to spin (or throw?) our own pottery.
Finally, we ended up where we would spend the rest of our three (!) hours on the island: Chit Beer. Open at 1pm, we arrived only a few minutes past 1 to find the place already half-packed. I ordered a white mango IPA and can tell you it is the best one, fragrant and wheaty like a Hoegaarden. Andrew ordered some other stuff that wasn’t as good as mine. We took a seat overlooking the main dining room floor next to the river and watched as the place filled up in spite of the occasionally very loud Thai rock music playing. It was a good way to spend a Sunday afternoon.
A few days later, Andrew sent me a holiday card.
This time next week, I will be in Seattle for the start of what should be 10 weeks in the US. As this will probably be my last post of 2021, happy holidays everyone, and here’s to a better year ahead of us.