So, I finally made it to Ko Kret! Yes, no one is more surprised than me about that I assure you. In the end it was nowhere near as much effort as I had expected, given that it was indeed 10am and not 9am, which on a Sunday, even in a non-Christian country, makes all the difference. Still have to suffer the international Sunday Service Syndrome on trains, etc.
Anyway, I turned up at the pier aroun 9.50 am and found that there were about half a boat load of other people waiting for the tour too, almost all of them Thai. Seems to be the sort of thing you would do for a nice day out with your family/elderly relatives/kids in much the same manner as we went to Millport for the day when I was wee. You can even cycle round the island and be told there is a bench just round the corner for a rest like my parents used to (there never was a bench – they lied. I have forgiven them just about).
We set off up the river which is always fun. I never tire of just looking at all the stuff on the river banks – shacks falling down next to posh hotels, people fishing and bathing in water the same colour as coffee, huge rice barges almost colliding with tiny rowing boats – never a dull moment! The concept of shipping lanes has not reached the Chao Phraya yet it seems – it’s really every mariner for themselves with jetskis weaving in and out of the ‘traffic” just like the motorcycle taxis do on dry land.
So, we stopped at a few of the main piers to pick up other sight seers and I was joined by 6 other farangs – 2 seedy old men with their young, beautiful Thai gal pals, a young Australian couple who were unstereotypically quite grumpy and bizarrely a pair of ladies from of all places my home county of Ayrshire – I could tell without asking them from their accents and also I could tell they were lesbian teachers just from being on a boat with them for approximately 25 minutes. One of them had a t-shirt on that said GLASGOW on it, which I found very amusing for some reason that escapes me now. I tried to stay away from them.
This was all going on to the soundtrack of the “English speaking tour guide” we’d all paid 300 bhat for (roughly a fiver) who didn’t so much speak English as slur some vaguely European sounding syllables together. I was sitting about 6 feet away from him and I still couldn’t make it out. But he was very jovial and he got his important points across (be back on the boat by THREE PM or I leave you!) and he was also dressed like he got out of bed about 3 seconds before the boat left, so it was hard to be cheesed at him.
First proper port of call was a traditional style house (baan) for lunch. Tour guide man instructed us all to take our shoes off and leave them on the boat, as it’s considered rude to enter a Thai person’s house with your shoes on. So we all hopped barefoot across the sun-baked deck of 3 boats that were tied up at their tiny jetty (which was even harder as I got stuck behind a 90 year old Chinese man who couldn’t walk without a person on each side) and went inside for lunch.
It was an average affair – bland food hugely overpriced. They had a captive audience I guess. In hindsight, and if any of you reading this ever decide, hey, I must go to Ko Kret on this tour NOW, then my advice is forego food here and wait til Ko Kret as there are an abundance of intriguing foodstuffs there. I had some spicy pork and rice with vegetables on the side which were ok. I passed on the dessert aside from the samples I tried – they were so sickeningly sweet that even me who drinks Coke like it’s going out of fashion couldn’t handle it. (This is where I learned that the Australians were surly as they didn’t laugh at my joke about the jelly, damn them)
So, back on the boat and motoring along, past many photos of the King (long live him) adorning the river banks and we stop at our next port which is some park or other which I can’t remember the name of, but would mean nothing to you anyway. It was very pretty and had 2 of these here deer at the top in it for no apparent reason. They were waiting for us when we got off the boat, past a sort of corral in the water where there were loads of big fat ugly catfish leaping about. I declined the offer to feed them (catfish, not deer).
We had about half an hour to explore before the boat left (with or without us), so I headed off for a stroll round the main temple, where I learned that my camera had gotten heatstroke again, so I had to take a lot of photos on my phone (and ended up losing out on some photos of some really weird spirit houses as I later found out, booo). The temple was a far cry from the lavish decoration of Wat Pho, etc. This one was a bit rundown, but still quietly opulent with it’s gold leaf and laquer shutters, etc. It was very quiet and it was nice to sit inside on the cool marble floor, gazing at Buddha for a bit and wondering as I often do here what Catholic God makes of me sitting in his rival’s temples.
Then a stroll through the park to the pier a bit further up, admiring the many intricate bonsai trees, a couple having their wedding photos taken by a huge pagoda on a lake and the coconuts on the trees. Back on the boat and off to Ko Kret!
It only took about 15 more minutes to get there and we were given instructions on where to go to see what – go right to see the pottery, left to the market or straight ahead to the temple. I, having seen enough templey things for one day, decided to head to the pottery places (I know, you all thought I’d choose market – ha!) and immediately consigned the rest of the directional information to my recycling file as I later panicked a bit as I thought I was lost, despite being right by the temple and thus right by the pier, but it all turned out well in the end.
Just as I left the pier area, there was a girl selling homemade coconut ice cream, with a big sign next to her saying “As seen on ITV!”. She must have dropped that into conversation about ooh, 78 times in the space of the 3 minutes it took her to finish serving the other people and scoop my ice cream into a bowl made from a big leaf stapled together. I declined to have peanuts or kidney beans added (what IS that all about?!) and set off for my mini-trek to see the pottery.
About 5 minutes into my journey, a man stopped on his motorbike and said – you know it’s FOUR kilometres round the island? I can take you on my bike if you like? I said, oh yes, 4 km, that’s fine, thanks and continued on my way. A further 5 minutes, a woman on a scooter stopped and we had the same conversation, whilst some kids on bikes stared at me and excitedly shouted farang! farang! to each other. They were literally rushing out of their houses to see a white person! Like there are not lots of tourists here already! Probably because none of them ever tramp through the lanes of their village, I guess. Anyway, I politely declined (mai ao = don’t want) and set off only to be accosted about 10 minutes later by a very happy leathery faced man on a motorbike who said – you know it’s SIX kilometres round the island? I can take you for 50 bhat you know …
At this stage, I caved in and just leapt aboard his bike. It was hot and I had not put any sunscreen on (yes, I’m mental) and I have never been on a motorbike before, so I thought – what the hell! It was a LOT of fun. We must have reached a top speed of approximately 20 miles an hour such was the bendiness of the tiny lane and the speed bumps every few inches, but it was great nonetheless. Some enterprising locals had been out and made little ramps either side of the speed bumps to make it more comfortable for motorbike riders, so it was not too bad. The driver guy kept turning round and saying “walking, crazy!” and I assured him that he was quite correct as we zipped past a couple of farang sweating up the road. As expected, locals were coming out of their houses, putting down what they were doing to see a white girl on a motorbike, like I was some sort of modern-day Princess Di come to bestow that coy smile and rubbish hairdo visitation on their poor village. It was equally amusing and horrifying.
So, we got to the end of the island where all the exciting stuff is and I hopped off the motorbike, only to burn my leg on the exhaust – I had been warned, but I didn’t pay enough attention. It’s not too bad though, so pipe down mum. Then I had a wander round the buddhas looking out to the river – some interesting looking ones – a gold short really fat one and a leopard print one with a hat on that looked worryingly like Boy George amongst others.
Then a Canadian man stopped me and asked me where I was from and then proceeded to talk about himself to me for a good 10 minutes and how he plays these obscure traditional musical instruments and how he lives on Ko Kret now but has been to Celtic Connections festival in Glasgow and aren’t the Welsh great singers and oh look here’s my Indian friend, he plays the nose flute, look this is his wife, isn’t she pretty … I had switched off and was looking around for the lesbian teachers as they would have had far more in common with him than me, but no avail. He did show me where to see some pottery though that his friend makes which was pretty average looking to me, but seemed to be something extra-specially intricate. Maybe it was just me, but it was just terracotta pots.
Anyway, after that mild disappointment, I walked around in circles for a good 20 minutes trying to find my way back to the pier area (which we already know was right under my nose all along). I must have walked past those hens about 5 times but I finally got it right by randomly plunging down a narrow lane and it turned out I was right and found some interesting houses and stalls along the way, including one selling some very pretty pottery earrings and one selling fake sunglasses which was handy as I’d forgotten to bring mine. I later realised by this time my face was puce with no sunscreen, so THAT’S what the sunglass stall ladies were pointing concernedly at.
After that, I had some more coconut ice cream as it was SO good, a drink, a wander round the market and then back on the boat and home! So it was a lovely day out and my only regret is not wearing the sunscreen – I just forgot. So my forehead is now a wee bit peely, but apart from that, fine. You can see the rest of my photos on flickr.