By Julia Stone:
As we approach the island by boat, the chimney has the appearance of a ginormous tree, sprouting high above the coconut palms and temple rooftops. Out of the mouth of the chimney a bush of some sort is growing, like a head of curly hair.
Koh Kret became an island in 1722, when a canal was constructed to create a shortcut in the Chaophraya river. To this day there is no bridge connecting the two by two kilometre island from the mainland, and only bicycles and motorbikes travel the path that runs around it. You will find Koh Kret to the north of Bangkok, in the district of Nonthaburi, where I my dad lives. I love coming to Koh Kret for the rural atmosphere and absolute contrast to the bustle and noise of the mainland, just a two Baht ferry ride away, although not on the wekend, when hordes of Bangkokians arrive to eat, buy pottery souvenirs or visit the Mon temples on the island.
Mon immigrants settled Koh Kret after the destruction of Ayutthaya in 1767, during the Siamese-Burmese war. Today the majority of Koh Kret's population is still Mon, with their own distinct version of Buddhism and a traditional style of Mon pottery called kwan aman, for which Nonthaburi and especially the island are famous.
The chimney is the remnant of a pottery village, I can see some of the brick kilns still standing below as I approach it via an elevated path between crops growing in water, but it looks like it hasn't been used in quite a while. As a kid, my mom used to take me to the Koh Kret and sometimes one of the potters would let me have a go at forming the clay on the rotating wheel, but now I wonder about this inactivity. As the visitors pick over the choice of pottery souvenirs in the village shops I have to question whether they are even made here any more.