Our pool in Sukhothai
We decided to try and avoid the worst of the days heat by making the trip from Phitsanulok
to Sukhothai nice and early. Unfortunately the fact is that the heat never really goes away this time of year in Central Thailand so even at 7am the air was hot and humid. We had our free breakfast at the Lithai Guesthouse which was much better than expected given the room was so cheap then checked out and headed off to the bus station. The station is a few kilometers out of town; so we had to haggle with the taxi/tuk tuk drivers and got them down from 60 to 40 baht. Phitsanulok not being a touristy place; the tuk tuk drivers haven't yet adopted the 'exploit the white folks' attitude the evil ones in Bangkok
and elsewhere have.
Wat Sa Si
At the bus station we faced the same old ritual though. Scumbag touts and lying staff trying their various scams and cons. They tell you that the 30 baht bus costs 45 baht or the bus you want isn't running and you need to take a private bus. There is nothing more annoying in Thailand than these people. They shout at you, clap in your face, grab you continually ask 'where you go?' and are generally a total pain in the arse. The only way to deal with them is to be as rude to them as they are to you or more so if it is possible. Don't feel bad about it either, these people are scum so feel free to tell them get lost, or confuse them by making up a name of a place and watch their confusion as they try and sell you a ticket to go there. Then laugh in their face after they've wasted their time and walk away.
Wat Si Sawai
Seriously if ever there was a case for mass murder, tuk tuk drivers and touts make it!! Having fought our way through and got on the bus the same lying woman who tried to make us pay 45 baht sold us the ticket for 30 baht on the bus. She had a face like thunder at which point we offered her the sweetest of smiles which you could tell was like driving a stake through her heart. Sweet!!
The bus was a rickety old heap with no aircon and fans that were turned off as soon as it started moving, but the journey was only an hour and it really wasn't that bad. We had exactly the same tout and tuk tuk driver situation a the other end and really wound them up by phoning the guesthouse and arranging for a free pick up. We stayed at 'J & J Guesthouse' which was superb. Very friendly owner and a really well managed place.
Wat Wat Trapang Ngoen
We opted for the slightly cheaper room which had a private bathroom, aircon and fan but there were also really nice bungalows with great little terraces. Best of all the place has two pools. A very small shallow one for kids and a really deep one for the adults. The fact it's so deep forces the kids into the small one so you can feel pretty safe it's pee free.
The temperature was hitting the 40 degree mark in the afternoon so we decided that our best bet was to hit the pool and chill out for a bit before hiring a motorbike ready for an early assault the next day on the ruins at the historical park, which are about 12 kms away. Sukhothai was Thailand's first capital and the buildings in the historical park are considered to be the the most classic Thai architecture. The next morning we got up at 6am and were on the bike by 6.
Wat Si Chum
30 and at the park just before 7am. We had a stroke of luck buying our tickets as we had intended to get a day pass at 150 baht each but for some reason which probably can't ever be explained the woman in the ticket booth told us that she only sold the single site ticket and her sister who sold the day passes wasn't around until 8am. OK then!!! Thinking we were going to get stung at each entrance we coughed up the 40 baht each plus 20 for the motorbike and set off. The first thing that struck us is how well looked after the Historical Park is. The grounds are vast and yet really well manicured and tidy. The temples and ruins themselves date to the 13th century and are remarkably well preserved. There are also really good pictures of how the buildings would have looked at the time of their construction which makes it much easier to picture.
Being there so early we practically had the place to ourselves which made a really nice change from fighting the hoards of tour groups. We were able to take photo's that didn't have the idiots posing with two fingers up in them which is a real rarity in Asia!! One thing we did see though which was very disturbing was a German speaking couple who in a show of amazing arrogance decided to ignore the barriers and huge signs and clamber over an area that was marked off for restoration because they thought there was a good photo opportunity. Shame on you!!! We made our way through several of the sites including a few that are a couple of kilometres outside the main walled city which were superb. Best of all the sting we expected with the tickets never materialised as the ticket booths were unoccupied.
Wat Si Chum
I guess the staff don't like early mornings. The huge buddha statues and elegance and serenity of the facial expressions on them were particular highlights. Despite the time the temperature was already climbing. By the time we were done it was getting really hot and the bike trip back to the guesthouse in the new city was a very welcome relief.
Hiring the bike here was a bit strange. Everywhere we've been in Thailand motorbike rental has been just 200 baht a day, here because they know that so many people want to go the 12kms to the historical park it's 300 Baht! The trouble is there are only a few places that do it so there is an oligopoly and market forces don't drive the price down. You always have to leave a passport as a deposit which is a real worry as some of the less scrupulous places have been known to follow you and use a spare key to take the bike back and extort huge sums from people to get their passports back.
Mum and pup pugs at Wat Si Chum
For this reason you should always lie about which guesthouse you are staying in and if they ask where you are going lie again and say somewhere else. If the bike has a chain always use your own lock as well. We've had no problems but in Chiang Mai
the tourist police said it was a relatively common scam.
We dropped the bike off and secured the passport then headed back to the guesthouse for some nice relaxing pool time. The water in the pool was only marginally cooler than outside but it was refreshing none the less. We decided to head out into town and sample the local bars which to be honest are a bit thin on the ground. We had a beer in a place called Chopper which as the name suggests aludes to some sort of biker bar theme crossed with an old western saloon.
Adam at Wat Si Chum
A bit bizarre really especially as the music being played was the cheesiest boy band/dopey love song rubbish that we thought only teenagers listened to. Next it was to a place called Poo Restaurant which despite the unenticing name was actually a much nicer atmosphere and we enjoyed another beer (much cheaper) and got complimentary peanuts too.
Our time here done we booked the VIP bus down to Bangkok through the guesthouse and arranged another free lift to the bus station, so tough luck touts, no joy for you with our business!!!