Sukhothai : 'I like to ride my bicycle, I love to ride my bike.'

Sukhothai Travel Blog

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Wat Mahathat

“Oh boy-oh boy! What a fabulous way to while away the day!”

You now find me in Sukhothai, a sizeable town just off the main north-south rail line somewhere between Chiang Mai and Bangkok. I have once more bidden farewell to my ‘home away from home’ SpicyThai Backpackers Hostel. I arrived in Sukhothai ’New Town’ by public bus here yesterday afternoon after a loooong ride down from Chiang Mai. Most amenities and accommodation you will seek out will be based here. The ‘New Town’ itself has little much to commend itself. An interesting(ish) wat/ temple or so; some bustling street and night markets and a river with very poor pedestrian access.

Buuuuuuddha! :D
I mooched around a few of these yesterday evening and had fun observing some nutso Thai national sport which is some kinda cross between volleyball, football and Thai kickboxing and also after sun down every night here there seems to be a very loud and humorous open-air street aerobics class by the riverside.

But none of this is what we Tourists head to Sukhothai for! A short bus ride out to the eastern outskirts of the town brings you to the Old City, or Sukhothai Historical Park, a sprawling acreage of seemingly endless brick and stone Buddhist wats, columns, chedis and statuary in various states of completeness and well-tended preservation. Today is gonna be fun for a whole bunch of reasons I’m sure, but chiefly because wisdom has it that unless you’re a serious glutton for punishment on the old pinkies, the only serious way to get about the Historical Park is by hiring a bicycle.

And for a measly 20 Baht (40p) this can be achieved from any number of bike pens in and around the Park’s loose perimiters.

Now me and bikes. We don’t get on super famously. It’s me with the problem in the relationship. Not them. And it’s been a good decade and longer I think since I was on one of these contraptions. Being ever so slightly deficient in the inner leg length measurement department I always made a might difficult time of being comfortable on bikes.

A Tale : I was never really comfortable with hoiking my leg over a cross bar of most bikes set before me as a kid growin’ up. Many’s the time I would teeter, wobble and collapse to the ground. Nor did I ever attack this problem with enough balls to come up with some kinda mounting technique to get over this unlike some of my bolder, bicycled chums.

(Sukhothai) Muju [www.mujuworld.co.uk]
I was late coming to cycling. My dad learnin’ me the ways over the course of a camping trip to France at some point in my youth, until I was deemed capable of having my stabilisers removed. And de-stabilised I was indeed!

[ Cue movie style flashback of flickering, scratchy ‘Super 8’ Cinecam footage of notably psychologically scarring childhood event… ] I guess most of my ‘dislike of bike’ came from the fact that owing to my diminuative nature, beyond a certain age I always had a bike that was the teeniest one in town. This point was often and in humourlessly hammered home to me with all the wit and sensitivity that only a class of 8 years olds can muster during the dreaded week of our primary school Cycling Proficiency lessons and test. My cycling pride was a little stung to say the least and, and I spent every day for a week a burning bright blush of embarrassment.

So, whilst I happily cycled to work and back for some many years, once I came of age it was time to say “so long and thanks for the ride!” to my faithful Raleigh Activator, hop into a car… and go in search of 8 year old Cycling Proficiency students to run over! “Vroom!”

But, hey that’s all in the past! And if I’m to get the most outta today, it’s gonna have to be perched on a bicycle made for one. After emphasising as best as I can that I need a “lek… lek… lek maak” ( “small… small… very small” ) bike, I finally end up with one that I won’t be in too much danger of cracking my b***ocks on every time I go to do the old up ‘n’ over today. And whilst the saying of course goes “you never forget how to ride a bike”, this nonetheless doesn’t relinquish the need to wobble around like a complete twonk for 5 minutes getting the hang of things again!…

… but ooooh the freedom! The joy! Peddling out onto the wide roads and pathways.

Wat Si Sawai from the outside
The rush of wind in my hair. The rolling green sea of grass blazing beneath my feet. The ease and freedom of movement! Gliding. Swerving. The whir of metal spokes in the breeze as you free-ride down a gentle incline; the gentle click-a-click-a-click of a not-too-rusty chain; lifting oneself up in the pedals as if you were only a step, a bit more desperate peddling and a couple of miles per hour away from a take-off! How could I have forgotten this sense of release?! How had I let the escapism and simple pleasure of life in the saddle get so unnecessarily buried under all the scar-tissue of childish childhood memories?!

Sukhothai Historical Park for whatever reason (presumably making as much money as possible?) is sub-divided into 5 different geographical areas.

Lillies and chedi on the lake
The main central Park area with the majority of what you may wish to see and then 4 smaller clusters of temples and statuary located at a bike ride from the centre in each compass direction. It’s 100 Baht entrance fee for each of these or 350 Baht for an all inclusive ticket - but expect to pay extra again if you wish to visit one of the couple of museums on the site also. An extra 10 Baht (20p) is also required for permission to take your bike in. I decide that the Central Park area will probably do for me.

The Park really is a beautiful, beautiful place to spend time in. A large expanse of superbly well-tended green grass areas, shaded groves of trees of all kinds, wide cycle paths and ‘avenues’. Aside from the cultural, spiritual and historical significance of the site (of which I must confess to little knowledge of) it is just a pure pleasure to cycle endlessly about the Park grounds admiring the elegantly spaced out harmony of it all.

Steve and the Power Tech Aero Bike
The Park is full of landscaped waterways, ponds and miniature lakes that reflect the blue skies and architecture of man and nature alike. Pink lillies often sit upon these in postcard perfect compositions. Gently floating. Calm. As I am. Gently floating. Calm. A photographic feast. All these flowers and forms. Trees reflected beautifully down into the waters spangled with leaves.

Now it seems in all my biking and photographic buzz I neglected to make many notes to inform and/ or educate you about the sights and history of Sukhothai, and I’m not really one for (often) cheatin’ by Google-gleaning info for my blogs retro-actively. Sorry! Still, all the more reason to act on my recommendation and make sure that you make your way there should ever find yourselves in Thailand!

I’ve got a sketchy photocopied map of the place though so here goes.

Trees reflected 1(abstract)
In the heart of the Park sit’s the large clustering of stone columns, statuary, and chedi spires (one the tallest in the park) of Wat Mahathat, my first stop. To the southwest of here are the three intricately carved pylon towers of Wat Si Sawai. Also, just north of centre is Wat Sa Si, one of several impressively sized brick chedis in the area with Buddha sat before it. This forms part of a ‘Sound & Light’ show upon some evenings. It sits in the middle of a lagoon of water and is accessed via a wooden walkway bridge as are several other areas of interest, or just quiet repose within the park. My notes here remind me that this act of surrounding sites reserved for the religious rites of Buddhist monks with water is to signify purity. So there ya go, maybe this blog, not an entirely educative void! To the northeast of Wat Sa Si, amidst many other half relics you will find Wat Sarasak and the ring of restored stone-carved elephants heads around its base.

I spend a good few hours happily cycling around amidst the unending parade of history, and then when I feel saturated “with all that” I just continue to cycle a couple hours longer around the green expanse of the Park on my ‘Power Tech Aero Bike’ for the sake of fun of it and the rush of the wind past my ears, the ground beneath my feet and laying childhood ghosts to rest. Within the loosely defined Park confines also are little ‘streets’ of residential enclaves. Local families and livestock scratching around. These are worth a peek too.

As a point of note I have heard it said that “oh man, you’ll never do Sukhothai in a day!” but trust me, I’m no speed tourist and I loved this place so much but I assure you, you will be able to get all the pleasure you need from this fab site in one days activity even if (unlike me) you buy a ticket for the whole extent of the park.

The main chedi spire of Wat Mahathat to the rear
If you get an early doors bus out to the Park, a good, energetic half day would probably even see you smiling’ so don’t over itinerate this one.

Eventually I feel it’s time to cycle away and hand my bike back. Happy not to have cack-handedly collapsed off it once in the course of the day! A sleep-inducingly slow bus back into town and then I take to my heels and stroll a little way back out to a swimming pool indicated on my map. It’s a glorious afternoon and for a bargainous 40 Baht (80p) I have a large open air pool all to myself. I dive into the cool, refreshing waters with the sun beating down on me and paddle about soothing my pedal-punished feet and saddle-sore arse. Happy happy days people. Happy happy days.

nomaden says:
I can't wait to check this place out. I have been wanting to go here since 2008 and not its going to come true. I wish its not going to be scorching hot biking around in mid April.
Posted on: Jan 14, 2013
Stevie_Wes says:
Yeah, I loved my time here...I remember the Meppel Bike well. Little Jordan riding along on it laughin'all the way :)))
Posted on: Apr 20, 2009
pms70 says:
Sounds like a wonderful day! Up until recently I had actually forgotten how relaxing it can be to ride a bike but I am really starting to enjoy it again! Back to my Dutch roots...
Posted on: Apr 17, 2009
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Wat Mahathat
Wat Mahathat
Buuuuuuddha! :D
Buuuuuuddha! :D
(Sukhothai) Muju [www.mujuworld.co…
(Sukhothai) Muju [www.mujuworld.c…
Wat Si Sawai from the outside
Wat Si Sawai from the outside
Lillies and chedi on the lake
Lillies and chedi on the lake
Steve and the Power Tech Aero Bike
Steve and the Power Tech Aero Bike
Trees reflected 1(abstract)
Trees reflected 1(abstract)
The main chedi spire of Wat Mahath…
The main chedi spire of Wat Mahat…
Falang :D
'Falang' :D
Wat Si Sawai
Wat Si Sawai
Trees reflected 2 (abstract)
Trees reflected 2 (abstract)
Leaves on pond (abstract)
Leaves on pond (abstract)
Wat Sa Si in the middle of its res…
Wat Sa Si in the middle of its re…
Wat Sa Si
Wat Sa Si
Stevies in the pink :)
Stevie's in the pink :)
Wat Sa Si
Wat Sa Si
Sunlight on algae on pond (abstrac…
Sunlight on algae on pond (abstra…
Byyyyyyycycle time!
Byyyyyyycycle time!
Wat Sarasak
Wat Sarasak
(Sarasak) Muju [www.mujuworld.co.u…
(Sarasak) Muju [www.mujuworld.co.…
Not sure what this cool sports ca…
Not sure what this cool sport's c…
Yes, the aim of the game is to kic…
Yes, the aim of the game is to ki…
Sukhothai
photo by: DragonFlies