A Culture Vulture on a bike

Sukhothai Travel Blog

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Street decoration in Sukhothai
Leaving Bangkok also proved somewhat of a breeze, in fact I was so suprised the cab driver didn't try and rip me off I wanted to check for Candid Camera equipment, now that may sound a bit derogortary but I seemed to recall taxi drivers when I was here the last time being somewhat of rip off merchants (not that this is a new world concept, I've had plenty try it on inthe UK too). The bus also arrived an hour before I thought it would and we had lunch included in our ticket, fantastic! Then I got to my new abode, At Home Sukhothai and was even more jubilant, it was a great little family run place and I had an air con room all to myself for the same price as my dorm, oh and brekkie was included and the owner couldn't have been more helpful if he tried offering to book both my bus ticket and call my chosen accomodation in Ayuthaya to make a reservation, what a super star.
I'd allowed for two days here to give me a day each to cover Sukhothai Historical Park and Si Satchanalai-Chailang Historical Park before heading off to Ayuthaya. The owner had also given me a few helpful maps so I knew where to get the sorng taa ou, or shared taxi, from,; twenty minutes later I was outside the entrance to the park and was jumped by the owners of a bike rental place, luckily they were renting nice shiny bikes at a price that I'd read was the going rate. It was only about 10.30am at this point but it was already intensley hot and humid and it didn't take long for me to be soaked through with sweat to the point where I'd have happily unzipped my skin if possible if it meant I'd cool down.I saw some people choosing to walk around the site and thought they must be off their rocker as cycling around created a bit of a breeze and welcome reprieve from the heat.
I'd decided to add Sukhothai's ruins to my itinerary after Reading how they are amongst Thailands finest along with Ayuthaya. The ruins date as far back as the mid-thirteenth century and the main park contains 21 sites and there are a further 70 within a 5km radius! Needless to say I wasn't going to attempt to cover all of them in one day. I entered via the north gate and began working my way around, including the Ramkhamhaeng National Museum I think the main complex easily took me three hours with my favourite temple being the hugely impressive Wat Mahathat. This is the largest of the temples in Sukhothai but the size isn't what grabbed my attention more the quality and quantity of the remaining Buddha figures. The museum also had some superb artifacts including what is claimed to be the earliest example of Thai writing (The Thai king at the time used the South Indian sanscrit and Chinese alphabets of the time as a basis but then changed them to create something uniquely Thai).
I was overloaded with information and the air con in the museum had stirred my metabolism so I went for a quick bite to eat and sampled one of the areas signature dishes 'Sukhothai-style noodles' which is actually more like a soup. Batteries recharged and cooled down slightly I decided to try and tackle the rest of the areas anticlockwise starting with the Northern zone first as it was closest. I first stumbled across  a Wat which I was stunned to find didn't even merit a mention in my guide book; it's base was ringed with a series of perfectly preserved beautiful stucco elephants. Two other couples were cycling the same route and I stopped to chat with one of them and as it turns out practice some Spanish as the guy was a Brazilian (who obviously spoke Spanish) and his girlfriend was from Barcelona.
They asked if I was travelling alone and I said yes and they told me I was very brave to do such a thing, I guess I'm so used to it I never really think about it anymore. Next was Wat Phra Phai Luang, at this point I was wondering if this section was free (the governent in their wisdom has removed the all inclusive 350B ticket so now you have to pay 100B for each zone plus the museum entry fee) as I hadn't seen a ticket booth anywhere. I'd walked across a bridge and through a field to get there and although the old LP said that the three Khmer style towers were bigger than those of Wat Si Sawai I thought the Wat Si Sawai was far more impressive as the towers there were in better condition. I'd worked out that I needed to back track and follow the road around to see Wat Si Chum and that was where I finally discovered where the ticket booth was, technically you could see a good proporition of the northern sector ruins without paying but there's a reason they put a ticket booth pretty much right in front of Wat Si Chum, it's one of the highlights of the park and was my personal favourite.
As you approach it the entrance frames the huge seated Buddha inside. The Buddha is 15m tall but it is its elegant, and seemingly boneless, fingers which catch your eye as they're either painted gold or covered in gold leaf. Wat Si Chum also has special significance as it's where some of the best artifacts in the museum were found, in particular a group of stone tablets detailing the life of Buddha were found in the passageway that allows you to climb to the top of the mon•dop, which is unfortunately now off limits. I'd timed my visit here to perfection as a group of tourists arrived just as I was leaving so I'd been able to take my own sweet time taking my photos before the hoards arrived. Time was going against me at this point so I had to motor round to the Western sector to try and squeeze in Wat Saphan Hin; the reason I'd wanted to visit here was that I'd read you got a great view over the rest of the park but after hiking to the top of the hill I was severly disappointed in the view but the Wat itself wasn't too bad.
I'd had to be quick here as the guard had told me they were shutting the gate at 4.30pm, I'd hoped to make it round to the Southern zone to see the last Wat on my list Wat Chetupon but I knew I couldn't make it in time. I was a bit disappointed as it sounded quite impressive but I was also exceedingly sweaty and tired by this point so I was quite happy to have a shorter ride back to the main entrance (as an added bonus I didn't have to pay for the Western sector as the lady on the gate couldn't change a 1000bt note). I dropped off my bike at the rental place then managed to almost instaneously get a ride back to New Sukhothai in a shared taxi. It was refreshing just getting back to my air con room in the guest house that I just lay on the bed for a while and relaxed, in fact I'd lain there for so long I actually got cold and had to take a hot shower.
I'd intended to try a different restaurant for dinner but when I went to look for it it appeared that in no longer existed so I decided to head back to Dreams as the food was so good, sampling more delights from the specials menu; Chicken masaman curry with potato and corn and pork fritters with sweet chilli sauce, both of which were delicious.  I'd planned to visit another historical park the next day about two hours outside of Sukhothai, Si Satchanalai-Chaliang but I was starting to feel a bit of a sensory overload, also I'd asked my guest house to call ahead to the one I wanted to stay in in Ayuthaya to make a reservation and find out about what was an acceptable arrival time. It's a good job I did this as the owner of At Home told me the lady who lives there wouldn't except guests after 6pm in the evening which pretty much kyboshed my plan of taking a night bus and arriving around 5am! I decided instead I'd have a Thai massage instead in the morning after checking out as I'd seen a place literally 100m from the guest house that was offering hour ling massages for 200B (that's £4!) and then take a 1pm bus.
It turned out to be the better option as the weather wasn't the best and I thoroughly enjoyed my massage even if it was a bit painful at times. I swear if a nation ever had to win a battle with hand to hand combat they should send in an army of Thai ladies to massage them to death, these massage ninjas could inflict some serious pain! Thoroughly relaxed I picked up some chicken satay kebabs from a street stall before taking the tuk-tuk the guest house had arranged for me, not only though had they done that the tuk tuk driver also spoke to someone at the bus terminal who lead my to the ticket counter to where I could pick up the ticket the guest house had reserved for me. The same superhelpful gent then made sure I got on the right bus and the conductor escorted me to my seat, now that's service! I was panicking that I would either miss my stop on the bus (it doesn't go into Ayuthaya directly it drops you on the highway) or that I wouldn't be able to get in at the guesthouse as the bus was an hour late arriving due to the bad weather but everything went according to plan.
Now I'm hoping the rain ceases for tomorrow so I can take my elephant ride around the ruins.  
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Street decoration in Sukhothai
Street decoration in Sukhothai
Words of wisdom from Buddha
Words of wisdom from Buddha
Lamppost in Sukhothai
Lamppost in Sukhothai
Sukhothai Hotels & Accommodations review
Staying At Home Sukhothai you get to experience living in a residence that the owner has lived in for the last 50 years, not that you could tell. The … read entire review
photo by: DragonFlies