12/11/14 – 15/11/14
After saying goodbye to my lovely travel companions who headed south, it was time to leave as well – I only knew that a bus was leaving at 9am, and that I have to change buses once. Arriving at the station I was pointed towards the bus for Chiang Mai and was told to change bus at a place I never have heard before- Kamphaeng Phet. I thought it was Tek, but who am I to argument with anyone? (this is a rhetorical question!!!). The bus seemed to be a 1st Class bus, comfortable and showing films in English and Thai for the whole journey. To make sure I don’t miss the stop I asked how long the journey will be – the answer of 4 hours sounded a bit short – and obviously it was.
7 hours later I arrived in Kamphong Phet (nice period of time to relax, watch movies and have a nap)
Being the only Farang to leave the bus, one of the bus stop staff approached me instantly and asked where I want to go. Sukhothai. So off we go to the counters of the various bus companies to check who goes there. Four time was the charm, and to my relief I was told that there was indeed a bus going there – in 20 minutes.
After 10 hours I finally arrived in Sukhothai. I haven’t booked anything, and went to a guesthouse with good reviews – Ban Thai. Thankfully they still had A/C rooms free. Room was spacious, clean – so all was fine. Stating that would take it for three nights the price went down by nearly 20% to 420 Baht. Well, it is always worthwhile to ask (and a reason why I don’t pre-book accommodation when travelling). The guesthouse itself is very central, with a lovely garden and area to sit and relax. Also the owner and staff were just lovely – had some nice chats with them throughout the stay. A good choice once again…
Well, first thing on my agenda was having dinner. So off I went to the main road where you can find numerous food stalls with simple plastic chairs. Choose one with a big fan to cool me down (it was once again a very hot town). Tried something new I never had before or heard before – Lad Non. Chicken dish in Thai gravy. Well, it was great. Added some rice and morning glory, and obviously a large Chang, and the bill for everything was 130 Baht – £2.60. Not bad at all.
It was very warm – again, so I needed one or two more beer. So I decided it is time to explore a bit more of the area, and walked along the main road – nothing. Sukhothai is a very laidback place, and apparently a bit conservative in terms of closing time (advised by a local two days later)
During that walk I had my encounter with the first really aggressive dog. If you head to SEA, you will see dogs everywhere. Walking around, eating, sleeping, and well, barking if someone passes them during the night. Most of them just look at you, and that’s it. Well, that one decided to bark at me, and follow me. I really love dogs, but I also know they can be quite aggressive. While I was a bit worried, I looked at him, and said with all the authority I have (the same way I spoke to players on the pitch after they pissed me off once again) to sit and stay. And here is the miracle – someone actually listened to me for a change. The dog sat down, looked at me, and didn’t follow me anymore. Stefan vs. Dog 1-0. Well, one of his friend would take revenge the next time…
Headed to the main tourist bar, Chopper. It was a nice place wtih a balcony on the first floor, and they played some music video. While having my second (small) Chang they suddenly played a DVD of a Michael Jackson concert. I am not a fan of him, but like everyone else in the bar watched it. Don’t like him, but I must admit he had talent.
For some reason I decided to head to the other bar opposite of Chopper – 64000. It is literally only consist of a bar counter, few chairs around it, and two tables outside – and it is next to the main road (on the pavement)
Quite a few locals were there, and I spent my remaining evenings there. The guy who owns and works there was just friendly, made some good cocktails, and you met quite a few interesting people from around the town, Bangkok or a few other Farang. Absolute lovely place. Also had my first Blue Hawai there (and unfortunately it was not only one or two…) – not a bad choice if you had enough beer. However I only realised the next morning that he put quite a lot of alcohol in his drinks.
Unfortunately he closes the bar at 11pm (other places around closes around midnight), so quickly headed to the local 7/11 (a supermarket chain) to get one little treat I discovered in Kanchanaburi – a little filled toastie they heat up for you. Nice little before-bed-time snack.
Looking forward to my bed I then realised that the gate to my guesthouse was closed. So I checked the lock, and tried to pull it up – without success. I looked at the gate confused – probably with the same expression my colleagues looked at me when I talked about financial numbers. Well, I decided I just climb over the low fence to get to my room. I found out the day later how to open the gate. I was soo happy no one saw me that night. I would have looked like an idiot once more.
I decided the next morning to take it easy- tired and having a few drinks the night before. So enjoyed sitting in the guesthouse, reading, starting the blog. This also gave me time to give in my little addiction in Asia (besides food and beer) – Ice coffee. This is just the most refreshing thing in a hot country. At 2pm I decided I really should start exploring ruins of Old Sukhothai – a UNESCO Heritage site and the reason I came here. Fighting off some Tuk Tuk driver I found the local songtrow bus for the 15km journey
The Sukhothai Historical Park is divided into five areas, and you pay entrance for each bit (well, only 100 baht). For the three hours I had there I thought no need to get a bike, and focused on the central area – the largest and probably most important one. The ruins are impressive, and the whole site looks lovely and is well looked after. While it was very hot and humid again, it was a pleasure to have so many areas covered by trees – so it was a bit more comfortable. Walking around and seeing the remains of Loy Krathong, it reminded me again how much I regret to fly to Thailand a day later than planned, and missed that festival by one day. Seeing the laterns on the rivers must have been absolute amazing. Well, there is always a next time…
While being there quite late anyway, I also took the opportunity to stay there for the sunset. The one I saw from the bus the previous day was spectacular, well, this one was nice, but not spectacular…
So it was time to head back, and it seems the last bust left too early. So I joined three French to get a Tuk Tuk back to the new town. I already know the traditional Tuk Tuk where you sit behind the driver, I had the side-car version in Kanchanaburi, and now I experienced the one where the seats are in front of the scooter. Well, I know which one I prefer the least. The balance of the whole thing was a bit off, and as you are at the front, you are hit by all the bugs. I was glad to be back at the guesthouse. At least I saw a night market on our way back, so I decided to walk the 30 minutes there after freshening up.
I arrived at the market, and saw how the last stalls were closing. It seems it was a day market and not a night one. Well, a walk for nothing. On my way back I must have met the friend of the dog I encountered yesterday. After seeing me passing a shop he was barking loudly, and followed me. My attempt to tell him to stay was fruitless, so I was followed by a barking dog. Well, that was until a tiny Thai woman stepped between me and the dog, said something in Thai, and the dog stayed. Great, I was saved. By a small Thai woman. I didn’t feel very manly…at least no other person saw it – thankfully
No one will ever know!!! Stefan vs Dogs 1-1
After the plan with the night market failed I headed back to the stall I was the day before. On my way I couldn’t resist some food on offer though, and I got one of the highlights so far. Nothing special, just a small Rotee filled with one piece of breaded chicken and either a green or Indian curry sauce. One word: AMAZING. I returned to the family stall a day later for more…
The guys at the food stall where I have eaten the night before were surprised to see a Farang to return for more food, but it was very good again. I finished the night at the same little bar (and by co-incident met my neighbours in the guesthouse for the very first time – not the last time I managed to meet the Spanish couple). And most important, this time I was able to open the gate for my guesthouse. Old dogs still can learn new tricks.
For day three I managed to get out of my comfy bed early, and made my way to the bus stop to get back to the Ancient site. Another lovely thing here is the amount of fresh fruit you get – buying a bag of a whole pineapple for breakfast is a healthier option to the food offered in the canteen in the office (though a haggis roll is still delicious!!!)
I saw the bus ready to leave, so I quickly headed to the bus and jumped on it just as it was getting to the main raod – and suddenly heard some shouting behind me from the stop. The woman who sold the ticket on the bus the day before was still at the station. And I was on the bus, and haven’t paid. What will happen to me – will they put me into jail for not paying for a ticket? Will I get kicked off the bus while we are driving? Two locals were laughing at my confused looking face, while another tourist looked a bit shocked at me. Well, it turned out you can pay the driver when you get out. Who was panicking again???
This time I decided to rent a bike, as I wanted to explore the northern and western sections. The good news, bikes cost only 30 Bhat for the full day. Bad news: it is a very simple, one gear bike.
It seems I was also a bit lucky, as it was cloudy the whole day. Still hot, but at least I did ‘t have to deal with the sun. Optimistic I headed off for the northern part. Well, to my surprise it contained only one ruin, a nice one, but only one. But I read something about a big sitting Buddha statue? Have I managed to miss it? That would have been very very impressive.
So I cycled towards the next section, and there I saw sign about another ruin, and just followed some other cyclists
And here I found the statue. Just wasn’t aware it was so widely spread out. The statue is massive, around 24m high. The hands of it was as high as a person. Yep, it was impressive. And worth it to get here for that view.
It got hotter and hotter (and yes, I was feeling the rather wet shirt and short) and next I had to decide if I really want to cycle the 8km to the western section – but then I was told I am halfway there. I should have no problem cycling another 4km – surely. So off I went again, cycling along the main road. And cycled, and cycled bit more. Did I miss a turn? It must be somewhere here. And then I saw a sign about a dam. How could I get lost cycling one big road only? And then I arrived at the entrance. Thank god.
Well, the feeling of happiness lasted only a short time. I arrived at the first ruin – and obviously it was on a mound – 300m high. You must be kidding me- is cycling not enough activity? Well, being a good tourist I left my bike at the bottom, and walked up the stone path. In the heat! After already cycling for 2 hours. I met some other tourist that looked as tired as I felt – and they said the view is worth the climb. They are better right, or else…
I arrived on the top, and was greeted by another large Buddha statue (clearly smaller as the one I saw earlier, and the view from the top was nice. So time for a little break, sitting down and enjoying the scenery. And rest my legs.
The problem of climbing a mound is, that you have walk it down again
But thankfully that was easier. But I positively could feel my legs now. And to the gate to the main section was another 2.7 km, and then another 8 miles back to return the bike. Well, I made an executive decision not to stop at every ruin – well, they must look the same as the others. Well, passing the next mound I saw a bit of the ruin, and had to stop. My executive decision was already cancelled after a few minutes. Was decision making on my top 5 strength??? Anyhow, I went up the little mound, but only until I could see the Stupa- not wasting any energy.
Back on my bike I got some new energy, and enjoyed cycling through the section. The scenery with the mountains in the back ground, and yellow rice fields in front of them were just stunning. And I made it back to the main road. And I decided it is time for a linch break. Thankfully there was a little restaurant – a papaya salad and ice coffee was just what I needed.
After that break it was time to return the bike, and getting back to the guesthouse for a well deserved rest. Sitting in the lovely surrounding of the guesthouse while enjoying another ice coffee was the perfect way to spend the rest of the afternoon.
For dinner I walked past the very little night market, and settled for one of the outdoor seats of one of the permanent stalls. While enjoying dinner I had the pleasure to watch an announcement of the current Thai leader, well, it was more a propaganda for the Thai people. But nonetheless it was interesting (it had English subtitles – hence I was able to understand it).
I finished my last evening in Sukhothai like the previous two, with a final drink at Bar 64000.
Overall I really enjoyed my stay there. It is a very laidback place, without the party zone you can can witness in other places in Thailand. And that actually makes Sukhothai a very nice place for a few days. And obviously soaking in some history is a big plus as well.
But after two full days here it was time to head north to Chiang Mai.
Ban Thai guesthouses offers three A/C rooms in the concrete part (behind the restaurant), several little bungalows and some rooms in a wooden building next to the restaurant. Price range varies, but it seems all rooms are well equipped, and the host is very nice. Ice coffee was great there, and food is not bad (only had one lunch there). Also a good place to meet fellow travellers in the restaurant.
The food stalls cross the bridge next to the Wat are worthwhile to visit, I was very happy with my food twice. If you cross the bridge and turn right at the first street, you can find a small alley on the left with some other stalls, and several little restaurants inside a building. Preferred the fod at the stalls though.
Bar 64000 should be visited at least once, the owner is a great guy to speak to. Opposite of the bar you can find a little stall selling roti with chicken. Try it with Indian or Green curry – you won’t be disappointed.