When I rent the motorcycle I ask the lady if she needs a copy of my passport…
– ‘Will keep it here,’ she states.
– ‘oh … so I can’t leave the country!’ I exclaim playfully.
She smilingly responds: ‘Do you like Thailand?‘
Before I leave, she recommends Wat Tawet. It’s on the way and well worth a visit.
I decide to keep the scooter for another day. It’s so sweet just to drive. Oh how sweet it is! This time, I go north to Si Satchanalai. There is another historical park there as well as a national park. When I go there, I see a sign indicating that the latter is another fifty km away. So I skip it. At that very moment I am sure to miss out on some majestic waterfall. Or at least a cool refreshing freshwater pool surrounded by fantastic rock formations. Nah, all these temple ruins again. I’ve had it already!
I can’t get noo-hoo satisfaction… and at once i feel it is somehow only sweet to drive for a while. After that it becomes bitter-sweet symphony. It is getting kinda uncomfortable on that seat, you know. Yep, after an hour or so it can be quite uncomfy. And who wants that, right?! Right. I I I have the right to be comfy at all times. [‘Body, obey. Mind, shuddup. Both’o’ya, geddagrip!]
On my way to Si Satchanalai I take rest at Wat Tawet. There are many statues recounting the Buddhist legends and lore. I meet one man in robes listening to loud music – wai to him – and several painters re-goldening the wat. There are some women as well. I ask for a watermelon (tengmo) and it is cut up and offered to me in a nylon bag. 25 baht. I gobble it up right there. So stuffed afterwards. I feel like Homer in the episode he invents a bird-like device to press ‘Y’ for him. But anyway, after yet another marriage proposal somehow I manage to heave this fathom-long body on the scooter and drive off.
Some more kilometres to go to the historical park. Check out the album to see more pictures.
In the afternoon I go back along route 1113 and enjoy the green fields and sunset. When I come to the old part of Sukhothai I go straight to Wat Si Chum. During the day everybody goes there. Tourist guides and food stalls and regulations and whatnot. Now it is dusk. All empty now. Just the Buddha and me.
Yesterday afternoon was hard to take in terms of tourist tolerance. At first, I did not feel welcome in the old city. Then again, I did have a good time there, cycling around between the temple ruins.
Still, there were some incidents that made me feel uneasy. It had to do with two rude guesthouse hosts. One of them, at Old City GH, didn’t really care and when he finally got around to show me a room, it wasn’t in a very friendly manner. He opened the door, said ‘250’ and left. At Vitoon Guesthouse, I was confronted with a man yelling at me for trying to negotiate, as I had learned it in Krungtep (Bangkok). Well, I guess two ‘bad’ experiences in three months is not too bad. But it’s hard to take on a single day, anyway.
I left and left my backpack at the reception at Boutique hotel and rented a bicycle. Went straight to the historical park of old sukhothai (sukho-happiness, uthai-dawn). Happiness dawns on the visiting traveller when s/he rides a bike through palm alleys and around lakes to wonder at the immensity of the chedis and statues. And yet again, one afternoon is enough. For me at least.
So the next I rent a scooter to drive southwest, to check out the park at Kamphaeng Phet, situated some 70km from New Sukhothai.
More ruins of statues, of stupas and of temples. Disintegration in process. Continuous destruction and restructuring. Time takes its toll.
What is different from the sites in Sukhothai tourist attraction is the fact that this place is simply not attracting many people. At the entrance there is only a map in Thai script available. During the three hours I am there I come across locals helping with excavation and maintenance tasks. A woman shows me a guide book in Thai script and describes the map. I meet 2 (two) Asian couples on bicycles as well. We exchange greetings. Sawat dii khap 🙂 One big bus passes by and two mini vans park in front of a site. A park ranger on his motorbike smiles at me and bows while driving. And in between these happenings…
… Wonderful silence.
I listen to a light blue bird chirping in the crown of a tree. I can hear a leaf falling to the ground, joining the others already resting there, transforming into something else. I feel the sun shine on my skin and the hot air filling my lungs. I feel sweaty and I feel fine.
Some time during the day, I drive thru the city to get some food (simple rice with veggies: kao pak) and to the other two sites… Wat Phra Kaeo & Wat Phra Tat. Now I read the Wikipedia article but if you’re actually there… breathing the magnificent air… it is something entirely else. You have to be there to believe it – these sculptures and structures shine forth through the ages. They are not only huge in regards to perimeter. They are immense in their ambience.
In the shade, I sit down and read the last few pages of Plutarch: Die Kunst zu leben. The final chapter is called “Das Gastmahl der Sieben Weisen”, a meeting of Aesop, Bias, Chilon, Diokles, Kleobulos, Pittakos, Periander, Solon, Thales, and some more. and in the very last pages of that chapter the singer and lyra artist Arion escapes by hurling himself off a ship and is brought safely to the shore by dolphins.
One good thing about Phitsanulok: there are almost no tourists. In a café on the riverside, I meet Nils from Sweden, a travel veteran in his seventies. In the evening I have a delicious meal at the night bazaar and a foot massage in the park at the riverside.
Here are some impressions of Phitsanulok…
Today morning I take a bus to Sukhothai. One hour drive, maybe two, dont check, dont care. I am cruising along outside of time and space. I listen to my bus neighbour he tells me to stay on cuz this bus from Phitsanulok, it goes straight to the old city – Ban Mueang Kao.
I stay on the bus and get off after I have spotted the wall encircling the old city. Try to find a place to stay. Two unfriendly/angry Thai hosts and one very helpful hotel lady later I find myself without backpack (but also, alas, without a place to sleep) on a solo bicycle tour around the ruins. I figure it’s afternoon, so whatmeworry now about a place to stay when I am here at the old city on a bike equipped with a pair of eyes to enjoy the sight of the wats at Sukhothai? A place to stay will come. No diggity.
At Wat Chedi Ngam I meet Regis, a French man living in Brazil. He is a professional photographer and shaman guiding ayahuasca sessions. We ride bikes and breathe in the wonderful nature. Take pictures of the amazing man-made structures. Enjoy the sun rays shining through the treetops and making the green of the grass fields around us appear so much brighter. Luminous green. Fluorescent even. Can’t photo that!
And we talk. Among other things, he tells me there are three points to pay entrance fee. Somehow, I don’t know how, I had dodged them… and went to all the uninteresting ruins and statues?! We split again, checking out different sights and meet again at the main entrance (a place I see for the first time when leaving)…
We take one of the last busses back to Sukhothai and I check in at Garden House. It is a far better place to be than those in the old city, with homely ambience, a smiling receptionist, as well as a vegetarian joint and motorcycle rental 100m away. What more do I need, right?!
If you are interested in how the ancient capital with buildings and sculptures from the 13th century looks like today, check out the photos I have taken. You find them here. It’s worth it. Here are 3 of them:
More photos on hakimomatata.imgur.com