CURRENT LOCATION: Chiang Mai, Thailand
Our bus ride to Sukhothai was long but painless - something we've become accustomed to over the last four months. Sadly we were disorganised and didn't bring any snacks, so we arrived to Sukhothai in the early evening absolutely starving. We arrived at our guesthouse and were greeted by an elderly man with very few teeth, smiling brightly, and repeating, "My daughter, my daughter". From this, we took that the owner was his daughter. Soon, another lady turned up, who also spoke no English. Luckily, she handed us a pre-written note from the owner, explaining that they had gone out for the evening, but we could leave our key deposit with his father, and the maid would show us to our room. With that sorted, we were lead upstairs, and shown to our quarters. The maid opened the door, and we were hit with a wall of heat - it must have been 40°c in there. The room had obviously been shut up all day with the air-conditioning off. It's lucky we arrived when we did, or I'm pretty sure it would have exploded.
We threw our bags down and turned the air conditioning as low as it would go - 15.5°c. It made no difference unless you were sitting directly under it. I decided that a cold shower would fix that problem. I was very excited to find that our bathroom had two shower heads - one attached to the water heater, and one cold one. I turned on the cold one and jumped in. Within seconds, I leapt back out, scalded. After 10 minutes of trying everything I could think of (turning off the hot water heater, turning it on but making sure it was set to cold, turning off the water heater from outside the bathroom), I gave up and accepted my hot shower. We later found out that the water tank for the shower is on the roof, so it heats up all day, just like us... The only bonus was that you were so hot when you got out of the shower, the room felt cooler.
Hunger was beginning to win over heat, so we wandered along to the night market to get some dinner. We snacked our way through the stalls, with Zev trying the local Sukhothai noodle dish (local noodles in broth with pork crackling), and me polishing off my meal with a watermelon slushie served out of a tiny watermelon!
We started out reasonably early the next morning, heading for Sukhothai Old City. The Old City is the former capital of the Sukhothai region, and the ruins have been designated a UNESCO World Heritage site.
We crossed the road from our guesthouse to wait for the local bus to take us the 12km to the old city for 30 baht each (~$1.50NZD). As we were waiting, a man pulled up in what could very loosely be called a tuk-tuk. It was basically a motorbike at the back, with a flatbed stuck on the front with bench seats and an awning. He offered to drive us to the park for 60 baht, leaving immediately, so on we hopped! We puttered along, me nearly losing my hat once, and Zev actually losing his and having to retrieve it from the middle of the highway. About 20 minutes later, we pulled up to the gates of the park.
From there we hired bikes to get around inside the park. It was stinking hot (40°+), and this allowed us to get around quickly while enjoying a nice breeze. We grabbed our tickets for the main, central section of the park and headed in. We stopped at the first stall we saw to stock up on some nice cold water, given the heat. The friendly stall owners asked us if we could write the word 'Water' on their sign in English, and we happily obliged - spelt it right and everything!
From there, we headed to the largest temple, Wat Mahathat. The main stupa is shaped like a lotus, and is flanked on either side with a 9m high Buddha. While the ruins in Ayutthaya were stunning, the ruins in Sukhothai were far better preserved, making it easier to imagine how they would have looked. And it was so incredibly quiet and peaceful. We probably saw half a dozen other people all day. We spent another couple of hours cycling between the various ruins, before stopping for lunch.
While lunch itself was rather plain (more fried rice anyone?), afterwards, I found a shop selling sunglasses for 50 baht ($2.50NZD) - I left mine in a minivan in Kota Kinabalu. In addition to making my eyes very happy, this shop was home to the tiniest kitten I've ever seen. It would have been maybe 4 weeks old, and the shopkeeper explained it had been abandoned (meanwhile I was wondering if its mother had wandered in to the wrong restaurant...), and kept trying to convince us to take it home. I was on board with that, but Zev stood firm in the 'No adopting kittens during this trip' rule.
To escape the afternoon heat, we spent a little time wandering around the nearby museum, learning the difference between a vertical and horizontal kiln. We're hoping that comes up in a pub quiz at some point.
From there we checked out one final temple, outside the temple complex, which contained a Buddha's footprint. Zev was very disappointed that it wasn't a 'real' footprint. He recovered quickly though.
We returned our bikes and jumped on the bus back to town. The bus was incredibly cool, as is most South East Asian transport. It was basically a big wooden truck painted bright red and turquoise, and looked like something out of the 50s. We spent an enjoyable 20 minutes riding back to the guesthouse.
After a repeat of the previous day's shower and air conditioning trauma, we headed out for pizza. We arrived at a backpackers/pizza restaurant where we were informed that they had just installed a new pizza oven and were testing it that night, so we could only have bacon pizza. What a terrible shame. We can say with confidence the the pizza oven is working.
Day two of the temples had us on the bus out and back at the bike rental shop by mid-morning. We decided to head a little further afield, to the temples to the east and north of the main temple complex. If we thought it was quiet the day before, it was dead today. We basically had the whole day to ourselves, if you excluded staff. We started out with the eastern temples, had a break for lunch, then headed north. The temples outside the main complex were less well preserved, but we had an enjoyable day cycling around and exploring. We arrived back to return the bikes by mid-afternoon, pooped from the heat.
Again, we bussed back to the guesthouse, wrestled with the hot water and hotter air, and snarfed a well earned dinner.
The next morning we jumped on yet another bus, bound for the cooler weather (we hoped) of Chiang Mai!
Lots of love,
S & Z
(Original post date: 11th June 2015)