The Way North: Bangkok to Chiang Mai (Part III)

24 Mar

SUKHOTHAI

 

My postcard from Sukhothai

 

 

We were a couple of intrepid travelers chugging our way from Lopburi to Sukhothai via the trusty Thai railway system. Well, we were chugging it to a city called Phitsanulok, where we were going to hop on a bus to Sukhothai. The journey from Munky Town to Phitsanulok was to take 5H – so my friend A and I bunkered down for a long trip.

Are we there yet?

The trip was nice and scenic — we saw rice paddies and fields of green, little towns along the railwayside. But this leg was by far the worst one. The heat (even at Thailand’s “cold” season) was too much for our car’s little fan. Countryside dust coming was pouring in through the windows, along with itchy things like insects and dandelion seeds. We got to the Phitsanulok station well after 6pm, then from there caught the 7pm bus to Sukhothai, 2 hours away.

It was past 9pm by the time we arrived tired, cranky and dusty at the Sukhothai Guest House run by a very savvy Indian uncle. All our clothes and pores were caked in dirt from the hundred or so Thai towns we passed along the way. As he tut-tutted us inside his living room, he lectured us crazy tourists who always insist on taking the 3rd class, un-airconditioned train when regular Thai tourists take the bus like normal people. He proceeded to instruct us that we weren’t allowed to wash our clothes in our bathroom sink or shower.

HAHA because we were totally planning to.

We paid THB 500 per night at Uncle’s, and added THB 200 more to get to turn on the air conditioning. Our room was nice and clean, with a large bathroom & hot shower. It even had a small patio outside where you could read or eavesdrop on the neighbors, but the heat and mosquitoes drove us back indoors to make good use of our THB 200 airconditioning. Uncle’s house was located in a quiet neighborhood with shops that close very early, and a good 30min tuk-tuk ride away from the Sukhothai Historical Park. And though Uncle said there was a night market down the street, we didn’t find anything of the sort.

But instead, down the street from the Guest House, we found the BEST. NOODLE. STALL. IN. ALL. OF. THAILAND.

NOM NOM NOM NOM

Not that I’d ever tried all the noodle stalls in Thailand. But it was so good we came back there every night. It’s what dreams are made of: rice noodles and broth with meat & seafood balls, crabsticks, cashew nuts, their version of chicharon, egg, pechay, and God who knows what else, but it was SO GOOD. And I actually want to go back to Sukhothai just to eat noodles. If I could swim in an endless pool of something, it would be Sukhothai noodles from that stall down the street from Uncle’s house. Oh God.

But I digress.

After a night of sweet Noodle dreams, we hit the old town on bicycle. The cool thing about Sukhothai is that their major temple ruins are all located in one large park around the size of U.P. Diliman, so renting a bike to get around the ruins is the best way to go (THB 50 per day).

Early morning at Sukhothai National Park

Fairest Lotus of All

We visited all the wats marked out on the map, and a few more found on the outskirts of the park. Our favorite was this last Chedi in a quiet field full of elephants.

Chedi Chang

We tuk-tuked back to Uncle’s and had a nice hot shower before visiting our favorite noodle stall again (where the family who runs it was waiting eagerly for our return!) We realized that we get better prices as Asian tourists, especially if we can carry a conversation about Manny Pacquiao.

Sukhothai was indeed another Thai revelation. It is serene and laid-back, with the kind of grace that comes with age. It is not surprising that this place’s name means “The Dawn of Happiness“. Because if happiness had a dawn, Sukhothai would definitely be the kind that starts your heart singing.

White Buddha

Before I get any cheesier, let’s leave all that noodle and jump back on the train for our northernmost stop: Chiang Mai, the City of Elephants.

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