25.09.2010 - 28.10.2010 34 °C
We finally got out of Chiang Mai. There was a distinct danger of running out of money in a few months and realising we hadn't left the town. We got ourselves to the bus station after a long goodbye with Sawasdee Guesthouse and Sam and piled on to a rather fetching pink and purple bus to Sukhothai, the old imperial capital of Thailand (before Ayutthaya). It was a rather comfortable 6 hour journey. I've learned that when getting on a bus in Thailand you must choose your seat astronomically - you'll often find that the locals will sit on one specific side so as to avoid the baking sun in the windows which makes for a very sweaty trip as the air conditioning is more akin to someone sitting five feet away from you and blowing really hard toward your face. So my tip is, before getting on a bus, consider which direction it is going in, what time of day it is and where the sun will be.
We were picked up in Sukhothai by the Flemish owner of the guesthouse we were staying in for two nights, a guy called Luc who co-ran the place with a Thai woman called Poo who also ran Poo's Restaurant down the road (by the end of our 48 hour stay the joke did eventually get old even when faced with the Poo special breakfast). We happened to be in town for Luc's 50th birthday and so were invited to the party. We weren't sure what to expect but it took us about five minutes of Poo pestering us to eat something to get over the awkwardness of being sat at a huge table with enormous amounts of amazing food laid out in a room full of Belgians and Thai locals. A good night was had and we only had to pay for the beer!
The guesthouse was in the new city of Sukhothai and therefore there wasn't much happening in the town. It seemed to be the converging point of all the noisiest birds in the country who perched on electric wires come dusk. Thankfully they were nice enough to miss my clothes when they shat on me (it's good luck right?). We took the local bus to the old city early one morning, and by bus I mean converted pick up truck with two wooden benches at the back, a good way to travel but by no means comfy after about 25 minutes.
The old city was stunning. We rented bicycles to get around and found it much more impressive than Ayutthaya which we visited last year and to which it is often compared. Most of the action is within the old city walls, it's filled with ancient crumbling temples and large ponds of water. Thankfully, it is also full of very large trees under which we had to shelter from the sun after about 11am.
Two nights I think was just right for Sukhothai as the old city is easily done in one day. So the decision was made to make our way to Phitsanulok, an hour east by bus, to join up with the railway line going south to Bangkok (about a 6 hour train journey) where we can get a bus to Kanchanaburi (approx. 3 hours). That sounds like a lot doesn't it, which is why we settled on staying a night in Phi'lok. A pretty uneventful night at that, the town from what we can tell isn't much to write home about, although to be honest we didn't see much of it. The only things of note were an unusual amount of people in what seemed to be an aerobics class in a park by the Nan River and joggers were out in force - the first time we've seen that anywhere - and a nice night market.
Onward to Kanchanaburi and the River Kwai *whistles*