Friday, August 07, 2009


I forgot to mention one thing in that last post. The girl who snarled at me at the station? Remember her? She was on my bus to Sukhothai and she just would not stop snarling and giving me dirty looks. Anyway, I had just gotten to the guesthouse and taken the last room, when who should show up? Snarling girl and her boyfriend. It was almost midnight and they were turned away because the place was full. I waved and smiled and wished them luck.

Established in the thirteenth century, Sukhothai (Rising of Happiness) was the very first capital of Siam. It is now known as Sukhothai Historical Park, filled with the ruins of the ancient capital. I had imagined a sort of Ayuthaya and was completely unprepared for what was waiting for me. I rented a bike to be able to see more of the place as it is quite spread out. If Ayuthya was stunning, then Sukhothai was spectacular and in at least one case for me, breathtaking. Seriously.

The first ruin, which is just past the entrance I used is Wat Mathahat. This was considered the spiritual center of the old city. It is filled with Buddhas and if you squint your eyes and use a little imagination, it is easy to visualize how magnificent it must have been.

One thing I really loved about Skuhothai Historical Park is the way they have kept everything sectioned off from the rest of the developing world. There were no phone lines going through the area, no McDonald’s arches enhancing the scenery. It was lush and green and full of ponds with Lotus flowers in bloom. Most people were on bicycles or walking and there was no graffiti anywhere. I saw no declarations of love carved into old walls as I have seen on way too many places.

From Wat Mathahat, I was determined to see Wat Si Chum. I got a bit lost, but I love it when that happens. I stumbled across Wat Chang Rop, a chedi with a base of elephants. Everyone knows I have a HUGE love of elephants and this was a most welcome surprise and I took a bit of a break from biking to just sit back and admire it. To most people, it is probably not such a big thing, but for me, it was perfect.

From there I went to Wat Si Chum and I can honestly say from the first sight, I gasped. It was amazing. The Wat itself is very small and there is a narrow opening facing the entrance. It is through that opening that one gets a glimpse of the twenty five meter high Buddha sitting inside. I can’t explain it, really, but just when you get to a point where you think you have kind of seen it, to have something that incredible appear was just awesome. As it was a bit further away by bike and most people can’t take the heat (I feel it is a bit cool compared to Delhi) I had the place to myself.

I won’t say much more about the park as I think the pictures will do a much better job of explaining it that I ever could.

All too soon it was time to head back, shower and get to the bus station for the trip to Mae Sot. What I thought would be a nice bus, like the one from Ayuthaya to Sukhothai, turned out to be an overcrowded minivan. Two guys were sitting in the narrow aisle on chairs made for children, but they where the only ones that would fit between the actual seats. It all started off ok, but once we hit the mountains, it became a white-knuckle ride. We zigged and zagged at top speed, slowing down only for the military checkpoints. To add to the entertainment, the woman to my left would sniff from her inhaler about every three to five minutes. I timed it. And then she would act really weird for a few minutes, doing all sorts of odd things with her fingers and the window. Because she kept looking at me and smiling, I thought she was trying to show me something of interest, a temple or elephant perhaps. But I realized she was just in her own space and began to wonder if there wasn’t glue in her inhaler.

And as if one sniffing woman on a minivan is not enough, the air suddenly filled the a sweet citrusy smell. The woman to my right was holding a green orange and using her thumbnail to press little dents into the skin, releasing the smell. She would then shove it against her nose and hold it there for a few seconds. She repeated the process 8 times (yes, I counted) and then put the orange back in her handbag and zipped it up.

It was in the downpour of the monsoon that I arrived in Mae Sot without a place to stay arranged. That is part of the plan this trip… No plans. Play it by ear and see what happens. Lucky for me, I got a place that is basically a group of teak bungalows all spread out around a garden. There is no bar here, no restaurant except for breakfast, and ever that is toast and coffee or tea. For beer or anything else, there are places just a couple of minutes walk away, but here, here in this place is silence and nature. The chorus of frogs who are going to be singing me to sleep tonight.

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