Cycling around the Sukhothai Historical Park
“Fifty baht,” “ten baht,” “no no no,” “Okay, twenty baht, and that’s a good price,” I said, with a cheeky smile on my face. “Okay, but need more people,” he said, moving hastily towards a group of backpackers who were sleepily stepping off an air-conditioned bus. The songthaew filled up with a collection of foreigners from all over the world. Small talk soon reared its ugly head amongst the group. “Where are you from?” “New York.” “Cool.” Silence filled the air as I sat back, smiling at the awkwardness of it all.
The songthaew took us into the center of Sukhothai, stopping at a resort alongside the river. It was funny because many people – including myself – didn’t have a place to stay that night yet I was the only person to ask for a room. At 150 baht a night I nearly bit their hand off. The staff at the Sila resort didn’t take long to install a smile on my face as they loaded me with information on the new town, and the old historical park, all in perfect English. The whole place gave me a real warm feeling; rocking back and forth on the swinging bench listening to some softly playing Thai music sent my mind into that tranquil state I wish I could achieve everyday.
An early morning songthaew took me into the old historical park which is home to another of Thailand’s world heritage sites. The site contains the remains of Thailand’s first capital which flourished from the mid-13th century to the late 14th century. Like Ayyuthaya, the ruins were spread out over town so I rented another bicycle, and pedalled into the morning sun with my usual enthusiasm. There were a lot more tourists than I’d expected, and the sight of menu boards offering Western style breakfasts clearly catered for that. It made me cringe watching Thai women shouting over to tourists to rent their bicycles, or eat their food. It’s not in their culture to do that, and it’s certainly not something I wanted to experience.
I soon escaped the bulk of tourists to the peace and quiet of the ruins. I enjoyed Sukhothai more than Ayyuthaya and Lopburi because of its setting. The most popular ruins were contained by the old city wall, and nearly all the other ruins were far enough from the road to maintain a sense of calm, allowing your imagination to re-create a scene relative to the age of the ruins. The forest of trees within the walls were beautiful to cycle under, providing a much needed shade from the blistering sun, as I cycled from one ruin to the next with growing fascination.
Wat Si Chum contained a huge Buddha image which had been well re-constructed, returning it closely to its original state. As I approached, prayers streamed out from the interior walls, echoing its religious importance. A monk sat before the Buddha, deep in prayer, whilst followers joined him in tune. An enjoyable experience created by the hypnotic ambience of the ruin, bringing stillness to the mind through focus and repetition. As the day came to an end, I climbed the rocky terrain towards Wat Saphan Hin which offered a picturesque viewpoint of the town. The seated Buddha stared out over the people, providing guidance and protection to all its following. The whole road leading back to the center of town contained many dirt tracks leading up to similar ruins. It was the perfect place to find solitude as the sun dropped lazily from the sky.
After a full day of adventure, I chose to spend the next day swinging in the hammock, dreaming up new ideas to incorporate into my journey. I was quite settled on exploring more of Thailand’s national parks, so I was excited to find out that there were two just a few hours away by bus. I decided to go all out and buy a tent from the supermarket so I didn’t have to keep renting one – it soon adds up. Now, it said it was waterproof on the packet, but I had seen these single layer tents in action when it rained, they always leaked. But hey, it doesn’t rain in the hot season… right? Guess there’s only one way to find out.
Catch you soon guys,
Love Jonathan x
Backpackers Tips and Advice
The Sila resort is one of the best places I’ve stayed at in Thailand. Because it has rooms running up to 1200 baht, it has it’s own restaurant – which is pretty cheap, and the whole place is decorated and furnished with style. They do free shuttle buses to/from the bus station, and from the resort to the bus stop where you can take the songthaew into the old historical park.
I always keeping a running list of how much things cost in Thailand to help you plan your finances more accurately if you are budgeting for a trip.