Today, once again, we woke up early to get out and about and funnily enough this morning there was no sign of the strange and somewhat suspicious looking birds that seemed to be haunting Sukhothai last night. We walked the shortish distance to the main road to get to the bus stop so we could catch one of the local Jeepneys which we hoped would take us to Sukhothai Historical Park the main place that we had on our list to see whilst we were here.
Once we caught it our Thai transport trundled along slowly, very slowly but as slow as it was it was also very cheap too so for the sake of our pockets we had to put up with it. Eventually though and before the park actually closed we reached our destination and the first thing we did was to pick up the pace quite a bit by hiring ourselves bikes so we could tour the place pedal power style! Now this is not quite as easy as it sounds as the place is huge and there is an enormous amount to see there, so we started with the bigger and easier stuff first at the main part of the park which was situated quite near the bike hire place.
The first Wat in this part of the park that we visited was Wat Mahathat. This is the most important and most impressive temple complex in the park and the name means ‘temple of the great relic’, although the locals know it as Wat Yai ‘the big one’ and we could soon enough see why. The huge Wat was built using a mix of the pink stone and the white and even though the day was a bit overcast it was still quite a stark looking contrast against the lush green grass of what was now the park’s gardens. In here there was a main sitting Buddha before which you could leave an incense stick, which my wife duly did, possibly in prayer that the rains would hold off!
From here it was just a short cycle ride to the next Wat – Wat Si Sawai, now this has three prangs which are regarded as being ancient and of some quite considerable significance, though the board describing the Wat never exactly said why! I myself found this Wat to be a bit better than it’s bigger brother Mahathat as it seemed more cosy and informal – if they are the right kind of words that you can use to describe a Wat. Here the carvings above the lintel and on much of the stonework, especially the cornerstones was amazingly intricate and I really do enjoy thinking of how difficult it must have been for the workers with just hand-tools to produce such work, I certainly don’t think my hands would be steady enough for the task!
Wat Traphang Ngoen was the next Wat we visited. The main buildings here had been placed on an island in the middle of a reservoir and the main Chedi here built in the shape of a Lotus Bud. It has recesses containing walking Buddha images making it quite different from any other such Lotus Bud Chedi. It was whilst we were on the way to our next bit of Wattage that we came across a punch bag (!) suspended in a little covered area so Liz decided to show me what she had learnt from the trip out to the Muay Thai Boxing the other night, though I seemed to detect that her fighting style was a bit more like the Karate Kid! After Liz had given the bag a thorough good hiding it was once again off on our bikes for the next stop.
The next was called Wat Sa Si and once again this one had been built in the middle of a reservoir called Traphang Trakuan. The reservoir with its lilypads really looked quite beautiful even though a bit of sunshine and blue sky would have made it even better. The ride around the park was really quite beautiful, if a little hot and humid as the place does take a lot of getting around. First bit done we started moving northwards towards the part of the park situated outside the city wall.
As we moved towards going beyond the city walls we came across Wat Sorosak which has a Llana style chedi which is all in red and it is held aloft by a series of small white elephants. This was quite a nice little place really and as it was off the beaten track we just about had the place to ourselves. As you go on you realise there is not that much left of the old city walls except mounds, so they are still there but somewhat buried. The cattle are the only ones who seem to pay that much notice of the mounds.
Then we reached Wat Phra Phai Luang this is a wee bit more ruined than most but it seems to cover an awful amount of ground, so must have been quite something ‘back in the day’. All that is left now are just tantalising glimpses of what once was, quite a shame really but by now the weather was warming up quite considerably so it would have been nice just to have a lie down on the lush green grass but we had plenty of other Wats to visit on our travels yet.
Wat Si Chum was our next discovery and this was most unlike any of the other Wats that we had seen before. Instead this Wat was a bit like seeing a giant’s box that inside holds a Buddha and at first you just catch snippets of the statue until there he is right in front of you looking huge and serene. The overall illusion was really very impressive today so I can only imagine what the pilgrims who came here to light their incense sticks or leave their garlands, must have felt about the place. We would have loved to have stayed round here and tarried awhile but our bellies were telling us they needed feeding so we hopped it back towards the main structures as this was where there was the best chance to grab something to eat.
So it was that we ended up at little eatery overlooking the main road of the park, not that there is much traffic to view but it also overlooked some of the ancient buildings and reservoirs which was nice. The lunch matched the view as it was really good, I had a nice and tasty curry and Liz plumped for Sukhothai Noodle Soup, now this I thought was hot enough but she decided to SchuZZ it up a bit more with some Hot Chilli paste. Now this addition was enough to make flames come out my mouth when I tried it whilst Liz just broke out sweating buckets and going bright red … lol!
After eating as time was getting on a bit we went to the Park’s museum which was at the Park entrance near both the bus stop and the bike hire place close enough to return the bikes. The museum is a good enough visit but we were already start to wear down from the many many Buddhas we had seen on the ride and the museum just about tipped us over the edge. Don’t get me wrong it was all interesting enough and there were many bits we did like but we were now starting to droop! I liked the slates which were representations or the real thing from Wat Si Chum and there was a light up map that we loved having a press of but it was now time to go ‘home’.
By the time we got the bikes back to the hire place we just about had enough time to jump on the Jeepney for the return trip back to Sukhothai town. Our return bus was once again snail-powered but this was okay because it was school time and the kids needed to be able to jump on it. By the time we reached town which seemed like it was a week or so later it was now bucketing it down with rain so we then had to put on our Kagools. By now mine was in a pretty poor state of repair – both arms were hanging off it, there was a serious rip around where the head should go which looked like someone had tried to decapitate me and the side was unseamed. So my Kagool was actually more hole than the cheap blue plastic that is was made of. Even the poorest of the Thais appeared to be looking at me with something which after a while I realised was pity, pity of all things!
After all the exertion we decided to rest up for a while before coming back out to eat. We were a bit too weary to wander too far so just round the corner from our hotel there was a nice looking Italian restaurant and it was to here that we bolted. Now apart from it being close it had not too much else going for it, even drowning our sorrows was a bit of a chore as every time we ordered a drink the owner would walk through to the back and then you would hear him run down the street to go and buy our ordered drinks from the nearby supermarket. I had ordered Minced Pork Lasagne BUT rather than remove the Bay Leaves they left the leaves in, this meant the dish was very very bitter which put a bit of a downer on the meal.
Still, as I explained, we were just round the corner from home so getting back was only a quick jaunt away. However, once again when back at the hotel we could not get our key to work … Doh! So, once again we had to wake the old lady watch-woman who seemed awfully disgruntled about the whole affair but even she could not make our key work this time – ha ha, in your face old lady!