After a weekend of all-go in Kanchanaburi I thought I needed to spend the next one doing something more relaxing. It was yet another long weekend here as Monday was Makha Bucca Day, which seemed to be a celebration of Buddha combined with another Chinese New Year shin-dig. Whatever the occasion, I'm always happy for a day off work, so decided to go North to Sukhothai, one of the ancient capitals of Thailand which is crammed full of ruined wats (temples).
Saturday morning began with an hour bus ride to the neighbouring province of Lopburi, standing sardined next to a rather sweaty large Thai man. I thought I remembered the train station being just down the road from the bus station and as I was an hour or so early I thought I'd walk it. In the early morning sun with a heavy overnight bag this may have not been a wise decision, especially when it turned out to in fact be a very, very long walk. But I would not be defeated so I ignored all the sangthaews and motorbike taxi's which beeped at me. Once I got near, dodging the monkeys which congregate around the central part of town, I breakfasted on rice and omelette, then I boarded my train for the three hour journey to Phitsanulok. About an hour into it they brought round lunch... it was 11.15! I seem to have a distinct inability to resist food and ate it despite the fact I'd only just had a huge breakfast. Once in Phitsanulok I sangthawed to the bus station from where I had another hour ride to New Sukhothai. A Thai lady sat next to me on the bus and I think I made her year by letting her practice her English with me, her name was Dew and she'd resigned from her job to teach herself English. At first I was a bit dubious about being too chatty as within the first five mins she'd asked me for my email address so she could get in touch so she could ask me questions. But we chatted away for the hour and she was actually very sweet, and turned out to be my saviour at the bus station when we arrived as my GH couldn't collect me and there were no motorbike taxi's in sight. Getting lost numerous times along the way, Dew took me there herself and we arranged to meet up for a drink in Old Sukhothai the next day.
My room at the GH was really more like a cupboard, and that's being generous about it. It was a shared bathroom with hot shower, and the hot shower would have made me ecstatically happy were it not for the two dozen mossies I had to share it with... I guess that's another meaning behind it being 'shared'! That afternoon I went around the New city, saw a few sights, obviously with a couple of temples thrown in, read my book, grabbed a fruit shake at a surreal antiquey cafe and generally just relaxed. In the evening I went to a restaurant recommended by my trusty Lonely Planet, not so much because it was recommended by them but more because it was called 'Poo', which is one of fave and most frequently used words. The food luckily didn't live up to it's name! Had a wander around the night market afterwards, which had lots of food stalls to tempt me, which I resisted, well done me. Caught a bit of Thai singing and dancing, which was all part of the Makha Bucca Day celebrations.
The next morning I left early for Old Sukhothai which has been dubbed a 'Historical Park', divided into five sections (central, North, East, South and West, like London), which means they can get away with charging tourists 100b entry per section. This is where my work permit showed its worth again as I paid 75b total. I hired a dodgy old bicycle and pedalled myself around for about seven hours. It really was quite something, I know a ruin's a ruin, but some of these were truly breathtaking. The surroundings were so serene, I just spent hours cycling through limitless countryside with views only of fields and mountains. It's unlike any place I've been in Thailand so far and was so grateful for the peace and 'me-time.' I stopped at lunchtime for some som tam and sticky rice, which fuelled me to do some shopping and I bought myself a wooden panel hanging of Buddha for about four quid. With a very sore bum and achey legs I deposited my bike back and went to meet Dew for a fruit shake, served in a mug with a leopard-print-thonged cartoon man on the front! We chatted some more and she took me to meet her mum who sold veg at the local market. Then we went to feed the fish and I saw some crazy big thing in the water which looked a cross between a fox and a turtle?! Back in New Sukhothai that night I had dinner in the market where the stalls had tempted my tastebuds the night before.
After a good hour traipsing round New Sukhothai on Monday morning in seach for Kanom Kliao and Tua Tort (famous local delicacies) I headed back to Phitsanulok. As has become routine, I checked out the main temples, did some shopping in their local market. I found a stall up a side-street which had chicken curry for 10b but I got more bone and gristle than actual chicken so didn't eat a great deal and therefore needed a second lunch when I got to the train station, five mins down the road. Sat next to yet another very sweet Thai lady on the train home, this time who spoke minimal English so I tried my best in Thai and I think she was impressed as she gave me a little wooden keyring from Chiang Mai, where she was travelling from, and a little note saying 'Welcome to Thailand.' Back in Lopburi I was put on the bus back to Saraburi laden with even more bags so grateful to find a seat near the back. It proved a minor mission in itself though to get off the bus... through the aisle of the bus with all my bags when there were about thirty people standing in it.
My usual final thought: this weekend was well-needed after what had been a pretty tough few weeks at work. I enjoyed having some time to myself, met some very nice people along the way, bought some bits, added to my Wat list rather considerably, and, most importantly, I ate in a restaurant called 'Poo'!