We caught the train from Lampang to Phitsanulock early on Tuesday 31st. We had the option of paying 780 Baht for the rapid train 2nd class which would take 2 hours or so or wait a little longer and pay 80 odd Baht for the 3rd class train. Didn't really clock at the time that it was scheduled to take 5 hours but hey - it was cheap ok?
Third class is pretty basic. The seats are a hard brown beige plastic, but there are fans whirring continuously overhead and the windows open almost fully so it doesn't get too stuffy inside. It stops at EVERY station along the way, including little sheds on the trackside that also serves as a shelter for the buffalo that wander nearby. People occasionally jump on and off, laden down with sticky rice and bbq chicken and water and weird little fishball things on sticks to sell you in case you are hungry. The beautiful countryside drifts by - every now and then you would go over rivers and negotiate minor gradients in the track that would stretch the poor engine to the point where we had almost stopped. We would wave to people at the stations and the farmers in fields where the big fat yellow rice is being harvested accross the region. It took 6 hours in the end. Partly because we had to go so slowly on the slopes and also had to stop at the mouth of each tunnel for some reason oh and we had to wait for the driver to get off and go to the toilet... It didn't matter. It was a real adventure and we arrived at Phitsanulock happy and in search of accom. It was getting late and the sound of the billions of small birds around the station was deafening. I remember the same at the Stazione Termini in Rome where they would flock in their THOUSANDS.
We knew a few places to head towards and eventually found a room in the Hotel London which, like the train, was basic but servicable. The bed was almost brutally hard and the shared shower/loos were ok but it was somewhere to stay for 150 Baht - our cheapest yet!
We sayed in Phitsanulock for two days, exploring the town and arranging accom in Sukothai which is only an hour away. Everywhere was making preparations for the Loi Krathon festival with lights and stages being built and big krathons, shaped like lotus flowers floating on the river so it was really exciting to feel the build up.
The Tourist Office is located along Healthy Road, near the Hospital. It is also called Healthy Road because they have all sorts of gym equipment by the roadside for people to use free of charge. Chez and I tested it out, much to the amusement of the hundreds of schoolkids that descended on us the moment we got into the swing of it!
We liked Phitsanulock immensely. The night market is really buzzing and you can pick up really funky t-shirts at really good prices (I'm rapidly ruining my clothes as I go) and we ate at the same street kitchen for three nights as the cooking was astonishingly good and versalite. We have got to the point now of ordering as the Thais do - that is without reference to a menu and just telling them what you fancy eating and they'll cook it for you! On closer inspection we need to speed up the process to be truly authentic as Thais start ordering the moment they arrive, before they have even sat down!
We managed to secure three nights accom in a night place in the new town of Sukothai during the Loi Krathon festival. A lot of places are full so we knew we had to prebook something before arriving. We left for Sukothai on Friday 3rd and settled into the swing of the Loi Krathon festival!
Dan & Chez x x