Tim and I took a 6 hour bus from Bangkok to Sukhotai, and were taken under the wings of a sweet Thai tuk tuk driver with cerebral palsy. Communicating with him made me realize how little we actually rely on language to understand each other, rather than body language, gestures etc (the old Mastercard advert springs to mind where it stated only 95% of communication is non-verbal!).
The driver took us to a very nice guesthouse, after a fashion, where we were greeted by a heavily pregnant lady and a very cute young Jack Russell. I am now opening my mind to the possibility of having one of them instead of a lurcher when my lifestyle can eventually accommodate a dog. Watch this space.... He was so bouncy, and absolutely everything was exciting to him, it was hard not to fall in love with him!
After months of cold showers, squat toilets, and sleeping in hot sticky rooms with poor fans, we were so happy our room had air conditioning, a hot shower and an enormous bed (all for £5 or so), with delicious muesli, with yogurt and fruit, and fresh coffee with sweet milk for breakfast. By the time we left, we were well fed and rested.
We hired a moped (good old Tim - no, I don't dare have a go! I only passed my driving test a couple of weeks before I came travelling!) and took off to go and explore the historical park. Sukhotai was the first capital of the ancient Thai kingdom, and the park consists of 21 historical sites and 70 further sites in the surrounding few kilometres. It is one of Thailand's most impressive World Heritage sites, and I could see why.
We hired push bikes and spent a happy few hours cycling around the ruins that dated back to the 12th and 13th centuries. The ruined temples would not look out of place in an Indiana Jones movie. They had an almost mystical quality, as I contemplated how much has happened in the world since they were built. The park in which they are located is lush and green, with ancient trees offering welcome shelter from the alternating scorching sunshine and torrential rain we experienced while we were there. Some of the temples are situated on islands, visited by bridges over ponds and moats. Some of the ponds were filled with beautiful lotus flowers. All very picturesque.
One of the temples, Wat Si Chum, consisted of a particularly beautiful Buddha that was 15m high, with such a peaceful face and long, elegant fingers that twinkled in gold leaf from worshippers. The Buddha was enclosed in a walled area, and seemed to peek cheekily out on our approach. Tim took a great photo of a monk taking a photo of the Buddha on his mobile phone.
We clambered up a hill to admire another ancient Buddha high up overlooking the historical park and the plains to the mountains in the distance. It was all very impressive, especially the array of less visited temples outside of the historical park itself. One had statues of elephants all round the base of the chedi. I had not realized that the grass prickling my legs by the temple was actually thousands of grass seeds embedding themselves scratchily in my trousers, which took Tim and I hours to extricate with tweezers and pink gaffa tape.
After another night in our comfy room, it was time to move on to Lampang.