Day 163: Sukhothai, Thailand. After a late breakfast this morning, we wandered around to the bike hire shop next to the guesthouse.
As always, Jim had a little trouble finding a bike big enough to fit him. The Thai ladies who own the bike shop kept dragging out different bikes, which all seemed to be mostly the same size, just in different colours and different states of disrepair. He ended up with a bike that was just about manageable, with the highest handlebars we’ve ever seen – once again looking like a cartoon character.
And much to Lil’s amusement, either by some coincidence or perhaps destiny, Jim once again ended up with a saddle that said ‘Special’ and which looked like it should support his delicate bum very nicely.
We climbed on our bikes and headed back into the central zone of the historical park, where we’d walked around the market and food stalls last night. We weaved through the stalls to reach the main sites in the complex: Wat Mahathat built in 1292, with its huge stupa and two giant Buddhas, one on each side, Wat Tra Kuan which dates from 1400; Wat Sa Si which sits on an island; and Wat Si Sawai which again is from the late 12th century and is adapted from an earlier Hindu shrine for Vishnu. A very impressive collection of old buildings.
When we’d finished at the central zone, we pedalled out and around the western zone, a quiet uncurated area housing dozens more wats. A bunch of them were on hillsides overlooking the main historic park, so we had to keep parking our bikes at the bottom and dragging ourselves uphill in the scorching afternoon sun. The ride was only about 8km, but the frequent stops every few hundred metres meant it took a couple of hours.
Our favorite wat in the western zone was Wat Chedi Ngam, which is at least as impressive as those in the main town, and we had the entire place to ourselves.
On the way back we stopped for drinks at a small cafe in the main park. A pair of German guys, also with bikes and looking a little heat fatigued, sat next to us chatting and then promptly nodded off into their cokes.
When we got back to the town, we pedalled down the street to find the bus station and buy tickets for tomorrow’s trip to Lampang. The station is just a hole in the wall with a dozen blue plastic seats. The guy behind the counter shook himself awake to serve us, while his colleague remained fast asleep on the floor behind him.
A German girl with brightly glowing red skin walked into the station while we were there, to exchange two tickets she’d purchased online (we’d say her chances weren’t too high). Clearly needing to explain why she looked like a large tomato, she said her current sunscreen didn’t seem to work, but she’d just bought a different higher factor one. Let’s hope that one works, or she’ll be heading straight for the local hospital.
We returned the bikes to the hire shop, and had a much needed snooze in our room for a couple of hours. We inadvertently booked a room with a fan rather than air conditioning (with no option to switch), and as a result had a bit of a restless night’s sleep last night.
We had dinner at another eatery next to our guesthouse – there’s a whole strip of restaurants and cafes, mostly selling Thai food but with the occasional one offering pizza and chips for any westerners who can’t live without home comforts. Lil caught up with the news in the Bangkok Times and Jim puzzled over a cryptic crossword.
While we were eating, a bunch of fireworks and lanterns launched from the historical park in front of us – more celebrations for the Loi Krathong festival.
We headed home for an early night, then Jim decided to go back out again for the 11pm fireworks display, which started at 10.30pm and only lasted two minutes. All a little odd.
Tomorrow we pack up again and catch the bus to Lampang for a couple of days. And who knows, perhaps we’ll be able to hire bikes again and find another ‘special’ saddle for Jim’s delicate bum.