Day 162: Phitsanulok & Sukhothai, Thailand. When we’d finished packing up this morning, we headed downstairs for breakfast at the hotel. Toast and coffee for Lil; fried pork and rice with a copious amount of fresh chilli for Jim. Even Jim said it was ‘rather a lot of chilli’ first thing in the morning.
We checked out, left our backpacks at reception, and wandered out to take a look at Wat Phra Si Rattana Mahathat (also known as Wat Yai, which is a heck of a lot easier to say and write).
The highlight of Wat Yai is Phra Phuttha Chinnarat, an exquisite bronze seated Buddha statue. It’s believed to have been made under the supervision of King Phraya Lithai back in the 1300s. At the time, Phitsanulok was capital of the Sukhothai kingdom. It’s housed in an elaborately decorated temple with murals and paintings depicting scenes from King Naresuan’s elephant battle which happened some 300 years later.
One of the outlying temples has a unique Buddha statue lying in cremation pose with its feet sticking out. The temple also has amazing mother of pearl inlaid doors donated by King Boromakot in 1756.
After our wander around the wat, we walked back to the hotel to retrieve our backpacks, then headed to Phitsanulok bus station to catch a bus to Sukhothai.
We had over an hour’s wait, which gave us some time to catch up on our books. We also had the not-so-awesome opportunity to watch a girl who appeared to be squeezing her boyfriend’s zits.
The bus was stuffy and ridiculously hot with air conditioning that barely worked. Any occasional puffs of cold air were quickly dismissed by the searing hot sun beating through the window. Thankfully the journey was less than an hour and a half and we arrived at Sukothai bus station, jumped into a tuk tuk, and were at our guesthouse before 5pm.
We settled into the guesthouse, then headed out for a walk around the perimeter of zone 1 of Sukhothai historical park. There are three zones which make things a little complex – all with separate entry gates and separate entry fees. Most people just focus on zone 1 which is where some of the primary attractions lie.
We’re really fortunate to be staying in Sukhothai during the annual Loi Krathong and Candle Festival 2019, which is celebrated nationally on the 11th day of the twelfth lunar month. The festival started on 2 November and is now in full swing, with ten days of activities including floating lights, sky lanterns, fireworks, music, traditional entertainment, fighting arts, a huge market in the zone 1 grounds and the Miss Noppamas Beauty Contest.
The market was underway as we walked past early evening, so we wandered up the main avenue and spent a couple of hours trying different foods, looking at craft stalls, and walking around the lit up monuments, shrines and grounds. It’s a very impressive event and as Jim remarked, whoever the operations manager is, they’re a legend. Just getting the many hundreds of food vendors into the venue and set up must be a huge logistical challenge in itself.
A guy was cooking some very large crispy wafers over a small open fire at one of the stalls. Lil got a large bag and we munched our way through most of them as we walked around. They were slightly sweet and very moreish.
Jim meanwhile spotted a stall selling an impressive selection of edible bugs, and bought a large bag of black slightly greasy crickets. He scoffed the lot in less than 5 minutes, while Lil walked next to him wrinkling her nose in disgust.
We had dinner at a small restaurant next to our guesthouse – excellent chilli pork and dry green curry. Jim dug out a cocktail stick at one point, and when Lil asked what it was for, he replied “I’ve got a cricket leg stuck in my teeth”. Ewww.
Tomorrow we’re planning to hire bikes and pedal around the historical park in daylight (zone 1 at least). And perhaps Jim will find some more bugs to scoff along the way.