Thailand: Day 4 (Sukhothai)

I'm not a morning person and rarely wake up before seven. . . except when I travel. By 6:30 am, we were all packed up, ready to go, and eating breakfast: 

The food options were endless: 

Breakfast buffets in Thailand typically included "dinner" entrees: 

We checked out of our hotel and looked for a ride to the bus station. We finally got our chance to ride a tuk-tuk:

With all of the luggage, there wasn't much room for passengers: 

Goodbye, Kantary Hotel. I hope to visit again someday. 

John told their driver he would pay extra if they beat us, so their tuk-tuk zoomed off ahead of ours: 

This is another one of my favorite pictures from the trip and will hopefully be on the wall at Thai Curry Kitchen. During rush hour traffic, we passed hundreds of motorcycle taxis. I was completely impressed with the women who could balance (sideways!) without holding on. 

The Ayutthaya bus terminal: 

The bus was about as punctual as the train. There was a lot of waiting. The kids eventually needed to use a restroom, and they thoroughly enjoyed the squatter toilets. . . 

Just kidding, they were mortified. You were supposed to take off your shoes and change into a pair of flip flops before entering the restroom, but Rachel was not about to take her sandals off and put on someone else's! This was one of the few times we needed our own toilet paper. It was really just one shared restroom: men went on one side and women on the other. The men's side had urinals, without doors. So I had the girls wait until there were no men in the restroom before they went in. And then they squatted.  

Steve was feeling a little homesick, so he got out his stuffed monkey: 

It was hot, and the kids bought straw fans to keep cool:

I went for a little walk down the street. There are telephone lines like this all over Thailand: 

Our bus finally arrived. . . a double decker with plush seats and televisions. No time for pictures; it was all very rushed. The bus was almost completely full, and our seats were completely separated. The driver spoke little English, but we communicated that we needed to sit with our kids. He moved some of the other passengers around to group us together. Except for Rachel, who uncharacteristically decided she wanted to sit by herself. Steve ended up at the very front of the top level with Kaleigh; I ended up in the very back row of the bus with Adam and Lucy. Our ride in the back was bumpy, but we had loads of legroom so I tried to get Steve to switch. Steve was happy with his set up because the televisions were showing some sort of Thai beauty contest, and Kaleigh was 100 percent glued to the "princesses". Not the best picture, but this gives you a better idea. Lucy and Adam were clearly intrigued with the beauty contest as well. . .

Here's a video of a public bus ride from Ayutthaya. 

As the bus drove through the narrow streets, I loved my perspective from the upper level. Ignore the blurriness of these pictures; they were drive-by shots. I actually felt like I was watching some sort of documentary: 

As the bus made stops, more seats opened up. Rachel migrated back to the row right in front of us and Lucy went to go sit in an empty seat next to her. The Thai woman next to me had three young children with her, all crammed into two seats. I motioned for her to move over into the empty seat (one of the only empty seats in the whole bus). That gave her three sleeping kids more room and she seemed very thankful. 

Some two-and-a-half hours into our ride, the bus stopped and almost everyone got off. We were still sitting there when a man told us in his very broken English, "Food. Off." So we got off. And posed for some pictures: 

I don't know what this place was called, but it was some sort of food court where the bus stops for lunch. It was completely unexpected and we kind of felt like we hit the jackpot. I took as many pictures as I thought I could. . . without really having a feel for what was okay with that sort of thing. 

There were over a dozen dishes plated up at each table and then the lady stood there with a swatter, trying to keep the flies off the food: 

These signs were on almost every table. Our friend says they translate into "Cash Only" which is interesting because we bought tickets when we walked in and used them to purchase food from each stand. 

The people didn't seem to mind the camera: 

In fact, this lady motioned me over to her and then posed: 


John went with this soup; we think it's called Guay Tiew: 

According to the expression on his face, he was a little concerned: 

Doesn't he look a little dejected in this picture? Sad that he's stuck eating soup while everyone else is trying the green papayas: 

They were a big hit: 

Lucy was still hungry, so she walked around and spotted Khao Man Gai, a fairly simple chicken and rice dish: 

She ultimately declared it the best thing she ate in all of Thailand. 

We drove for a few more hours, passing mountains, rice fields and roadside markets. And then we finally arrived at the terminal in Sukohothai: 

Kaleigh was asleep, as usual: 

Sometimes I would pull out my camera and go to take a picture of the Thompsons and then realize Lucy was sitting between them instead of Bradee. 

She liked to smile and pretend she was part of their family: 

Our first stop was at a backpackers to drop off two guys who joined us in the back of the truck. After talking to them, I was very relieved to be at a point in my life where I don't have to stay in hostels anymore. But we did enjoy the drive: 

Three to a scooter reminded me of our first trip to South Africa when Steve, Derrick, and his cousin would squish together to ride our scooter around Southernwood. 

School was just getting out and there were lots of kids in uniforms: 

It was hot and unbelievably muggy, but no complaints from these kids: 

As soon as we arrived at The Legendha Sukhothai, Adam and Maddie ran straight for the luggage cart. I told them to get off, but the porter motioned for them to hop back on. We had read in our travel book that Thai people would go out of their way to be nice to kids, and we found that to be completely accurate. 

Everyone was pretty excited about this welcome sign. Nice touch. . . 

The grounds at the Legendha Sukhothai Resort were absolutely beautiful. The staff didn't speak much English, but they were all incredibly kind. The rooms were smallish, so we were a bit cramped and ended up with three kids sleeping on the floor. (At only $55 per night, we probably should have booked two rooms.) 

We had planned on Sukhothai Historical Park being open till 8:00 pm, but when we checked into our hotel, they told us it closed at 6:00 pm. It was already 4:00 pm, so we really had to hustle. We dropped off our luggage and resisted all urges to jump in the pool: 

The hotel rented bikes, but they were in fairly poor condition and in need of air in the tires. We didn't really have any other options, so we took them anyway. There happened to be three bikes with extra seats on the backs, so Maddie hopped on with John, Kaleigh hopped on with Steve, and Adam hopped on with me. Unfortunately, the bikes with the extra seats were also the smaller-sized bikes. (And they were pink!)

We biked less than a mile down the road. There was a good amount of traffic, and I was relieved that the three younger kids were riding with adults. We were supposed to be going to Sukhothai Historical Park, but as soon as we saw the bridge to Wat Traphang Thong Lang, we thought we had arrived at the historical park. (We later realized that we turned turned about two blocks too soon.) 

These girls look slightly nervous. . . I don't blame them!

Just biking across a bridge with a monk. . . 

I wish I would have asked someone else to take this picture so I could be in it. This bike ride turned out to be my very favorite part of the whole trip: 

We were trying to follow a map, but it was difficult to read and I don't think it was very accurate. We ended up going past the Ban Mueang Kao Si Inthra Thit School:

And then we unknowingly headed south instead of north. . . 

It was too difficult to manage the bike with Adam and take pictures at the same time, so I traded with Lucy. Poor Steve. . . he was kind of struggling on his small bike. 

Here's another one of my favorite pictures: 

One of my friends commented on that picture when I posted in on Instagram and said it was dreamy. That's exactly what it was. It was the sort of bike ride that no tour company could take you on because then it would be too touristy. I'm not even sure I could recreate the experience myself. . . it was just perfect. 

Lacie was a champ and didn't even tell us that she wasn't a fan of riding bikes. (It would have been even better with more air in our tires.)

By the time we hit this road, it was obvious that we were going the wrong direction. I turned on my phone's cellular data and tried to use the Maps program, but it wasn't pulling things up. We were officially lost. 

But at least we were having a good time: 

Correction. The girls were having a good time. Steve and John were dying on their small, pink bikes with flat tires. The added weight of the kids on the back was making it really difficult for them to keep up. Steve traded bikes with Rachel: 

We tried to ask a few people for help with directions, but they didn't speak English well enough to communicate. I stopped a man on a road bike and asked him for help. He was a high school teacher who spoke fluent English. He ended up leading us all the way to our destination. 

Here we are waiting for Steve. . . Rachel traded bikes, and then Steve ended up with Adam again: 

At this point, we had ridden a distance of less than four miles, but it felt like so much more because of the complications with the bikes. 

We passed these cute girls with Cokes:

A roadside art gallery: 

And a cool scooter:  

And then we arrived at Wat Si Chum (The Temple of the Bodhi Tree): 

Wat Si Chum was built over 700 years ago and was reconstructed in the 1950s. The temple is a square shaped building, called a mandapa. with a 36-foot seated Buddha, who peers through the slit in the mondop. The mandate has a square base of 105 feet on each side and 50 feet tall and its walls are 3 feet thick. 

I want you to know that whenever you see a silly picture like this one. . . it was Steve's idea:

Another family arrived, so we went over to explore the smaller mandapa and smaller Buddha located some twenty yards to the north so we wouldn't disturb them.

As soon as the other family left, we went back to get a closer look at the Buddha, called the Phra Achana, but the gate was locked. It was only 5:40 pm, and the temple was supposed to be open until 6:00 pm, so I was a little bothered. 

Steve said not to worry about it and we walked back toward our bikes: 

I'm not sure why Adam stopped for some pushups: 

Or what, exactly, was going on here: 

But I went and asked the guard if he would open up the gate, and he said yes. 

Phra Achana means "Buddha who is not afraid". According to local legends, when Burmese soldiers invaded Sukhothai, they fled after seeing Phra Achana. 

The statue is also known as the "Talking Buddha". King Naresuan (1555-1605) set up camp at Wat Si Chum before a battle with the Burmese army. His army was low on confidence, so the king sent one of his soldiers up a secret staircase which leads to a small opening where somebody could stand to make a speech without being seen by anybody. The troops thought Buddha was speaking directly to them, and their morale was boosted. 

Wat Si Chum is one of the most historically significant temples in Thailand and is the most studied of any Thai temple. In the secret staircase, more than 50 engraved slates were discovered and represent the oldest surviving examples of Thai art. 

Then we biked over to Wat Phra Phai Luang: 

Wat Phra Phai Luang was built in the late 12th century and was the largest temple in the area. The temple was designed with three laterite prangs, but only one is still standing.

Rachel asked for a meditating picture: 

And then everyone wanted one: 

Bradee did a backflip and we wondered why we were wasting time with meditating pictures when she had those kinds of skills. I never got the perfect picture, but we sure had fun watching the kids play around on the lawn:  

Adam isn't a flipper or a backbender, so he asked me to take a picture of him with Maddie:

Rachel started jumping off of the columns: 

And then we decided it was time to go. (It was well past closing time, but there was nobody at the temple to enforce anything.) This is Steve telling me to put away my camera before I break it: 

I told him to smile so I could put it away. . . and he did: 

But then I didn't actually put it away. . . 

The kids all hopped on the back of bikes with each other, without us even asking: 

It was incredible: 

We passed a bunch of high school-aged boys playing soccer, and I wanted to stop and take pictures. Steve told me we were going to run out of daylight and needed to keep going. So we biked down the road and passed people in humble little cottages who pointed and and kindly tried to tell us we were going the wrong way. We had a map and our phone, but we were still confused. And by that time we had lost the Thompsons. We biked back the other direction to find them. . . they had stopped to play soccer with the boys. We heard all about how incredible it was and I wished we had stopped too. Steve was the responsible one, worrying about daylight and the fact that we were lost again. So we stopped and found these boys who were playing some sort of game that looked like hacky sack with a net: 

They spoke decent English, but were too engrossed with their game to pay much attention to us. We finally convinced a couple of them to drive their scooter back to the main road. We told them we would pay them, but once they got us back to the main road, they zoomed back to their game without bothering to accept any payment. 

We cautiously biked back down the dark, busy road. We could smell meat grilling. We could hear music, traffic, and other city noises. And we could see the lights from all of the roadside restaurants and shops. It was the best bike ride ever and probably my very favorite day in Thailand. 

I'm not sure why we don't have any pictures of the rest of the night. I was probably too busy swatting away mosquitos to pull out my camera. We finally got to go swimming, but it didn't last long because any part of your body that was out of water was being viciously attacked by mosquitos. Also, there was a close-talker in the pool who was telling me all about his international travels. I was slowly stepping backwards, away from him, but he just kept getting closer and closer, following me the entire length of the pool. He told me all about the benefits of traveling with a local. . . and a "nanny". And then I finally escaped. 

We went to dinner at the hotel's restaurant, but the kids were so tired that they didn't actually eat much. And then we went to sleep: 

What an amazing day. 

1 comment:

Gloria said...

Wow! So amazing!