10.11.2014

Thailand: Day 5 (Sukhothai Historical Park & Chiang Mai)

I know that I said Day 4 was my favorite day in Thailand. . . had it not been for my torture session Thai massage, Day 5 would have been a close contender. 

As usual, we woke up bright and early. The grounds of the Lengendha Sukhothai Resort were beautiful with the morning light: 


Monks in Thailand wake up at 4:00 am for one hour of meditation, followed by one hour of chanting. Then they walk around barefoot, collecting food from people in the local area: 


The hotel was all set up with rice and bags of curry to give to the monks.


Adam was still in his pajamas, but he was the only one out there ready to give food to the first set of monks, who arrived at 6:03 am. 


The lady from the hotel helped him and showed him just what to do, which was perfect because then I could take pictures. 


Such an amazing experience!


At any given time, there are between 200,000 and 300,000 monks in Thailand with and additional 100,000 novices (boys under twenty years old). Every man is expected to be a monk at some point during his life. They can remain monks for as long as they wish, even just for one day. Some choose to remain in monkhood for the rest of their lives, but three months is the average. Thai monks can be seen wearing various shades of robes, from dark brown to the familiar saffron. Female monks wear white.


The containers the monks are carrying are called alms bowls. If a woman offers something to a monk, it must pass through a third medium. When the monks don't have the alms bowls, they always carry a piece of cloth for this purpose. The monk will lay the cloth on the ground or table, holding on to one end. The woman places the offering on the cloth and then the monk draws it away. 


Rachel and Lucy came out to hear the chanting: 

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There was still plenty of food left, so we knew more monks were coming: 


Maddie and Bradee came out just in time to give alms to the next monk: 


The Thai greeting, which consists of a slight bow with the palms pressed together in a prayer-like fashion is called the wai: 


Remember how our hotel stay only cost $55? It included another full breakfast: 


We set up transportation to Chiang Mai and packed up our luggage. Just as we were ready to leave, Adam fell in the pool:


It's a good thing he is cute:


There are no trains to Sukhothai, so the best options for transportation are public bus or hiring a private car. We really wanted to go into Sukhothai Historical Park to see the rest of the ruins, so we hired a van. (We assumed that they would speak English and would be able to answer all of our questions on the drive, but that was not the case.)


Sukhothai Historical Park was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1991. (You might have noticed that we really like World Heritage Sites.) There are temple ruins in every direction. . . 21 within the walls of the Old City and another 70 within a three-mile radius of the park.


This is Wat Mahathat, the most important and impressive temple in Sukhothai:


Many cities have a Wat Mahathat, which translates to "temple of the great relic".


Any guesses whose idea this pose was?


We should have been up an hour or so earlier to catch the best light, but that's okay. . . it's entertaining to watch kids squint into the sun:


The Old City, which is only about one square mile, was protected by three layers of walls and two moats. There are temple ruins in every direction:


It was a lot to take in (and try to photograph) all at once. I would have liked to have had an hour or two to explore by myself, without worrying about where the kids were.


Okay, I probably could have used four or five hours by myself. The ruins deserve to be admired and  photographed from every direction:


But it was so incredibly awesome to have the kids with us and watch them admire the ruins: 


Kaleigh might actually be Buddhist (this picture was not posed): 


This picture was posed: 


Well, at least we tried: 


Sukhothai Historical Park would be the ultimate place for a game of hide-and-go-seek. It was kind of surprising that there weren't any guards around. . .


It wasn't even nine, and we were already dripping with sweat. Everyone naturally gravitated towards the shade: 


The kids climbed on this massive tree for a while, until they got grossed out by all of the bugs: 


We posed for this picture: 


And then we walked back through the park again. So incredible!


The dog wasn't impressed: 


It was at that moment that Adam announced that he had lost his iPod. We were in a hurry to get on the road and that iPod could have been anywhere. Steve took Adam running back to find it; I didn't mind because that gave me more time to take pictures: 


Within two minutes they passed a local Thai man who held it up and said, "This is for the boy." He insisted on handing it directly to Adam. It was kind of amazing. 


We drove over to the other side of Traphang Trakuan Lake, northwest of Wat Mahathat, to see Wat Sa Si. We crossed this wooden bridge to a small island:


We passed some workers who were busy reconstructing some damaged ruins:


When we approached Wat Sa Si, there was a woman there, worshiping. She was kind of like a ninja. . . there one second:


And then gone the next: 


The circular stupa behind the seated Buddha is called a chedi. Because of this temple's location on the water, it is one of the most beautiful in Sukhothai. 


We really could have spent the whole day exploring the ruins in Sukhothai, but we needed to get on the road to Chiang Mai.

We stopped just outside of Sukhothai at some rice fields and checked our this san phra phum (spirit house):


Then it was back in the van for more driving:


It wasn't too much further that we stopped for a bathroom break:


I hadn't eaten breakfast at the hotel, so I went inside the gas station and got some yogurt drinks and this mung bean filled roll: 


The private van was definitely more expensive than taking the public bus, but it worked out to be the best way for us to see the historical park. Just under four hours after we left the historical park, we arrived in Chiang Mai. Our transit time was a solid hour or two less than a bus ride would have been and we didn't have to pay for a ride to and from the bus station. . . or wait for the bus to be an hour late. 


We actually passed on the first hotel we had found online, so then our driver took us to the Aruntara Riverside Hotel


Checking is was a big fiasco. We found significantly better prices online than they were offering at the registration desk and finally negotiated $76 dollars per night, no breakfast. (We later regretted not paying extra for the breakfast, but I was being stingy.) Then they told us three people maximum per room. We were okay booking two rooms for our family of six, but the Thompsons weren't going to book two rooms for their family of four. The lady at the front desk insisted, so I asked to talk to the manager. It was ridiculous. . . they finally agreed to let us put ten people in three rooms after I explained (for the eighth time) that our kids were young and couldn't be in a room by themselves. Then they requested everyone's passports. And then they needed to see who was sleeping in each room. It was maddening. (Especially because we felt so bad about our drivers, who were still parked outside with all of our luggage.) 


We finally got everything squared away with the hotel manager, paid our driver (with a generous tip), and checked in. The rooms were awesome: 


So was the pool: 


And so was this complimentary plate of fruit:


As soon as we unloaded our luggage into our rooms, we hopped in the back of this truck for a ride to town: 


This is Wat Pra Singh Voramahavihara (I took pictures of the signs so I could remember). This is Chiang Mai's most important temple and the largest within the Old City:


We were wishing we had remembered our sun umbrellas like these monks:


Because it was hot


Our first official stop in Chiang Mai was at the Beary Bear Fish Spa. For 99 baht ($3), you can put your feet into a water tank filled with toothless Garra rufa fish:


The nibble fish, also known as "doctor fish", bite and devour loose bits of dead skin right off your feet, providing aquatic exfoliation.


It tickles. . . at first so much that it's uncomfortable, but then you get used to it. Sort of. . .


It was funny to watch everyone squirm:


It was also funny to see who attracted the most fish:


I had Rachel take a picture for me. . . as proof that I did it too: 


Health officials in the United States have closed down fish spas in 14 states because of the risk of transmitting infectious diseases. There have been no reports of any diseases transmitted by the estimated 4,000 fish spas operating throughout Thailand. Garra rufa are native to the Middle East, where they have been used as a medical treatment for people with skin diseases, like psoriasis. 


Kaleigh wasn't impressed: 


But Adam certainly was: 


We stayed way longer than twenty minutes. . . and when we finally left he excitedly announced, "Mom, that was a bargain. The fish made our feet soft and tickled them at the same time!"


Every single day for the rest of our trip, he asked if he could go back to the fish spa. It was, without a doubt, his favorite activity.

Here are some of the sights we saw in Chiang Mai:


We went in and out of the shops, trying to avoid the rain. Lucy bought her fox t-shirt for 100 baht ($3). I probably should have bought five more, but it's always so hard to decide what to buy. . . especially when you are hungry. It was 5:00 pm and we hadn't eaten lunch. Steve had a list of places he wanted to go to for dinner, so we settled on ice cream to tide us over:


I ordered Mango Sticky Rice, which turned out to be my very favorite thing I ate in Thailand. We were about halfway finished when Steve told me we needed to share it with John and Lacie. I told him there was no way I was sharing and that he would have to order them another one.


We walked by some pretty cool looking restaurants: 


But Steve had his heart set on some amazing Indian restaurant he had read about. . . 


We saw a bunch of cats: 


This one clearly didn't like me: 


We sampled some lychee: 


Which is delicious, but feels like you are eating an eyeball: 


And then we finally arrived at the Indian restaurant. Unfortunately, it was about a million degrees inside. And had inappropriate pictures on the walls. But Steve was set on Indian, so we found a different Indian restaurant:


It was only about five hundred degrees inside of the Kabab House:


Adam wasn't excited about what Steve ordered and begged for some yogurt dessert that he found on the menu. 


We finally gave in:


It was not what he expected, and it he was completely devastated. He seriously almost burst into tears. 


The owner could tell what had happened and kindly came over and offered to make it into a smoothie for him. So nice!


As we were walking back, we passed a massage parlor, and the kids all begged for massages. They went on and on about how sore they were from walking everywhere and how badly they needed massages. Just then, John somehow managed to slice his toe open. It was bleeding like crazy, and the people from the massage parlor came to help. We stayed there while Steve ran off to find bandages from a pharmacy. 


And before we knew it. . . they were washing our feet in preparation for our massages:


The price was only $6 for an hour, which was just too hard to pass up. We told them the only way we could do it was if they had ten people who could do all of our massages at the same time. So they called some friends who zoomed in on scooters.


I opted to stay downstairs with the kids for foot massages while the adults changed into scrubs and went upstairs for "real" massages. 


I wasn't actually going to write about this because these pictures look sketchy, but I guess getting a massage can be sketchy. We had heard plenty of stories, so there was definitely some concern about getting a massage in Thailand. Just so you know, you can tell what kind of a massage parlor it is by the age and dress of the people working there. Older women who are properly dressed are a safe bet. 


The foot massages were pretty intense: 

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I had requested a foot massage only, but at the end, the guy took me upstairs to massage my shoulders. I cautiously took the three older girls with me. Rachel videoed part of it while Lucy repeatedly asked me if I was okay, cried for me, told me my arms were like orangutans, squealed in pain for me, cheered me on, and planned my escape. It was painful and anything but relaxing. I would have told her to be quiet, except that I was honestly afraid if I opened my mouth to say anything, it was going to come out as a scream. (The foot and leg massage was awesome. . . this part, not so much.) 

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The massage therapists zoomed off with their money: 


And I took a picture of the sign to document the crazy prices. (30 baht to $1)


Our next stop was McDonald's. Because that's what is required to keep Adam and Kaleigh happy. 


Our last stop of the day was at the Chiang Mai Night Bazzar. Hundreds of vendors lined the streets selling everything from jewelry and headphones to clothes and purses. It was dark and crowded and we had to keep the kids close. Rachel and Lucy had been anticipating this the entire trip and it took all of my focus to help them select good souvenirs, so I didn't take any pictures. We ended up with some necklaces, a laser pen, some flip flops, and some gypsy pants. (They turned out to be so awesome that we went back the next night to buy more, but they were all out.) We did get a couple of iPhone videos at the end of the night. 

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What a day.

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