Sukhothai & Ayutthaya – Thailand – October 2014

A 5 hour bus from Chiang Mai had us in Old Sukhothai.  We decided to get off the bus and find somewhere close to the Historical park because that is really all Sukhothai has to offer.  We made no plans, booked no hotel and started walking quite aimlessly around looking for a place to stay.  We finally came across the “Old City Guesthouse” which had rooms for 350B per night.  We were greeted with a sigh and complete silence from the guy at the front desk.  We clearly interrupted his watching TV time.   It was actually quite unwelcoming and funny at the same time.  We are used to people being very excited to sell us on a room if we walked anywhere within shouting distance.  Thai people are also very friendly where this guy just reminded me of that stereotypical grumpy old man that grumbles about the “damn kids playing on his lawn”.  I couldn’t help but giggle as he clearly was the opposite of the majority of people we’ve met.  I looked them up on Trip Advisor a couple days later and the first review was titled “Nice Guesthouse but Very Unwelcoming Staff”  I guess he isn’t just having a bad day.  As stated, the guesthouse is fine to stay at.

There are 2 parts to Sukhothai.  Old Sukhothai which has the historical park, a crappy night market, only a handful of guesthouses and not a whole lot going on.  Then there’s New Sukhothai which is a 15 minute drive from Old Sukhothai, has better food options, more accommodation options and nothing to do but visit Old Sukhothai.  Exhilarating!

We woke up and found somewhere to eat breakfast.  In Old Sukhothai, some of the worst food we ate was the Thai food.  I don’t know if the owners are European or what but every Thai dish we had was seemingly awful.  After a Pad Thai of mediocrity, we rented bikes to get around the Old City easier.  Sukhothai is all about ancient temples.  They are all super old and falling apart but they were built a long time ago and are pretty cool to see up close and personal.  Old city is split up into 5 parts.  North, South, East, West and the Historical Park.  Each part has a 100B entrance fee each. Some have options to rent an audio tour for an extra 150B. We went to the North and the Historical Park.  After that we didn’t see much need to visit other old temples.  Did I mention that it’s like 36 degrees here in the day time with no breeze or shade?  Opting out of the audio tour, I didn’t get much explanation on what we saw but pictures are better than info anyways, right?  Here’s what I copy and pasted from the Lonely Planet website:

Sukhothai was the first capital of Siam. Established in the 13th century, Sukhothai’s dynasty lasted 200 years and had nine kings. The most famous was King Ramkhamhaeng, who reigned from 1275 to 1317 and is credited with developing the first Thai script – his inscriptions are considered the first Thai literature. He also expanded the kingdom to include almost all of present-day Thailand. But a few kings later in 1438, Sukhothai was absorbed by Ayuthaya.

Read more: http://www.lonelyplanet.com/thailand/sukhothai-province/sukhothai/history#ixzz3IMRLffWC 

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In the middle of the day, we came across a random presentation in the middle of the historical park.  Which included a Muay Thai presentation with the strikes looking like something out of the WWE

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I actually would really like to see some fights while I’m here but it’s quite expensive (for my budget) considering there are fights every night.  Also I know Kristi wouldn’t enjoy it as much as I would so it really isn’t worth the money.  This just might be as close as I get to seeing some Thai boxing. 

We booked a room in New Sukhothai on Agoda as it seems to be the best way to access the bus station.  We found a guesthouse with a room for 200B per night with a shared bathroom.  Ban Thai Guesthouse.  This place is right back to Thailand as usual.  Some of the friendliest staff we’ve met and they have incredible food.  Great tom yum soup, sweet & sour chicken and the best fried chicken cashew nut we’ve had in Thailand. Probably because it was in a honey garlic sauce and I’m a sucker.  We ended up booking an extra night because we were so content here.  The staff even greeted us with hugs in the morning! They did an excellent job of making us feel like we were part of their family.  Too bad there is nothing to do in the area or I would have happily stuck around for a week.  Worst part about new Sukhothai? The mosquitoes.  I had a mosquito coil burning at our feet and covered myself in bug repellant and still got bit from head to toe.  To the point where paranoia sets in and you think there’s something on you all of the time.  I might have to cry in a pool of afterbite later. 

Another 5 hour bus ride south of Sukhothai lands us in Ayutthaya.  We were dropped off on the side of the highway 7km from our hotel so we took motorcycle taxis to get there.  This is a great way to lose weight and ruin your pants at the same time since I shit in mine.  These guys start by driving on the shoulder of the wrong side of the highway and U-turn onto the nearest exit.   Then they rip as fast as they can weaving in and out of traffic as you close your eyes and hold on for your life.  Of course when Kristi looked at me, I did my best to be cool, which isn’t easy to do when you’re wearing a pink helmet and you’re soaked with fear sweat.

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Our hotel, Ban One Love Guesthouse was nothing to get excited about.  The internet didn’t work in our room on the 4th floor so we had to go down to the lobby to use it.  The food in the restaurant was super overpriced.  And our shower didn’t drain when we first arrived so someone came up and unclogged it and for the rest of our time our bathroom smelled of the awful smell of dirty drain hair.  That said, the staff was great! We treated ourselves to a massage one day which was arranged by the front desk.  A much needed and well deserved massage.  They had set English speaking staff hours so if you had questions, you knew when you could ask someone.  They also offer a phone to call if it’s really necessary.  The guy who worked at night has the hardest job.  Travelers both tired and grumpy showing up later at night to check in and the guy barely speaks English.  Incredibly nice guy though, he got us waters and would turn fans on and face them towards us when we were hanging out using the internet.  Also he understood main words like “towel” “toilet paper” and he laughed when I suggested he should drink a big Chang after dealing with a rather difficult customer.  I just find it interesting that those of us coming from a first world country feel so entitled and frustrated when they can’t get through to someone with English.  We should be taking the initiative to learn Thai rather than expect people here to know English.  Either that or don’t expect 5 star service for a $10 room. 

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The location is the best part about this hotel.  You are 200m to two of the main ancient temples and close to the park to go for a nice walk.  Again, they were charging 50B each to enter each temple so we got tired of that very quickly.  If I was a Buddhist or religious in any way, I might be more interested but with these old temples, I can’t help but feel like they are all way too similar to justify paying to see each one individually. 

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The Historic City of Ayutthaya, founded in 1350, was the second capital of the Siamese Kingdom.  It flourished from the 14th to the 18th centuries, during which time it grew to be one of the world’s largest and most cosmopolitan urban areas and a center of global diplomacy and commerce. Ayutthaya was strategically located on an island surrounded by three rivers connecting the city to the sea. This site was chosen because it was located above the tidal bore of the Gulf of Siam as it existed at that time, thus preventing attack of the city by the sea-going warships of other nations. The location also helped to protect the city from seasonal flooding.

Source: http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/576

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Needless to say we say some really cool things here!

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We followed it up by visiting Elephant Stay where some of our friends spent two very expensive days working with the elephants.  This place has a very grey line for what’s right and wrong.  They have a page explaining why they operate the way they do and why it’s okay to ride elephants and work with them.  I think there is some truth to what they are saying but I don’t think they are working to make things better.  Business and money seems to prevail here.  Though it’s around $1000usd for a 2 night stay here, it’s actually free to just show up and visit.  We bought a couple baskets of food and were able to feed a big mama and play with a baby elephant. 

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The baby was just like your typical toddler.  She was into everything and trying to eat anything she could get her trunk on.  There were a couple mahouts hanging around making sure we didn’t feed the baby (she’s on a strict diet) and making sure the baby didn’t get into anything she shouldn’t.  We took away a metal lock, a flip flop and string.  The mahouts threw everything into an area away from the baby, so when they looked away, she tried to go get everything.  Unfortunately for her and much to our enjoyment, she couldn’t get over the bar and got stuck halfway before having to back up.

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There were no English speaking staff available for us and at the end of the day we left quite disappointed.  We were happy that we got to see elephants up close and personal but we still don’t know if we should be supporting a place like this.  We read the website and reached out to elephant stay via email and received a poorly put together email back referring us back to their website.  At the end of the day, we got to hang out with the cutest elephant ever. 

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Our next stop is Bangkok.  We have a hotel our first night and then an apartment from Nov 2-8 before we fly to Vietnam.  I have no idea what to expect with Bangkok.  I’m not a big city, traffic jam kind of guy so this should be a good test for my blood pressure.  Thanks for reading!

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