Published: March 25th 2008March 22nd 2008
Reflections in the moat
The train from Ayuthaya to Sukhothai was poorly air-conditioned and we were all sweating despite the cool air that would cycle on and off over the course of the 5hour ride. Every time the door to the train car opened, it let in a whoosh of stifling hot air that had nowhere to go but linger on our skin and seats while we slowly made our way through the Thai countryside en route to the ancient city that preceded Ayuthaya as the place where the Thai nation began to flourish.
The train takes you to Phisanulok where you catch a bus for the 60km ride to new Sukhothai.
Old Sukhothai was originally surrounded by ramparts, two moats and four gateways (north, east, west, south). There are 91 historical sites that have been preserved, both inside the walls as well as outside. A 150B tickets gets you entrance to everything, including Si Satchanali about 60km away. After riding a sawngthaew
from the new city (where most GH are), I was back on a bike and pedaling away in the early morning light.
I am so glad I got there early in the morning. By 10am,
the place was crawling with tourists and several groups of them had been off-loaded from buses. You know what that means. Walking around together in massive clumps with hats or flags and tour guides explaining everything to them. Ugh! Hard to get enchanted with a place when that is going on.
Wat Mahathat is one of the best examples of the Sukhothai style which includes a lotus-bud stupa atop a square-sided structure and a three-tiered base (see picture). The complex shows a range of Sri Lankan and Khmer influences and was originally surrounded by a wall and moat. The original Buddha statues here are in excellent condition and the light was perfect first thing in the morning.
The historical park is lovely. While Ayuthaya's temples were very urban, this quiet and shady park allows you to meander and appreciate the original feel of the city. In the shade of enormous trees, the cicadas roar whereas in the sunnier areas the only sounds are the rustling of leaves and the occasional cricket or stray dog.
Once I escape the French tour group, I pedal over to Wat Si Sawai. En route, my cell phone rings and I am
lucky enough to answer just in time to hear Kelly's voice from Jersey! I try to continue moving along so I can find some shade because the 9am the sun is already beating down. There I am, in a skirt and bright pink shirt, camera bag strapped to my back, cell phone up against one ear, pedaling along, surrounded by 13th century temples! If only someone was there to take the picture. We were laughing for a good five minutes while I described the scene. It was the PERFECT Kodak moment.
After a nice chat with her, I struggle to capture a few shots in the increasingly terrible light. The air and sky here are peculiar. Once the sun is high enough, there is a haze that lingers all day long into the dusk and the sky is constantly white. There might be a blueish tinge to it, but it is fleeting. I've heard it is because it is the dry season and that the sky really deepens into blue once the rainy season starts in May. Which means the best time to come for photos is during the summer months when you have to deal with daily rain
Close Up Buddha Hand
Gold leaf decorates the fingernails
showers and probably a lot of mud judging by the fine dirt that coats everything.
This is when I meet Nik. A fellow Nikon user and photo geek from Switzerland. We met briefly the day before, getting off the bus in Sukhothai and scrambling to find transport into town. After having a leisurely lunch in town during the heat of the day and charging up our camera batteris, we head back out on our bicycles for the outskirts of the historical park in the hopes of catching some great afternoon light.
Got some great shots, had an adventure trying to get to the wat on the hill out west, and dragged our weary selves back to the entrance to the park so we could negotiate a ride back to new Sukhothai because we had long ago missed the last bus back. Did I mention it was hot? Unbearably hot all day. We both drank several liters and snacked on some salty treats in an effort to keep ourselves hydrated. Still, it nearly vanquished us.
Lucky for us, we got along famously and both wanted to go out to Si Satchanali the next day to see more temple
Wat Si Seaw
Khmer influenced style
ruins. This meant there were now two heads put together to figure out how to get there and take some photos. Once again, public transport limited our options as the last bus back would leave at 4pm and we were both too chicken to rent motorbikes and do the ride on our own. So, we got up at dawn and took the first bus out at 7am and made peace with what we would be able to capture early in the morning.
See the next entry for photos and details of our adventure!
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