Sukhothai was one of our last stops on our trip. We had just spent an incredible month in Myanmar and had traveled overland into Thailand through the Myawaddy/Mae Sot border crossing to get to Sukhothai. The purpose was twofold – 1) to get back overland to Bangkok as our flight was departing from there – 2) to visit a Buddha casting factory in Phitsanulok that my partner had been to many, many, many years before…we later found out this was the Buranathai Buddha Image Foundry.
I know, I know, it sounds a little strange! But he really wanted to go and as we could easily work it into our plans I thought, why not! I had never been to that region of Thailand before and it was pretty much on the way to Bangkok… sort of!
The border crossing from Myanmar into Thailand was pretty straightforward and uneventful. Except for trying to find somewhere to change our money before we left Myanmar – we did wander around for a while until we were pointed towards a clothes shop, who also changed money on the side….it probably wasn’t the ideal place to do it but nothing surprised me anymore by this point! We got rid of our kyat and traipsed towards the crossing.
It was sizzling hot and busy but we managed to get through without any issue (thank goodness as you never really know what border crossings will be like!) and we set off to cross the friendship bridge towards Thailand. It wasn’t that far but being weighed down by a backpack in the blazing sun did not make it easy! I was seriously flagging by the time we reached Mae Sot and threw off my backpack as soon as we found a bench.
Then it was time to find transportation to the bus station, so we could get the bus to Sukhothai. We knew roughly what time the buses left, so we weren’t in a major hurry, we had time for a much needed refreshment stop.
We didn’t need to worry about finding a lift, it found us – being two hot and sweaty westerners with backpacks singles you out quite clearly! We were bundled in the back of a van and off we went to catch our bus.
We managed to catch a minibus from the bus station to Sukhothai without any problems, they squeezed us onto the back seat, next to a girl who spent the whole trip being sick into a paperbag. I felt for her but it didn’t make for a particular pleasant journey!
After a long day travelling (it had started with THE scariest 3 hour taxi ride to the border in Myanmar – I did actually fear for my life as the driver did his best Michael Schumacher impression and didn’t seem to want to stick to any particular side of the road!!) we finally made it to our hotel (Ruean Thai Hotel) – and what a good choice it was! Total luxury after the places we had been staying in recently! The first thing I did was (shower!) and then plunge into the gorgeous pool to cool off.
So, as mentioned, one of the main reasons for us being there was to visit Phitsanoluk and the Buranathai Buddha Image Foundry, so the next day we set off to the town to see if we could track it down (not realising at the time what we were looking for – we were relying on my partners old memories!). After being deposited off the bus, we wandered around the dusty streets for a while, until we managed to find a tuk-tuk driver who knew what we were talking about and took us to the foundry.
It was very quiet and had no other visitors, but we were welcomed in to have a look around, which we gladly did. It was pretty impressive, Buddha images were everywhere in all shapes and sizes and there was a small shop where we could buy a momento if we wished.
We noticed that there was no work going on and whilst we were looking around the shop, we saw that a group had gathered in the courtyard for a ceremony. We were told that it was a ceremony of thanks for the new year. We were not in any way made to feel like we shouldn’t be there, and we hung about for a little bit, but then we quietly left not wanting to interrupt them.
Opposite the foundry is the Sergeant Major Thawee Folklore Museum which was set up by Sgt Major Thawee to preserve and display items which demonstrate how people used to live in the region. It’s quite a collection and has some interesting displays, such as a whole kitchen set up with all the utensils that would have been used.
It was again very quiet with only one or two other visitors, but we enjoyed having a look around. This was another trip down memory lane for my partner who had visited a long time ago and he was impressed with how the museum had grown over the years.
The other (and usually main reason!) to visit Sukhothai is for the Historical Park. As it was the Siam capital during the 13th Century, there are amazing ruins to visit in the nearby park.
Our visit to the park was slightly delayed as I was unwell whilst we were there. We stayed in the city over New Year and had a great time celebrating New Year Thai style at a local restaurant around the corner from the hotel. There were bands, good food and fireworks!
But unfortunately the next day I was sick (and it wasn’t due to overindulgence!). I think it was something I ate at breakfast, but thankfully it was short-lived and we could visit the park a day later when I was feeling better.
It worked out fairly well in the end, as we also had to stay an extra day as we hadn’t factored in the holidays into our plans! We originally wanted to travel to Bangkok from Phitsanulok by train (it’s about 6-7 hours) but on visiting the train station, we found there were no tickets to be had for days due to the new year holidays! The next option was the bus (again about a 6-7 hour journey). Thankfully we were luckier on this front and managed to book two tickets – after all the bus travel we had done I wasn’t that enamoured with the idea, but it would be last long bus journey of the trip!
So on our last full day in Sukhothai we caught the bus out to the park. It’s quite big and spread out so one of the best ways to get around is by bike and there are plenty of places renting them outside the park. After picking out two (rather rickety it has to be said) bikes, off we went to explore. I hadn’t ridden a bike in ages, so I was a bit wobbly to begin with! But there is plenty to see so I was pleased we could get around fairly easily and quickly. It was a lovely day, pottering around, taking photos and seeing the sights and a great way to finish off our trip.
I was starting to feel better so could just about manage some rice for dinner that night (wtih bunnies for company!) and then it was up and out early the next morning to catch our bus to Bangkok and our final stop of our journey.
I was very glad that we wound our way home via this route, we sometimes have some strange reasons for visiting places… but I wouldn’t have it any other way!