Trip Start Feb 15, 2008
Trip End May 31, 2008

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Flag of Thailand  ,
Monday, May 26, 2008

My all female group consisted of two American and two Kiwi girls all in their late 20s plus three 18 year old girls from London and one Japanese girl. None of us spoke more than a couple of words of the local language so fortunately our tour guide 'Oam' was Thai. She was in her mid 30s but you generally can't pick the age of these people.

The long distance trains in Thailand are air conditioned which was a relief given the extreme humidity of this region. The ride is quite comfortable and they serve you coffee and lunch at your seat which is included in the ticket price. As we left the crowded and chaotic city of Bangkok the scenery gave way to grazing lands and later rice fields. On arrival at Phitsanulok we were met by the songthaew driver who took us for the one hour ride to J&J guest house where we stayed the night. The guest house has a swimming pool and accommodation is provided in comfortable cabins with en-suite bathrooms.

The following day we were picked up by a songthaew and taken to the bike hire centre outside the historical park of the old city. Cycling is the best way of getting around the historic park and thankfully everyone in our group knew how to ride a bike. The old city of Sukhothai, meaning dawn of happiness, comprises some 45 square kilometres of ruins which have been declared a world heritage site and transformed into a historical park. Sukhothai is positioned in the centre of a triangle made by its three 'sister cities' - Phitsanulok to the East, Kamphaeng Phet to the south and Si Satchanalai to the north. King Ramkamhaeng the Great developed the Thai language whilst he was ruling Sukhothai in the early 700s. He thought it would be necessary to have a national language to help unify the nation and give the people a common identity. The language was based on the Khmer, Mon and Pali languages and is the same as the Thai language used today.

The most impressive of these ruins is Wat Mahathat. These temple grounds are 206 metres long, 206 metres wide and surrounded by a moat which represents the edge of the universe. Wat Si Sawai or the sacred pond temple was built in the Khmer style during the 12th and 13th centuries as a Hindu temple and features a noticeably different style to that of the other temple complexes in the park. Wat Si Chum is the third of the temples in the park and features an impressive 15 metre high sitting Buddha which, legend has it, spoke to the Thai army. That afternoon we continued to Lampang by local bus which is about a four hour ride.
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