Two days of wat-filled excitement

Trip Start Nov 01, 2006
Trip End Mar 07, 2007

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Monday, November 6, 2006

So November 5th was the night of the full moon of the twelfth lunar month here in Thailand. That means its Loy Krathong, a festival which honors the spirits of the water and marks the end of the rainy season. It's celebrated all over Thailand, but with special fanfare in Sukhothai, the ancient capitol of Thailand. I took a six hour bus ride north from Bangkok to Sukhothai on the 4th, just in time for the festivities.

I stayed in "new" Sukhothai. which is about 12 km east of "old" Sukhothai. "Old" Sukhothai was the capitol of Thailand in the 13th and 14th centuries and has some impressive ruins to show or it, which are now preserved in a national park. I headed over to the park for the 5th and spent the day exploring on a bike (about 60 cents for the day). The park was of course very crowded because of the celebration, but I escaped the crowds for most of the day by heading off into the more remote parts of the park. Saw a ton of wats (Buddhist temples), several statues of Buddha and a parade during the day.

After dark, things got even more exciting (and crowded) as everyone flooded in for the main event. The "krathong" in Loy Krathong is a small basket/boat made of banana leaves and flowers, and topped off with incense sticks and candles. Thousands of the krathong are set afloat in the lakes and moats in Sukhothai. Everything is finally toppped off with a big fireworks show, and all of this takes place in the midst of all these 700 year old ruins. Quite a spectacle.

After over twelve hours in the park, I was wiped out and hopped in a songathew (basically a pickup truck with a roof and benches in the bed) for the ride home.

The next day, I took a day trip up to Si Satchanalai to see some more ancient ruins. They date from about the same period as the others, but are much more off the beaten path and I was occasioanlly the only one at a particular Wat. First stop was Wat Mahathat in Chalieng. Very impressive looking and in great shape as these things go, right by the Lom River. Had to cross a long, slightly rickety bridge to get there.

Next I pedaled my bike about 2 km up the road to Si Satchanalai, which was much more overgrown than most of the others I've seen, for that full Indiana Jones effect. Climbed around a bit and found a nice view of the area from high up on Wat Khao Suan Khiri. Then headed back to the bike rental place and flagged down the bus back to my guesthouse in Sukhothai.

Speaking of which, thanks to some frequent questions you all have been asking, I realize now I've been leaving out a lot of basic info you might be interested in. Here's my attempt to answer some of these general questions:

1. How's the food? Really good for the most part. I've had a few disappointing experiences with mystery meats on a stick from street vendors, but I've also had some great curries. I'll try to fill you in on any new developments here, although I don't think I'll be trying the roaches or other bugs any time soon.

2. Are the people nice? The people are incredibly friendly. They are patient with clueless foreigners like myself and constantly smiling.

3. Have you met other travelers? Yes, I've met a few people from the US, and also people from Japan and Germany. No Australians or British yet, but it's only a matter of time. Also seen quite a few French. All in all though, the place isn't exactly crawling with tourists. As soon as you go beyond the few stops everyone makes in Thailand, you may find yourself the only non-Thai for hours.

OK, keep the questions coming and I'll try to do likewise with the answers.

Dont forget, there are a ton of additional pictures on my Flickr site. Lucky for me, internet access is only about 60 cents an hour here.
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