Monday, 30 July 2012

Sukkothai Historical Park, Thailand

June 28th- June 31st, 2012

 (Unfortunately Julian only kept 4 photos of the same thing from Sukkothai which is a real shame.  This place was incredible and I'm quite disappointed he discarded them all because he didn't feel they were of 'professional' quality).

Note dropped us off at the station the following morning, we said our farewells and after breakfast boarded a long nosed tuk tuk. Unlike their Bangkok counterparts, the drivers and passengers are separated in the long nose and as a result they feel very different. From the exhaust note it sounds like they might be running small car engines and indeed the whole thing feels like a Reliant Robin more than anything else; not nearly as much fun as the originals but serviceable to a purpose and more practical from the owners point of view I'll grant.

The four hour bus ride north to Sukhothai was uneventful and we arrived, found our lodgings and ate, this scenario fast becoming routine as we continue our travels before settling in for the evening to catch up on some writing and plan something of an itinerary in Thailands first Capital. The following day I was suffering with a little heat stroke so we remained inside writing, apart from a brief foray for food.

The following day we took a "sawng thaew", a three ton pickup truck fitted with benches, to Sukhothai Historical Park which preserves what remains of the first capital of Siam; another UNESCO site and the reason for our stop here.

The park itself covers more than 70 acres of crumbling monasteries, temples, stupas, palaces, and stunning Buddha statues as well as portions of the original city fortifications and is divided into sections, each charging an admission fee, or if time permits, one may purchase a ticket for all sites at a reduced rate.  For once this actually worked in our favour. Much to the surprise of renters we turned down the offer of bicycles and instead elected to walk. Julian had studied the guides and maps the previous day and had a clear idea about what he wanted to see; sure enough the best of Sukhothai (with a couple of notable exceptions) were within a happy days stroll around the park.  Ayutthaya ruins share space with the current town whereas the modern town of Sukhothai lies a few kilometres to the east of the old city. Now the ruins stand amongst nothing but trees and lakes making the whole experience very relaxed with virtually no traffic and since we are in the "off" season, relatively few people

The first and largest of all the temples in the city is Wat Mahathat (not to be confused with the Wat Phra Mahathat in Ayuthaya). A giant Buddha sits tall upon a platform, itself some 4 metres off the ground and the lotus shaped stupa dominates ones vision to the left from the approach road. To the right, the north side, sits Wat Sa Si on it's own island.  To the south beyond the 9m standing Buddha and the many buildings of Wat Mahathat lies Wat Si Sawai with it's picturesque moat and three Khmer style prangs intricately decorated with stucco images of Hindu mythology.  Their markedly differing architecture held our interest, allowing us not to get swamped and "all templed out" as we had found travellers to be when we met them heading south in Malaysia and Bangkok. The significant time frame and importance of the three cities gives each its own unique character and Julian's mind finally hit overload at the end of the day as his daily Facebook update read:

"Six weeks into this trip and it really came home to me today just what an incredible amount of amazing things we are going to see over the next 18 months"

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