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    Tropical Storm Tour: Thailand Part 14

    Wednesday, June 17, 2015
    Sukothai, Thailand

    A Buddha image at Wat Maha That in Sukothai, Thailand.
    A Buddha image at Wat Maha That in Sukothai, Thailand.

    A collection of columns at Wat Maha That in Sukothai, Thailand.
    A collection of columns at Wat Maha That in Sukothai, Thailand.

    Looking through the door at Wat Sri Sawai in Sukothai, Thailand.
    Looking through the door at Wat Sri Sawai in Sukothai, Thailand.

    Today, I climbed into the back of a really big songthaew going from the New City area of Sukothai over a few miles to the Old City, where all of the ruins of the ancient Buddhist temples are. I had the truck all to myself the whole way and it only cost 30 baht ($1.00)! Right when I got dropped off, a lady beckoned me from across the street to rent a bicycle–also for only 30 baht, which is the cheapest I’ve ever seen anywhere. The lady warned me that the last songthaew back to the New City would leave at 5:30 pm and that the only transport after that would be a tuk-tuk, which charges several times as much.

    Wat Sri Sawai in Sukothai, Thailand.
    Wat Sri Sawai in Sukothai, Thailand.

    Looking across the bridge at Wat Sra Sri in Sukothai, Thailand.
    Looking across the bridge at Wat Sra Sri in Sukothai, Thailand.

    After paying the 100 baht entry fee at Sukothai, I started wheeling my way around the park, which became a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1991. The first temple, Wat Maha That, featured a large sitting Buddha image, while the second, Wat Sri Sawai, exhibited a Khmer-style white prang. At that one, a couple of foreigners were walking around–a younger one snapping photos with a DSLR and an older one rambling away about historic details on temple carvings. He sounded like a walking encyclopedia. The third temple, Wat Sra Sri, consistd of a large chedi situated across a picturesque bridge.

    An elephant-ringed chedi at Wat Sorasak in Sukothai, Thailand.
    An elephant-ringed chedi at Wat Sorasak in Sukothai, Thailand.

    Looking up the stone walkway to Wat Saphan Hin in Sukothai, Thailand.
    Looking up the stone walkway to Wat Saphan Hin in Sukothai, Thailand.

    Two Buddha images at Wat Saphan Hin in Sukothai, Thailand.
    Two Buddha images at Wat Saphan Hin in Sukothai, Thailand.

    In general, the temples of Sukothai have been restored a lot more than the ones in Ayutthaya, and the grounds are kept meticulously clean to the point where they almost look sterile. I actually prefer the crumbling ruins of Ayutthaya, as they are much more photogenic. Next, I ventured north out of the gated compound to check out some more temples across the road. The first one, Wat Sorasak, was ringed by a series of busts of Thailand’s official animal, the elephant, which looked really different and nice. The next one I tried to visit, Wat Si Chum, which featured a beautiful giant sitting Buddha, charged a 100 baht entry fee, as it was in a separate area. I declined to pay and headed down toward the west end of Sukothai instead.

    The back of the large Buddha image at Wat Saphan Hin in Sukothai, Thailand.
    The back of the large Buddha image at Wat Saphan Hin in Sukothai, Thailand.

    A gnarled tree trunk at Wat Saphan Hin in Sukothai, Thailand.
    A gnarled tree trunk at Wat Saphan Hin in Sukothai, Thailand.

    On the way, I stopped at a roadsie food stall, where I ordered a pineapple shake to soothe my partched mouth. The nice lady who worked there also talked me into ordering a bowl of Sukothai noodles. I read somewhere that they’re a must, so I went for it. I must admit they were pretty delicious. Next, I pedaled west to explore another area full of temples out in the countryside. About a mile later, I hung a left turn off the main road, where I encountered another gate with a 100 baht entry fee. I paid it this time, because it seemed like there would be enough temples to make it worth it.

    A small shrine at Wat Phra Bat Noi in Sukothai, Thailand.
    A small shrine at Wat Phra Bat Noi in Sukothai, Thailand.

    Shadow play at Wat Mang Kon in Sukothai, Thailand.
    Shadow play at Wat Mang Kon in Sukothai, Thailand.

    A picturesque shack at Wat Mang Kon in Sukothai, Thailand.
    A picturesque shack at Wat Mang Kon in Sukothai, Thailand.

    The first one, Wat Saphan Hin, was situated at the top of a long stone walkway that ascended up a big hill. It was a good workout climbing up there, with a special treat at the top: a tall standing Buddha image with a smaller one seated right in front. It felt really peaceful up there in the woods. Disappointingly, the rest of the temples around that area consisted mostly of simple, generic chedis with a few other objects thrown in for flavor. Not only that, but most of them were built on the top of a tall ridge, and I got tired of hiking up and down–plus I didn’t bring any water with me, as the bicycle I rented did not have a basket, and I was ultra-thirsty.

    Tree roots claim some ruins at Wat Mang Kon in Sukothai, Thailand.
    Tree roots claim some ruins at Wat Mang Kon in Sukothai, Thailand.

    The stately Wat Tuk in Sukothai, Thailand.
    The stately Wat Tuk in Sukothai, Thailand.

    The clocktower in downtown Sukothai, Thailand.
    The clocktower in downtown Sukothai, Thailand.

    Heading back toward civilization, I stopped at a few more small temples on lower ground that looked gorgeous in the setting sun. As 5:00 pm came and went, I pedaled furiously to make it back in time to catch the last songthaew to the New City. Just as I returned the bicycle, the lady pointed across the street at an approaching songthaew and said it was the last one. I waved it down, climbed on, and checked the time. It was only 5:15 pm, so I’ll bet another one showed up a bit later. The first thing I did when I reached the New City was buy a two-liter bottle of water. It felt so refreshing as that ice cold fluid poured over every fiber of my mouth.

    Words and photos ©2015 Arcane Candy.

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