What a day for a hangover. We squeaked in, just in time for breakfast, and then packed our bags for the second half of dad’s trip. It was definitely time to move on and see some more of Thailand. We were off to Sukhothai, which is actually two small towns, halfway between Bangkok and Chang Mai. Old Sukhothai contains Thailand’s most impressive ruins, and New Sukhothai is just down the road, with most of the restaurants and accommodations. We’d gotten a wicked deal on plane tickets with the only airline that flies to Sukhothai, and they even served us lunch on our 1.5 hr flight. I’d heard that it was a gorgeous little airport, but it far surpassed any expectations. If only all airports could be that beautiful and welcoming. I suppose that would cause some security issues though, because I didn’t see any. We had to wait for about ten minutes for the shuttle to leave, and that must have been the one time when I wasn’t itching to escape an airport.
I’d been attempting to make a plan for when we arrived all morning, but had failed miserably. I’m chalking it up to the hangover, but I realize that’s only part of it. I suck at making plans, being much better at flying by the seat of my pants. When we finally arrived, I parked dad at a central restaurant and walked around the whole town, in the heat of the day, cursing my indecisiveness, and the lack of a decent place to stay, for a decent price. Eventually I gave up and drug my exhausted self back to the restaurant, no closer to having a room, but aware of the options. The $30 options were only marginally better than the $7 options, and it seemed like such a waste. While I was gone a German guy had joined dad at the table, and he was a self professed expert on everything. Full of opinion and advice, we took his recommendation and booked into a nearby guesthouse. It was more in my priceline, not dad’s, but would have to do for the night.
I had been wondering why this German guy was being so helpful, and then it became apparent. He takes out day tours, and had been trying to impress a couple of potential customers. Instead of impressing, he’d managed to annoy us, and we spent the rest of the evening, and following morning peeking around corners to avoid him. He kept on going on about how “special” it is to mingle with the locals, and support them, and then in the next breath he figured we should hire him, a foreigner, as a guide. That, combined with his repeated mentioning of my large backpack and saying that it’s to much, all he needs is his little shoulder bag for 6 months (even though with a little digging he admitted to having another bag at the hotel), was enough for me and my limited patience. It was time to pay the bill and leave.
We got booked into the guesthouse and dad surveyed his new hacienda. I think the bathroom was the most difficult to comprehend. The shower head barely reached his chest, and seemed to shoot in all directions. The sink was tiny and haphazard, and the toilet looked a little wobbly. Oh my poor dad, welcome to my world, actually, my world was the little fan cooled room in the main building, with shared bathrooms. The bungalow was barely big enough for dad to lay down in, and I figured I’d leave him to grumble in privacy. I kinda felt bad for what I’d submitted him to, but what the heck, if it doesn’t kill ya??? Now he could go home, having roughed it in Thailand. Eager to get out of the bungalow, we set out for dinner and fried ice cream in a funky little restaurant full of knick knacks and antiques from around the country. Mom’s kinda place. I wish she’d come along, even though we probably would of spent all our time shopping, not really what dad had came around the world to do, even though we did a fair bit of it.
Dad loves his morning routine, and this one was sub par. Gone were the days of the posh New Siam Riverside in Bangkok, with it’s free buffet breakfasts and king size beds. After dad braved the bathroom we sat on the balcony for a morning coffee and visit with a brazen little squirrel. He had no fear, coming right up to us and demanding a treat. Obviously he had some experience with tourists. DON”T FEED THE WILDLIFE!!! I had visions of rushing back to Bangkok for rabies shots, and shooed him away. While relaxing I noticed little red bumps all over dads lower legs. “Hope it’s not bed bugs!” I blurted out. Ooops. That was the icing on the cake, and the bungalow had lost any last remaining bit of appeal, so we plotted our escape and headed out for breakfast, bags in hand.
The hotels around Old Sukhothai were said to be a bit more upscale, and a smooth talking tuk-tuk driver convinced us to hire him for the trip instead of taking the bus. Dad and him spent their time talking about the area and agriculture while I looked into hotels. Once we’d arranged a teak house set in a gorgeous garden the driver wanted to take us around for the rest of the day. I still kick myself in the ass for not taking him up on that offer. I had stupidly assumed most of the drivers would speak passable English, and the heat of the day was upon us, so I sent him on his way, and then spent the next three days trying to figure out how to find him again.
This guesthouse was five times the price of the previous, and worth it. Unlike the nicer hotels in New Sukhothai, I had no qualms about paying for this place. It was set in a picturesque garden and our bungalow had two floors, giving us lots of space, and meaning we only needed one room instead of two. Unfortunately, dad was still stuck in a single bed though, with feet and arms dangling in all directions. He looked huge in that little bed and it made for another Kodak moment, and a good belly laugh.
It was easy to get stuck in the shade of the mango trees, planning the afternoon over a beer, and contemplating the mysterious bug bites. Since they were limited to his lower legs we came to the conclusion that it must have been from the restaurant the evening before. It soothed his mind, but not the blazing red spots all over the visible portion of his legs. They almost glowed, but weren’t itchy, which was peculiar. I haven’t gotten many bites that don’t itch, but was definitely more sensitive to them when I first arrived, possibly explaining why I wasn’t affected. A little mystery that stayed with us for days, as it took 3 or 4 days for them to subside.
Midday was way to hot to be touring around, and they light the central ruins up on the weekend evenings, which it happened to be. By late afternoon we were ready to play tourist, spending a couple of hours in the afternoon wandering around, devouring a “whooping good hamburger” for dinner, and then a few more hours marveling at the beauty and trying to imagine what it looked like in its heyday. The night lights were spectacular and put an eerie glow over the whole park, plus it was a tolerable temperature and practically deserted. I could even take pictures without some random tourist filling the screen.
Having a pleasant environment to retreat to, and around the corner from the ruins made for a pleasant end to a not so pleasant start. The evening was quiet, and we retired early, wanting to be well rested and ready for a 5 am start, with hopes of seeing the sunrise, the monks out collecting their morning alms, and beating the heat of the day.
We missed the sunrise, but otherwise the morning was a success. We climbed up to a hilltop pagoda and took in the view, lit some incense for Buddha, and managed to slip between the busloads of package tourists at the rest of the sites. Another half day of temples satisfied our small appetite, and then we were free to do as we pleased for the rest of the day, which, surprisingly enough, was not much. Eating, relaxing, getting another massage, and eating some more rounded out the day quite nicely. Perfection, actually.
Thai massage is compared to passive yoga, with the masseuse stretching and releasing your muscles, and it’s always amusing watching those little Thai ladies trying to twist and contour dad. You can plainly see the look of despair on their faces when they realize it’s their turn to make $6, but will never back down from the challenge. The despair gradually turns to amusement as their true Thai nature emerges. They love to laugh, and have plenty of opportunities, comparing the size of his hand to theirs, and attempting to maneuver a leg that’s as big as them. These ladies gave a way better massage than the last, having patience with our creaky bodies, and inspecting dad’s bites closely, but not looking to concerned about them. With smiles on our faces we retreated back to our little paradise, and then strolled down the road for a scrumptious dinner.