I woke up at 4am and checked out at 5am to try and catch the potential 6am bus from Chiang Mai’s Arcade Bus Terminal to Sukhothai. Surprisingly, the streets were rather quiet at 5am, and there were no song taews, tuk tuks, or taxis trying to offer transport to me. Where were they when I needed them? So I started walking along Th Chang Moi in the direction of the Arcade Bus Terminal, and it wasn’t till I crossed the Mae Nam Ping river and started on Th Kaew Nawarat (5.25am) that a tuk tuk stopped to offer me a ride to the Arcade Bus Terminal for 50 baht. I tried to lower the fare given that I had probably walked half the journey already, but was not successful. In the end I agreed because I didn’t actually have the exact location of the bus terminal, and it was rather obvious that there was no other competition. The driver did confirm there was a 6am bus to Sukhothai, however, and he did stop me directly in front of the relevant ticket counter, so that was good. By 5.35 am, I had purchased my bus ticket to Sukhothai for 239 baht. When I asked if there were overnight buses to Sukhothai to satisfy my curiosity I was told that the last bus leaves Chiang Mai daily at 5.30pm, arriving Sukhothai at 11pm, and therefore would not have been ideal anyway. There are other bus companies with routes to Sukhothai, but their counters were closed when I was at the terminal so I could not check their bus timings, and there was no clear consolidated information in English anywhere.
The 5.5 hour air-con bus journey was uneventful, with several stops at bus stations in between, but I slept through most of the way to arrive at New Sukhothai at 11.30am. The bus terminal at New Sukhothai seemed to be rather organised, with consolidated route timetables and information counters where staff were able to communicate in basic English. After gathering enough information, I decided and executed the following plan: (1) Leave big luggage at nearby guesthouse for 20 baht (2) Take shared song taew to Sukhothai Historical Park for 30 baht (3) View the sights of the central and northern region at 100 baht each (4) Visit the Ramkhamhaeng National Museum for 150 baht (5) Take shared song taew back to New Sukhothai for 30 baht (6) Take overnight bus from Sukhothai at 9pm arriving Khon Kaen at 4am for 255 baht and find my way to next destination Nong Khai from there.
After having seen the Temples of Bagan in Myanmar, Angkor Wat in Cambodia, and even the Yungang Grottoes in China, it is inevitable that I found Sukhothai Historical Park to be… lacking in the awe factor. I would still go once if I had never been before, but don’t make it a high priority on your bucket list. Some say Sukhothai’s ruins are the best in Thailand (I wouldn’t know as it is my first ruins in Thailand), while others spend 2-3 days enjoying the historical park. Well, I finished walking the central and northern zones in about 2.5 hours. Yes, I could have spent 50 baht more to rent a bike (30 baht) and pay additional entrance fees (10 baht per zone), and most people do (it was a lot of walking I assure you), but I didn’t want to be preoccupied with the logistics of having a bike with me (such as finding a proper place at each wat to park and secure the bike), and figured I would actually be more mobile without one (turned out I was able to cut through wats efficiently without having to backtrack for my bike if I were to have left it at a particular wat entrance). And I did finish what I wanted to see in good time, including this Wat Sorasak with its reconstructed elephants:
Actually, I had planned to see one more Wat Chang Lom (with elephants as well) outside the paid zones just before I headed back to New Sukhothai, but something happened that literally made me freeze in my tracks. The weather was so hot, and I was on my way to Wat Chang Lom when I saw a 7-11, with locals streaming out of it drinking slurpees. I just had to get one for myself (18 baht for medium 16 oz), and time stopped as I stood outside 7-11 enjoying scoop after scoop of icy brain-freeze. Yes, that little spoon at the end of the slurpee straw… I felt so satiated that when a song taew heading to New Sukhothai passed I decided I didn’t need to see another wat with elephants anymore, and flagged it down. The other tourists already on the song taew were looking at my slurpee with evil eyes, but I couldn’t care less as I finished it hungrily on the ride back. Reminds me of summer in Alice Springs and the A$1 Frozen Coke at Burger King…