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December 06, 2003

Saddlesore in Sukhothai

Ciao! (as I ride along pretending I'm on a Vespa)

After arriving at the No. 4 Guesthouse in Sukhothai (which rocks) the manager mentioned that the best way to get around town was by motorbike. It's basically a hair dryer with bicycle sized tires. It ROCKS!

As Ant munched on breakfast, I went down to the rental shop with my 200B and picked up a bike, the Honda Dream. The woman who runs the place gave me a 2 minute crash course in how to drive it. It's weird, a manual/auto hybrid. You shift, but there's no clutch.

I left the shop, and drove the 200 meters to the gas station (or petrol station, depending where you're from). I filled up the tank, and then couldn't get the thing started again. The attendant girl had to come over and kickstart it for me. How mortifying!!.

I merged onto the busy street as trucks and buses whizzed by. Now, not only am I driving a motorbike which I wasn't used to, but I had to remember to drive on the left hand side of the road. It's the right hand turns that are tricky... I kept thinking, "turn into the LEFT lane, not the right!!" over and over.

It figured that my first manouver just had to be a u-turn to get back to the guesthouse. I got around the median without dying, but then I didn't lean into the turn enough and wiped out on the curb. Granted, I was going like 5 km/hr, so it was no big deal. Luckily I didn't get scraped up. I picked the bike up and started again, determined to master it.

Eventually, I made it back to the guesthouse. Ant "warily" got on. I tried to start the bike with no luck and the cook had to come out and do the honors. As I attempted to drive down the dirt path, I was so shakey that I had to stop. The weight of two people on the bike reacted and felt so different than one! Not good. I got too nervous, and Ant had to take it off on his own, practice a bit, and pick me up. He did great, and not 10 minutes later we were off to Old Sukhothai. Or so I thought....

I read the directions to OS incorrectly and 15 kilometers later we were stopped in front of a police station. It seemed I had sent us in the direction of a waterfall, so we made the most of it and continued on. We arrived safely, and did a hike up to a so-so waterfall. In the rainy season it would have rocked, but it was a trickle when we were there. Regardless, it was a good hike and we needed the exercise.

After the waterfall, I hopped back in the driver's seat, which was a perfect time to do so. The road was deserted and I could get used to Ant's weight affecting my driving. We got back on the main road without dying, and stopped in a small strip of street stalls near a wat under construction. The locals would point and giggle, which is pretty standard here in Thailand. We wandered around the small market and saw everything from fish to rope to split open pig heads and snouts. Finally, we settled on a cook who made us some of the tastiest noodle and dumpling soup I have EVER had. Another woman sold us some spicey pork with rice in a banana leaf. Mmmmmm!!!! It was pretty cool being the only farangs (term for westerners) around.

We headed out to a small pottery village which was just down the road. Again, we were the only farangs and got giggles and friendly stares. The great thing about the pottery village was that it was off the main road and we got to see the average Thai houses and they weren't looking too shabby!!! I wouldn't mind living there at all.

Finally, we headed back to the guesthouse, and made it in one piece.

THe next day we went the right way to Old Sukhothai. Old Sukhothai was a maze of a historical park, with buddhas and wats all over the place. The Thais have good style, but they don't really know how to make their wats last. The ones we visited were only a few hundred years old and were already crumbling. The other great thing about the park was it had small roads that we could take the bike on. We had the usual kick start issues and it was embarassing to have total strangers come up to us to start the bike for us (because we couldn't), including one teenager in platform sandals.

We visited other places on the backroads including a wooden temple next to a canal. Right next to the temple was the biggest tree I have ever laid eyes on. Concrete supports had been installed to help it hold some of the weight. Monks yelled "hello" and called off their pack of mangy attack dogs. One woman on the way back even just yelled out "FARANG!!!!"

Another interesting stop was at Wat Tawet. Here was a complex that was built by a monk who had some wacky dreams. He created a garden of concrete morality tales and "karmatic retribution". My favorite was the drunk who was now being force fed boiling liquid while his insides fell out.

It was a great off the beaten path experience.

Posted by Claudia on December 6, 2003 09:53 AM
Category: Thailand

Hey Claudia,
just happened to find your site on the map... I'm working in BKK at the moment, and will be heading for Sukhothai tomorrow... finally vacation!!!
If you have a sec, would you let me know the address / phone no. of your guesthouse as I still don't have a place to spent the night and it sounds good...
and who know's,
maybe we'll even meet soon...


Posted by: Diana on January 7, 2004 01:53 AM


I found this on the web, and it sounds vaguely familiar.

No4 Guesthouse (055 610165), 140/4 Khlong Maelampan

J&J Guesthouse is right down the road as well, but I liked the people at No.4.

J & J Guesthouse (055 620095), 122/1 Soi Maeramphan

Posted by: Claudia on January 8, 2004 01:59 AM

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