After Bangkok we began our journey north heading into central Thailand where two major towns, Ayuthaya and Sukhothai, sit. These were both the capitals of “Thailand” at one point in time and it’s speculated that Sukhothai was the first capital of Siam in about the 13th century.
Trying to get a bit of local flavour we opted to take the train up, first stopping at Ayuthaya for a day, before proceeding onto Sukhothai for a couple. We rode second class (out of three) and the trains were pretty nice (costing THB 245 & THB 405) and a pleasant surprise.
The done thing in Ayuthaya is to rent a bike (THB 40pp) and cycle between the ruins. We visited the biggest one, Wat Phra Si Sanphet (THB 50pp) first and really admired the views. There is also another large, modern temple with a buddha too at Wihaan Mongkhon Bophit.
Before heading to Wat Phra Mahathat (THB 50pp) known for it’s buddha head within a tree. No one’s 100% on the story but the best guess is that thieves from Burma, whilst ransacking the temples centuries ago tried to steal the head, decided it was too heavy and gave up. The tree late grew around it, but it makes for an excellent picture.
We even managed to make time for an elephant ride (THB 400pp)! The Ayuthaya Elephant Palace takes on abused and homeless elephants and rehabilitates then and help them pay for their maintenance. Elephants cost about THB 30k to care for, which is about an average Thai wage, they are forced to retire at 61 and can live until their 80, so humane work is essential for them.
It was great fun but some mahouts (trainers) were making them do tricks pose for photos and charging for it. We weren’t too keen on that are are glad we’re visiting an elephant care facility and sanctuary in Laos.
We had our bikes until 8pm and at night they light up the Wats and you can ride around and see them from the outside. It’s worth doing even though you can’t go inside, but take a tripod if you want photos unlike we did.
After a long travel day (tuk tuk, train, tuk tuk, bus, tuk tuk) we were really glad to get to Sukhothai. It’s a pain to get to by train, but the ruins here are so well preserved and are set amongst beautiful trees and lakes. So much more scenic than the dusty fields surrounding Ayutthaya.
Again, renting bikes (THB 30pp), we started in the Central Zone (THB 100pp) visiting the three main Wats, starting with Wat Mahathat.
We then rode on to Wat Si Sawai with its three huge towers.
Before heading round to a viewing platform in the middle of a lake. After we headed to the final temple, Wat Sa Si, in the central zone.
From there we rode to the Northern Zone (THB 100pp) which houses two temples – Wat Si Chum and Wat Phra Phai Luang.
Wat Si Chum’s buddha has one golden hand and is considered very holy with many people and monks coming to pray. Wat Phra Phai Luan is unfortunately pretty ruined so we headed back to base.
On the way back we got a bit lost and accidentally found Wat Sorasak which has fantastic elephants surrounding all of the base.
After showering off we planned our next stage, Chiang Mai, at the superbly named Chopper bar, before moving on to get dinner and the incredibly named Poo Restaurant. The food was the best I’ve had in Thai and the name wasn’t putting anyone off, the place was packed.
Next up, we continue north to Thailand’s second biggest city, Chiang Mai. Until then…