Coming to you live from a little internet place in Lampang. "High-speed" internet access appears to be a relative notion depending on where you're at, but at about 45 cents an hour I can't really complain!;-)
So how hot is it in Thailand? Well, it's hot enough that people who can't park their cars in the shade raise their wipper blades so that they don't melt and stick to the windshield! I shit you not! It's unbelievable! Especially given the fact that a little more than a week ago, I was scraping the ice and the snow from my own windshield!
Before kissing Bangkok goodbye, I got up and boarded a train bound to Ayuthaya to spend the day exploring the ruins. Should have known better and rented a bike to make my way to the various sites, but dumbass that I am I elected to walk around. Ayuthaya is a mandatory stop on the tourist trail for basically everyone who's traveling north but don't want to get out of the Bangkok-Chiang Mai corridor. Hence, it's packed with tourists everywhere you go. The ruins are nice, but crumbled temple compounds get old after a while. Still, all in all, a very nice day.
Made my way back to Bangkok by bus. Like many things in Thailand, I just stumbled upon the bus stop. The bus station is supposed to be a ways away, but here are a number of big buses standing there, waiting to take tourists and locals alike back to Bangkok. No sign, no advertizement, it's just there and you haveto know where it is. And at less than 2$ for the ride, I couldn't refuse. Even if I had to take a short cab ride and then make my way back to the hostel via the Skytrain during rush hour.
Wanted to take a VIP bus toSukhothai, but to my dismay the only kind that goes there is the 2nd class air-con type. Which means that it's not very comfortable, and it's packed to the brim with locals. It made for a shitty six hours, that's for sure, but we got there all right! I stayed at a wonderful, if eccentric, guesthouse: At Home Sukhothai. Go for the garden view room with double bed and air-con. For a mere 25$ a night, they're a steal!
Spent my only full day in town at the Sukhothai historical park. And since the site is huge and many of the most interesting temples are outside the main zone, I didn't make the same mistake twice and I rented a bike. A one-gear with no breaks to speak of contraption that cost me less than a dollar for the day. And believe me, it wasn't worth more than that! Getting moving was a piece a cake. Stopping or slowing down, on the other hand, was more difficult. Unlike Ayuthaya, there are not that many tourists. Even better, the park is quite expansive, and you sometimes get a whole site to yourself.
Caught a bus for Lampang yesterday; another 2nd class with air-con, this time for only 4 hours. And it wasn't as packed, so I didn't feel like a sardine! Like Sukhothia, Lampang is just a blip on Thailand's map, and most travelers don't stop there and head directly to Chiang Mai. Which means that tourists are perceived as some sort of novelty still. And that can be a good thing. Lampang probably feels the Chiang Mai did twenty years ago. Once more, I'm staying at another guesthouse full of charm and character: Riverside Guesthouse. Based on the Lonely Planet recommendation, I went for one of the two roooms with a private balcony overlooking the Mae Wang river. Believe it or not, that room cost me a paltry 16$! That's unbeatable value!
Finally decided to get that foot massage yesterday evening. My feet have been taking a beating, so they deserved the treat. However, the experience wasn't exactly what I expected. I was aware that Thai massages were a bit rougher than what we are used to. However, I didn't really expect the have my feet, punched, slapped, twisted this way and that, and all that. I did feel very good afterward, mind you. And at about 4$ for an hour, you can't really complain. But let's just say I thought the lady would be a bit more gentle with my feet. . .;-)
Wat-ted out, I decided to spend the better part of my morning at the Thai Elephant Conservation Center. That change of pace was a lot of fun. Seing the elephants bathing and frolicking in the water, then attending their show, feeding them, and, of course, the obligatory elephant ride!
On the way back, we stopped at the popular Thung Kwian Market, some sort of big indoor and outdoor flea market. After that, we went to Wat Phra That Lampang Luang, believed to be the oldest wooden structure in the country. After a late lunch, I walked to Baan Sao Nak, a huge teak house. After that, I wanted to finish my day by visiting Lampang's most important temple, Wat Phra Kaew Don Tao. Got lost twice getting there, which kind of pissed me off.
You see, Thai people, especially in the north, seem to look upon street signs and any sort of indications as some sort of novelty. It is assumed that a) You know where you are and b) You know where you are going. And if you don't, well that's your own tough luck, pal. Maps are not always decent, so you have to explore a bit in order to realize exactly where you are. For instance, in Sukhothai the main street doesn't have any street signs. What for? It's the main street, after all. But as a tourist, the main street is sort of a beacon you use to orient yourself, you know. Oh well, it makes for funny anecdotes a couple of weeks later, yes. But when you're trying to puzzle out where they fuck you're at, you don't always see the humor in the situation!:P
So tomorrow I'm off to Chiang Mai for three nights! Once again, please don't spellcheck me. . .