Phitsanulok (pronounced Pis-an-u-loh) is a reasonably sized city in central Thailand. It takes about an hour to drive from my school and en route there are lots of stalls selling fresh banana, green plains and rice paddies as well as the occasional ‘lying Buddha’. My mentor and I visited one such Buddha; it was impressively large.
The train station in Phitsanulok is fairly impressive and an old steam Engine with the number 181 on it stands proudly beside the entrance. I was expecting to see Helen alone(another ETA), but I was also greeted by Caron, Will (Weew), Matt and Tom. All of us had been in the same small group at the orientation in Bangkok so it was great to see a few familiar faces and also to be able to talk very quickly in English without fear of being misunderstood.
We passed our day going between inside and outside attractions. The first attraction was Helen’s apartment. She has a large room in an apartment block with windows, curtains, two beds, a mirror, air conditioning, a flushing toilet and a hot shower; it was unbelievable… After trying some interesting fruits and cakes we took a tuk tuk to a large temple beside the river, which is apparently very famous.
The sky was sweating with humidity and as a result we did too. After taking our shoes off and stashing them in my bag (I’ve heard of shoe thieves) we went inside the temple. There was a very impressive and quite large golden Buddha as well as many other related religious items. As it was the weekend of the festival of Kaw Pan Sa it was very busy both inside and out. There was an interesting mixture of people praying and people posing for photographs; often the two went together.
Trams were something we had been told to investigate. I had imagined traditional trams with overhead wires; what we took was more like a bus in the shape of a tram carriage. As we were about to leave we spotted Jodie, another English teaching assistant, being led by two Thai ladies. She was busy, but we got her number for future reference.
The tram tour was relatively cheap (40Baht for 40 minutes- so just less than £1). I liked being able to sit in the shade with the breeze rushing by as we took in the sights of the city. The tour guide was extremely friendly and smiley, but her English was quite impossible to comprehend. A kind Thai lady who lived in Switzerland offered us up some laminated bits of cards, which had the information about each of the ‘sights of interest’ on it. My favourite part was one of the comments about a king who was “brave, strong and strange”.
After a long walk through town, with a brief cool down in a department store with air conditioning, we went back to Helen’s for a snack. The boys pottered off to find a hostel as there was not enough room for all of us in the apartment.
At around 6pm we headed to the food market where I was overwhelmed by the sights and smells of cooked rats, swarms of live bees, multi-coloured curries, all sorts of fruit and randomly an underwear stand in the thick of it. Dinner was very filling- by the end I was eem mak (VERY FULL!) to the point that I thought I would have to lie down. Eating more than half a pineapple has become a rarity. Although pineapple did make up a large part of my meal, I also had fried sweet corn balls and sweet pancakes with warm green paste in them.
The next stop was the night market which predominantly focuses on clothes, accessories and make up. It was set up just down by the side of the river and took more than an hour to walk up and down. I was impressed by Caron’s bargaining skills and saw that knowing the numbers in Thai well can come in handy. I got two lovely flowing dresses that will be suitable for school for less than £10 for two.
A riverside beverage came next when Helen, Caron and I rejoined with the lads. The mosquitoes weren’t too fierce, but after a while we left because we were just so tired our eyes couldn’t stay open. A friend of mine who I met at a hostel in Bangkok told me about a website called ‘post secrets’ where you can send a postcard with your biggest secret into a special address and the best ones get published online weekly. The first few were entertaining and lighthearted, but as we scrolled down we saw some that were moving and others that were just sad or depressing. This is how our evening ended. It was bliss going to bed without being too hot or being munched by mosquitoes.