The journey to Sukothai was relatively easy and involved getting up early (6am on a Sunday!) I snuck out of Helen’s and headed to the bus station hoping that there would be one at 8.30am.
On arriving to the bus station at 8.15 I saw that there wouldn’t be another bus to Sukothai for more than an hour. In the moment that felt like a long time, but on reflection it is not really. I met two Thai soldiers (well, I’m not sure I can say met, I tried out my Thai on them to little avail… how I wish to be able to communicate properly in it) and also took their picture for my mentor (who loves men in uniform). The bus was air conditioned and pretty modern with large windows. It took just over an hour and only left about 15 minutes behind schedule. What I realised though, when buying my ticket, was that there are two bus stations in Sukothai; the old and the new. I did not know which one my friend lived closer to and just crossed my fingers (not literally) and hoped for the best.
Nick (a fellow English Teaching Assistant with the British Council) came to meet me at the bus station, which is about a kilometer away from the school where he has been placed. It sounded like a scary ride there on his little red ladies bike in the midday heat and the busy traffic of the motorway (at least very large and well used road). The walk back wasn’t too scary, just a bit surprising. I had imagined that the school was in a city. On being there I would say that it was just off a busy road near a city. There were quite a few sets of road works on the way meaning we had to cut across the road quite a few times and there were a few injuries. All minor, all Nick’s.
The school grounds of the technical college were very large and by the front gate was a security hut. The numerous bodies of water dotted around the site amazed me. Though it was hot I was not entirely tempted to go for a dip. The accommodation of the different English Teaching Assistants throughout the Thai schools differs enormously. Nick lives alone in a rather large house with two bedrooms. It has a balcony, air conditioning, an electric shower, a fridge, a garage (where he parks his ladies bike) and various other amenities including a stove for cooking and a large desk. Apparently he spent about a page of an email to his parents just describing the accommodation, but I won’t be that precise. It was pleasant, if a little large for one person!
A bouncy young Thai English teacher swung by on her red motorcycle eager for an adventure. Her Thai name is Lek (literally meaning small, which she is). Her given name in Thai literally means teacher, so it seems that she has been appropriately named. The three of us managed to squeeze onto her motorcycle and sped down the highway to Sukothai Historical Park. It was my first time, Nick’s second and Lek’s third. En route we came up with lots of little lists from biggest to smallest, oldest to youngest, most mosquito bites to least, lightest to darkest eye colour (blue, green, brown) etc. There were many tourists at the park, a couple of Europeans but mostly Chinese. We also gandered a couple of Indian tourists who were so intent on getting a good photo of themselves on their motorbikes in front of one of the ruined structures that they took more than 30 minutes.
There are four different kinds of Buddha in Sukothai:
- The lying Buddha
- The sitting Buddha
- The standing Buddha
- The walking Buddha (who is particular to this region of Thailand).
We saw a couple of each; some of them were vast and golden, others small and plain in comparison.
Lek is very cheering. She is a 22-year-old English graduate from a big university in Nakhon Sawan. Her skipping around, smiling joyfully and just being very playful endeared me. Unlike most Thai people I have met she was also a lot more physical, in that when we crossed the road she would take me by the arm, or pat me on the back if I made a funny joke. I liked it. Nick and I had been planning on heading up to Chiang Mai to meet up with a number of the other English Teaching Assistants, however, Lek seemed keen on coming and asked if it was ok. Of course it was, so we planned to head up in the morning.
The sun was setting fast as we left the main bit of the park. It felt like we were in some kind of ancient heaven as the golden dappled light fell through the palms onto small wooden huts and wondrous red stone buildings. The sky that followed this was otherworldly. Unfortunately I couldn’t do it any justice with a photo, but I’ll try and describe it. The moon was perching bold and white in the sky above a grand Buddhist temple. Strange melodies escaping through the windows becoming like mist above the surrounding lake. Immediately following the moon was a palette of bright blue tropical sky. Further away from that were fluffy grey and white clouds that were descending slowly into darkness as the fading sunlight ceased to break through the solid objects blocking it, the horizon. Watermelon is Lek’s favourite fruit; I got lots and the three of us made our way through a whole one before the motorcycle took us off into the warm night.