2005: Entry 10: Study in Contrasts– Sukhotai and Pattaya

The last time I was in Sukhotai was about 1975 on a school trip! The Thai “thiow” (trip) involves taking a whirlwind tour of just about everywhere possible in a set amount of time. It also means you acquire all kinds of goodies specific to that region, be it pottery or fruit! But the whole idea of a shared social experience is also a major part of the concept! Back then, we arrived at sunrise after traveling from Bang Boh all night! The sky provided a red dawn that I recall silhouetted the ruins perfectly. I remember it was fun and awe-inspiring making my way around the massive old structures and Buddha images.

Photos in and Around Sukhotai

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Up early and off for Morchit Bus Station. The trip took about 7 hours and it was nice seeing the countryside once again. Stayed at the Hotel Ananda, a little out of the way, but pleasant enough. Got up early and headed out the 15 kilometers to the ancient site which is now a UNESCO World Heritage area. I looked around the now manicured grounds! In the old days before the renovation, everything was in sort of a natural state. Now, it is hard to figures out some of those same structures after getting this “facelifting.” The area is now sculpted to a park-like setting with pathways that lead you between the areas of the ancient capital. I rented a bicycle for 20 baht (about 70 cents) for the entire day. I looked for the huge Buddha with the pillars around it that I recall being so impressed with years ago. With the major cleaning, I thought that it must have been Wat Mahatat. It was cloudy and a bit rainy, but the rain stopped about 2PM. Fortunate, too, that the park was not at all crowded with people as it was during the week, so it was relatively quiet the whole time I was there. Enjoyed just cycling around the place and spending time soaking up the meditative stillness of the site. It is quite amazing to see those structures with the mountains as a backdrop!

I left the old city (muang boran) about 3:45. I took a motorized contraption called a “tuk-tuk” that is different from the Bangkok version. It resembles a rickshaw with a motor. You sit in the front like in a rickshaw and the driver is behind you. It really is ideal for taking pictures! Like the water buffalo being quickly replaced by the “Khreung tai naa” (plowing machine), the human-powered “sam-law” (rickshaw) is being replaced by the motor. The mechanical age has caught on here big time from farming to the Internet.

After a quick shower, I walked the two kilometers to the new city center in search of some dinner. Went into a small shop looking for a pen and talked to a woman whose English was very good due to her having some American friends. She warned me to be careful as the flooding that caused so much damage in the north was cresting this way along the river. She said the Ping River would reach its maximum in a day or two! Yikes! Luckily for me at least I’ll be getting out of town tomorrow! As I walked back to the hotel, I could see a number of shops and businesses being barricaded with sandbags in anticipation for the worst scenario.

Got an early wake up call and headed to the bus station after breakfast. Hope to get back to Bangkok in time to get a connecting bus to Pattaya. The hotel staff told me that the flood waters had reached Sukhotai. As the taxi made its way over the river between the hotel and the bus station, people were sandbagging the banks of the river in desperation as the flood waters reached within inches of the top! Got the bus, which was an oddity double-decker one with an air-conditioner that, naturally, broke down half way through the trip. It got so warm I was wishing I were on a “roat tamada” (regular bus) as you could then at least open a window. Trapped in “luxury.” Made it to Morchit by 4:30; just enough time for a quick plate of rice before I got the bus for Pattaya. It only took two and a half hours to get to Pattaya from Morchit. I booked a room at the Thai Gardens– the wonderful pool area and gardens did not deserve to be associated with the rooms themselves! The furnishings were like a cheap Chinese guesthouse. Spartan furniture you couldn’t sit on for very long. Not that you would want to considering you were in Pattaya. There was a beach and town to reacquaint myself with!

Pictures of Pattaya

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Pattaya is as loud, brassy and sassy as Sukhotai is peaceful, serene, and conventional. They are really two completely opposite places! Pattaya is a resort city located on the Gulf of Thailand on the southeast coast about 30 kilometers from Bang Boh. In the old days, we would sometimes go after school and dig a ditch on the beach, build a fire and cook seafood! Then sing and relax before going home. Back then Pattaya, like so many places, was a two road beach town with a few hotels. Within the time I was there in Peace Corps, Pattaya boomed as the GI’s from Vietnam made it a favorite R&R spot! All that within a few years. BY the time I left in 1980, Pattaya was already on its way to being a major place to party. Whatever you were into, so was Pattaya. There was a saying back then, “Good boys go to church. Bad boys go to Pattaya.” And so I came! Seriously, I am not really a bar person, so I just had fun walking around and taking it all in. The once wide-open beach is now cluttered with beach chairs. You pay for the privilege, but it is OK.  It was just nice to vegetate and not think about anything more taxing than where you would have your next meal…..

During the course of the day, I finally got the courage to stop at one of those small tattoo shops along the beach and got a small Buddhist protection symbol on my chest. I was surprised that it did not hurt at all. It just vibrated a bit! So check one thing off my list done that I always wanted to do in my life!

I really enjoyed my brief stay here a lot more than I thought I would. The fact that it is now a big crazy place really didn’t bother me too much as it turned out.

Now back to Bangkok to do a side trip to Bang Boh again and just get ready to leave for the States. It seems so strange. I have fallen in love with this country all over again. I am already comfortable here, and I’m sure I will return many times in the future.

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