Tales from the Road: Sukhothai
Sukhothai (which means "Rising of Happiness") dates back to 1238, and is considered by Thais to be the first true Thai kingdom.  It is both a national park and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and a pretty neat place to visit.

October 3 -- We had initially planned to stop in at Sukhothai on our way to Chiang Mai from Bangkok, but with all the rain and flooding we decided to take the train straight up.  As it was, we arrived in Sukhothai about four days after the floodwaters there had subsided.

Thailand has such an extensive history it was getting hard to keep track of it all, so we hired a guide, Noi, whom we had met a few days earlier, to take us down on a two day excursion.  We learned a lot!

The Sukhothai period is seen as a golden age of Thai culture, religion and politics, an egalitarian time when food was plentiful and the kingdom unconquerable.  This was where the Thai writing system was developed.

Noi took us first to the archeological site of Wiang Kum Kam, a few kilometers south of Chiang Mai to show us what Sukhothai would have looked like 20 years ago.  This was the earliest settlement in the Chiang Mai area, abandoned after massive flooding in the 1600's.  Much of Wiang Kum Kam is still not excavated.


We made a few more stops along the way, at the elephant hospital near Lampang, and at a rice paddy north of Sukhothai to check out the crop.  The rice paddies were a surprise -- they're full of fish!  After the crop's been planted, farmers spend their days catching the fish that swim between the rows and through all the little canals.

We also saw our first cobra, dead fortunately, roadkill at the side of the highway.  It was about a meter and a half long.  Apparently they grow to twice that length.

Noi warned us that the spitting cobras were the worst.  They spit poison into the eyes of their victims before they get 'em.  I figured it was best just not to go into the jungle without your snake repellant on.


We made it to Sukhothai late in the afternoon and cruised around the park a bit for an overview.  The next morning we were back early, as the mists were rising and ahead of the tour groups.  It was a calm morning and the air was cool and sweet.  We essentially had the park to ourselves.

Carol and I have always enjoyed exploring archeological sites.  The wats at Sukhothai were more extensive and elaborate than any we had seen.  A sense of awe and wonder continued to be renewed throughout the morning.

We met a guy harvesting watercress in front of one of the wats.  Later we met a woman fishing from a pond with her granddaughter.



Harvesting watercress at Wat Phra Phai Luang in Sukhothai
 
Check out our travels in Bangkok
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Main Buddha and supporting columns at Wat Mahathat
Archeological ruins at Wiang Kum Kam, near Chiang Mai
Part of the archeological site at Wiang Kum Kam, on the outskirts of Chiang Mai.  Much of the old city still lies under the floodplains of the Mae Ping River.
Wat Chang Lom, with 36 elephants sculpted into the base of the chedi
At Wat Mahathat, in Sukhothai
Two women doing a little fishing at Sukhothai
Woodcarver at Sukhothai