Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Sometimes good, sometimes less....

In Old Sukhothai we stayed in Old City Guesthouse, a nice place with well equiped restaurants just next door and the entrance of the historical park on the other side of the street.
In Kamphaeng Phet we stayed in Three J Guesthouse, an even nicer and quieter place. Our room was in a very intimate tropical garden where we sat, relaxed and had our drinks. We had an extensive breakfast in the morning and got a present from the owner when we left.
Then we stayed in a bungalow on the bank of the river Ping near Khanu Woralaksaburi. In a park, free coffee and a restaurant 200 meters to the left. A minor thing was that no-one in the restaurant spoke another language than Thai, so only with the help of another guest we managed to order our food. We got our vegetables, shrimps and pork, but everything was diep-fried. Not our preference, but it was not really bad.
Today we arrived in Nakhon Sawan, a bigger town. We had to get into the busy centre to find a hotel which first impression was that of a prison. A total absence of any atmosphere. Room OK, not expensive too (cf. €7,50), but we prefer it otherwise.
The good experience was our dinner. We had our meals in a crowded place where again with the help of someone we ordered and this time got the usual delicious Thai food and cold beers. It seemed as if one half of the population of this town was having dinner at the same time with us and that the other half was working there to make it all happen. It was a crowd of waiters and kitchen staff mingling between the eaters and it all ran like a perfect and merry machine. We enjoyed it tremendously and had a real good time. Desert: ice coffee from 7-eleven nextdoor of the hotel. We'll have our breakfast from there as well.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Old Sukhothai

6 days and a good 300 k's riding brought us in the historical place called Old Sukhothai.
In order to achieve this we had to get over some minor passes (625 and 465 alt.) to leave the highland and reach the lower part of the country. Despite it's the cool season now we're pretty hot here and already quite tanned.

Old Sukhothai once was the centre of the kingdom (13th century) and at the height of its power it was wealthy enough to realize a beautiful walled city with lots of temples. An area of several square kilometers is now what might be the most important historical park of this country, including an historical museum showing and explaining hundreds of artefacts that have been excavated here. The whole park is all well kept and lovely and we spent a very agreeable and instructive day. It is very interesting to notice that the buddhist culture was originally influenced by hinduïsm, coming from India. This influence reached as far as the Vietnamese coasts and we remember having seen the same symbols used in the old Cham culture in Vietnam and in the Khmer culture in Cambodia. In our garden in Breda we have a linga and joni from Vietnam and we were not surprised to see some quite big specimen of them here.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

After Loi Kraetong

Together with our Breda friends we revelled in the festival. We went to see some famous wats (monastries) that were beautifully lit to the occasion and as our private climax we had a big paper lantern lift up in the nightly sky, where it joined the stream of hundreds more. A lovely sight and we tried to give it the intention that the ceremony should have according to the local Buddhist tradition (as far as we understood, that is), show gratitude and respect for the world and all its beings.

The next morning we packed our bikes, said goodbye to our friends, and left for Lamphun. Not far enough, we reached it at lunchtime and under an overcast sky we decided to head for the next provincial town, Ban Hong. Quiet roads, mostly flat, rice fields not green any more since the harvest was done or still going on.
Along the road we met a French couple, Theirry and Michèle. They are travelling on a tandem-bike. They started in Bruxelles, rode to Istanbul, took a plane there to Bangkok and are now heading for Chiang Mai and furhter north and east into Laos. They were happy to get our tips, as we have done the last part of their intended trip ourselves in 2006. A nice encounter it was.
The second day we reached Li and after that Thoen, We had to cross a (mountain)pass for that, Li's altitude is app. 475, the pas is 625. Now we are in Thoen, alt.200. Lower and hotter. Not much to do or to be seen, so a cool beer in the garden, some reading and blogging, and tomorrow off for the next stage.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Chiang Mai revisited

We're travelling again!
After a journey that altogether took almost 24 hours we arrived in Chiang Mai. Surprised again by the heat and troubled with the small and usual jetlag problems. After a slow first day and a long night sleep things are back as they should again. Bikes survived the planes alright too.
The first time here was Jan 2nd 2006. We started a 2-month bike tour from here, which took us through northern Thailand to the Golden Triangle and then the north half of Laos and back to Chiang Mai.
Now we're in the same hotel, which hasn't changed. It's still a nice place to be. But everything seems to be busier. The hotel, the city, there's more traffic and more people it seems. Times have been changing everywhere of course.
The city has a 600 year-old centre surrounded by a square moat of 1,5 kms each side. Four main gates remain and parts of the city wall. In this enclosed city there are busy roads but also surprisingly quiet lanes with houses and gardens, not to mention the monastries (wats). There are over 50 inside its walls. Many of them are stunningly beautiful, representing architecture dating from the Lanna dynasty, that we also saw in the south of China and Laos. On the day of our arrival we strolled through the premises of some famous monastries, had a lengthy conversation with a 21-year old monk and had ourselves covered in the culture as much as we could. We're lucky, it's the Kraetong festival these days. People are enjoying themselves in festivities including letting paper balloons go up in the sky with fireworks hanging underneath, long street markets everywhere, there is a parade in the evening and hundreds of floating candles and flowers are put on the river. Gratitude and respect, that's what it all seems to be about. We are happy to believe it and enjoying it with them. Great to be back.

Now we are relaxing of a short trial bike ride around the city. Not too nice, too many unavoidable city roads. But waiting for the special occasion tomorrow morning: René and Marijke, good friends and former neighbours of ours, will meet us here! It's a small world after all, isn't it?