Sukhothai is a small town about two thirds of the way from Bangkok to Chiang Mai. We took a bus up from Bangkok, which was the second in a row to show GI Joe: Retribution featuring the Rock. I’m not saying the Rock isn’t worth watching in this (and, indeed, in the Fast and the Furious 6 which was also a feature). I’m saying I was disappointed that the subsequent bus journey was not showing it.
Anyway, after a slow journey through Bangkok’s traffic-choked streets (somewhat affected by the widespread protests that were ongoing while we were there) we got onto the bus for our 6-hour Rockathon. Once we got to Sukhothai we found a songthaeuw (basically a cross between a minivan and a tuk-tuk) heading in the direction of our hotel and waited for the driver to complete his game of tetris with customers and baggage. He was a skillful packer as we fitted about four more people than I was expecting. Not that it was the most comfortable 10 mins of the trip.
Sukhothai itself is pretty small town, a memory of the ancient capital of Siam that used to sit adjacent. It was eclipsed by Ayuthayya’s superior transport links and subsequently both Chiang Mai and Bangkok. Our hotel had a very nice pool to lounge about, and we also got in some cycling, pootling out through the countryside and the local shops and markets, before bagging another group of Wats (temples) in ancient Sukhothai.
Chiang Mai was a further 4-5 hours north on a bus that scandalously showed precisely zero films featuring the Rock. In fact, it showed no films at all. I’m sure this is purely because the other buses had stolen all their cheesy recent action films.
We stayed in Chiang Mai old town, which is an awesome warren of hostels, wats, bars, restaurants and shops swiss-cheesed through a walled square about 1.5km per side. It had a really great, chilled-out vibe and was one of my favourite places that we’ve stayed all trip. We toured some more Wats (we might be about done with that) but heard that the tiger temple was a very dodgy set-up, with poorly treated and drugged animals wheeled out for pictures with tourists. Consequently, we gave it a miss and headed to the far more sustainable and responsible Elephant Sanctuary. This is an area of land which has been set up for Elephants rescued from the logging and tourism trade. Many had been very badly treated, a number are blind and others have broken hips, legs and backs. The sanctuary gives them space to roam, food to eat and a river to wash in, as well as vetinary care. It’s quite an uplifting visit.
Finally we got back on our bikes for a ride through the countryside. We visited a local elementary school, where the kids were wheeled out to practice their English. It was, in the parlance of our time, totes adorbs. The ride was followed by a longtail boat out to a floating restaurant, before heading back to the hotel to prepare for our flight south to Phuket.