Happiness is something that comes into our lives through doors we don’t even remember leaving open.
~ Rose Lane
Feeling Sick on the Bus Trip to Sukhothai
Leaving Chiang Mai and moving south to Phuket was bittersweet for me. I had made many new friends and started becoming accustomed to the pace of this vibrant city, so it wasn’t easy leaving, but at the same time, I felt it was time to really start exploring some more.
Instead of flying down to Phuket, from Chiang Mai, I took the scenic route by land and stopped in Sukhothai. Known as the original capital city of Thailand. Other than that, I didn’t really know much about the city. It was in the back of my mind because I remembered seeing an amazing picture of Sukhothai’s ancient ruins at a tourist office in Pai. So I thought, maybe one day I would visit, and this was my opportunity.
The only problem on this trip was that I wasn’t just backpacking, I was actually moving everything. I had a few heavy bags, filled with all the things I brought with me to live long term in Thailand. Looking back now, I will never pack that way again. I accumulated a lot more than I realized so I left one big box of things behind with Maysa and after I left, she mailed a second box to the U.S. for me. I plan to return to Chiang Mai of course but with a lot less stuff. Mostly everything I needed, I could’ve bought in Chiang Mai.
On the big bus to Sukhothai, I met a lady from Belgium named Kristien. I believe we were the only foreigners on the bus and at that moment neither of us knew what little adventure we would have on our long bus drive to Sukhothai. I never had any significant problems in Thailand up until this day.
I was one of the first people on the bus and I had been waiting before it even arrived. I know from experience that it can take 20-30 minutes after the scheduled time for the bus to load. I was still getting over a cold, I barely had any sleep from the night before and I was very congested, coughing and blowing my nose…sorry I know its gross.
I was very uncomfortable waiting on the bus in the second row behind the driver, trying to stifle my coughing. I had to step off the bus twice to throw out tissues and go to the bathroom. Since people were still slowly loading on the bus, I thought it was ok.
However, the bus driver was not very happy with me. When I tried to step off for a third time to clear my chest, he yelled at me and told me to sit back down! His anger took me by surprise. I just apologized and sat back down. This was only the beginning, from our angry bus driver. We still didn’t leave for a few minutes after that!
We made a few stops on the way to Sukhothai, most were not rest stops but we picked up either new passengers or dropped off a few. Kristien and I spoke and got acquainted a little bit, but mostly I slept and sucked on cough drops.
At one of the rest stops, I got off to use the restroom and pick up some snacks. When I came out of the restroom I saw Kristien at one of the stores. I would have walked straight back to the bus, but I wanted to wait for her.
As I was standing there I could see the bus driver outside of the bus and some people getting on.
I looked to see where Kristien was in line at the shop and by the time I looked back I saw the bus door close.
I yelled at Kristien and as we got out to the curb the bus was backing out. Kristien and I literally had to run out into the terminal waving our hands in front of the bus so he could not leave without running us both over.
I couldn’t believe it.
If he would have left we would have been stranded in some small town in rural Thailand and all of our belongings were under that bus. He knew we were not on the bus.
I am not sure what his problem was because everyone else I met especially employed in a service job has always been very considerate. Even the tuk-tuk drivers when they are price gouging are still mostly courteous.
I didn’t even say anything to the driver, and he didn’t even look at me when he opened the bus doors and let us both back on.
Entrance To Phuaroon Resort – Walking Distance from Bus Station.
When we arrived at the Sukhothai bus station, I got all of my bags off the bus and began trying to orient myself to where we were. I had reserved a hotel online called the Phuaroon Resort.
According to another travel blog I read, the Phuaroon Resort was no more than a 5-minute walk away from the bus station.
However, I didn’t know which direction to begin walking. I had too much luggage to drag on what looked like mostly dirt roads all around the bus station terminal. One songthaew (red pick-up) driver asked to take me, but he did not know where the Phuaroon Resort was, so he asked another driver. Kristien didn’t book any reservations and decided to go with me to check out my resort.
Negotiating in Thailand has become only second nature for me after several months, but in this case. I was just not feeling well. The drivers came back and confirmed it was only 5 min away, and I prematurely agreed to pay I think it was 250 Baht for both of us. In reality, it is not a lot of money approximately $7US in total.
First, I have to mention it was 239 Baht for the big bus from Chiang Mai to Sukhothai. I just didn’t feel like negotiating so I agreed and off we went. Kristien said that seemed kind of high, but I just shrugged it off, because I just wanted to get there, no matter what it cost me.
So, we got in the back of the songthaew and drove around the corner through a small local facility, I think may have been a firehouse, but I am not sure the sign just says administrative organization.
As soon as we passed the gate and barely another 30 yards away was the entrance to Phuaroon Resort.
It took no more than 2 minutes to arrive at the front of the reception area from the bus terminal. So I definitely messed up that negotiation.
239 Baht for a 6hr air-con bus ride from
Chiang Mai to Sukhothai
250 Baht for 2 people to ride 200 yards in the back of a pickup truck.
All in all, it’s not really a lot of money, but it’s the principal.
Those songthaew drivers knew it was around the corner and instead of just pointing us in that direction, they took advantage.
No matter how bad or lazy you feel, just negotiate, they are most likely going to price a foreigner way higher unless you call them on it.
You will always pay more as a farang(foreigner), but you don’t need to pay 5x as much.
For information on Bus Schedules from Sukhothai Bus Terminal click here.
The Phuaroon Resort was 600 Baht/night at the time when I stayed, and I stayed for 3 nights.
Sukhothai Historical Park – UNESCO – World Heritage Site
Sukhothai is the first capital city of Siam or Thailand as it is known today. The Sukhothai Kingdom once comprised most of Northern Thailand down into the Malay Peninsula. The kingdom centered around the city of Sukhothai during the 13th century.
The city of Sukhothai co-existed with the second capital city of Thailand, Ayutthaya but was later invaded by Ayutthaya, then eventually united and later annexed from Ayutthaya.
Sukhothai and the neighboring city of Si Satchanalai are both rich in culture and history and the remnants of their existence are highly regarded and admired.
The Sukhothai Historical Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and probably the first one I have visited outside of the U.S.
UNESCO stands for the United Nations Organization for Education, Science, and Culture, in case you didn’t know. It is an intellectual agency of the United Nations.
I didn’t know about much of this, but now I know that it was founded in 1945, has 195 members, 8 associate members, is headquartered in Paris, France, with 50 field offices located all over the world.
UNESCO’s message is deep and to just summarize briefly, part of their mission is to establish peace on the basis of humanity’s moral and intellectual solidarity not only through political and economic agreements.
Like, I said it’s deep but if you are more interested you can click on the links in this section to go to their official website.
Sukhothai Historical Park – Solo Bike Tour
I had planned to do a bicycle tour around the countryside of Sukhothai.
There are a few tour companies in the area promoting eco-tourism and they offer bike tours through the farming villages and beautiful countryside. The bike trails that are also used by the farmers, lead-in, and around the rice fields and canals for some scenic views.
I scheduled with one company I found on a brochure at Phuaroon Resort, but because there weren’t enough people to sign up, it was canceled, which is unfortunate for them.
However, I went ahead to the historical park that day on my own instead. Kristien told me the night before that she would be going to the park in the morning, so I figured we could meet up later.
I arrived at the park which was about a 20-minute drive from where I was staying. I left my bungalow around 11am that morning and walked out to the city and the main road to catch a songthaew to the historical park.
Luckily, it did not take too long to find one. I walked about half a kilometer from the river bridge going out of town until I found a little bus stop area. I asked someone if the songthaew stops there and a local Thai lady kindly and positively acknowledged me.
In about 5 mins an old rickety songthaew pulled up and I got on with another traveler, a blonde-haired surfer from Australia.
I remember he told me had just been to Bali, and was now traveling around Thailand indefinitely, heading North. I believe that was the conversation that instigated my musings about visiting Bali for the first time before I returned to the U.S.
As soon as we got off of the songthaew we walked across the street to a bicycle rental shop, directly across from the park entrance. They had hundreds of bikes out front and after a little perusing for a “big size” bike for a “big man” like me we found a big bike with working brakes.
Hey! those are not my words, that’s what the shopkeepers like to refer to me as. 🙂
I believe the bike rental was in the $2-$3US range and it includes a bike lock. It was very cheap and no passport required, only just a little information about where I was staying.
The Australian and I split up at this point. I paid the entrance fee to the historical park which was a combination of a bike fee and entrance. Still less than $5US. You can walk the entire park but it will take you a very long time to cover that much ground, it is huge!
My first stop was near a sign and a big monument. There was no one there initially, but as soon as I parked my bike a large group of students all on bicycles pulled up right next to me.
At least 50 or more young teenagers were on a field trip and they all lined up with their bicycles next to me to take a picture.
No, not with me this time, but they seemed oblivious to the fact that I was in their class picture. Many of them smiled and waved at me and I rode with them to the next stop, which was the giant Buddha I used as my featured image for this post.
I rode from site to site taking pictures and videos everywhere I went, as you can see above and below.
Later that day I ran into Kristien, who was also cycling around the park and we took pictures for each other by the lake. We split up but promised to meet up later that night for dinner. Most of the entire day, I was on my own and I took some self pics using the camera’s timer whenever I could find a ledge to prop it on.
There are so many little interesting things that happened that day in the park, from running into a motorcycle club doing a photoshoot on the outskirts of the park, getting stopped on the path by some cattle grazing, and enjoying a delicious smoothie at a small café in the wooded area of the park with a family from Sweden.
The Dawn of Happiness
Sukhothai translated actually means the “Dawn of Happiness”.
When I visited Sukhothai, it was a transition from the end of my time living in Chiang Mai which was such a dramatic change in lifestyle to contemplating what I wanted to do next in my life. Like turning the page to a new chapter.
I didn’t accomplish exactly what I came for but I accomplished so much more in just transforming my perspective about what I want to see in my future.
Although I eventually returned to the U.S. to re-group, the experiences and obstacles, I faced while traveling taught me to be a more open-minded, patient, adaptable, and tolerant person.
Maybe I already was to a level, but now I had been tested and improved on through new experiences.
Well…..except for when I am driving in traffic, speaking to an automated telephone recording or getting a sales pitch from an unscrupulous salesman. Nobody’s perfect.
Coming home is exactly what I needed to allow myself time to reflect and evaluate my strengths and weaknesses. I am in the process of attempting to make my own way in my career. Thinking back on all of the changes that have occurred in the past two years good or bad, all have been a part of a change for the better for me.
I am truly grateful and happy to be here in the U.S., despite my current circumstances. I have found so many new things to be passionate about and I get even more excited thinking about the endless possibilities the future holds as I travel even more. If I never had left I wouldn’t even be writing this. I wouldn’t have these memories. I wouldn’t have met such amazing people. I wouldn’t have these photos to share with you.
It’s been almost a year since my bicycle ride around these beautiful ancient ruins but taking a leap to live in a foreign country taught me so much.
Freedom to choose my own destiny has been a long rocky road, and these choices are what sparked my own “Dawn of Happiness” and I am still working towards the next stage.