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Chiang Mai to Ayutthaya

Apart from seeing the elephants in Chiang Mai, there wasn't very much that was appealing about the place. Pollution hung in the air, and much of the town seemed to consist mainly of ugly, post-war, concrete buildings you find in so many provincial Thai cities. Strangely, it was also full of package tourists, lots of whom were American, which had obviously pushed prices up and everything cost much more than in Bangkok. The locals kept bowing and acting very servile, as if to make the package tourists feel important as they threw their money around, which is quite unusual for Thailand where normally they would joke with or laugh at you. Much of the town felt seedy and many of the bars were full of Thai hookers, with whom most of the single Western guys you saw were going around with. We were glad to get away.

We boarded a train to Phitsanulok, and sat in third class with old men who smoked opium for much of the trip, which is pretty common in the hill tribe villages. Eight hours later we finally arrived. Walking out of the railway station I spotted an old, thin man with a rickshaw, and happy to see a keen cyclist, I did my bit for the environment, dumped our heavy backpacks into it, climbed in, and agreed to give him 60 euro cents if he cycled us several kilometres across town to the youth hostel. Carita was looking at me in horror, wondering if he would survive the trip, but he turned out to be quite fit for an 80 year old, though possibly a little shaken by the end of the ordeal.

Phitsanulok youth hostel was really quite nice. Set in a lush garden with a big outdoor terrace, the rooms were made from old teak houses that had been joined together.

The next day we got up early and caught a bus to old Sukhothai, one of Thailand's World Heritage sites. The city was Thailand's first capital in the 13th century and today it's spectacular ruins cover 45sq km. We rented bikes to look around and it was one of the most tranquil, impressive places that I've been to in Thailand so far. The area itself is set in well tended parkland and was almost devoid of tourists. Strange as that may seem, it was lovely as it allowed us to fully appreciate the serenity of the location, temples and huge buddha sculptures. It also stopped fat people in tracksuits from ruining our photographs. Next time, however, I'd go earlier in the morning for photographing, as most of the statues are east facing.

Spiritualised, the next day we continued on to Ayutthaya. Another UNESCO listed site, it was Thailand's capital from 1350 until it was sacked by the Burmese in the 1700's. The new town, however, looks like it's been recently looted. It's dirty, unattractive, and a hard place to say anything good about. It does appear to have several gekkos to each inhabitant though, which is nice if, like us, you enjoy watching lizards (and there's little other entertainment in the city).

The ruins are beautiful though. They're much more interspersed throughout the town than in Sukhothai, much busier with tourists, and feel more like a money making operation, but they're still very impressive. Needless to say, once we'd been around them we went straight back to the hotel, picked up our bags, and caught a tuk-tuk to the station for the next train to Bangkok. The new town wasn't the kind of place you wanted to spend more than one night in.


Did you here any news from the gekkos about Freddies whereabouts?

Have been trying to track him down. He was last seen playing darts in a bar in Patpong!

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