Road Trip through Phitsanulok, Thailand
by Taylor Deer
After our memorable experience at the Coconut Sugar Farm and the world’s largest floating market in Damnoen Saduak, we spent the night in Bangkok before starting our road trip to Northern Thailand’s mountainous city of Chiang Mai.
Even though I am way too excited to share my experiences playing with the elephants in Chiang Mai, you will have to wait until next Tuesday’s blog post as I share my adventures in the Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya province, the small city of Phitsanulok and the ancient area of Sukhothai. If you are one for adventure like myself, pack your bags, get your cameras ready and enjoy the long, but fulfilling ride through Thailand’s beautiful mainland.
Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya Province:
It took us two hours to get to our first stop at Wat Phra Si Sanphet (Temple of the Holy, Splendid Omniscient) in the province of Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya. Used as a residential palace, this historical site became a monastery in the reign of King Ramathibodi I during the 12th century AD. When King Borom Trai Lokanat commanded that new living quarters be built during the 13th century, this holy palace was then assigned to be a temple area. The current site does not have any monks or novice inhabitants, but is served as a historical center and tourist attraction.
The Wonders of the Temple of Holy, Splendid Omniscient
When we first arrived at Wat Phra Si Sanphet, I was amazed at how beautiful the ruins were. I’ve never been to Mexico, but it reminded me of pictures I’ve seen of the ancient Mayan ruins. The cool thing about this site is that you can walk up to the top of each temple (also known as Chedis) and take awesome pictures! You can even walk around the ruins and pretend you are living in ancient Thailand.
I managed to get some yoga in on the Chedis.
Around the temple area are beautiful gardens and you can even catch a resident from the local area transporting around the site on an elephant! I am an advocate for animal rights, so I usually do not condone that, but I do have an interest in how people from around the world live their daily lives, including how they transport.
A Young Man Traveling on an Elephant
A Local Thai Lunch in the Countryside:
After our time exploring Wat Phra Si Sanphet, we got back on the bus and headed to our second stop, a local lunch in the Thai countryside. I traveled to Thailand during the country’s rainy season, so most of our days were overcast (luckily not too much rain), so when we reached the home where we were having lunch, it was nice to see the sun out even though it was HOT!
Here Comes the Sun
When we arrived at the home, we entered through the kitchen where the owners were busy cooking up our food. Since there was a big group of us, they made enough food to have a buffet. The lunch buffet consisted of typical pad Thai, a sweet and sour soup along with fried chicken (they offered American food as a way to welcome us). After enjoying our delicious lunch and comforting Thai tea afterwards, we went outside and enjoyed the tranquility of the lake and beautiful meadow-like surroundings.
The Serene Lake
Thai Iced Tea:
During our road trip, we made a few pit stops to refuel both on gas as well as with snacks. Whenever we stopped at a service station, there was a popular chain café called Café Amazon where you can get delicious and refreshing Thai iced tea. Thai tea is made from strongly brewed Ceylon tea. Other ingredients included in this amazing treat are orange blossom water, star anise, crushed tamarind seed and a few other spices. The tea is sweetened with sugar and condensed milk and is served chilled for a hot day in Thailand’s sun. You can also get a delicious Thai iced matcha green tea as well! (Both are amazing.)
Regular and Matcha Thai Iced Tea
The City of Phitsanulok:
After a couple more hours on the road, we finally reached the city of Phitsanulok! Our first stop was to Wat Phra Sa Rattana Mahathat (Temple of Great Jeweled Reliquary). The temple grounds featured beautiful Asian architecture to admire for days. Before we entered the temple, we took off our shoes and made sure our shoulders were covered like the temples we visited in Bangkok. When we finally made our way in, we were surrounded by beautiful and intricate crystal architecture and mother-of-pearl inserts. Straight ahead of us was the famous, gold-covered statue of the Buddha – known as Phra Phuttha Chinnarat (King of Victory). It is considered one of the most beautiful Buddha figures in Thailand.
The Dreamy Temple of Great Jeweled Reliquary
Inside of the temple, we were asked to sit right away. If you wanted to get closer to the Buddha, it was asked of us that we crawl to it as standing and walking would have been a distraction for those meditating. It was a great experience being able to meditate on my own in front of this stunning Buddha!
One of the best experiences was meditating in front of this beautiful Buddha.
Before we headed back onto the bus, we were able to interact with Thai children and they even gave us a Thai 101 lesson! It was adorable and hilarious at the same time.
The Rickshaw Ride:
After we checked into our hotel in Phitsanulok, we were ready for our fun rickshaw ride around the city. A rickshaw is a two-cycle vehicle used in various Thai cities to transport around. It is different than a taxi (tuk tuk) as it isn’t automatic. We each got our own rickshaw and driver, which was cool because there isn’t much room seating-wise. This was a classic Thai experience that I was so thankful to enjoy as Thailand will soon be doing away with them due to the increase in taxis and Uber rides. It was a beautiful night and it was awesome relaxing on the back of the rickshaw and feeling like a true Thai local.
Getting ready for my rickshaw ride around Phitsanulok!
It took us 20 minutes to reach a street-side café where we would enjoy a local dinner made in front of us. I have to admit that when we got to the café, I wasn’t too thrilled about all of the bugs and lizards around, but had to accept that this is a typical Thai environment and learn to adapt to it. That is one thing about being an avid traveler; sometimes you have to go out of your comfort zone and deal with situations you dislike or aren’t used to. It helps you grow as a person and appreciate what you have.
Even though the bug situation wasn’t ideal, our tour guides Mr. Perez and Mr. Tony as well as the café owners made sure we had a great time by hosting a fun show while we ate our dinner. Each one of us had to pick out of a hat. Whoever was chosen as the “lucky one”, had to get dressed up in a Thai costume and catch the freshly made sautéed veggies. Of course, I was chosen as the “lucky one” and had to wear the funny outfit. I wasn’t sure if I was going to catch the veggies, but my childhood softball skills came in handy when I actually caught them with the pan! Everyone was happy and cheering me on. I was then able to enjoy the delicious veggies afterwards.
I was the “lucky one”.
Phitsanulok Night Market:
After our fun dinner, we hopped back on the rickshaw that took us to Phitsanulok’s night market. The famous night market was another eye-opener as we saw a lot of bloody fish, raw meats and fried insects you can purchase as a snack. Since we were with a group, the fried insect vendor offered us a platter of insects we could try. I hate bugs, so I obviously was grossed out, but thought I had to experience it since I was in Thailand. I opted for the worm (since I thought it would taste like escargot) and it actually wasn’t that bad, believe it or not! It was fried so it wasn’t slimy like I expected it to be. It was salty and it tasted like I was eating a chip. The other insects offered on the plate (that I couldn’t touch) were cockroaches, grasshoppers and maggots. (Yummy, LOL) If you liked one insect over the other, you could’ve had the opportunity to purchase a whole bag of it.
A Unique Plate of Deliciousness
At the end of the evening, we took the rickshaw back to our hotel where we were able to have a relaxing evening.
The last part of our road trip before reaching the mountains of Chiang Mai was to Sukhothai. The province of Sukhothai can be translated to the Dawn of Happiness. This ancient city is located in the valley of the Yom River and features the Khao Luang Mountain Range.
The Magnificent Hidden Buddha of Sukhothai
We stopped at Si Satchanalai Historical Park that is maintained by the Fine Arts Department of Thailand with help from UNESCO, which has declared it as a World Heritage Site. At this magical park, you can marvel around to see the ancient Buddha statues, palace buildings, ruined temples and beautiful lakes featuring lily pads. One of the cool things about this park is that you can rent bikes and wander around while getting your exercise in. My cousin Tara and I tried to get a two-person bike, but because of our height difference, it was difficult to manage. We laughed so hard as we failed to get around. We switched to our own personal bikes, which ended up being so much fun and full of memories.
Biking through Beautiful Sukhothai
We ended our time in the Phitsanulok area enjoying a delicious Thai lunch just as we reached the mountainside of Chiang Mai. I hope you enjoyed my third blog post on Thailand. Stay tuned for a blog post on my favorite Thai city next Tuesday!
See you soon Chiang Mai!
SitInMySeats’ Alexie of Travels with Lexy visited Thailand in September 2016. Click here to read her Ten Days Touring Thailand.
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