Journey to the unknown : Thailand – Sukhothai
I could not remember the last time when I woke up so early. I had to, to be on schedule. Even though the trip was supposed to be unplanned, it didn’t mean I didn’t have to be on schedule. I groggily looked at the phone buzzing with the alarm tone. It said 5:15 AM. As usual it took me a few moments to realize that I was in Thailand, in the new city of Sukthothai. On a 3 week unplanned backpacking trip. I packed up and took a hot shower. I had no clue when the next hot shower might be so I made the most of it. I helped myself to the free DIY tea and toasts. The morning still retained some of the chill.
I left my semi-packed bags at the reception and checked out since I wasn’t sure of when I might be back. I headed out and got the bus (old truck) to the Old City. The fare was exactly 30 THB as I was told. The bus dropped me right in front of the entrance. As soon as I got down a middle aged guy approached me and offered a bicycle in the usual Thai accented English. The fare was exactly 30 THB as I was told. I paid, entered my details and got an old rusted bicycle. Later I did get a feeling I got a raw deal but well I didn’t want to complain much. The next thing to do was to get the 100 THB ticket to enter one zone (there were 5 zones and 3 had to be paid for). The cycle was another 10 THB.
I entered and started cycling around looking at the ruins. The Burmese had done their job thoroughly. They made ruins. They did this by almost decimating the signs of a city, the old sukhothai city from where the kingdom was ruled. I spent a couple of hours in central zone. These were the early morning hours and the weather was cool. The sights of Buddha statues in the faint morning light and reflecting in the lakes was spectacular. I stood gazing at old ruins at times wondering the people and the battle that had come before me at the same spot. It suddenly makes you realize how petty it is to fight about a broken car or a few bucks of food etc. Next I entered the south zone which seems to be free as of now. I spent another 2 hours there looking at the ruins. Cycling through old roads with small Thai houses was wonderful. I felt so free like I had wings. I was here in this place and time with no future or past and no responsibility. This was freedom! But I was also starting to get tired. Finally I thought I would visit one more zone since I have time and I have come this far. I cycled another 2 KM to the western zone and bought the tickets. Entering it I figured that everything is just too far and it is too hot and there was not a place to sit in the shade.
Finally after all of it, I was tired and my ass hurt. I came back near the central zone around 11AM and ate some fried noodles with a coke at a small joint. I guess it cost me 70 THB in total. Then I re-entered central zone and sat down under a shade for some time. As usual I watched people cycling around, walking around looking at the ruins. I saw school kids, I saw American couples, I saw old European couples, I saw young women. I even saw a family of 4 with 2 young kids strapped on their baby carriers. I wondered where they learn this lust to travel even with little kids etc. It was amazing to know that the world is so beyond everything you have imagined. Around 12.10PM I left and cycled around. I ended up at this cute little cheap coffee shop where you can get a cappuccino for 25 THB. It was cool in the AC and the warm cappuccino helped recover some of my strength. Suddenly I thought that I might as well go to Chiang Mai earlier than what I had planned for.
So I got back to the guest house and picked up my bags. I found that there was a 2 PM bus to Chiang Mai. The ticket was 239 THB for an air-conditioned bus. It was a nice comfortable ride though I didn’t find anything too scenic. While on the bus I searched for a hotel in Chiang Mai and found this hotel called Imm hotel and booked for a couple of nights. It seemed to be in the center of the city and had some deal. From the Chiang Mai bus stand I took a shared tuk-tuk from there to Tapae gate for 40 THB. The hotel was cool but honestly for $33 (1300 THB) / night it was not well kept or worth it. However I had already booked it and no point cribbing about it. So I checked in and did my ritual of the long hot shower.
Finally I decided to head out by myself. Had fried rice at a small place called Aroon rai restaurant and then bought a beer. That area of Chiang Mai is shaped in a square with walls etc that cordoned off the seat of the kingdom. I walked around having my beer. I had seen enough night life in Thailand to know that the situation would be similar here as well. But I was bored and I didn’t feel like going to sleep yet. I walked around the street and ended up going to this bar. It was owned by a Cambodian family and it wasn’t too crowded. It had a few regulars and that’s about it.
I sat down on the bar and got myself a Jim Beam. It seems like I had developed a taste for this one. I just looked around, chit-chatted with the girls and enjoyed my drink. I struck up a conversation with some guy who has a regular life somewhere in NZ and does well there. However he has this family in Chiang Mai and a kid. He comes here often. He opened a small eating joint for his gf (not wife) and they seemed to be used to life as it was. We chatted about the people here and from India and how things are. It was just an odd comfortable conversation that didn’t have any reason or purpose. I learned something, he learned something and after a couple of drinks I went my way and never saw him again.
Whatever he said to me about his usual life, his kid here and this gf who was not really a wife. Of how he loves them every bit and yet doesn’t feel that he has to live here yet. Of this city being his retirement plan etc. I realized that marriage and love are constructs of our mind. It is upto us on how we define it and how we maintain it. It does not need the approval of anyone else except the two (usually!) people involved. It made think about someone I knew well. I think drinking makes you emotional or maybe being emotional makes you drink.
When I got back I had a message from her. She had sent me a song that changed me forever. It was the moment my life took another turn and so far it seems like the good turn. The song is called Miracle by Above and Beyond. Miracle it was! And that night I spent with this miracle in my mind. If you want your life to change, I would recommend listening to Miracle.