The journey by train from Bangkok to Phitsanulok in the north of Thailand was a cheap and thoroughly enjoyable experience. The day before my intended departure I went to Hua Lamphong station to book my ticket with all the important info I had collected online. It had to be Train 51, Chiang Mai bound, upper berth, no air conditioning, for the sum of 409 baht. Upper berth was fine. It is the cheapest category. It has no window and limited space but as I would travel at night that was of no concern. The booking was a breeze with a minimum of red tape and after that I had lunch at the air conditioned food court inside the station which did a fantastic pork noodle soup.
The next day I checked out and took the river taxi to Hua Lamphung. After boarding the train I found my berth and made myself comfortable. Not long after the train left, the conductor checked my ticket and it wasn’t before long that the monotonous noise that is typical of train travel sent me to sleep.
I arrived in Phitsanulok very early in the morning and I waited at the station till it got light. From there I had to walk to the bus station where I took a bus to New Sukhothai. So far everything went according to plan.
Sukothai was formerly the capital of Thailand (1238 – 1438) and is famous for its architecture and classical Thai art. For less than a dollar I rented a bicycle that was really only fit for children, but with my knees all over the place, it got me around. The grounds were nicely kept and some shady trees made for a nice picnic area where I ate my lunch of deep fried chicken. It tasted awful.
Old Sukhothai photos. Another UNESCO world heritage site.
Life in Sukhothai proved to be cheap. Sticky rice with minced meat for 15 baht. Lunch and dinner averaged between 30 and 40 baht. Deliciously soft durian pieces for 100 baht. After the first day I moved to a cheap hotel where I paid 200 baht per night and it proved great value for money. It was clean, quiet and spacious. It even had a small coach and I was provided with towels, toilet paper and reasonable wifi. It was the kind of hotel that made me happy.
At a small roadside stall not far form my hotel I bought some fruit that I thought was soursop. But if you google it a lot of images turn up that look very different from the one above. I’ve eaten soursop before in Malaysia and Indonesia where it is known as durian belanda because is resembles a rather large and prickly fruit not unlike the true durian. The custard apples, which are related to the soursop, were smaller and had no soft spikes. The flesh was deliciously sweet and creamy. It was very soft. Something I only noticed when I got up and found out I had accidently sat on one and had squashed it.
Cycling among the rice fields that surround Old Sukhothai.
From Sukhothai I took a night bus back to Bangkok’s Mo Chitt bus terminal. From there I took the subway to the city centre.
Some weeks before, I had bought a flight back to the Netherlands for a short sojourn to visit family and friends. I would fly with the budget carrier Norwegian Air. It was very cheap, but I kept receiving ominous, almost threatening, emails, warning me that I had not reserved a seat and in that case the airline would assign me a seat. The general gist was it wouldn’t be a nice one. Possibly in the middle of the aircraft, in between screaming children and fat people next to me, falling asleep, leaning over me and drooling in my lap… No meals were included so I had brought some chocolate bars and peanuts. To be on the safe side I had filled a water bottle in the transit area of Suvarnabhumi airport in Bangkok. In the end the flight was rather painless and even comfortable. I had a layover in Stockholm and from there it was cattle class to Amsterdam where I arrived tired but with a minimum loss of money.