Coming at you from Chiang Mai, Thailand, one of my favourite places in the whole wide world. It is a mecca for Thai massage and I am taking more lessons, trying to sharpen my skills. I am getting better all the time but it feels like something I could study for a lifetime…..or maybe I just want an excuse to keep coming back here 🙂 I am also seeing if I can figure out what the more renowned spas are doing to make their spa experience outstanding.
I was in Chiang Mai for almost a month when it came time to attend a yoga course in Nong Khai that I had signed up for way back. I’m very fond of Nong Khai (and yoga) but it was still difficult to pull myself away from beloved Chiang Mai. To make the overland trip a little easier and more interesting I decided to stop in the ancient Thai capital of Sukhothai, which is more or less on the way. This was a good move! After a five hour bus ride I jumped off at Old City Sukhothai. I felt the powerful energy of the place immediately. I checked in to the Old City guesthouse, rented a bike and started to explore. It is a wonderful place to bicycle as it is flat with little traffic and lots of fresh air. There are moats surrounding the many wats (temples). I will let the photos do the talking but suffice to say it is impressive. The next morning I got up early to catch the sunrise and check out some of the ruin sites further out. The large buddha on hill side was my favourite. There was a large tour group of Thai students there, they took some fun photos.
It was mid-morning and I could have stayed another day and theoretically still made it to Nong Khai on time but decided to keep on moving. I had heard there were many buses through the day in my direction so wasn’t too worried. First I caught the purple tsong tao (which is a big flatbed truck taxi with a roof over the back and benches to sit on) into the New City and then caught the bus to local transport hub, Phitsanulok. I got there just after noon and much to my chagrin, I had hit the one big hole in the bus schedule, there were no buses for six hours. I wasn’t sure what to do. To get a bit of breathing room and a chance to think I decided to check into a room at out one of the many cheap guesthouses nearby. It was called Little Home and I think they wanted 200 baht( about $7) which I thought was fair enough even if I only used the room to store my luggage for a few hours. The room looked decent…..how nice, there are a couple of complimentary condoms by the soap. The family who ran it seemed alright so I headed out to make my plan. The later buses arrived at Udon Thani, about an hour away from Nong Khai, at a god awful hour so instead I got a ticket for the first bus in the morning. I had all afternoon now and decided to explore a little. I have to say Phitsanulok is the first Thai city to really disappoint me. I went to Wat Yai, the major attraction and had a good look around. It looked good but I have seen so many temples they all kind of meld together in my mind. As it was a really big attraction, one thing I really was looking forward to was all the good food that was sure to be close by. There were a scant few food carts outside the temple, so I walked down the river expecting to find many nice restaurants but there was nothing, nada, zilch. I must have walked an hour an a half before I found something I wanted to eat, shocking for Thailand! My feet were starting to kill me so I treated myself to foot massage, which was quite good, the highlight of my time there as it turned out.
The bus route from Phitsanulok to Nong Khai goes through scenic hills and valleys, one of the reasons I chose to take the day bus. The bus was labouring up one of steeper hills when I heard a great grinding racket from beneath the rear of the bus. The driver pulled over immediately. He climbed beneath the bus and started pounding on the suspect part furiously for about ten minutes. He emerged from underneath the bus and his arms and most of his shirt was covered in black grease. His assistant helped him take off his shirt and he climbed back under for more. I checked my phone for the time and noticed there was no signal in these hills. I did not have a good feeling about this one. It’s funny because I had wanted to take this particular yoga course the two previous times I was to Nong Khai but for one reason or another it never worked out. As I listened to more furious pounding I thought, maybe I am really not meant to take this course. After another 15 minutes straight of hammering away the driver re-emerged. To my surprise and relief he fired the bus up and we were on our way. I did finally arrive in Nong Khai that evening, even got to catch my yoga teacher playing a jazzy set at the Mutmee Guesthouse bar, floating on the mighty Mekong. Life was good again……