We tuk-tuk’ed to the bus station in Ayutthaya, as it is outside the main city and quite a walk. The bus station is set up in a pretty strange way. It is not possible to buy a ticket until the bus arrives. In our case, the bus originated in Bangkok. The ticket agent’s English wasn’t so good, and we were worried the bus we were told about didn’t exist and that’s why she wouldn’t sell us the ticket. But eventually, the bus did show up, and we, as the only non-locals, got aboard. The bus was semi-AC, but a little more cramped then the bus we had taken to Ko Samet. There was 5 seats across. Thais might be that skinny, but …
We pulled into Sukkhothai a little late (the trip took 6 hours), and we tuk-tuk’ed to our hotel, the Ban Phe Guest House. We stayed in a non-AC cabin with private bath, which was clean and not too hot, thanks to a powerful, quiet fan. The owner is English-speaking and we were very happy staying there – lots of great tourist information, super-friendly staff, etc.
Unlike Ayutthaya, the ruins are not in the city proper, but 7 miles outside in Old Sukkhothai. We took a songthaew over to the ruins. The bus was supposed to drop us off at the main gate to the ruins but instead dropped us off somewhere in the middle of Old Sukkhothai. Some school children helped us point our way (traveler’s tip. If you want good advice, never ever ask a man on the street. Women, school children, or store-owners are the best ones to point you the right way. Men will tell you even if they don’t know).
The ruins are very different from Ayutthaya’s. They are not as well preserved, or as elaborate, but they are in much more beautiful surroundings. Basically the whole site has been turned into one big park. There are a few roads that snake through the site, but there isn’t very much traffic. It’s perfectly set up to ride a bike through from site to site (and there are many bicycle rental places right outside the main gate). We decided to walk, as it was very hot.
We wish we’d had more time there. It ended up being rushed for us – the distances between some of the wats are considerable (although the walk was always pleasant) and we found ourselves rushing to get around everywhere before the last songthaew back to town (at 5:00. The site is open later, but unless you arrange for a taxi in advance or take a scooter, you’ll be hitching!).
Sukkhothai would be perfect for a picnic – there is greenery and scenic stops everywhere, and the whole site is very well maintained. There was very few people there, despite our guidebook’s warnings of throngs of crowds. I guess people just aren’t travelling as much these days – fine by us! We were often the only ones visiting a particular wat. The wats that stood out were Wat Mahatat and Wat Phra Phai Luang (although it was quite a hike to get there).
We had a pleasant, relaxed, excellent dinner at the hotel’s restaurant. The owner even called ahead to the Old Chiang Mai Cultural Center on our behalf to make a reservation for us.