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Sukhothai UNESCO World Heritage Site | Sangkhalok pottery and other shopping | vegan Thai food

Posted Apr 29 2013 9:00am

I enjoyed everything about our recent trip to Thailand, but perhaps the highlight was our visit to the UNESCO World Heritage Site in Sukhothai. Sukhothai, was the original capital of the Kingdom of Siam, or modern-day Thailand. It dates from the 13th and 14th centuries. Rather than write about it here, I'll direct those interested in more detail to visit the UNESCO Web site for more information.

I was very excited to see the excavated architecture and Buddhas, and a little frustrated that we were on a tram tour to visit each of the main areas instead of having unlimited access to everything that caught my eye. On the other hand, it was 105˚F and realistically, if we'd attempted to walk or bike the entire site, I think we might have expired before seeing a fraction of it.

Our guide is at bottom, left.

Having a guide meant that not only did we have an ongoing commentary about what we were seeing, but we had someone to answer our questions. I wish I could remember the things we "learned" as we observed the ruins, but obviously I didn't learn them well enough.

The site covers a little less than 27 sq. miles, with some areas more restored than others.

I think I read somewhere that you could walk around the central and northern zones of ancient Sukhothai in about six hours, that is, if you didn't faint from the heat.

I think we only saw the central zone, which is the most restored area.

I found the ancient ruins mesmerizing and could easily have spent the whole day wandering from building to building.

As we passed the reservoir, Ken pointed out to me a woman bathing — you can't see her in the photo. I was practically ready to jump in there myself.

Our esteemed host.

Wherever we went on our travels, we were likely to come across a street dog. If I ever travel in Thailand again, I'll carry dog food with me at all times.

We hadn't done much shopping yet for souvenirs or gifts, so after we left the UNESCO site, our hosts took us to several places where they like to shop. We visited a jewelry store and a large clothing and textile store, but I wasn't having any luck finding suitable items.

Then we went to a nearby historical town where Sangkhalok pottery is made in ancient kilns. We could see local artisans throwing and hand-painting dishes and other objects. Sangkhalok was the name given to ceramic ware produced by a number of kilns in Sukhothai Province during the early 14th to late 16th centuries.

It was overwhelming, really, and I was having a hard time imagining how we would get any of the large, fantastic  pieces I was ogling home.

Everywhere I turned were beautiful items but I was convinced that pottery was not the most sensible thing to buy and carry on the plane.

The proprietor kept giving us little gifts of tiny celadon elephants and small bowls, and, well, that's a good tactic for convincing someone they should buy something.

What I really wanted to buy was a beautiful ceramic garden bench, but I managed to avoid doing that and started zeroing in on a plate, instead. Our hosts were buying plates and it seemed to be contagious.

This is the 14" plate we bought, along with the free stand it came with. It was wrapped really well and we safely carried it on the plane in a bag. Security is far more casual in Thailand than it is here, and no one asked us what it was or asked that it be unwrapped. It's lead-free and usable as a serving platter, and now sits happily on display  in our dining room reminding us of our trip.

We made one additional stop at a large textile shop selling traditional clothing and fabrics, where I found a couple of woven cotton throws with an elephant theme for gifts, and a cotton shirt for me.

There was just enough time left to stop for a light supper before we headed to the airport for our flight back to Bangkok. I photographed the restaurant sign in case any of you want to eat there. :)

It was a fairly typical roadside restaurant with outdoor tables. By this time it was probably only about 85-90˚ so perfectly comfortable for outdoor dining.

As usual, Ken and I had vegan food while everyone else had meat.

Also as usual, our food was delicious. The round pieces on the plate are tofu.

This had to be the weirdest and least favorite of the Thai desserts I tried. For some reason, I found the dessert really unpleasant, though the Thai diners seemed to love it. The white part is coconut milk but it's got a gelatinous lumpy texture that really creeped me out. Not to mention the green things which looked like either worms or string beans — neither of which should be in dessert. The green things weren't really green beans, they  were made from rice flour and pandan, a sweet leaf that appears often as a flavoring agent in sweets. Pandan actually has a very nice taste, but the appearance and texture of the green part of the dessert was a little too much for me. It's true I'm not a big dessert person, but holy cow. Here's a link to a recipe . If you're really curious as to how the green things are made, here's a  link to a video. The dessert is called lod chong.

One last quick stop at a food stand to procure dried bananas and salted tamarind, then we had to say goodby to two of our friends who live in Phitsanulok, and head back to Bangkok to collapse in our bed.

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