Early wake up to take the rapid train
The alarm clock goes off at 6 o’clock, as I will be taking the rapid train to Phitsanulok today. The journey will last about 5 hours. After breakfast, I settle my bill count and leave. The owner of the guesthouse advises me to stop a songthaew on the main road to take me to the train station. After a minute or two, I find a driver to take me there.
Buying a second class ticket
At the counter, nobody speaks any English, but I can still make it clear that I want to take the rapid train. I opt for a second class ticket, that`s a matter of having a little bit more comfort while traveling. This class also comes with numbered seats. Once in my compartment, I notice the seats are lounge chairs with plenty of space for the legs. Glad I did not take the third class for these 5 hours.
A rapid train at 60 kilometers per hour
The reason why I choose to travel by train from Lampang to Phitsanulok was because of the beautiful views along the way. But soon enough that turns into a disappointment. My fellow passengers close the windows with a wooden sunblind, understandable because at this moment of the day the sun shines through on our side of the wagon. The ride takes quite a long time, I try to sleep a bit in the beginning, and later I read about Phitsanulok. This is supposed to be the rapid train, but you have to take that with a grain of salt: I estimate that we cover about 60 kilometers per hour. Knowing that we arrive at Phitsanulok around 2 pm, I start checking the stops well shortly before. Anyway, I easily reach my destination.
Stopover for only one day
Once out of the train I take a samlor, a taxi-bike, to the hotel of my choice. I get a spacious room, with standard hotel furnishings, including a table and a chair this time. After checking in, I immediately go out into the city. I only want to stay here for one day and travel to Sukothai tomorrow, the historical highlight of my trip. I walk to Wat Yai, a well-visited pilgrimage site, because of its flaming Buddha inside the temple: by the way, the full name of the temple is Wat Phra Si Ratana Mahathat.
Only a couple of houseboats left
Afterward, I stroll along the river, to see the few houseboats which are still left in Phitsanulok. Houseboats formed the traditional way of living in this city. But Phitsanulok is now a modern city, completely rebuilt after a fire in the ’50s, so there is little authentic remaining to discover. Moreover, I have to drop my plan to visit the Buddha foundry, as it seems to be closed today. The temperature is also too high to stay outside anyway.
Dinner in front of the hotel
Exhausted, I return to the hotel for a refreshing shower. Later on, looking for a place to have dinner, I end up right in front of the hotel where they serve a few simple dishes. I eat rice with chicken and basil – doable spicey, plus noodle soup. Sometimes it is just convenient to take it easy.
Tourists with the wrong attitude
While I am waiting for my order, a bunch of Belgians arrives. They order whiskey-cola, and that is what they get literally; each of them ends up with a glass of whiskey and a glass of cola. One of them gets a bit upset as he notices that the Thai customers are served correctly. In my opinion, his attitude is wrong. It is not the Thai who have to adapt, but we – tourists – have to try to empathize with local habits. If you want to drink whiskey, it is customary to order a full bottle and to add mixers like water or cola.