An education from Past to present
After returning to Bangkok to collect my over weight backpack, I chose a route that would take me to northern Thailand then over the border to Laos. I really wanted to catch the overnight train to Chang Mai however the 2nd class sleepers where booked out for the next few days and I really didn’t want to spend anymore time in Bangkok. So I took a nine hour bus to Sukhothai instead. There was of course a bonus, I needed to learn a little about Thailand’s history and the Sukhothai historical park seemed just the place. Its literal meaning the dawn of happiness’, the capital of the first independent Thai Kingdom in the 13th and 14th centuries. The park comprises the ruins of royal palaces, Buddhist temples, the city gates, walls, moats and the water dyke control system of ancient Sukhothai. This would surely help me because of my lack of Asian history. I spent two days at the site. Although not as mind blowing as Machu Picu, set up in the Andean mountains, or as vast as the Egyptian Pyramids, the Sukhothai site is still a work in progress so to speak. Beautifully manicured areas and amazing ruins still being excavated and processed. Actually the place is so big you really need a push bike to see it all and in retrospect I wish I had done exactly that. However on one day I walked around the main site and the next I spent strolling around other ruins but most of the day I spent in the museum and it was here that I learnt more than I ever could imagined. I am often in awe of the people who help reconstruct ancient sites. I do wonder however why these places always make the ancient life look so idyllic. Like “let’s make the world great again”. If u know what I mean. I also wonder who controls the narrative, as many large artefacts have been recreated. But maybe that’s just me digging deeper than I should. Religion and past empires are often shown in some glorified way, so we in the present feel some sense of gratitude. Don’t get me wrong, The ability to design, then construct such monuments and the array of intricate features from such a long time ago is mind blowing. I am still not educated enough to understand everything to do with buddhism however here is a link for further information about the various Sukhothai monuments and features. I’d rather not try.
Apart from visiting the ruins I decided to get a little more aquatinted with the local area. What a way to do this by riding a bike for a day. We rode around the lane ways of Sukhothai, meeting local market owners and learning about the use of various foods. We then road through the farmland a combination of rice fields, tobacco and a range of other vegetables and fruits. The scorching sun made the ride at times unbearable, I don’t know how the farmers and their workers face up to it day in day out. If somehow wearing their wide brimmed hats with cloth draped down their neck and back, gives them some sort of relief. To think that is also meant to be the colder months. At times we would pull over under the shade of tree just long enough so our sweat would cool us down, then back on the bike pedalling at a decent speed. I suppose what kept me going was the music the played along our journey. Every 100 meters or so a loud speaker hung from an electrical pole and sounds of traditional Thai flutes lulled me into a time gone past. Although I have never been to Thailand in a time gone past. You could hear it from the rice fields from quite a distance and without me asking I am sure it is a way to help the farmers work in the hot sun. It certainly helped me continue to pedal. We eventually made it back onto a main road and 5 km’s further to a house owned by a friend of the tour guide. It was the first time I had been into a locals house and we weren’t there for a tour, but for lunch. We must have looked like cooked lobsters as I peeled myself of the seat. I even had problems trying to organise my thoughts and missed the opportunity to have a hose down. Not to worry, before I had time to say sà wàt dee I was whisked away and given a towel, a foot bath, herbal tea, fresh water and enough food that I couldn’t lift my leg over the bicycle seat for the ride back. This was more than I hoped for, especially when we met the rest of the relatives. After we had finished our lunch we were introduced to the family and excitedly introduced to a young boy. At first I wasn’t so sure why this boy was special, even though he was very cute. However before long I realised what all the fuss was about. I kept on hearing boy girl, boy girl, for a second I thought there was going to be a show with boy girls parading around like in Phuket. Then to my surprise they were pushing the young boy towards me. He was fully made up and I was a little envious of his eyebrows. I was then told that they were very fortunate that their family, a large one at that have a boy girl. They were very excited for me to meet their special child that all the kids performed a song for us and of course guess who had the staring role. Not only did he have the starring role but a very spoilt child to boot. He seemed to have the best of everything, the first and last of everything also. I was fascinated not because they had a boy girl but maybe because they are revered in similar ways to that of the Fa’afafine’s, who are men raised as girls and identify with that gender in Samoa. I did notice the night before during the market festival, many boy girls also performing. They weren’t seen as odd or even left out, the complete opposite. For a second I wondered why I was so intrigued that there were so many boy girls. Should I be curious? I was told there were many families all over Thailand that have Boy girls and unlike many countries they were proud and saw themselves are privledged to have a boy girl in their family. Unlike some of the stories I have heard about the Fa’afafine’s where abuse is often common. However I must note, was he lucky he had a great family because I am sure just like the Fa’afafine there would also be disturbing stories. However with this only one experience to go on and the belief that boy girls in Thailand are treated with honour, I was pleased to see an inclusive system of respect. Finally, as I write this I am wondering why I am writing to you about boy girls, why would you care? Well one reason is that in our society we often see gender differences as an affliction as a curse, arguing over semantics like what toilet should they go to. How refreshing it is to travel to a country that doesn’t seem to have this affliction. Oh and how we could learn so much about how to treat a small group of beautiful people who just want to live their lives like everyone else.
I could continue to write about the bike journey as we cycled at a slower pace along the river. Riding past rickety homes held up by whimsy poles to protect the houses from the rising water when the river floods, old men repairing their equipment sitting under large trees and women crouched down lighting small coal fires in pots ready to cook dinner. I could also write about the fisherman we met catching small fish by net as his wife drank a bottle of rice whiskey and danced a better version of my bogan dance. Or the fun we had at the bar we went to, sipping a Mojito and listening to 1970’s hits like Bonney M. This was all in a days work and more than I could learn ever from a text book, a newspaper, a documentary or a you tube video.