After chatting with a girl from Denver in Sukhothai, I decided to hop over to nearby Phitsanulok, or P-lok, for the evening. Also, Mike Lekich, a friend of a friend who I met in Italy and re-met in Chiang Mai, lives and teaches there, though being the organizational disaster I am I lost his cell number and failed to get in touch with him, stupidly assuming we'd simply run into each other like fellow travelers do, forgetting he has a job and an apartment and a life in this pleasant town.
I knew P-lok was somewhat off the traveler trail when I arrived to the bus station and only found one cycle-rickshaw driver for city transportation. He shuttled me to the Phitsanulok Youth Hostel, and after a few hollers the manager appeared and checked me into a little room surrounded by what looked like antique wooden wheels, huge trees, and various wildlife. After finishing a book about surviving a Bangkok prison (mostly hiding from the midday sun) I set about exploring the city, looking for a train station but instead stopping for lunch at a Japanese-owned restaurant with a koi pond inside and ample information in any language imaginable about becoming a Jehovah's witness. I read the pamphlet but politely declined to take it with me. I reached the Folklore Museum, an adorable private collection of indigenous Thai artifacts - costumes, animal traps, farming equipment, toys, etc. I crossed the street to visit the Buddha image foundry, where the statues are cast, carved, and colored. Not a museum at all, the foundry is simply a business which allows visitors to have a look around. I made friends with an adorable little girl, admired their fighting roosters and had a peek inside a bird sanctuary, entirely un-touristy afternoon. I then made it to the station to book my tickets to Bangkok and rickshaw-ed over to Wat Yai (big wat, I think) which has a longer name but I go for simplicity. This particular wat houses the second most revered Buddha image in Thailand (after the Emerald Buddha at the Grand Palace) and it was big and gleaming gold in the afternoon light. It was a national holiday, Labour Day I think, so the temple was packed with offer-making Thais having their photos taken on their knees in front of the Buddha image. A white kitten accompanied me on my walk around the grounds, packed full of Buddha images, some behind bars, and to a smaller temple housing a truly gleeful Happy Buddha with a round belly and joyful smile.
Back to the Youth Hostel for a shower and I set off to find the night market, not that I had any information on one but simply assumed one must exist and not be too far off. After a few attempts at getting directions on the street, I opted for a well-lit pharmacy, where I found a young pharmacist who drew me a map and told me to visit the night bazaar instead of the night market. I was so thankful, but asked her advice on finding transport, as rickshaws are hard to come by. She had a look outside and then called her brother to give me a ride on his motorbike to the bazaar. So kind, he came and dropped me off, and I had a walk around the mostly Western style clothing stalls and enjoyed some great veggie fare before finding the only rickshaw driver still awake to take me back to my room.
I spent the evening convinced a noisy lizard had camped out in a hidden nook in my room, but daylight proved otherwise. After a breakfast with the company of more mosquitoes than I've ever seen in one place (and that's saying a lot considering where I've been for the last 3 months) I was off to Bangkok.