Like most participants, one of the driving factors in my decision to move abroad was my burning desire to travel. Before I departed, I made a list of all the countries I wanted to visit before I left Asia, and it is quite long. However, Thailand’s border closures and entry requirements have made leaving the country and being able to get back in virtually impossible. I expect that it will be months, or longer, before I can comfortably travel outside of the country.
Within Thailand, my list of travel destinations is growing by the day as I hear about the treasured locations sprawled around the country. I want to see the mountains of Chiang Mai and soak in the sands of the south. Unfortunately, constantly changing travel restrictions due to COVID-19 have made travel outside of my province, at the very least, unwise. For now, it is safest to stay put.
I have committed myself to taking this opportunity to explore my province and become acquainted with my temporary home. Despite my dashed travel plans, there is so much to see and do here in Sukhothai. It is a small town, yet I have still only seen a portion of it. After a month of living here, I have still only sampled food from a fraction of the restaurants. Every day, I stumble upon a shop or café that I did not know existed. Last weekend, I spent over an hour in a stationary shop collecting clay, balloons, balls, and paper; everything I find is a lesson forming in my mind.
I also recently had the opportunity to see Sukhothai Old City, the former capital of Thailand and a historic tourist attraction. Given the lack of tourists in Thailand currently, I was granted an empty park to revel in the glorious history.
On creaky bicycles rented from across the street, a group of foreign teachers and I pedaled around the eroding stone of the towering temples, occasionally ringing the bells on our handlebars, an irresistible childhood pleasure. I spent most of the afternoon in a mesmerized silence, absorbing the grandeur. The newest addition to the group, I was the only one who had not been to the park before, and the last to tear my eyes away.
Standing in what must have been a plaza at some point in history, I tried to imagine Thais of another time leaning against the now crumbling columns, gossiping, bargaining. It is in places like this that history reaches across time, over years and generations, to whisper in your ear. What a privilege to stand in the remnants of the past.
Like any place, the history of Sukhothai informs its current culture. With time to explore and travel within my province, I am discovering both the obvious and hidden beauty of this town and building a relationship with this home.
I still hope to travel throughout Thailand and to cross every country off my list, but I am not going to wait to begin my adventures. There is enough right here to keep me busy for a while.