Me: How much to the airport?”
Taxi driver: “700 baht”
Me: “That’s $20. Come on man!”
Taxi driver: “The airport is very far.”
“Me: “Forget it, we’ll walk.”
And so began one of those stupid travel mornings when you just don’t feel like getting “ripped off,” so you stubbornly spurn the local vendor and declare, “We can do it ourselves.” In this case, determined to save a few Thai baht, my wife and I begin walking from our hotel in downtown Sukhothai waaay out to the airport – at least 10 miles, at 5:30 am, in the dark, carrying our full backpacks. After half an hour or so, standing on the side of the road, dust swirling around us, in the middle of *nowhere*, we finally admit this is NOT our best plan. Eventually a taxi swings by – no it’s not the same guy (a cousin perhaps?) – and offers to take us to the airport.
“We’ll take it.”
As the journey to the airport takes at least 45 minutes, we’re feeling quite glad that we bit the bullet and opened our purse strings. Still, we’re not feeling particularly warm about the whole Sukhothai experience until we near the airport and see – giraffes. That’s right, there are exotic animals at the airport! This makes no sense! Isn’t that an elephant over there? And a zebra? I’m pretty sure there are no African animals indigenous to Thailand, which rather limits the possibilities. My theory: some rich Thai industrialist/drug dealer has created his own little conclave, a la Michael Jackson’s Neverland Ranch, and is housing his safari trophies right here – next to the airport!???
As our driver drops us off at the airport entrance, the animals fade from view. Were they even real? Did we imagine them? And if they were real, what were they really doing there? Well, it turns out that Sukhothai has a little zoo, right next to the airport, which probably freaks the little critters out every time a jumbo jet roars into view. It’s certainly not in any of the guidebooks. Everyone comes to Sukhothai for the fabulous ruins of the Sukhothai Dynasty, circa 1300, and for good reason. It’s a VERY fun experience, renting a bicycle and pedaling around the decaying, red-brick ruins, taking selfies in front of smiling Buddha statues.
But what I’ll long remember about the town is how a crappy morning turned into something miraculous, thanks to the Sukhothai zoo.
(Bad days happen, folks, but they’re temporary — like everything else. Every thought, every emotion, every grumpy opinion you’ve ever had, is temporary, ephemeral. Sometimes they’re no fun and you want to make them go away, but if you just wait a while, patiently, your mind always moves on to something else. One second you’re in the dumps, the next you’re in a zoo.)