Lamphang, two hours to the South, had a more provincial feeling to it. Our guesthouse, with fishponds and a wooden terrace overlooking the river, was fantastic. Wat Luang Lamphang is a nearby temple with a beautifully old stupa. One of the buildings nearby has a “camera obscura” - you go inside and an image of the courtyard is projected onto the wall in the darkened room. The pillars of the old temple are made from massive teak and there are several brass, umbrella-like structures built on either side of it. Another temple near Lamphang is renowned for its herbal medicines. We bought some “magic balm” (the label was only in Thai!) and watched as a senior-looking monk blessed a pickup. It was now the middle of April, and it was HOT. Sleep at night became difficult. Eric resorted to soaking his sarong in water, then using it to cover his body to keep cool.
Lamphang is best known for its elephant conservation center. Although it sounds like a place with a high kitsch potential, it turns out to be really good. We learned all about elephants from the informative information displays. For Anne there was a frisky baby elephant to pet and play with. His mother was capable of munching vast quantities of sugar cane and pineapple. Both had a weakness for peanuts. They would snuffle around with their trunks, taking the nuts right out of your hand. Some elephants at the center earn their keep by performing in a show. After taking their morning bath, they parade to the fairground beating a drum. There are demonstrations of elephants rolling and hauling teak logs, with plenty of bows and applause between acts. There is elephant music and elephant painting on elephant dung paper. After the show we walked over to the elephant hospital. Several patients had stepped on land mines, while others had skin diseases or infections. One poor elephant was missing part of his trunk (a log fell on it) and was learning how to eat again. Sadly, it takes years for them to heal from serious diseases and injuries, even with special care.
Our last stop, Sukhothai, was a bit of a disappointment. The archeological park was beautifully landscaped and restored, but there wasn't enough material to evoke the former splendor of the site.