Sukhothai, Thailand

View of Wat Mahathat, seen across a lake - Sukhothai Historical Park, Thailand (8)

New Sukhothai, lying on the banks of the River Yom, is roughly 450km north of Bangkok. This modern, busy little town is, to be frank, not particularly interesting but it is popular with travellers as a base for the nearby UNESCO listed Historical Park, containing the ruins of the capital of the Sukhothai kingdom of the 13th and 14th centuries. New Sukhothai is not without its charms, with a few bars and cafes, but is certainly no more than a cheap place to sleep.

The Sukhothai Historical Park is however something to behold. With 193 ruins scattered across 70 square kilometres the place is testament to the might of a fallen empire. The Sukhothai kingdom had once expanded across almost all of modern-day Thailand, before being swallowed up by the Ayuthain state, and is still viewed as a golden age of Thai culture.

The original city was surrounded by two moats crossed by four bridges but the centuries of growth in and around the centre have left the ruins strewn over a large area. The Sukhothian temples are easily identifiable by their lotus bud chedi, a conical structure atop a four sided edifice on a three tiered base. Wat Mahathat, completed in the 13th century is replete with some of the original Buddha statues, and is regarded by historians as the administrative centre of the old capital. Wat Si Chum with the 15m tall seated Buddha takes the breath away. The numerous ponds and the general tranquillity of the park really made an impression on us and there is no doubt that it is one of the most impressive Thailand’s World Heritage Sites.

Entry to the ruins is divided into five zones, north, south, east and so on, with each zone costing between 30 – 40B. It is also possible to buy an all inclusive ticket for 150B. The best way to cover the area is to hire bicycles. We did and we thoroughly recommend it. It is a pleasant cycle through flat woodland with well parked paths, so nothing too stressful. Buses can be taken from New Sukhothai to the Historical Park from Jarodvithi Thong Rd (the main road) and should cost about 40B.

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written by: Jon

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