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History of Sukhothai

Exploring Sukhothai: A Guide to Thailand’s Dawn of Happiness (2024)

Sukhothai means the ‘Dawn of Happiness,’ and the ruins of Sukhothai still manage to explain the same. A visit to the ancient City of Sukhothai is like stepping into a time portal and exploring the glorious past and its harmonious tales.

Nestled in the heart of Thailand, Sukhothai is a cultural tapestry, once a flourishing kingdom, though now the artistry of ancient temples. The landmark today is full of ancient ruins; however, merely beyond ruins, Sukhothai is a living testament of people. From the architecture that speaks volumes to the thoughtful city layout, carefully planned temples, and royal structures, everything in Sukhothai reflects a connection with its cultural and spiritual roots. So, step back in time and join us for a historical journey into the Ancient City of Sukhothai.

All About Sukhothai

Continue reading and learn about the History of Sukhothai, Places to visit in Sukhothai, and much more.

History of Sukhothai

The history of Sukhothai is deeply woven into the cultural and historical fabric of Thailand. Back in the 13th century, Sukhothai was the first capital of Thailand (historically known as Siam). The Sukhothai Kingdom was under the reign of King Ramkhamhaeng the Great and had a great impact on Thai art, language, and culture, along with high political influence. Later, this ancient City gained global recognition when, in 1991, it was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site. Sukhothai’s outstanding universal value and its role in shaping Southeast Asian civilization made it one of the biggest draws in Thailand.

Sukhothai Location and How to Reach?

Thailand’s earliest and most important settlement, Sukhothai, is located in the lower northern part of Thailand.

Here’s a detailed layout for reaching Sukhothai through various means of transportation:

  • For domestic flights, the nearest airports are Sukhothai Airport (THS) and Phitsanulok Airport (PHS). Both airports are well-connected to different parts of Thailand and to Sukhothai via bus or taxi.
  • For a train journey, the nearest train station is in Phitsanulok, connecting with a bus or taxi to Sukhothai. However, there is no direct train to Sukhothai.
  • Sukhothai is well connected via road to different parts of Thailand. Bangkok’s Northern Bus Terminal (Mo Chit) to Sukhothai takes 8 hours to complete the journey, whereas there are multiple other options from Chiang Mai and other nearby cities.

15 Places to visit and Things to do in Sukhothai, Thailand

Sukhothai Historical Park:

The Sukhothai Historical Park covers the ruins of Sukhothai, walling rectangular around ancient Sukhothai. This UNESCO World Heritage Site holds high cultural and historical significance, exhibiting the era from the 13th to the 15th century. The park is divided into five zones (100 Baht (2.60 USD) each zone) and has a range of things to see. Here are some of the must-visit places in the Sukhothai Historical Park:

  1. Wat Mahathat: It is the central and most significant temple in Sukhothai Historical Park and thus is a must-visit. Wat Mahathat is popular for its stunning lotus-bud chedi that attracts people from near and far. Along with that, the intricately designed Buddha statues are also a highlight.
  2. Wat Si Chum: This iconic destination is famous for the huge Buddha image housed in a large hall. The colossal Buddha status is also known as Phra Achana and has an awe-inspiring atmosphere around it.
  3. Wat Traphang Ngoen: This small temple is set around a pond within the central zone of Sukhothai Historical Park. The serene surroundings of this temple attract visitors for some hours of peace. As the pond catches the reflection of the temple, it creates a picturesque scene.
  4. Wat Chedi Si Hong: This temple of Sukhothai’s southern gate is known for the ancient chedi with its multiple spires. The architecture of this place signifies the unified strength of the Thai people during the Sukhothai period.

Si Satchanalai Historical Park:

Along with Sukhothai Historical Park, the Si Satchanalai Historical Park is also a must-visit. Back in the day, it was a strategic center for administration, trade, and culture. Also known as the Satellite City or City of Good People, Si Satchanalai impresses with its architectural style and well-planned layouts. Some of the impressive features within this historical park include:

  1. Wat Chang Lom: This large Buddhist temple is completely surrounded by elephants, basically status encircling the base of the main chedi. The statues create a unique and memorable sight and are quite fascinating to check out.
  2. Wat Chedi Sung: It is the second tallest Chedi in Sukhothai (after Wat Mahathat) and is a testament to the architectural brilliance of the Sukhothai era. The elegant design of the chedi and the surrounding structures are truly admirable.
  3. Wat Phra Phai Luang: After Wat Mahathat, Wat Phra Phai Luang is the second most important and recognized temple in Sukhothai. The ruins of this ancient temple feature the historical and cultural richness of the region and are a point of fascination amongst visitors.

Cycling in Sukhothai Historical Park:

Although the Sukhothai Historical Park can be explored in multiple ways, cycling is perhaps the most popular activity here. Cycling around the vast historical park allows visitors to cover more ground while enjoying the scenic beauty and ancient architecture. Cycles are easily available for rent, and the tours usually begin from Ban Khuai, a small village located on the outskirts of Sukhothai. Cycling at Sukhothai undoubtedly enhances the overall visiting experience. The route passes through a quiet village making the way all towards a dirt road passing through endless rice paddies. Cyclers can also enjoy the beautiful views of Kao Laung Mountain.

Festivals and Events:

  1. Loi Krathong and Candle Festival: Loi Krathong and Candle Festival is a magical celebration, especially in the Sukhothai Historical Park. Both these festivals are celebrated in the month of November on the full moon of the 12th lunar month. During Loi Krathong, people release beautifully decorated bamboo floating baskets (known as Krathong) on rivers and canals to release negative energy and express gratitude to the water goddess. Whereas the Candle Festival involves releasing lanterns into the sky. Both these lighted wonders in the sky and water are lovingly celebrated by locals, creating a magical atmosphere.

Museums and Monuments:

  1. Sangkhalok Museum: This cultural institution is dedicated to the history of Sukhothai and its pottery heritage, particularly the Sangkhalok ceramic ware that originated here. A visit to the museum introduces visitors to various types of pottery, including bowls, plates, jars, and other decorative items.
  2. King Ramkhamhaeng Monument: This significant historical site is located in the central zone of Sukhothai Historical Park. It pays homage to King Ramkhamhaeng, the founder of the Sukhothai Kingdom. The central feature of the monument is a statue of King Ramkhamhaeng the Great, which is quite popular amongst photography enthusiasts and history buffs.
  3. Sathorn Golden Textile Museum: This impressive museum is all about the artistry of Thai textiles, featuring traditional weaving techniques and intricate designs. Patterns like pattern like Teen Jok, along with many others, are there on display. Apart from observing the pieces, visitors can also shop for many items from the local shop right next to the museum.

Nature and Parks:

  1. Ramkhamhaeng National Park (Khao Luang): The national park is named after King Ramkhamhaeng, one of the great monarchs of the Sukhothai Kingdom. Located in the northern part of Sukhothai, the park is known for its lush forests, mountains, waterfalls, and caves. The highlight of the park is Khao Luang, a mountain that stands at an elevation of about 1,200 meters which is quite popular amongst hikers and nature lovers. The park is also a haven for nature enthusiasts and bird watchers. Besides that, visitors can also explore remnants of ancient settlements and archaeological sites.
  2. Wat Saphan Hin: This historical temple is accessible only after a hike to the hilltop. The journey adds an adventurous element to your cultural exploration. Upon reaching the hilltop, visitors can find a large standing Buddha statue positioned on a high pedestal. Not only that, but the panoramic views of the surrounding area make it a picturesque spot.

Lesser-Known Gems:

  1. Wat Aranyik: This lesser-known temple in Sukhothai preserves the historic remains of the City. The temple features a central prang (tower) surrounded by smaller stupas and structures and its origin is believed to take back to the 14th century. It is one of the many temples in Sukhothai although less explored and with a quieter and more intimate experience.
  2. Wat Chedi Ngam: Also known as the temple of beautiful chedi, Wat Chedi Ngam is a beautiful hidden gem in Sukhothai. Although it isn’t featured in any contemporary inscriptions, but is in remarkably good shape and thus is a must-visit.

Where to stay in the ancient City of Sukhothai?

Since Sukhothai has a range of places to visit, visitors often choose to stay back and explore at their own pace. For a stay in Sukhothai, here are some of the popular options to consider:

  • Sila Resort: This resort inside the Sukhothai Historical Park is an excellent choice, given its proximity to most of the popular attractions. The resort offers easy access to the temple ruins, especially in the evenings when the ruins are beautifully lit.
  • Sukhothai Heritage Resort: This resort in the modern City, aka New Sukhothai, offers a blend of modern amenities and traditional Thai architecture. It’s a short drive from the historical park.
  • Le Charme Sukhothai Hotel: Another hotel in the new Sukhothai, Le Charme, boasts comfortable rooms. The hotel is also known for its proximity to both the historical park and the new city center.
  • Huentai Boutique House: This charming boutique guesthouse with a local touch offers a more intimate experience.
  • Thai Thai Sukhothai Guesthouse: This guesthouse offers a cozy atmosphere and is located close to the historical park.
  • Blue House Sukhothai: For travelers on a tight budget, Blue House is an excellent option with basic amenities.
  • At Home Sukhothai Hostel: In a hostel setup, this accommodation offers dormitory-style rooms and is perfect for budget-conscious travelers.

6 Things to know before visiting Sukhothai

  1. The ancient City of Sukhothai is divided into three zones: Central, Northern, and Western. Entrance tickets are required for these zones from 6.30 am to 7.30 pm. The remaining areas can be explored at any time.
  2. Even though the temples are no longer in active use, they hold religious significance. Dress modestly when visiting, and if exploring during the strong midday sun, consider sunscreen, sunglasses, and a hat.
  3. Sunset in Sukhothai is a breathtaking experience, especially with the Buddha statue at Wat Mahathat and the view of Wat Sa Si from the lakeshore.
  4. The best time to visit Sukhothai is from November to February. However, keep in mind that December and January are the peak tourist season.
  5. Admission to the Central, Northern, and Western zones costs 100 baht. If you’re cycling, an additional 10 baht is charged.
  6. Opting for a bicycle is the best way to explore the temples in Sukhothai Historical Park, particularly in the central zone where the most captivating temples are concentrated.

That’s all. Hope you will enjoy your trip to the ancient city of Sukhothai.

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