Sukhothai is known as Thailand’s original capital, and is a beautiful spot to visit. The UNESCO world heritage listed site is a carefully manicured, lush and green garden full of temples, ruins, flowers and tranquil lakes. It’s an veritable oasis of tranquility amongst the blaring horns, dust, heat and general chaos of Thailand.
Situated between Bangkok and Chaing Mai, it makes for a great stop over in between these two popular cities in Thailand.
Getting to Sukhothai
There are two ways to get to Sukhothai; by bus or by train. By bus will be slower, but it is the easier route as buses will go there direct from both Chaing Mai and Bangkok. Taking the train is also an option, but no trains go directly to Sukhothai. If you chose this option you will need to take the train to Phitsanulok and then catch a short bus from there.
Getting to the Sukhothai Historical Park
The new town of Sukhothai is located 12 km’s east of the Historical Park. Regular songthaews run between the old town and the new and charge between 20 and 30 baht per ride.
Sukhothai Historical Park
The Sukhothai Historical Park was one of my highlights in Thailand. The whole site is tremendously calm. Situated far from the chaos of the city, and in a located almost completely free of vendors and touts, it was like being in a tranquil garden. The grounds are incredibly well maintained; the grass cut short and the flowers carefully tended. Some people may find the park a little too well tended, perhaps even too clean and “sanitary”, but for me, it was a breath of fresh air after the craziness of Bangkok. Many of the temples have been well restored, which may make some feel it isn’t authentic, but I found it helped me really visualize what this place might have been like at it’s peak. There are many places in Asia where you can see temple ruins, but few places quite like the Sukhothai Historical Park.
The park itself is divided into several zones, and covers an incredibly large area – about 70 square kilometers. Each zone has it’s own entrance fee, which is 100 baht for foreigners. If you are seeing the sights by foot (as I did), then it is best to try to see only one or two zones per day. I found that I needed an entire day just to fully appreciate the central zone.
The central zone contains the most temples, a museum, and is also the most heavily restored and gardened. The north zone is also very popular and has the impressive Wat Sri Chum. If you want to see both the central and north zones in one visit it is imperative to rent a bicycle. You can rent bicycles from just outside the entrance. Unless you love walking for hours on end in the relentless Thai heat (I don’t), then you will need to rent a bicycle if you even hope to see both zones in one day.
Tips for visiting the Sukhothai Historical Park
- Try to visit early in the morning, when the weather is cooler and before many other visitors arrive
- If you are an early riser, try to visit the park for sunrise
- Rent a bike so you can see more
- Take plenty of water