Sukhothai is a small city (population 35,713) in Lower Northern Thailand, most famous for the ruins of the ancient city Sukhothai. The name translates as “the dawn of happiness”. The province is located on the lower edge of the northern region, 427 kilometers north of Bangkok, and covers some 6,596 square kilometres.
The city is a popular tourist destination because it is located near the ruins of the ancient city of Sukhothai, which was the Thai capital during the 13th Century A.D. The historical Sukhothai was the first capital of Siam founded by King Ramkhamhaeng. The province’s temples and monuments have been restored well and Sukhothai Historical Park – a place with numerous sites of historical interest has been made into a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Other interesting places include Ramkhamhaeng National Museum, Ramkhamhaeng National Park, Sri Satchanalai National Park and The Royal Palace and Wat Mahathat.
Sukhothai was the first kingdom of Siam established some 800 years ago. The exact year is unknown but according to the Fine Arts Office it was between 1238 and 1257.
Established in around 1238 to 1257, Sukhothai literally means “Dawn of Happiness.” Phokhun Si Intharathit was the founder of the Phra Ruang Dynasty, Sukhothai’s first Dynasty. For 120 years as the capital of Siam, Sukhothai was ruled by many kings. In this connection, the most dynamic monarch being King Ramkhamhaeng the Great, who created the Thai alphabet, laid the foundation for politics, monarchy, and religion, as well as, expanded its boundary of influence. Though the golden era of Sukhothai no longer exists, tourists should bear in mind that respect and admiration for the renowned ruined twin cities of Sukhothai and Si Satchanalai is valued.
The best time of the year to see Sukhothai is from November to February when the weather is cooler. Other than that you can go any time of the year.
By plane now has a daily flight from Bangkok Suvarnabhumi airport, which then continues on to Lampang. Fares from/to Bangkok start from THB 1700 (1 hour 20 minutes), from/to Lampang – from THB 1100 (around 40 minutes).
Take the (express) train (7 hours from Bangkok or Chiang Mai) to Phitsanulok and go by bus from there (1 hour).
Sukothai only has a small bus station, but the city can be easily reached from the North, South, East and West.
From Chiang Mai: Buses from the main bus terminal take about 4 hours. The cheaper local buses make many stops and take about 5 hours.
From Mae Sot: Minibuses run regularly from the station behind the market. The journey takes about 3 hours, passing through Tak on the way. 130 baht.
From Phitsanulok: Frequent buses operate from the main bus terminal and take about 1 hour for the 58 km trip.
From Bangkok: There are direct buses from Bangkok Mochit Terminal and takes 7 hours, including some stops at Bus Terminal of major cities on the way. Understand that at the Terminal (Mo Chit), there are several bus companies travelling to a particular destination. In this instance, Wintour travel, as at November 2010, charges B326 per person for a first class aircon bus. It takes about 6 hours.
The purple #1 songthaew travels to and from the bus station, which is about 3 km out of town. They run the length of Thanon Charodwithitong. The fare is 10 baht.
The large blue songthaew to Old Sukhothai leaves from a bus stop on Thanon Charodwithitong about 100 meters west of the bridge. It stops about 750 meters from the entrance to the central zone of the historic park. Fare: 20 baht.
There are also Tuk Tuks, which will try to get B600 out of you for a trip to the Old City (main ruins)some 15Km out of town. The correct price is B300,(at Nov 2010) and this is for at least a couple of hours. When you have seen the part you are at and want to move further in the same area, the driver takes you there.
What to See
Old Sukhothai (Sukhothai Muang Kao)
Located 12 km to the west of today’s Sukhothai, this was the capital of the Sukhothai Kingdom from 1238 to 1438 and contains many ruins from that period. Its importance has been internationally recognised and it is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The old city is a popular tourist attraction, and the site has seen much restoration since the 1960s. It is well maintained, exceptionally clean and well furnished with vendors, though with only a minimum of touts. The heavy restoration is worth noting, since with some ruins and Buddha figures it can lead to a feeling that it is a little over-sanitised, especially in the central zone. The other zones are much less “restored” and trips down unmarked tracks can lead to ruins in their untouched state.
The best way to see the ruins in the Sukhotai National Historic Park is by bicycle. These can be rented from a shop opposite from the main park entrance. It is feasible to walk around the central and northern zones in 6 hours or so. There is also a 20 baht guided tour by electric tram available.
The best time to see the ruins is mornings when it’s a little cooler and before the busses arrive, at noon when they have lunch, or after 16:00.
The whole site covers an area of approximately 70 square kilometres and is divided into multiple zones, for which – of course – every zone has an entrance fee. As of Dec 2010, admission to each of the zones is B100 for Westerners, and B20 for Thais!!! (6 am to 6 pm) plus extra for vehicles, including bicycles (B10). The combined ticket (still found in most travel guides) does not exist any more! Before paying the fee be sure to check all gates, not every gate is always guarded, especially after 16:00. The central zone contains the majority of the ruins and a museum. Maps can be bought at the ticket office for 3 baht.
- Central zone – It contains 11 ruins in 3 square kilometres, interspersed with moats, lakes and bridges to some island-bound ruins. Mat Mahathat is one of the most spectacular, with a large seated Buddha figure set amongst the pillars of a now ruined sala, and a central chedi flanked by two standing Buddha figures. Wat Sra Sri also has a large chedi and Buddha figure, but is reached by a bridge to the island. There are some nice views from the other side of the lake.
- North zone – Wat Phra Phai Luang contains the remains of a number of buildings plus a large prang with stucco reliefs. More impressive is Wat Sri Chum, which contains a massive seated Buddha figure peering through an opening in its enclosure. Look for a stairway on the left as you enter the enclosure; it leads up and behind the buddha image, though the passage is not always open.
* Rent a bike and explore the ruins of Old Sukhothai (walking will kill you). Several rentals – price range: 10-50baht/day/bike.
* Visit the park at sunrise and admire the Buddha figures in the orange glow of the morning sun.
* Pay a visit to the ruins at Si Satchanalai Historic Park, 55 km from new Sukhothai. Few tourists, great sites, quiet. Bike rental at entrance.
* Walk around the fresh market (In new Sukhothai) in the early morning and try the tastes of many kinds of local food Sukhothai people like to have e. g. sticky rice with deep fried pork, sweet deep fried beef or spicy pork salad wraped with the banana leaf.
* Rent a motorbike in new Sukhothai and appreciate the local life style
* Have “Sukhothai” Noodle!! – It’s a must
In sukhothai Historical Park
A Buddha figure at the market at the historical park. They are available in all historic styles, sizes and materials. Remember that it is considered bad luck to buy a Buddha for yourself, so you should be buying gifts! Do not bargain when purchasing a Buddha!
It’s forbidden to export Buddha figures from Thailand!
In New Sukhothai
Thongchai Wittayu: The biggest electronic store selling electronic stuff which could offer much better price than the department stores and considered the best price in all over Sukhothai. The products are digital cameras, memory cards, mp3, etc. You could only ask around when you are hanging out in new Sukhothai, most of people know the store.
- Dream Café, located in downtown New Sukhothai within a charming rustic old Thai house, Dream Café serves up a good selection of Thai and Western dishes. Attentive service, eclectic music and charming decor. There is also a small guesthouse at the back. Chat with the owner Chabah if she’s there, she is a genuine Renaissance woman, Thai style. 86/1 Thanon Singhawat (Singhawat Road), tel (0)55 612801.
- Poo and Kung, Thanon Charodvithitong. This is a Belgian run restaurant offering Thai and Western food and a wide selection of cocktails. From 30 baht for main courses.
- Chopper Bar, Thanon Pravetnakorn. A rooftop restaurant and bar with good service, live acoustic guitar music, and Thai and Western menu. From 40 baht for main course.
- Sukhothai Night Market, There are varieties of local food that you can find in the night market in new Sukhothai. The night market is called “To-rung”, it also covers the area that the food stolls are along “Rachathani” temple’s fence.
- Kru Eew, One of Sukhothai noodle restaurants in new Sukhothai, there are not only Sukhothai noodle but also Sukhothai style padthai, vietnamese food, dessert, etc. The restaurant is only opened in the day time which mainly serves for brunch and lunch.
- Fueng Far, The restaurant that mainly serves for dinner. It could also be a drinking place which you can enjoy sipping beer by the “Yom” river. The food is called “Fish food” – the plenty of Sukhothai local fish (Pla) dish especially spicy dishes e.g. Tom Yom Hua Pla (Fish head tom yum), Look Chin Pla Krai Luak Jim (‘Pla Krai’ – one type of fish, it’s the Pla Krai fish ball boil and dip with spicy suace – recommended), Kob phat kra pao (Stir fried basil frog). The restaurant is located by the Yom River, it takes 1 minute by motor bike from the beginning of the “Wat Ku Ha Suwan” Soi. Well, it is not recommended you to walk there because it is quite dark. (Wikitravel)
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