Sukhothai Travel Guide
Introduction to Sukhothai
From the 1400s to the 1500s, unassuming Sukhothai had its day in the sun. During this time, this city was home to the capital of Siam – while it didn’t last long, its status left behind a legacy of buildings that have made it a top-flight tourist attraction among culture hounds.
While it lacks the beaches of Koh Samui and the big city excitement of Bangkok, spending a few days amidst the ruins of its ancient city will give you a Thailand holiday highlight you weren’t expecting to have.
Cultural Attractions in Sukhothai
The primary reason people travel to Sukhothai revolves around the extensive ruins found near the modern town and across the province. Start by making your way to the Old Town, which can be reached by a relatively short songthaew ride, which will cost no more than 30 baht each way.
Before touring the ruins, start by checking out the Ramkhamhaeng National Museum first. Within its halls, you’ll find exhibits which show off artifacts that have been excavated from Sukhothai and Si Satchanalai Historical Park over the years by archaeologists. These include pieces of art, antiques, and inscriptions from many centuries ago.
After getting some background on the past history of this part of Thailand, hire a bike and pedal around the grounds of Sukhothai Historical Park. Serving as the capital of the kingdom of Siam during the 13th and 14th centuries, the volume of structures left behind hint at its former glory.
Circled by a city wall that runs 2 kilometres east to west, and 1.6 kilometres north to south, there are 193 different sets of ruins over 70 square kilometres of land in this UNESCO World Heritage Site. This includes dozens of temples, numerous palaces, and no shortage of images of the Buddha. If you are a ruins enthusiast, set aside at least a few days to fully appreciate this place.
Still haven’t gotten your fill of ancient ruins? Head north into the countryside of Sukhothai province until you reach Si Satchanalai Historical Park. Founded as a secondary city of the Sukhothai kingdom in 1250, this ancient place used to serve as a home to the crown prince during the time when this region of Siam was in charge of the nation.
Like Sukhothai Historical Park, Si Satchanalai has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, as its city walls, temples, palaces, and Buddha statues are well-preserved monuments of the point in time when this kingdom ruled much of the region.
Thailand has many fascinating festivals, but Loi Krathong may be the most intriguing of them all. Defined by its water and floating lanterns, this vibrant celebration of light and life is enthusiastically observed across the country.
However, many citizens of Thailand feel that the Sukhothai Loi Krathong and Candle Festival is the best of them all. Held at the Historical Park, it comes with costumed dancers and entertainers, a fireworks display, and a mass release of lanterns that will captivate you and give the avid photographer something amazing to shoot.
Other Attractions in Sukhothai
Through the centuries, elephants have been used by humans in Thailand as beasts of burden. They have hauled logs in the past, and these days, they are made to entertain tourists. Thankfully, a number of parks have opened across the country to rescue former tourism and forestry industry elephants – in the Sukhothai area, Boon Lott’s Elephant Sanctuary is one of those places.
Set on 600 acres of forested land, the pachyderms are allowed to interact with each other freely, and without any impetus to perform for visitors. Overseen by founder Katherine Connor, she has built a place where people from around the world can spend several nights amidst the world’s most fascinating creatures on their terms – if you go, you might have what some reviewers term as a ‘life-changing experience’.
Once you have finished touring the ruins, learn a bit about the chief export of Sukhothai at the Sangkalok Museum. Home to an extensive private collection of ceramics, it profiles many ancient Thai pots found in archaeological dig sites around Sukhothai province over the years, as well as imported pieces which hail from places like China, Myanmar, and Vietnam. Additionally, you’ll find newer items custom made as art pieces – don’t miss the ceramic Buddha image!
Looking for a waterfall mostly frequented by locals? Hire a motorbike and take a ride out to Namtok Sai Rung. Getting there will require a scramble up moderately difficult terrain, so be sure to bring proper hiking shoes. You’ll want to have your flip-flops in your pack when you reach the waterfall gorge, though, as taking a dip in this rocky but refreshing pool will be irresistible. Best visited during the rainy season or immediately after its end, it is a trek you look back upon fondly when recalling your travels to Thailand.
End your time in Sukhothai by getting a taste of the local trading scene at the Tra Phang Thong Market. Mostly a food market where locals come to pick up ingredients or pre-made meals such as curry, it is an excellent place to sample regional specialities, which can be hard to find outside Sukhothai province.