While Khmer Empire ruled the land on the eastern part of Thailand, Sukhothai –translated as the Dawn of Happiness, rose as another influential kingdom in their time. If Cambodia has Angkor Wat to prove the existence of once a powerful kingdom, Sukhothai preserves the historical remaining of its old city with Sukhothai Historical Park.
Sukhothai Historical Park, apart from the historical value that it holds, is also famous for photography activities. The park encloses many structures and historical sites with astounding views. If you are planning to pay a visit, the best time to visit Sukhothai is between November to February because the weather is cooler. Here we provide a guide for Sukhothai Historical Park.
How to Go to Sukhothai Historical Park?
Going to Sukhothai by flight will take a shorter time, but maybe not the most convenient option. Sukhothai Airport is not an international airport, so you will have to go to Bangkok first before you fly to Sukhothai. From Sukhothai Airport to the city is quite far because the airport is located far to the north in Sawankhalok District. Shuttle bus from the airport to the New City might cost around 300 Baht.
Nearest train station to Sukhothai is the Phitsanulok Train Station, located around 80km away from Sukhothai Historical Park. Once you arrived, take bus from Phitsanulok to Sukhothai. Bus ride from Phitsanulok to Sukhothai is around 1 hour, depending on the traffic condition.
By bus RECCOMMENDED
Going to Sukhothai by bus is the most recommended option because the bus to Sukhothai will terminate at Sukhothai Bus Terminal in the New City of Sukhothai, which is located around 12km away from the Old City of Sukhothai. Once you arrive in the bus terminal, you can take either tuk tuk or songthaews to go to Sukhothai Historical Park.
Sukhothai Historical Park Entrance Fee
Sukhothai Historical Park is huge, divided into 5 region namely central, north, east, west and south zone. Each zone have different entrance fee. Best way to see Sukhothai Historical Park is by cycling in Sukhothai. Do a Sukhothai bicycle tour while you are at the park, alone or with friends. It will be fun!
Top Attractions in Sukhothai Historical Park
Here we list down some of the top Sukhothai attractions and temples that you have to visit if you go to Sukhothai Historical Park. You can use the map as a reference.
Wat Traphang Thong
Wat Traphang Thong is probably the first temple you will see if you enter Sukhothai Historical Park from the East Gate. The temple is surrounded by a reservoir or a lake, making it looks like an island and is accessible via two bridges. Wat Traphang Thong is an active temple. The temple is the centre for the celebration of Loy Krathong celebration ins Sukhothai Historical Park.
In Wat Traphang Thong, you will find a mandapa, a square-based structure which houses a Buddha’s Footprint. You can also find a bot or ubosot, which is an ordination hall on the other side of the island. The ordination hall was rebuilt recently on the previous ubosot base from the Sukhothai era. A big stupa –a dome-shaped structure, is placed in between the mandapa and the ubosot. The stupa – or also called chedi, is the oldest structure in Wat Traphang Thong.
Wat Mahathat is the biggest, most popular and most photographed monument in Sukhothai Historical Park. You can easily access Wat Mahathat, as it is located at the Central Zone of the park. Wat Mahathat was the centre of religious activity during Sukhothai era and the importance of the building is evident with the large size of the temple area.
The construction of Wat Mahathat began from the 13th Century and continued until the fall of Sukhothai Kingdom. Hence, you will see different artistic features in the monuments and buildings found in Wat Mahathat. Wat Mahathat has Ordination hall at the northern part, two mandapas with standing Buddha images named Phra Attharot, assembly hall to the east and stupas to the south. At the center of the temple is the Khmer style prang –used to worship Hindu gods.
Photography tips: Come early in the morning and during sunset to see the magnificent views of Wat Mahathat
King Ram Khamhaeng Monument
King Ram Khamhaeng Monument is located to the north of Wat Mahathat, still within the Central Zone of Sukhothai Historical Park. You will get to see King Ram Khamhaeng monument who was said to be the best ruler during Sukhothai Kingdom era, majestically sitting on a throne. Locals pay respect to the King for its contributions to the country.
Wat Traphang Ngoen
Wat Traphang Ngoen is located to the west of Wat Mahathat. Wat Traphang Ngoen means “The Temple of the Silver Lake” as the temple is located in front of a reservoir, creating a picturesque and stunning view. It is believe to be built in the 14th Century.
The lotus bud-shaped stupa that belongs to Wat Traphang Ngoen stands out from far. The architecture is similar to the one found in Wat Mahathat, following the Sukhothai style. In front of the stupa is the viharn with the sitting Buddha. To the right of the chedi and viharn, you will find the image of the walking Buddha on a red brick wall and behind it is the ubosot.
Wat Si Sawai
Wat Si Sawai is one of the oldest temple that can be found in Sukhothai Historical Park. It is located to the south of Wat Mahathat. The Khmer initially built the temple as a Hindu sanctuary dedicated to Shiva during 12th to 13th century, but left the construction was left unfinished. The three tall prangs is well preserved despite being one of the oldest structure in the historical park.
During Sukhothai era, the temple was converted to a Buddhist monastery and two viharn (congregation hall) was added into the structure in front of the prangs. The walls of the main viharn are still in a good condition compared to the other one where only pillars are left for the visitors to see. Nonetheless, the beauties and the tranquillity in Wat Si Sawai give a spectacular impression to those who visits.
Wat Phra Phai Luang
In the North Zone you will see another ruin named Wat Phra Phai Luang, believed to be built before King Ram Khamhaeng took the throne. Wat Phra Phai Luang is situated on a square land surrounded moat.
The structures in Wat Phra Phai Luang are mostly ruined except for one of the three prang –a tower that took the Khmer style of architecture, that still stand stall after centuries. What once was a Hindu temple when Khmer Empire ruled the land was converted into a Buddhist temple during Sukhothai era.
Wat Si Chum
Wat Si Chum is one of the remarkable temples you will see in Sukhothai Historical Park, believed to be built in the late of 14th Century. Wat Si Chum offers a different view of temple, which consist of a mandapa enclosing a huge sitting Buddha image named “Phra Achana”.
In front of the mandapa is the regular prayer hall that you will find in other locations in Sukhothai Historical Park. What is special about Wat Sri Achum is the way the Buddha structure is enclosed by the mandapa with a narrow entrance where you will get to see only a glimpse of the huge Buddha structure from afar.
The Buddha sits with fingers stretched long and pointing to the earth, a position called “calling the Earth to witness”. A slightly smiling image of the magnificent Buddha structure claimed to be sending peaceful and soothing feelings to the hearts of the beholder.
Wat Saphan Hin
Wat Saphan Hin is located far to the west from the Central Zone, situated on top of a hill. Yes, you need to climb a bit to see this temple. There are steps to climb to see Wat Saphan Hin and it is not that hard to go up there. The views you will get once you reach Wat Saphan Hin is totally worth the effort. Wat Saphan Hin features a great and tall structure of a standing Buddha, named Phra Attharot, the same kind you see in Wat Mahathat.
Wat Chang Lom
Wat Chang Lom is located a bit far to the east of the Central Zone, nearby Legendha Hotel. It was said to be built in the 14th Century. Wat Chang Lom means, “temple surrounded by elephant”. Wat Chang Lom structures features a huge tall chedi or stupa surrounded by 32 elephants sculpture. Stupa or chedi is believed to contain Buddha’s relics. Meanwhile, elephant in Buddhism symbolises mental and physical strength and elephants often seen to be guarding the temples.
Where to Stay in Sukhothai?
Old Sukhothai vs New Sukhothai
Sukhothai Historical Park is located at what people call, the Old Sukhothai. The New Sukhothai is the small town located around 20 minutes driving distance from the Old Sukhothai, where the locals live and most of the accommodations are located.
Depends on your need, you can find many hotel or boutique hotel in the Old Sukhothai if it is easier and more convenient for you to explore the park. Or else, you can stay in the New Sukhothai and explore the new city at night.
Old Sukhothai Hotels Recommendation
Old City Guesthouse Sukhothai is located inside the wall of the Old Sukhothai, offering a short distance away from the top attractions you wish to visit in the Historical Park. The rooms are nice, clean and tidy and you can choose whether to stay in a fan room or air-conditioned room. Seven Eleven Convenient Store is located within walking distance from the guesthouse. They have Free WiFi and offer bicycle renting too. Old City Guesthouse provides rooms for the visitors at affordable price.
Thai Thai Sukhothai Guesthouse is located outside the wall of the Old Sukhothai, around 1km from away from the entrance to the historical park. The price is a bit expensive but still affordable if you are looking for a beautiful place to relax and rest after walking around the historical park in heat. They offer bicycle rental, air conditioned room, free WiFi in public areas and many other facilities. They also have outdoor swimming pool, which attracts many visitors to stay in Thai Thai Sukhothai Guesthouse.
New Sukhothai Hotels Recommendation
Sila Resort Sukhothai is a famous accommodation in Sukhothai City. They offer comfortable, clean and lovely rooms at affordable prices. The quality service that they offer is also part of the reason why many recommend the resort after their stay. Sila Resort Hotel is located around 15 minutes walking distance from Sukhothai Bus Terminal.
Ruean Thai Hotel Sukhothai is another beautiful hotel located in Sukhothai City, offering a rejuvenating stay with its contemporary Thai architecture. They also offer free shuttle bus to Sukhothai Bus Terminal, free bicycle and free WiFi for their customers. After walking around Sukhothai Historical Park, you might want to indulge yourself with a refreshing swim at the pool or relax your muscle with the massage offered in the hotel.
Recommended Places to Eat in Sukhothai
Poo Restaurant Sukhothai is one the most mentioned and recommended restaurant that visitors go to during their stay in Sukhothai. It is located in the New City of Sukhothai. They offer mixed menu with Thai, Asian and European cuisines. The restaurant receives good reviews from their customers for the delicious food that they serve at affordable prices. They open daily from 9AM to 10PM.
Sukhothai Noodles is one of the recommended foods you should try when you go to Sukhothai. It is made of rice noodle and usually serves with thin slices of pork and slightly sweet pork broth.
Festivals and Events in Sukhothai Historical Park
Songkran Festival (13 April)
Songkran Festival is also known as Thailand Water Festival to celebrate Thailand’s New Year. Thailand celebrates Songkran every year on the 13th April.
Loy Krathong means ‘floating basket’. It takes place on the night of the full moon of the 12th month in Thai lunar calendar, thus, the date changes every year. During Loy Krathong, you get to see a remarkable sight of beauties as the temples in the Old City lightened up by thousands of candles.
Brief on Sukhothai History
A visit to a historical site will be more exciting and meaningful when you understand the history. Here is a brief history on Sukhothai Kingdom that you should know.
How Sukhothai Began
Sukhothai Kingdom began when two Tai people from the Tai Kingdom drove the Khmer power out of their land. One of them became the ruler and ruled the land as King Sri Indraditya. Sukhothai Kingdom was dated to begin in the early of 13th Century and fall in the mid of 15th Century. The land of Sukhothai become one of the most important historical location in Thailand, as it played a major role in history to shape the Thailand that we know today.
King Ram Khamhaeng
Famous king in Sukhothai History is King Ram Khamhaeng. King Ram Khamhaeng is the son of King Sri Indraditya, the third king of Sukhothai. His contributions to Thailand was so remarkable that they built a monument of him in Sukhothai Historical Park. He established the Theraveda Buddhism as the state religion of the kingdom. He is also credited as the creator of the Thai alphabets.
Stone Inscription of King Ram Khamhaeng
Another reason why the name King Ram Khamhaeng is famous is due the discovery of a Stone Inscription by King Mongkut in 19th Century. The Stone Inscription is believed to be written by King Ram Khamhaeng (there are debates among historians regarding this), describing Sukhothai Kingdom as a free and harmonious kingdom ruled by a compassionate king.
The Fall of Sukhothai
The fall of Sukhothai began with the rise of Ayutthaya Kingdom, located at the south of Sukhothai. As years passed by, Sukhothai Kingdom gradually lost its land to Ayutthaya Kingdom. Governing centre changes to Bangkok and with the new Sukhothai constructed in the east of the old Sukhothai, the old Sukhothai is left abandoned.
Development of Sukhothai Historical Park
The work of reservation and the plan to build Sukhothai Historical Park began in 19th Century. Experts from different fields such as archaeologist, arts, historians and engineers helped to plan the development for Sukhothai Historical Park. Thanks to the hard work of these people, the history of Sukhothai is preserved for future generations to see.
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