Old Sukhothai - Treasures from 700 Years Ago

Trip Start Jan 21, 2009
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Trip End Mar 20, 2009


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Where I stayed
J & J Guesthouse

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Saturday, March 14, 2009

Sukhothai

Most travelers that come through Sukhothai come to see the very impressive 8th to 16th century temple ruins of the former Sukhothai Kingdom. The Sukhothai complex includes the Old Sukhothai City Historical Park and well preserved temple ruins which spread throughout the area for about 50 kilometers. The area is designated as a UNESCO Cultural World Heritage Site. The Sukhothai kingdom, which translates literally as "Dawn of Happiness" 700 years ago was the sight from which the Thai Kingdom emerged. It became it's first capital, predating Ayudhiya and Bangkok.

The 3rd Monarch of the Sukhothai Kingdom, was King Ramkhamhaeng, (for whom Ramkhamhaeng University Noah just graduated from is named). King Ramkhamhaeng is said to have established the first uniform guidelines for administrative, economic, political, and religious practices for his nation. He invented the Thai alphabet providing his people with a uniform written language (even if it is very hard to learn), and King Rhamkhamhaeng is known as the Father King of Thailand.

I spent an entire day at the 3 National Parks in and near Old Sukhothai. The ancient temple remains and many very old, very large Buddhas are spread out across several kilometers of beautiful park nature in an exquisite natural flora landscape. I rented a bicycle just outside of the complex and spent a beautiful, uncrowded (albeit very hot) day meandering around this setting that I think equals or surpasses my visit to Angkor Wat in Cambodia.(The bicycle was a must. There are many exquisite Buddhas at sites several kilometers apart, and with a bicycle on these uncrowded roads, you can see more of the sites and enjoy the park setting too.)

I spent a wonderful day with my new travel friends from Montana, Hohanna and Doug.
Unlike the Angkor sites, my two friends and I were at times the only people at a particular spot. It was uncrowded! There were no souvenir hawkers assaulting the visitors, but there were stands with water and fruit available. Once when we needed something to drink badly, after pedaling in from a more remote area, some Thai people insisted that we take Pepsi's from them and they would not accept any money.

There were a few tour buses and vans around, but we didn't come into contact with any crowds of people. There was a Thai Samarai film being made at one spot. I was happy to see one small school group of Thai middle schoolers on a field trip, and a few Thai tourists there as well. The Rhamkhamhaeng National Museum collection was beautiful and worth the visit too.

Most travelers to Thailand skip Sukhothai for the more popular flights from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, and then to the beaches in the south. They are missing out on a chance to see a beautifully preserved and curated historical sight of the same time period and of equal in importance to Angkor Wat, and to see a glimpse of Thai life in the countryside away from the large cities and towns and crowds of people and other tourists.

This visit was definitely off the beaten tourist track and has my highest recommendation!

The lodging choices here are to stay just outside of the Historical Park in a hotel or guesthouse, or in a hotel or guesthouse in "New Sukhothai" as the actual town is known. New Sukhothai is 7 kilometers from the park and there are many Samlors and Songthaews available cheaply for transport.

I stayed at the lovely well priced J & J Guesthouse. There are fan only rooms, ac rooms, and wonderful spacious ac bungalows with tv also. The price ranges from 400 to 900 Baht. There is a small but very clean and nice swimming pool and the grounds and decor are charming. The food is fresh and tasty; alcohol, fruit shakes, cold drinks, snacks and a full service outdoor restaurant make this reasonably priced option a "brilliant" place to stay, as the English travelers would say!

Yesterday I relaxed and explored the new town (a typical small Thai city with not too much to see.) Today I am going to Boon Lott's Elephant Sanctuary for 3 days. Located in Si Satchenalai, near Ban Hat Siew, in Sukhothai Province, this is a newer and very unusual Elephant preserve with 8 rescued elephants so far.
Stay tuned to my blog. That will be my next entry!
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