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The Sukhothai Historical Park ruins are one of Thailand’s most impressive World Heritage Sites. The park includes the remains of 21 historical sites and four large ponds within the old walls, with an additional 70 sites within a 5km radius.
The four outer zones - north, east, west and south - are less crowded and touristy than the central zone. Protected by a square moat, the central zone contains 21 temples among lotus-covered pools, canals, trees and other greenery.
The park is quite expansive, and some of the most impressive ruins are outside the city walls, so renting a bicycle or motorcycle is quite important in order to see all the highlights.
Located in a beautiful setting of lawns, lakes and trees in north-central Thailand, Old Sukhothai, where the Historical Park is now, was the capital of the Sukhothai Kingdom which began in 1238. The central area is enclosed by a moat and contains 21 temples, the greatest of which has 200 pagodas.
Sukhothai was the capital of the first Kingdom of Siam in the 13th and 14th centuries. It has a number of fine monuments, illustrating the beginnings of Thai architecture. The great civilization which evolved in the Kingdom of Sukhothai absorbed numerous influences and ancient local traditions; the rapid assimilation of all these elements forged what is known as the 'Sukhothai style'.
Founded in 1238, Sukhothai was the first unified Kingdom of Siam. Prior to this, modern-day Thailand was governed by local rulers loyal to the Khmer empire of Angkor. As the power of the Khmer began to wane, two Thai generals banded together to expel the Khmer from the central plains, founding the new kingdom of Sukhothai with one of the generals, Intradit, as the first ruler.
The kingdom flourished for 200 years, during which its capital at Old Sukothai was a highly influential political and religious center. Eight kings would rule from the royal capital, the most important of whom was King Ramkhamhaeng (1278–99), the youngest son of the founding king.
Among other accomplishments, he established Theravada Buddhism as the national religion (replacing Khmer Hinduism) and introduced an early form of the Thai alphabet.
Loi Krathong is a Thai Festival, celebrated on a full moon of the twelfth month in the Thai lunar calendar (which is usually November), when the rivers reach their highest point. In the evening, people release little floats in the water. This can be done to make a wish, to let go of negative thoughts, to honor Buddha or to thank the Water Goddess.
The town Sukhothai, which means “Dawn of Happiness”, dates back to the 13th century and has a lot to offer, not only historically. Since 1939 the province it belongs to, is also called Sukhothai. It is probably most famous for the historic city of Sukhothai (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), which lies about 12km away from the ‘new’ town of Sukhothai. And it is these grounds where the Loi Krathong Festival takes place.
Sukhothai is the very first capital city of Thailand. In the golden time of this city, it was a center of everything in Southeast Asia. Nowadays, the ruins from that glorious time are left behind for people of this generation to see. The ancient city was accepted by UNESCO to be World Heritage. Here is a list of the major attractions of the area.
At the heart of the park, the royal city, surrounded by triple concentric walls, is home to the major monuments, such as the Wat Maha That, placed in the center of the city in accordance with Brahminic cosmogony. Picturesquely surrounded by a lotus pond, Wat Maha That now consists of ten viharns, one large chedi and 200 small chedis.
The city was much more crowded in the 13th century than it looks today - the houses and other secular buildings, packed between the temples, were made of perishable wood. The vestiges of the city are reflected in the many lakes, carpeted in lotus flowers, endowing the site with a romantic charm.
Wat Maha That was one of the most important monasteries of the Ayutthaya kingdom, not only because it was the religious center and enshrined relics of Buddha, but also because of its proximity to the Grand Palace. In the past, this place was the venue for important royal ceremonies and celebrations.
The temple is situated on the corner of the present Chikun Road and Naresuan Road. In ancient times the temple was likely to be fully surrounded by canals and moats. The structure has been registered as a national historic site by the Fine Arts Department on 8 March 1935.
The main highlights of the historic site of Wat Si Sawai are the tree prangs (pagodas) that feature the Lopburi architectural style with an influence from Hindu belief, adjacent to an ordination hall made of laterite.
Historians found numerous archaeological evidence in the area, such as Chinese porcelain and statues of Hindu gods. They hence suggested it was first built as a Hindu religious structure which was later turned into a Buddhist temple.
The Wat Phra Phai Luang is located near the Sanluang gate in the north city wall, just outside of the old walled town. The temple dates from the end of the 12th century or early 13th century, before the founding of the Sukhothai Kingdom, which makes it one of the oldest monuments in Sukhothai. The temple was dedicated to Vishnu. Later in the Sukhothai era it was converted into a Theravada Buddhist temple.
The Wat Sa Si temple is found a few hundred meters northwest of the Wat Maha That in the central zone, inside the old walled town. Its location, on a small island in the middle of the lotus flower filled Tra Phang Tra Kuan pond, makes it one of the most attractive monuments of the Sukhothai Historical Park.
Wat Tra Kuan consists of a Ceylonese bell-shaped chedi and the remains of the ordination hall. It is the first temple one comes across when entering the old city from the northern entrance gate. The temple was supposedly built before A.D. 1317.
The Wat Chang Lom is a large Buddhist temple in the central zone of Si Satchanalai Historical Park. The Wat Chang Lom consists of a large Singhalese style principal bell shaped chedi, two viharns and a subsidiary chedi. The square temple area is surrounded by a laterite wall.
Wat Si Chum is a temple in which Phra Atchana, a gigantic Buddha image of the attitude of subduing Mara sits in the main hall. This Buddha image is known as the ‘Speaking Buddha’. The temple was assumingly built in the era of King Ramkhamhaeng the Great, then became abandoned in the late Ayutthaya era. The temple was renovated by an order from King Bhumibol Adulyadej in 1952.
Wat Chetuphon is the largest temple in the south zone. It is located about 2 kilometers south of the Namo Gate in the south city wall. Wat Chetuphon is believed to have been an important temple in the late Sukhothai period. The temple consists of a large viharn, a main mandapa, a smaller mandapa and a number of small chedis.
This active temple is located on U-Thong Road in the northwest corner of the island. There are two sermon halls in situ at Wat Tuek. One of the most interesting sights at Wat Tuek is a preserved buffalo Cyclops. The one-eyed calf’s body floats in a fish aquarium next to a sermon hall.
Wat Sorasak is a small temple located in the central zone inside the old walled town. It is found in a spacious area with lots of trees and a few little visited temples along the road to the Sanluang gate in the north city wall. The temple consists of a chedi and a viharn.
Sukhothai Historical Park is over 70 square kilometers big, with temples and statues spread out into different sections throughout. There are several ways to explore the area: rent a motorbike (which are banned in the inner park), rent a bicycle (can go everywhere), or you can go everywhere by walking, but it’s really too big an area to cover on foot.
The best option is to use a guided tour, not only will you be accompanied by a professional tour guide that knows the area well, but also the tour will organize the transport so that you can see all the highlights in the area.
Travel with Asia Highlights and create unforgettable moments with your loved ones in this park. You will be guaranteed to get the best out of Sukhothai ̶ hassle-free! Please contact us if you have any queries.