27 Feb Sukhothai Points of interest
Perhaps a lesser-known region of the Kingdom, Sukhothai in central Thailand is located about 400 km north of Bangkok. Meaning the ‘Dawn of Happiness’, the small province lies in the Yom River valley and is surrounded by mountainous forests and neatly tended farmland. Celebrated by the Thais, it is often overlooked by tourists who may find themselves following the more established travel routes.
The ancient city prides itself on heritage and culture and understands the true value of preservation, making Sukhothai the ideal place to appreciate an authentic Thai atmosphere with a city that covers everything from ancient Buddhist temples to National Parks, fine restaurants, a collection of interesting museums and excellent terrain to explore by bicycle.
Agriculture is the main source of income in Sukhothai and there are plenty of farms that grow a variety of produce from tobacco to sugar cane, as well as the renowned Sukhothai’s Organic Agriculture Project and other rural estates that give insight into every day farming practices.
The modern town of new Sukhothai is the capital of the province with the Sukhothai Historical Park, 12 km west of new Sukhothai, containing the partially restored 13th and 14th century palaces and temples of the Kingdom of Siam. This classic ‘Sukhothai style’ of architecture established here, has left Thailand with a lasting legacy.
As the first capital of Siam, the Sukhothai Kingdom was the foundation of Thai civilisation and the birthplace of Thai art, architecture and language. Sukhothai’s historical sites are as glorious as those of Ayutthaya with the most historically significant temple ruins found in the historical parks.
Apart from visiting these sites though, Sukhothai itself is a quiet rural city where you can relish the charms of Thailand’s rustic lifestyle, while taking in some of these recommended attractions and activities. Ideally, allow yourself a good few days to explore the area.
When in Sukothai, consider joining a Take MeTour to learn how to make your very own Buddhist amulets. Phra Phim or Buddhist votive tablets are renowned as a kind of Buddhist amulets and in fact, people in the ancient times created these small terracotta images in order to remind themselves of Buddha and his teachings.
- Loy Krathong Festival
Sukhothai is one of Thailand’s most popular places from which to enjoy the Loy Krathong Festival that is held annually on a full moon in November. The historical park hosts lightshows, dancing performances and candlelit offerings are sent floating on the ponds. On the first Friday evening of each month, a smaller light and sound show is held near Wat Sa Si.
Beyond the Sukhothai historical park, Si Satchanalai is considered the second center of the Sukhothai Kingdom and was established in 1250. Today as a protected UNESCO World Heritage Site, it features the remains of the 13th century town that built up on the Yom waterway. The Si Satchanalai Historical Park includes many Buddha structures, ancient buildings and restored temples.
- Sathorn Gold Textile Museum
The ex-broker for old woven textiles, Khun Sathorn Sorajprasobsanti, opened the Sathorn Gold Textile Museum on the Sawankalok-Srisajchanalai Highway, in 1988. The collection ranges from the simple to the most intricate of patterns, like the much admired Teen Jok works. The Tai Puan people, who built their community during the Rama II reign, and were known for their beautiful hand-woven goods, made many of the items on exhibition here. They thankfully passed their knowledge down through many generations before the textiles became more commercial produced, as is the case for most found in stores today.
About 5km away from the Si Satchanalai Historical Park lie the Sangkhalok kilns, that are believed to be the oldest in Thailand. Sangkhalok refers to Sukhothai Style pottery. These traditional producers of Celadon and ceramics used to export their products during the 14th to 16th century. Today, the antiques, kitchenware and artwork can be seen all around Thailand.
- The Ramkhamhaeng National Park
Ramkhamhaeng National Park lies in Ban Dan Lan Hoi, Khiri Mat and Mueang Sukhothai districts of the Sukhothai Province, with the majority of the park’s land within the contours of the Khao Luang Mountain Range. Khao Luang is like a giant hill in the middle of a rice field and is surrounded by low farmland. Among the activities on offer to nature lovers, are the many hiking trails and waterfalls.
- The Ramkhamhaeng National Museum
This museum is a good starting point and shouldprobably be visited before exploring the historical park ruins. A replica of the famous Ramkhamhaeng inscription, said to be the earliest example of Thai writing, is kept here, as is an impressive collection of Sukhothai artifacts.
Sukhothai celebrates every Saturday evenings in vibrant style as everybody gathers after sunset at the Sukhothai Night Market. This unique Thai market on the waterway is more than just a road with vendors; it is also the setting of public concerts and dancing. The food is delicious and reasonably priced and the friendly traders add to the atmosphere.
- Sangkhalok Museum
This small but comprehensive privately owned museum is home to a collection of Sangkalok porcelains, a type of porcelain produced during the Sukhothai kingdom. The ground floor displays a collection of original Thai pottery found in the area, as well as pieces traded from Vietnam, Burma and China. The next floor features pottery created specifically as art, including some beautiful and rare ceramic Buddha statues.
Wander down the riverside lanes to see life unfolding among the wooden houses and temples, where New Sukhothai doesn’t feel that new. Clustered to the east of the historical park along Jarod Vithithong, Old Sukhothai is much smaller and sleepier village with a row of guesthouses, restaurants and two long-distance bus stops.
Open each day, a Tourism Authority of Thailand office provides maps and brochures on the north side of Jarod Vithithong, less than a kilometer west of the river in New Sukhothai. Another tourist info is found off Highway 1113, just east of Wat Phra Phai Luang in the historical park’s northern zone.
Sukhothai’s location in Thailand’s lower north makes it a convenient stop if travelling between Bangkok and Chiang Mai, or if headed towards Burma.