I don’t like to write too much today, but rather show you a few photos. Photos of one of the most magical, impressive, peaceful and, in ist own way, most beautiful places I was allowed to visit on my way around the world: the Sukhothai historical city.
At night, the thermometer in Sukhothai rarely drops below 20 degrees (68 Fahrenheit), during the day it regularly reaches the 30 degree mark (86 Fahrenheit). The streets dusty, the traffic chaotic, the people friendly. The new Sukhothai, around 440 kilometers north of Bangkok, is rarely a reason why travelers come here. The locals know that too, and maybe that’s why they’re a little more reserved than in other parts of the country. But just because Sukhothai is not overcrowded with tourists, it has remained authentic. The destination of the tourists is the historical town of Sukhothai, about 12 kilometers west of the new town.
Sukhothai is a World Heritage Site
Sukhothai means “Dawn of Happiness”. In the 13th and 14th centuries it was the capital of the Sukhothai kingdom. Traditional Thai historians believe that Sukhothai’s foundation was the beginning of the Thai nation. However, recent research is said to show that Thailand’s history began much earlier. One thing is clear: over 190 ruins on about 70 square kilometers are left of the once independent kingdom. Unesco has declared it a World Heritage Site.
I cycled and walked through Sukhothai in amazement. Overwhelmed by the size of the area, the buildings and how much of it is preserved – or not. In some places, paint residues encourage people to continue thinking about paintings that no longer exist on the walls. In many places, half bodies or hands shaped into mudras with long fingers indicate the remains of Buddha statues. I wonder how many there were once on the entire site. I guess there must have been thousands.
Almost eight hours on the bicycle
I rode my bicycle across the grounds for almost eight hours, amazed at every corner showing the beauty that can be in decay. My personal highlight was the visit to Wat Sri Chum. The belly of the 15 meter high and 11 meter wide Buddha can be seen from afar. And as soon as you get close enough, his alert gaze follows the visitor until he has disappeared from his field of vision. The statue is walled in, and only through a narrow entrance do visitors enter the small space that the Buddha almost fills completely. I think this must be one of the most peaceful places on earth.
Recommendations for visiting Sukhothai below the photos.
If you want to visit Sukhothai, I recommend an accommodation right in the old town. The bus from the new town only runs from 6 a.m. and takes 20 to 25 minutes. This means, you‘re too late for sunrise – as I can tell from my own experience.
The park is divided into several areas. There is a separate entry fee for each part. This is probably because the park has regular streets go through it. So don’t be surprised if you suddenly have to pay again at a checkpoint.
At the entrance to the park and where the bus stops from/to Sukhothai new city, there are various bicycle rentals. As far as I’ve seen, prices are the same everywhere. Small scooters can also be borrowed. I found the bicycle more practical. You can go anywhere with it. Note: There is an additional entrance fee for bicycles.
Very important: take enough water with you and plenty of sunscreen. It is really hot in Sukhothai. The average temperature is over 30 degrees Celsius all year round. Travelers only find shade underneath trees or behind ruins. There are some restaurants and kiosks for food and water. Use Google Maps or the like to find them.