You know how you make time for a quick touristy photoshoot by the Colosseum when you travel to Rome, or how you make space in your stomach for that pizza everybody told you to try when in NYC? Well, visiting Sukhothai in Thailand is kinda the same thing.
If you never heard of it before, you’re not alone. In fact, I don’t mind admitting that before finding myself in Bangkok without a travel plan after coming back from the south, I had no idea that place existed. The fact that I do not own the ‘mandatory’ Lonely Planet Thailand guide might explain that. And a few travellers I met along the way from then on didn’t know about it either, so of course I felt special for being so knowledgable.
There’s a direct bus departing from Bangkok to Sukhothai every day and it takes about 7 hours (approximately $12, if my memory isn’t playing games with me). They give you a little snack and some water and they stop half way for lunch in an open food court. It’s not the best food you will have in Thailand, but anything goes when you are hangry.
The bus station isn’t far from the town, which is about 12km away from the historical park, aka the place you’d be there to visit. The town itself isn’t the most beautiful, interesting or entertaining to be honest, especially during the day. I walked around for a while during the day and I was surprised to see I was the only foreigner there; no joke or exaggeration here. It wasn’t my favourite stop on my itinerary, to be honest, but that’s probably because I was really tired during those days and was alone. The park, also referred to as Old City, made up for that.
Early in the morning, head over to the main street and look for the public buses, which are the blue larger version of tuk tuks, called songthaew. It shouldn’t cost you more than 20THB (they might ask you for more for being a tourist). It will drop you off by the entrance of the park, which is about 12km from the city. The entrance ticket costs 100THB and includes the central zone. For the other zone, you need to buy a separate ticket. Personally, it was “enough” to visit the temples around the central zone. It might sound uneducated or inconsiderate to say, but after a while, they all begin to look alike. But that’s just my personal opinion.
Oh and if you don’t want to walk all around it (it might take you a bit to get from one temple to the other), just rent a bike. Before entering the park, you will see bike shops across the street. You can get one for 10-50THB. You then pay a little extra for the entrance ticket, but it’s worth it. I loved it!
The period between the mid-13th century to the late 14th century is generally regarded as the golden age of Thai civilisation, during which the Sukhothai Kingdom (the Kingdom of Raising of Happiness) reigned gloriously. The architecture that developed during that time became a symbol of classic Thai style and set the standard for the temples that have been built ever since.
Wat Mahathat (wat meaning temple) is the largest one in the park. It’s surrounded by brick walls and a water filled moat that is supposed to represent the last frontier of the universe. Numerous sitting Buddha figures are spread around the temples, including a standing one. In some of them, you can still see traces of golden paint on the nails.
The day was very quiet and at no point did I ever find myself overwhelmed and frustrated with loud and disrespectful tourists. That, in turns, allowed me to take my time with my camera…until it began to rain.
The place provides a brief look into Thai history and culture and for that, it deserves a visit.
Have you ever been to Sukhothai? How much do you love Thai temples on a scale from 1 to ‘they’re beautiful but I’ve seen enough of them?’