I love old, ancient historical monuments… the past often speaks volumes about a country’s culture.
Wait, I’m getting ahead of myself. First things first, enjoying our porch and some beer at our guesthouse… a welcome break from the smog, noise and crowds in Bangkok and Chiang Mai. It is very quiet and peaceful in this part of the country.
Ok, now back to business… Sukhothai, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a vast and picturesque park located about 5-6 hours south of Chiang Mai or north of Bangkok that houses hundreds of ruins from the Siam kingdom’s rule in the 13th century.
The best time to go is just as the park is opening. Of course, you avoid much of the crowds. But the real reason to go early is that the bright pink lotus flowers are just opening and make this park really shine.
Sukhothai park is broken up into several areas, with the largest and most well-maintained ruins found in the central zone of the park. Our guesthouse offered a decent map here.
It would take ages to get around this entire park on foot, so we rented a bike from our guesthouse, and spent an entire 1.5 days riding around the park snapping hundreds of photos. Thankfully for you, I vastly narrowed it down.
Once you get outside of the small crowds in the central zone, you can find yourself completely alone and immersed in the history of Sukhothai. The north zone is the next largest area of the park, boasting a colossal sitting Buddha…
…and a large area left unrestored.
Many Buddha statues’ heads have been stolen over the years leaving behind a sea of fallen bricks and haunting headless statues.
The ones that are still intact are surrounded by beautiful offerings, an indication of their continued use to this day.
The star attraction of the west zone is a towering standing Buddha that seems to keep watch over the old capital city of Sukhothai.
It’s a long climb, but the view from the top is amazing…
The rest of this zone has been left to nature to decide its fate. We rarely saw another tourist in this section. It was so peaceful and almost eerily quiet. If only walls could talk…
We soon found out that we were as much of an attraction as the park. So many school kids shouting “hello!” to us in between giggles as we rode around. It was like being a celebrity for a day. It was one of our favorite moments in Thailand, and I was so caught up in smiling and waving at them, that I forgot to take a shot. Mental pictures just don’t translate as well here.
It was a beautiful, clear sunny day (can you tell by the next pic?! I might be a teensy bit sunburnt)…
Watching the sun set over the ruins with the mountains in the distance was magical. The absolute best way to say our goodbyes to this beautiful city.
We ended up at Sukhothai Historical Park simply as a stopping point on the way to Boon Lott’s Elephant Sanctuary, an incredible elephant sanctuary that is well worth the visit, and I am so glad we did. It was gorgeous!!
Where we stayed: Thai Thai Sukhothai Guesthouse, located in the old city.
Would we stay there again? Maybe. The cabins were cute, but a little close together. The grounds were beautiful, but there was no pool (I’ve heard this is a must during the hot season) and there were closer options to the park. I would check those out too.
How we got there: We took a bus from Chaing Mai for 239Baht. It was freezing. It was 53F outside, and the air was on. Bring a sweatshirt, or three. Screw it, bring 20. We flew out from the Sukhothai Airport (see photo below), about an hour from the old city.
Would we go back? I’m really glad we went, but I feel like we saw all we wanted to see, so I would not go back. But only for that reason. We struggled between visiting Sukhothai or Ayutthaya, closer to Bangkok, since time wouldn’t permit both, but are very happy we went this route.
Tips: If your primary interest is the park, stay in the old city. The food there is mostly abysmal, but the proximity to the park was key for us. I felt the day and half we spent there was plenty. Rent a bike from your hotel, its a lot cheaper than rentals close to the park.
I had to share this pic of the airport in Sukhothai…
Yes, that’s the AIRPORT. Not a resort… It was hands-down the most beautiful airport I’ve seen.
Looking for everything else we did in Thailand? Check out our Thailand Roundup!