The night before I was planning to go to Sukhothai Historical Park–the first historic capital of Siam–I met a fellow traveler at my guest house who was also planning on going to the park the following day. We decided to go together, which ended up being a wonderful adventure–it’s always fun to meet new people while traveling and though I don’t expect to ever see her again, my new guest house friend and I had a lovely time exploring the ancient ruins together.
Rested and ready for more adventures after my first, quieter day in Sukhothai, I got up early to get some breakfast prior to heading to the park.
A local bus–which was really more like a songthaew–goes between New Sukhothai and Old Sukhothai on a regular basis for a small sum of 30 baht ($0.85 USD) one way. We caught it on New Sukhothai’s main road, not far from Poo Restaurant. The bus takes about twenty minutes to get from New Sukhothai to Old Sukhothai; while on the bus, we chatted with another solo female traveler who was also heading to see the ruins.
We were dropped off right outside the park entrance and immediately headed to rent bikes. There are a few bike rental places right across the street from the park entrance; for a small fee (I can’t remember how much off the top of my head), we acquired two rickety and questionably safe bikes for the day. I mean, I’m still here to tell the tale, but I’ve definitely ridden on stabler bikes in my life time.
Sukhothai Historical Park is divided into a few different areas: there’s the main park, where a handful of the ruins are within walking distance of each other–though we were happy to have our bikes, regardless–and numerous offshoots of the park, which are all a few kilometers away from the main park. Having a bike made getting to these out of the way temples WAY more convenient. It is also possible to rent a tuk tuk driver to see these temples, though bikes are the much cheaper (and, I think, the more adventurous) route. I highly recommend exploring the temples outside the main park–my favorite temple was outside of the main park, as were a lot of really awesome sites that I wouldn’t have been able to see otherwise. We didn’t make it to every temple around the park–that would have taken much too long–but we did see some pretty cool ones, and it was an all around awesome adventure.
From what I understand, the main park is always free, but some of the offshoots do cost money. That said, we found out from a park employee that it was Princess Siridhorn of the Thai Royal Family’s birthday, so all of the sites were free in her honor (which was very lucky for us). Just keep in mind that if you do visit Sukhothai Historical Park and plan on biking or driving around to other temples, it’s a good idea to have some extra baht on you. Actually, you should always have some extra baht on you in Thailand since many places in Thailand only take cash.
Once we had our bikes, we started off our morning within the walls of the main park.
We started off our journey exploring Wat Mahathat, the most historically significant temple in the complex, and the first temple you come across if you enter the park via the main entrance:
Wat Mahathat is HUGE and quite expansive. The majority of the temple is in very good shape, considering it ages from the twelfth and thirteenth centuries; it is easy to feel like one is walking through a maze because of the many many smaller stupas within the Wat Mahathat complex.
Our second stop was Wat Si Sawai, a much smaller, though still very impressive temple. It is a minute or two away from Wat Mahathat by bike. Wat Si Sawai was a personal favorite of mine for no particular reason other than I really liked it.
We then ventured to Wat Tra Phong Ngoen, Wat Sa Si, and a couple other stops within the main park before stopping for a lunch break at a local place right down the road. The food was only alright, especially considering what we paid for it, but anything near the Old City is going to be a tad more expensive given the tourist nature of the area.
After lunch and a necessary 7/11 stop (7/11 stops are always necessary in Thailand), we headed on our way, this time to the temples outside of the main park. Stops included Wat Pha Phai Luang, a rather large wat surrounded by a HUGE moat, which was unfortunately dried up at the time (the downside of traveling through Thailand during the hottest months of the year, I suppose); Wat Si Chum, my FAVORITE temple of them all and one of the more popular wats at Sukhothai with good reason; and a couple other wats, which I don’t know the names of. They clearly didn’t make that huge of an impression of me. I was also pretty exhausted by this point, from biking through the Thai countryside under the scorching mid-day sun for the majority of the afternoon.
After we visited our last wat of the day, we ventured towards the Ramkhamhaeng National Museum, which is right next to the main park. We did this partly to escape the heat and partly to see the museum itself. Okay, well, I can’t speak for my guest house friend, but I was actually really excited to see the museum because a well-curated museum is a sort of heaven in my book. It was really interesting to learn more about the history of Sukhothai and its sister city Sri Satchanalai (a post will come on that later). There are a couple different buildings within the museum that covers agricultural history to social history and much more. The upside of a self-guided tour in a place like Sukhothai is that you have total control over what you visit and see. The downside is that you miss a lot of information about the sites themselves, something a well-informed tour guide can provide. With huge temple complexes like Sukhothai (well, and most museums and historical sites), I prefer self-guided tours so I can concentrate on seeing the things I want to see. That said, the museum was great for getting filled in on the fascinating history of the Sukhothai area and the Sukhothai kingdom.
With the most important wats that we wanted to see and the museum checked off of our list, we were pooped from our adventurous day. It was nearing dinner time and we were ready to head back to New Sukhothai for the evening. We easily found the bus back to New Sukhothai–it was parked right outside the main entrance and we hopped right on it after saying goodbye to our bikes. With that, we headed back to our guest house, weary but gratful for our day’s adventure
Sukhothai was an amazing experience–but my next day’s adventure to Si Satchanalai was on a whole other level. Stay tuned for my last installment of the Sukhothai series!
To read about my first day in Sukhothai, you can click here.
This post is part two of a three-part Sukhothai series