When I decided to return to Thailand six months after leaving, it would have been easy to head straight to Chiang Mai and spend two weeks revisiting my favourite haunts. However, I always like to visit somewhere new each time I return to a country and there’s a whole area of Thailand between Bangkok and Chiang Mai that I’ve never seen.
Ayutthaya and Sukhothai, two ancient cities were the first places that sprung to mind and after a quick look at a map, Dave and I decided on Sukhothai for no other reason than the fact it was roughly mid-way between Bangkok and Chiang Mai.
Sukhothai Historical Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and was the capital of the Sukhothai Kingdom from 1238 to 1438. It has almost 200 ruins spread out over 70 square kilometres. Think of it as a mini-Angkor Wat in Thailand.
We put aside half a day to explore the ruins and as you could take a scooter into the park, we were able to zip around most of the main sites over this time. While I’d say it’s definitely possible to see a fair chunk of the area in a day, I found myself wishing I had a week in Sukhothai so that I could explore EVERYTHING.
As coming to Sukhothai was a bit of a last minute decision for us both, Dave and I arrived knowing absolutely nothing about the ruins and having no expectations. Sometimes that’s the best way as Sukhothai absolutely blew me away.
These ruins were amazing.
The park is divided into five areas — the central, north, east, south and west zones, with each of these having a separate entrance fee (roughly $3.50). Of these, the central zone is the largest and has the most impressive ruins. Of course, this also meant more tourists, but at Sukhothai it was far from overwhelming. A tour group of 10 people, a few couples on bicycles, it was still easy to find peace and quiet here.
I found myself wondering why Sukhothai isn’t more popular. These ruins were seriously impressive and yet it rarely makes it onto travellers’ itineraries. For Dave and I, this was a good thing. No crowds make us very happy.
What little crowds there were in the central zone dissipated once we ventured outside. For a blissful hour we wandered mostly undisturbed around the ruins of the north zone.
The north zone felt much less “restored” in comparison to the central zone, with piles of rubble and bricks stretching over the sites and various statues missing body parts. I enjoyed this section a lot more, partly because it felt more original and partly because we had the ruins to ourselves.
During my Sukhothai visit I managed to develop an obsession of Buddha statues and spent the majority of my time clambering over rocks, trying to discover hidden Buddhas. These were some of my favourites, found in the central zone.
It was fortunate that we had a scooter to explore Sukhothai with as we managed to visit all of the ruins in the central and north zone in around four hours. Our visit was far too rushed for my liking but it gave me a good introduction to Sukhothai and was unlike anywhere else I’d been to in Thailand.
I have no idea why more people don’t visit Sukhothai. Aside from the occasional tour group or an elderly couple on bicycles we had much of the ruins to ourself — and the ruins were stunning.
Seriously, Sukhothai is amazing.
If you’re planning on visiting Thailand you should definitely try to work it into your itinerary. You won’t be disappointed.