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Sukhothai

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Centuries old Buddha figures in the Historical Park

Sukhothai (สุโขทัย) is a small city (population 35,713) in Lower Northern Thailand, most famous for the ruins of the ancient city Sukhothai. The name translates as "the dawn of happiness". The province is located on the lower edge of the northern region, 427 kilometres north of Bangkok, and covers some 6,596 square kilometres.

Understand

The city is a popular tourist destination because it is located near the ruins of the ancient city of Sukhothai, which was the Thai capital during the 13th Century A.D. The historical Sukhothai was the first capital of Siam founded by King Ramkhamhaeng. The province's temples and monuments have been restored and Sukhothai Historical Park – is an area with numerous sites of historical interest whuch has been dedicated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Other interesting places include Ramkhamhaeng National Museum, Ramkhamhaeng National Park, Sri Satchanalai National Park and The Royal Palace and Wat Mahathat.

History

Sukhothai was the first kingdom of Siam established some 800 years ago. The exact year is unknown but according to the Fine Arts Office it was between 1238 and 1257.

Established in around 1238 to 1257, Sukhothai literally means “Dawn of Happiness.” Phokhun Si Intharathit was the founder of the Phra Ruang Dynasty, Sukhothai’s first Dynasty. For 120 years as the capital of Siam, Sukhothai was ruled by many kings. In this connection, the most dynamic monarch being King Ramkhamhaeng the Great, who created the Thai alphabet, laid the foundation for politics, monarchy, and religion, as well as, expanded its boundary of influence. Though the golden era of Sukhothai no longer exists, tourists should bear in mind that respect and admiration for the renowned ruined twin cities of Sukhothai and Si Satchanalai is valued.

Climate

The best time of the year to see Sukhothai is from November to February when the weather is cooler. Other than that you can go any time of the year.

Get in

By plane

Bangkok Airways [1] now has a daily flight from Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport, which then continues on to Lampang. Fares from/to Bangkok start from 1,700 baht (1 hour 20 minutes). From/to Lampang, from 1,100 baht (around 40 minutes).

By train

Take the (express) train (7 hours from Bangkok or Chiang Mai) to Phitsanulok and go by bus from there (1 hour).

By bus

Sukhothai only has a small bus station, but the city can be easily reached by buses from far and near.

From Mae Sot: Minibuses run regularly from the station behind the market. The journey takes about 3 hours, passing through Tak on the way. 130 baht.

From Phitsanulok: Frequent buses operate from the main bus terminal and take about 1 hour for the 58 km trip.

From Bangkok: There are direct buses from Bangkok Mo Chit Terminal and takes 7 hours, including some stops at bus stations of cities on the way. Understand that at the terminal (Mo Chit), there are several bus companies that offer travel to a given destination. In this instance, Wintour Travel, as of November 2010, charges 326 baht for a first-class air-con bus. It takes about 6 hours.

From Chiang Mai: Buses from the main bus terminal take about 4 hours. The cheaper local buses make many stops and take about 5 hours.

Get around

The purple #1 songthaew travels to and from the bus station, which is about 3 km out of town. They run the length of Charodwithitong Rd. The fare is 10 baht.

The large blue songthaew to Old Sukhothai leaves from a bus stop Charodwithitong Rd about 100 m west of the bridge. It stops about 750 m from the entrance to the central zone of the historic park. Fare: 20 baht. Drivers often ask 30 baht from foreigners, but if you insist or start to walk away they should agree for 20.

There are also tuk-tuks, which will try to get 600 baht out of you for a trip to the Old City (main ruins)some 15 km out of town. The correct price is about 300 baht,and this is for at least a couple of hours. When you have seen the part you are at and want to move further in the same area, the driver takes you there. In Feb 2012, I was told that 600 baht was a fair price for a day (which seems fair to me).

See

  • Old Sukhothai (Sukhothai Muang Kao)

Located 12 km to the west of today's Sukhothai, this was the capital of the Sukhothai Kingdom from 1238 to 1438 and contains many ruins from that period. Its importance has been internationally recognised and it is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The old city is a popular tourist attraction, and the site has seen much restoration since the 1960s. It is well maintained, exceptionally clean and well furnished with vendors, though with only a minimum of touts. The heavy restoration is worth noting, since with some ruins and Buddha figures it can lead to a feeling that it is a little over-sanitised, especially in the central zone. The other zones are much less "restored" and trips down unmarked tracks can lead to ruins in their untouched state.

The best way to see the ruins in the Sukhothai National Historic Park is by bicycle. These can be rented from a shop opposite from the main park entrance. It is feasible to walk around the central and northern zones in 6 hours or so. There is also a 40 baht guided tour by electric tram available.

The best time to see the ruins is mornings when it's a little cooler and before the buses arrive, at noon when they have lunch, or after 16:00.

The whole site covers an area of approximately 70 square kilometres (~27 square miles) and is divided into multiple zones, for which - of course - every zone has an entrance fee. As of Dec 2010, admission to each of the zones is B100 for Westerners, and B20 for Thais. (6 am to 6 pm) plus extra for vehicles, including bicycles (B10). The combined ticket (still found in most travel guides) does not exist any more. Before paying the fee be sure to check all gates, not every gate is always guarded, especially after 16:00. The central zone contains the majority of the ruins and a museum. Maps are free at the ticket office.

  • Central zone - It contains 11 ruins in 3 square kilometres, interspersed with moats, lakes and bridges to some island-bound ruins. Mat Mahathat is one of the most spectacular, with a large seated Buddha figure set amongst the pillars of a now ruined sala, and a central chedi flanked by two standing Buddha figures. Wat Sra Sri also has a large chedi and Buddha figure, but is reached by a bridge to the island. There are some nice views from the other side of the lake.
  • North zone - Wat Phra Phai Luang contains the remains of a number of buildings plus a large prang with stucco reliefs. More impressive is Wat Sri Chum, which contains a massive seated Buddha figure peering through an opening in its enclosure. Look for a stairway on the left as you enter the enclosure; it leads up and behind the buddha image, though the passage is not always open.

Do

  • Rent a bike and explore the ruins of Old Sukhothai (walking will kill you). Several rental shops. Price range: 10-50 baht per day.
  • Visit the park at sunrise and admire the Buddha figures in the orange glow of the morning sun.
  • Pay a visit to the ruins at Si Satchanalai Historic Park, 55 km from new Sukhothai. Few tourists, great sites, quiet. Bike rental at entrance.
  • Walk around the fresh market (In new Sukhothai) in the early morning and try the tastes of many kinds of local food Sukhothai people like to eat, e.g., sticky rice with deep fried pork, sweet deep fried beef or spicy pork salad wrapped in a banana leaf.
  • Rent a motorbike in new Sukhothai and appreciate the local life-style.
  • Have "Sukhothai" Noodle!! - It's a must!

Buy

In Sukhothai Historical Park

A Buddha figure at the market at the historical park. They are available in all historic styles, sizes and materials.

It's forbidden to export Buddha figures from Thailand, even though it is commonly done!

In New Sukhothai

Thongchai Wittayu: The biggest electronic store in Sukhothai. The products are digital cameras, memory cards, mp3, etc. You could ask around when you are hanging out in new Sukhothai, most people know the store.

Eat

  • Chopper Bar, Pravetnakorn Rd. A rooftop restaurant and bar with good service, live acoustic guitar music, and Thai and Western menu. From 40 baht for main courses.
  • Dream Café, located in downtown New Sukhothai in a charming rustic old Thai house, Dream Café serves up a good selection of Thai and Western dishes. Attentive service, eclectic music and charming décor. There is also a small guest house at the back. Chat with the owner Chabah if she's there, she is a genuine Renaissance woman, Thai style. 86/1 Singhawat Rd. Tel +66 55 612 801.
  • Fueng Far, The restaurant that mainly serves for dinner. It could also be a drinking place which you can enjoy sipping beer by the "Yom" river. The food is called "fish food" - the plenty of Sukhothai local fish (pla) dish especially spicy dishes, e.g., Tom Yom Hua Pla (fish head tom yum), Look Chin Pla Krai Luak Jim ('Pla Krai' - one type of fish, it's the Pla Krai fish ball boil and dip with spicy sauce), Kob phat kra pao (Stir fried basil frog). The restaurant is located by the Yom River, it takes 1 minute by motorbike from the beginning of the "Wat Ku Ha Suwan" Soi. It is not recommended you walk there because it is quite dark.
  • Kru Eew, One of Sukhothai noodle restaurants in new Sukhothai, there are not only Sukhothai noodle but also Sukhothai style pad Thai, Vietnamese food, dessert, etc. The restaurant is only opened in the day time which mainly serves for brunch and lunch.
  • Poo and Kung Charodvithitong Rd. This is a Belgian-run restaurant offering Thai and Western food and a wide selection of cocktails. From 30 baht for main courses.
  • Sukhothai Night Market, There are varieties of local food that you can find in the night market in new Sukhothai. The night market is called "To-rung", it also covers the area that the food stalls are along: "Rachathani" temple's fence.

Drink

Sleep

Budget

  • Baan Thai. Pravetnakorn Rd. This is a typical guest-house, with a restaurant and a number of rooms available. Rooms contain a fan and share a bathroom, with hot water available. 300 baht a night.
  • Gardenhouse [2]. A great selection of rooms and bungalows to suit the needs and taste of the budget traveller. Together with a great location in new Sukhothai and a diverse range of facilities and services, Garden House is a great choice for those looking for location and service without the cost. 150-350 baht. +66 55 611 395,+66 81 596 8624.
  • New City Guesthouse, (Next to House Saberdee. There are signs all way from the bus station to town.). Clean rooms with big bed, fan and private bathroom with hot shower at 180 baht per night. Run by a Thai- and English-speaking Japanese woman and her tuk-tuk driving Thai-husband.
  • No.4 Guesthouse. 140/4 Soi Maerampan, Jarodwitheethong Rd. Large, fan-cooled garden bungalows with private bath and verandah with daybed. Has a Thai restaurant, cooking classes and massage available. Prices from 200-300 baht per night. A 500-metre walk from the bus station: look for the signs! Outside Thailand, call +66-55-610-165; inside Thailand, 055-610-165. Mobile number: 081-957-6016.
  • Sila Resort. [3], 3/49 M.1 Wat Khooha Suwan Rd. Very close to the bus station, they provide free transport from there and to and from the buses that go to the Old City. Very welcoming and efficient young staff, willing to please. Rooms are nicely decorated, the bungalows are very nice too. From 200 baht, rooms have fan or air-con and shared or en suite bathroom.
  • Le Sukhothai[lesukhothai.wordpress.com], +66 81 888 6378 A nice place to stay, near to the backpacker area behind 7-11. Clean rooms with free Wi-Fi Starting from 200 baht. There is a big difference between the rooms. Take some time to check and bargain the price. You also get two Singha (500ml) water bottles per day and bad bicycles to pick from the yard for free. Plus they run a nice homely restaurant with OK prices where the counter is. The staff are friendly and attentive locals.
  • TR Guest House. [4]. Family-run guest house. Rooms with fans, and air conditioning, and bungalows with fan. All with private shower and toilet. Prices from 250-450 baht. Price includes free Wi-Fi. Motorbike for rent. Some advice on touring the old and new city. Outside Thailand: +66 55 611 663 and 084-049-9445 Mobile. Good for the price (Feb 2012).
  • Yupa. Pravetnakorn Rd. This is a teak house with a small number of basic rooms and some dorm beds. With fans, cold water and shared bathrooms, these are good value at the low price of 120 baht.

Mid-range

  • Sukhothai Guest House Guest House, 68, Wicheanchumnong Rd. Sukothai. Tel: +66 55 610 453, [5] A family guest house with clean rooms, beautiful decorated garden. Relax in front of the room with teak terrace, sharing new experience other travellers. The guest house offers a nice meal in the restaurant. Try the "Penang curry".
  • Orchid Hibiscus Guest House, 407/2, Old City Sukothai, Tel: +66 55 633 284. A small guest house with clean rooms, a swimming pool, and Italian/Thai owners. It is within biking distance to the old city, but there are only two restaurants in walking distance of the hotel! The owner is very helpful, but you are never quite sure if he understands your request. The pool, breakfast, and the garden make up for this..
  • Thai Thai Sukhothai Guest House, 407/4 Moo 3 Napho-Khirimas Rd, Old City Sukhothai, Tel: +66(0)84-932-1006, [6]. Beautiful bungalow-style guest house right behind the Orchid Hibiscus. Each bungalow is air conditioned and has a small terrace and garden view. You can rent a bicycle directly from reception (50 baht/day). The historical park, restaurant street and 7-11 are only a five minute ride away. Massage in your room possible. Prices start from 1,000 baht/night including breakfast.
  • Lotus Village, 170 Ratchathanee St, +66 55 621 484, [7]. A cozy boutique hotel in the heart of Sukhothai. All rooms are in Thai style teak houses with verandas, surrounded by fish ponds, lotus flowers and beautiful tropical gardens. The lobby is an excellent place to relax and read a large selection of magazines, books and newspapers. Other services include local transport, travel bookings, cars with driver, and guides in French and English.
  • Mountain view guest house, 23/3 Moo 8 maung kao maung, tel + 66 55 601 111, mobile +66 [0] 817404449. Guest house with 6 rooms with swimming pool. Includes breakfast. Owners very helpful and will take you to and from the historical park which is 4 km away. [8]
  • Ruean Thai Hotel [9], 181/20 Soi Pracharuammit Jarodwithithong Rd., Tel 055-612444 or 612234, fax 055-612456, ruean_thai_hotel@yahoo.com. A big Thai house with a nice swimming pool in the city. Just take a songthaew to reach the historical park. The hotel team is very helpful and will advise you properly.
  • At Home Guesthouse , http://www.athomesukhothai.com/, In front of Sukhothai Guest House. Very friendly staff, good information and free maps, very clean rooms with private bathrooms, 24 hour Wi-Fi in all rooms, small restaurant. From 450 to 650 baht for a double room. Tuk-tuk price from bus station is 40 baht (day) - 100 baht (night). Issara (the owner) organises great trips around Sukhothai. Wide selection of maps, guides and travel info at your disposal.
  • Sukhothai Resort Hotel, 99 Moo 7, Sarmruen, Srisamrong, Sukhothai, [10]. Sukhothai Resort Hotel, the heaven in the garden enclave by nature, It's equipped with 80 luxury rooms, restaurants, swimming pool, seminar room, karaoke, snooker club and "Country Road " musical club. 900 baht.
  • Hotel Sawasdipong. 56/2-5 Singhawat Rd, City Central.055611567, www.sawasdipong.com. A 50 baht tuk-tuk ride from the bus station. Cost is 390 baht room only and 500 baht with Western breakfast (for two persons). Rooms are air-con with TV and bar fridge. Has has a restaurant, and there are others within walking distance including street stalls.

Contact

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