In 1238, Sukhothai became the first truly independent Thai kingdom. Historical artifacts have shown that Thai culture originated in Sukhothai, most particularly the Thai language and alphabet. Sukhothai province is located in lower northern Thailand, some 427 kilometers north of Bangkok, and covers some 6,596 square kilometers. Sukhothai borders Phrae, Uttaradit, Tak, Lampang, Kamphaeng Phet and Phitsanulok.
Sukhothai Historical Park Sukhothai's history has been recreated in Sukhothai Historical Park by the Fine Arts Department with the co-operation of UNESCO. Stone inscriptions, Chinese and Burmese records and archaeological excavations have revealed much about Sukhothai, its people, its culture and its relations with neighboring kingdoms and countries. Ruined temples, palaces and irrigation systems evoke the former capital's splendor. (more about Sukhothai Historical Park, history and pictures)
Inside the City Walls The north and south city walls are each 2,000 meters long, whereas the east and west are 1,600 meters. The walls contain four major gates; Sanluang (north), Namo (south), Kamphaenghak (east) and Or (west). Stone inscriptions claim King Ramkhamhaeng (reign:1279-1300) set a bell outside the gates. Subjects needing help could ring the bell. The king would emerge to settle disputes and dispense justice.
Major historical park structures include:
The Royal Palace & Wat Mahathat The moated 1,600 square meter royal palace area contains Wat Mahathat, Sukhothai's largest and most important temple. Massive Buddha images preside over a complex of columns. Lotus bud towers and picturesque pagodas reflected in a lotus pond.
Wat Si Sawai is 300 metres to the southwest of Wat Mahathat. It was originally a Hindu shrine and contains 3 Lopburi-style stupas.
Wat Sa Si Its major features are a Sri Lankan-style chedi and a massive seated Buddha. The temple is built on an island surrounded by an ornamental pond. King Ramkhamhaeng The Great Monument The bronze statue dipicts Sukhothai's greatest monarch, whose major feats include the composition of the Thai alphabet in 1283.
Ramkhamhaeng National Museum contains artifacts unearthed in Sukhothai and nearby provinces. It is open daily, except Monday, Tuesday and government holidays, between 09:00 A.M. and 1:.00 noon and 01:00 P.M. and 04:00 P.M.
Outside the city walls
Wat Phra Phai Luang, 500 meters north of Sanluang gate, is the second most important Sukhothai temple. It was formerly a Khmer Hindu shrine and was later converted into a moated Buddhist temple.
Wat Si Chum, some 1,500 meters north of Wat Mahathat, houses a massive seated Buddha image which measures more than 11 meters from knee to knee.
Wat Saphan Hin enjoys a forest setting on a 200 meter high hill affording a panoramic view of Sukhothai Historical Park. The complex is dominated by a standing Buddha image some 12.5 meters tall.
Wat Chetuphon contains particularly fine examples of Buddha images in the sitting, standing, walking and reclining postures.
Wat Chang Lom The most important of Sukhothai's eastern structures comprises a Sri Lankan-style chedi supported by elephantine buttresses.
Sri Satchanalai Historical Park (more about : Sri Satchanalai National Park, historical notes, and images : a personal visit)
Sri Satchanalai, some 50 kilometers north of Sukhothai, was the seat of the former capital's viceroys. It was always regarded as Sukhothai's twin-city. Major ruins within the 800 acre complex include :
Wat Chang Lom The complex's Sri Lankan-style chedi is supported by 39 elephantine buttresses and contains niches for Buddha images.
Wat Nang Phya contains fine 16th century stucco decorations. It is noted for a 7 roomed ruined chapel and a laterite chedi in good condition.
Wat Phra Si Rattana Mahathat is located ouside Sri Satchanalai City wall, some 3 kilometers to the south. It contains a laterite stupa with a square base measuring some 22 meters on each side.
Wat Chedi Chet Taeo Just south of Wat Chang Lom, this temples contains seven rows of stupas. Some with lotus bud spires and some of which are believed to contain the ashes of Sri Satchanalai viceroys.
Ko Noi Thuring Kilns Some 500 kilns occupy an area perhaps one kilometer square. The kilns were the major centre of Sukhothai's famous 14th and 15th century Sangkhalok pottery manufacturing. It was exported to Indonesia and the Philippines.
Ramkhamhaeng National Park (Khao Luang) Park headquarters is 16 kilometers from Amphoe Khiri Mat. The Park's major peak is 1,200 meters above sea level. Access to the peak is via a 4 kilometer road from the mountain base. The park is popular with campers and sightseers. It boasts sprawling plains, high cliffs, cascading waterfalls, several caves and colorful wildlife.
Sri Satchanalai National Park (Pa Kha) Park headquarters are some 47 kilometers from Amphoe Sri Satchanalai, at Ban Pa Kha. The national park boasts picturesque plains, caves and teeming wildlife. Tart Duan and Tart Dao Waterfall are near the park headquarters. Buddhist Ordination Ceremonies on Elephant-Back Each April 7 & 8, the people of Ban Hat Sieow in Amphoe Sri Satchanalai conduct mass Buddhist ordination ceremonies in which ordination candidates are borne to the temple on elephant-back. Some twenty to thirty elephants, each colorfully costumed, are featured in the annual event.
Loi Krathong Festival Thailand's loveliest festival is celebrated on the full moon of the twelfth lunar month, usually mid-November. It is particularly picturesque amid the ruins of Sukhothai's Historical Park. The festival is believed to have originated in Sukhothai some 700 years ago. When one of the king's concubines fashioned a lantern from carved fruit, bearing a lighted candle and sent it floating away during one of the king's nightly river cruises. Under the full moon, people float small banana leaf boats bearing a flower, lighted incense, a lighted candle and a small coin to honor the water spirits and to float away the previous year's sins.