Sukhothai Thani is a small town about 6 hours’ drive from Bangkok. We drove from Khao Yai which took us about 6 hours too. Sukhothai is in north central Thailand between Bangkok and Chiang Mai.
What do you have in Sukhothai?
This is one of the important cities founded in the mid-13th century when a local Thai ruler led a revolt against Khmer rule.
Sukhothai means “The Dawn of Happiness” and the surrounding region is designated a Unesco world heritage site, so definitely worth visiting if you love looking at ancient ruins.
The historical park is for people who are interested in history and culture. Now, you are about to witness the birthplace of all things traditional from art to architectural style. Similar to Ayutthaya, Sukhothai is another ancient city but I have to say Sukhothai offers a better and complete site for these ruins.
How many days should you spend in Sukhothai? We spent 3 days and 2 nights here and drove to Chiang Rai. This is our second visit.
If you also wanted to include Si Satchanalai Historical Park, then you may need 4-5 days. Si Satchanalai Historical Park is about an hour from Sukhothai. We visited last time but on this trip we didn’t include Si Satchanalai and drove straight to Chiang Rai.
By the time we reached Sukhothai from Khaoyai, it was almost 5 pm, the sky turned dark pretty quickly in the month of October. Sunset is from around 5.30 to 6 pm so we plan our visit to Sukhothai Historical Park the next morning. Please go early to avoid the crowd and the heat, the sun gets really strong after 10 am. Photo opportunities are best in the early morning or evening time.
Sukhothai Historical Park
At the entrance, after getting your entrance ticket, you can also purchase the tram ride because the park needs about a 5km walk. I would suggest it is better if you can rent a buggy car to drive or rent a bicycle so that you can visit each ruin at your own pace. If you purchase the tram ticket, there is a timing for the tram. If you miss it, you have to wait for the next one which is quite frustrating.
Sunset is another good time to visit Sukhothai historical park, at night, the whole place will light up so it is another experience. Please remember to get some mosquito repellent when visiting the countryside in Thailand. This place has so many mosquitoes.
There are a few important sites in the historical park, if you follow the tram, the tram driver will explain to you but is in Thai. The first temple is Wat Maha That which is one of the most complete ones with a lotus pond in front which makes it so stunning for photography.
My second favorite ruin is Era Wat Si Sawai where you can admire the beauty of the Khmer Era style design which resembles those you see at Angkor Wat in Siem Reap Cambodia.
Once again, please remember to rent a bicycle if you are wearing pants to cycle around the park or rent an electric buggy if you are wearing a dress. That way you can explore the whole park on your own time.
Please also remember to come back in the evening for the light up but make sure you spray the mosquito repellent generously on your whole body.
Northern Historical Park
This is another best temples to visit in the Northern zone called Wat Si Chun. The huge over 15m high Buddha statue is enclosed within 4 walls, quite unique. There is a narrow passageway in the south wall with steps leading up to the side of the Buddha image and onto the top part of the wall.
Wat Sorasak is located behind Legendha Sukhothai Resort. You can actually park your car at Legendha Sukhothai and walked past the resort to the back door and you will find Wat Sorasak.
The bell shape temple was built in 1412 and what makes the bell shape temple different from the rest is there are 24 exquisitely carved elephants that still guard the decaying bell-shaped chedi of Wat Sorasak. I have to say this is the highlight. Elephants are considered protectors in Buddhism, and ancient kings often kept rare white elephants in their kingdoms as a representation of their power and wealth.
We went in the evening and later had our dinner at Legendha Sukhothai.
The Holy Heartland – Talayluang
If you are tired of ruins, then please go check out the Holy Heartland. Visitors who arrive in Sukhothai by plane may notice the Holy Heartland, known as Thung Talay Luang, from the air just before they land. This enormous reservoir shaped like a heart has an island also shaped like a heart in its center, meaning this distinctive design is best appreciated from above.
I quite enjoyed watching the beautiful countryside scenery and locals having their evening walks, dating, and chatting along the lakeside. Pretty nice place to see how locals spend their evening time. There are a few small vendors selling snacks and drinks. To enter the park, you have to write down your name and phone number at the entrance. Entry is free.
Wat Saphan Hin
The Wat Saphan Hin is a small temple on top of a hill facing old Sukhothai town. First, you have to climb up a stony path which took about 15 min. Interesting pathway to go up but beware of the wild dogs coming from the jungle. Once you are at the top, you will see the 12-high Buddha and nice scenery. People usually come here for sunrise, it is about 4.5 km from the Historical Park.
Please do not miss this site because the rocky path to climb up and down is quite amazing. Best to visit during sunrise or sunset when the weather gets a bit cooler.
Si Satchanalai National Park is about 1.5 hour’s drive from Sukhothai, this is another place to check out the temple ruins. It is located inside the mountain. We didn’t go visit this time because we have been there a few years ago. Si Satchanalai literally means “City of good people” and was founded in 1250 as the second center/second home of the Sukhothai Kingdom and as a residence of the crown prince in the 13th and 14th centuries. In short, it is kind of a holiday home for the Sukhothai Kingdom.
What we eat in Sukhothai
- Day 1 Lunch at Service area
- Day 1 Dinner at the Sriwilai Sukhothai Resort & Spa
They offer Thai and western cuisine and the price is not too expensive.
- Day 2 Lunch we had our lunch at Big C foodcourt. Food is very cheap from the food court and you get to taste the local authentic taste of Thai Food, with prices ranging from SGD1.5 to $2.5. We spent less than 300 baht for our lunch.
- Day 2 Dinner at Legendha Sukhothai Historical Park Resort, food is a little expensive compared to our hotel at Sriwilai Sukhothai.
- Where do stay in Sukhothai?
This time we stayed in Sriwilai Sukhothai, the price is a little more expensive than Legendha Sukhothai. It was about SGD50 more per night to book in Sriwilai Sukhothai. A few years back we stayed in Legendha Sukhothai. The room is a bit dim and smaller in Legendha Sukhothai while the room in Sriwilai Sukhothai is more spacious.
Sriwilai has a stunning swimming pool with a view of the rice field and nature which is simply stunning. There is also a lotus pond in front of our room, which is quite relaxing to look at.
There is a menu for you to order your breakfast and they make it fresh for you, choose between Thai breakfast usually fried rice, or western breakfast.
Legendha Sukhothai has a river flowing through and 2 suspension bridges to walk over which can be interesting and at the back, you can go visit Wat Sorasak.
Both hotels are located nearby and about 1.8km away from the historical park. But Sriwilai Sukhothai is quite exclusive and located further inside the village and not on the main road. Legendha Sukhothai is easy to find as it is located on the main road.
Self Drive in Thailand is quite manageable and if you have a rental car to drive around Thailand, you can always pay a visit to Sukhothai. If you aren’t into driving, the other alternative is to fly from Bangkok to Sukhothai, which takes about an hour only.
Driving from Bangkok takes about 6 hours to reach Sukhothai, the roads are pretty smooth and drivers are non-aggressive. There are also many service areas where you can fill your petrol, get snacks, drinks and toilet break. We love taking a break and seeing what the local sells in the service area, food are cheap.
Why you should visit Sukhothai? Well, because it is the first Siam Kingdom. If you love history and ancient civilizations, please come as they are lots of ruins. If you love cheap food, please visit Sukhothai. If you want to see what the Thai countryside looks like, please visit Sukhothai. If you love seeing paddy fields and cows, please visit Sukhothai.
Many of the ruins are still complete and in good shape, you will be amazed by the beautiful temples and statues.