Approximately halfway between Bangkok and the popular northern town of Chiang Mai is the ancient capital city of Sukhothai (which translates to “Dawn of Happiness”). Many travelers don’t bother to visit Sukhothai, but we found it interesting, beautiful, and inexpensive. We also have a lot of friends who are thinking of visiting Thailand, so we thought this may also be helpful as a quick guide on what to see in Sukhothai.
While many stay in New Sukhothai, we found a guesthouse in Old Sukhothai. We highly recommend staying in the old town to anyone thinking of visiting. Plenty of restaurants and all the attractions were easily walkable within the town.
Sukhothai Historical Park
The main (and, if we’re being honest, only) attraction is the Sukhothai Historical Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The park contains the ruins of the the former capital city, divided into three sections of Wats, temple, and stupas. We rented a bike for about C$1 and spent a few hours exploring the grounds. The large park is closed to vehicle traffic and is not very busy with tourists so riding a bike was a fantastic way to get around. The central site was definitely worthwhile and at only 100TBH (about C$4) for entry, definitely a bargain. The other sites (North and West) cost the same but, with much less to see, really don’t add much to the experience.
Luckily for us, we were there on a Saturday. It’s the only day of the week that the park has extended hours and many of the monuments in the central site are lit up. Our ticket to the park was good for the whole day, so we went back after dinner to check it out.
Off The Beaten Path
Sukhothai – the ancient Thai capital – is a great place to see some beautiful temples and to relax for a day or two to break up the long trip between Bangkok and Chiang Mai. It’s a small town that’s not overly touristy, but several places offer cheap local food, fresh fruit shakes, and thai massages. There are several small, cheap guesthouses just outside of the historical park that all seem to have large swimming pools.
The only downside of Sukhothai is it’s a bit out of the way. We took a 5 hr train ride from Bangkok to Phitsanulok, followed by a short tuktuk ride to the bus station, an hour-long bus ride to New Sukhothai, and finally another tuktuk to Old Sukhothai. But that’s mainly because we wanted to experience the train. There are also direct long distance buses from Bangkok, which take about 6-7 hours. On leaving, to avoid retracing our steps to pick up the train again in Phitsanulok, we took a bus (only 2nd class, so not one of the nice Thai 1st class or VIP buses) on to Chiang Mai, which took about 5.5 hours.
But the fact that’s it’s not all that simple to get to almost makes it more worthwhile. As we mentioned with Koh Mak and Koh Chang (see our post here), that little bit of difficulty means that those who do make the trek are rewarded with smaller crowds, lower prices, and an experience different to most other travelers who have visited Thailand.