Immerse yourself in the eternal appeal of Siam’s old capital
Information & Photos Tourism Authority of Thailand
Compiled by Sarita Urupongsa
Sukhothai, one of the ancient capitals of Thailand, is about 427 kilometres north of Bangkok and boasts a unique old-world charm thanks to its grand and ancient historical sites.
Start your journey off with a visit to the Phra Mae Ya Shrine, or “Shrine of the Grandmother Goddess”, a place of worship that attracts devotees from near and far. Located outside Sukhothai Town Hall, on the bank of the Yom River, the shrine houses an idol of Phra Mae Ya – a stone figure with a long halo, dressed as an ancient queen. Folklore has it that King Ramkhamhaeng the Great had the shrine made to honour his mother, and it is believed his spirit now resides there. The Grandmother Goddess is commemorated at the end of February every year with an event dubbed “Ngan Chalong PHra Mae Ya”.
Continue your spiritual journey by vising Wat Chang Lom, which translates as “temple surrounded by elephants”, located in the heart of Si Satchanalai Historical Park. This historical structure is best known for its Singhalese-style bell-shaped chedi above a square foundation and supported by 39 elephant statues, eight on the east side, nine on the other three side, nine on the other three sides and one larger elephant on all four sides. The life-sized elephants – which plays a vital role in Buddhism – appear to be supporting this well-preserved marvel of architecture. This temple is a must-visit not just for its historical significance – archaeologists believe King Ramkhamhaeng buried relics of Buddha here and marked the spot by building a chedi over it – but also because of its magnificent architecture.
A lesser known, yet equally mesmerizing temple is Wat Saphan Hin, or “temple of the stone bridge”. The wat sits just outside the west wall of the historical park on the peak of a hill, 200 metres high, so visitors are required to do some walking. However, the effort of walking up the 300-metre slate path is richly rewarded, because you are met with “Phra Attarot”, a gigantic statue of the standing Buddha. The 12.5-metre-high Buddha image, in the Abhaya Mudra or gesture of dispelling fear, looks down majestically on the ruins of Siam’s glorious past and pathes the area with a sacred vibe. The image stands amid ruins of a viharn or assembly hall, where a seated Buddha is also enshrined. Take some time to appreciate the stunning views of the plains of Sukhothai while you’re up there.
The next step could be to woke up your inner adventurer and head off to Ramkhamhaeng National Park (Khao Luang), which offers sights no nature lover should miss. After cleaning your lungs with crystal-clean air and getting hypnotised by the sea of fog, prepare to be amazed by the sheer variety flora and fauna that make the park their home. Sprawling over Sukhothai’s districts of Ban Dan Lan Hoi, Khiri Mat and Mueang. Khao Luang’s green valleys are bounded by three hills named Narai, Phra Mae Ya and Phra Chedi which reach beyond the horizon. Located 1,200 metres above sea level, Khao Luang remains cool all year with temperatures ranging between 12 and 14 degrees Celsius on average – a dream for anyone seeking to escape from the heat of the city. The best time to visit the park is from September to February, when you can feed your adventurous spirit by exploring sites like the Sai Rung Waterfall, Nang Naka Hole and the Buddha’s Footprint.
If you’re looking for a cool place to take unique your friends, head to Chinatown in the heart of Sawankhalok district, where trendy works of art adorn the walls of old buildings. Inspired by the theme “Experience the Lifestyle of the Sukhothai People”, artists from Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia and Cambodia used five sports in old Chinatown in the heart of the district as their canvasses, capturing local lifestyle, culture and the colourful allure of Sawankhalok through vivid images of food, fashion and art.
For more information, contact the Tourism Authority of Thailand (Sukhothai office) at +66 (0) 55 616 228-9 or call TAT Contact Centre at 1672.