Ancient Thai Capital…on the road to Sukhothai

Sukhothai...ruins of an ancient capital in ThailandI was not home but a few weeks from Cambodia and already I was getting the urge to hit the road once again. Laos and Burma were my first thoughts, but my friend Derrylyn had said she wanted to go to Laos in October when she comes from Ecuador for a visit and there is flooding in Burma so I racked my brain for an alternative. After a bit of head scratching, I came up with a Thai road trip south to the ancient capital cities of Sukhothai and Ayutthaya.

Sukhothai...ruins of an ancient capital in ThailandSukhothai is about a five or 6-hour bus trip south of Chiang Mai on the road to Bangkok. New Sukhothai is the small city 12km from the historical ruins of old city where I would be staying and where the bus drops me off. The ruins are a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the major tourist attractions in Thailand.  My plan was to catch a tuk tuk early in the morning so I could be at the park for sunrise and in that way I could get great photos of the sun catching the faces of all those ancient Buddha’s and brick chedi.  Alas, the weather gods were not on my side…not a blue sky the whole time I was there.

Sukhothai...ruins of an ancient capital in ThailandThe Sukhothai Historical Park is a treat to visit as it is well maintained and beautifully preserved.  It has the look of a high-class golf resort instead of a historical tourist attraction. Lush manicured lawns surround the 13th century ruins, with flower filled lily ponds, reflecting pools and colorful flower gardens combining to make an idyllic setting.  Sukhothai, which means “Dawn of Happiness”, was the first capitol of the new kingdom of Thailand after the Khmer forces were driven out.  Founded in 1278 the region prospered under the rule of King Ramkhamhaeng the Great and his son.  It was a golden age, but short lived as the city fell in 1365 and Sukhothai was reduced to being a vassal state by Ayutthaya, the rising power in the south whose capital lasted for over 400 years.

Sukhothai...ruins of an ancient capital in ThailandThe ruins and museums inside the old city walls were easy to visit either on foot or by bicycle (for rent at the entrance) but several of the temples were several miles outside of town.  I made the mistake of walking to several of those listed on the Top Ten List that looked close on the map but turned out to be further than I expected… the four mile round trip pushed me close to a heat stroke.  Although, in fairness I should say that this is a common occurrence…I am, after all, in South East Asia where it is always hot as Hell and humid.

New Sukhothai....gatway to the ancient capital of SukhothaiBesides the visits to the historic site each morning, I wanted to explore the new town and see what life outside of Chiang Mai and Bangkok consisted of.  The new city sits at a confluence of major north south highways and is a regional market center as well as a major tourist attraction.  Unfortunately, it is not a handsome town and the heavily trafficked roads running through it only adds to the commercial feel that is hard to escape.

New Sukhothai....gatway to the ancient capital of SukhothaiThe town straddles the Yom River and during the horrible floods of 2011, the ruins and much of the town were flooded.  While there, I witnessed the river rising at an alarming rate due to heavy rains north of the city.  One evening sitting in Khun Tanode, a great low-key riverside restaurant that serves a whole roasted chicken with special seasoning, I noticed that the water was so high that it was only a foot or two from the bottom of the bridge crossing the river. Today in the news, I saw a photo of the town with several feet of water filling the streets and buildings.

New Sukhothai....gatway to the ancient capital of SukhothaiIf one is heading south from Chiang Mai, it is worth a stop for a couple of nights. In addition to the historical site and the museums, the area boasts of its pottery and fabric weaving centers.  And even though the sun did not shine and my great photos never materialized, I was glad to have made the journey to Sukhothai.


About Larry Bosco

In 2010 I had one of those “Is this all there is” moments and so in January 2011 I retired from Real Estate Appraising, sold off all my worldly goods and headed out as a solo traveler in search of a new place to live. Since then I’ve traveled around the world, made new friends and had many great adventures and some not so great. After staying almost a year in Cuenca, Ecuador I have headed back to South East Asia where I began the journey in 2011. Currently I am living in Chiang Mai, Thailand
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2 Responses to Ancient Thai Capital…on the road to Sukhothai

  1. Claudia Hammer says:

    The ruins and the grounds surrounding them looked very beautiful. Too bad about the sun, you could carry around large flood lights and do a simulation. I am surprised you are staying in a country where it is so hot, you must like it there enough to suffer through the humidity. The pictures always mean so much more when you have commentary and I love the fact that you take the time to do the blog. Nice to know what you are experiencing.

  2. Libby Voyles says:

    I love these pictures and the fact that it was cloudy didn’t seem to matter. The historical notes help. Many thanks!

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