Sukhothai Thailand is one of the country’s many fascinating and ancient attractions. As with the city of Ayutthaya, Old Sukhothai was one of Thailand’s most important metropolitan hubs during ancient eras. Known as the First Thai Empire, the Sukhothai Kingdom lasted for almost exactly two centuries after its inception in 1238. Today the old city, which contains many fantastic Sukhothai temples, sits alongside a small city known simply as New Sukhothai. As a result of the old city’s historical flavor, and the amenities presented by the newer iteration, this is one of Thailand’s most rewarding tourist destinations.
Historically speaking, Old Sukhothai is an important founding stone of what we today call Thailand. Before the thirteenth century, the country was composed of a set of small autonomous kingdoms; none had any real claim to power over a substantial part of Thailand. Then, in 1238, Po Khun Bankklanghao and his brother Po Khun Phameung wrested Sukhothai from the Mon, a Southeast Asian people believed to have originated from Myanmar, and began to expand the kingdom under the name of the Phra Ruang dynasty. Sukhothai Thailand was thus born, and it lived an illustrious life before eventually being overthrown in the fifteenth century by invading Ayutthaya forces.
For visitors to Thailand, then, Old Sukhothai is an important place to see if they want to get a true flavor of the country’s genealogy. Today, Old Sukhothai is basically a historical park, featuring a dazzling collection of Sukhothai temples the likes of which you’ll not see anywhere else in the world. Covering an area of roughly 50 square miles, this is the type of place to which tourists can dedicate wondrous hours of exploration, particularly if they're interested in the history of Thailand.
Old Sukhothai as it currently stands is split into five zones, with the central zone being most visitors’ first port of call. There’s a good museum here to give you a basic understanding of what the historical site is all about, but really it’s the Sukhothai temples in the zone that call for the most amount of attention. Wat Mahathat is widely considered the standout temple here, with its giant statues of Buddha, while Wat Sra Sri is also a mesmerizing ruin to seek out.
If you want to spice up your visit to Sukhothai Thailand, renting a bike is a good way to go about things. This puts you at an advantage to those on foot as you can see more temples in a shorter amount of time; it also means you can enjoy peddling through the well-cultivated surrounds at your own pace. Another great thing to do while here is to visit just as the sun rises, for the numerous Buddhas often glow gold with the sun’s early-morning rays.
Geographically speaking, Old Sukhothai is situated between Chiang Mai and Bangkok; it can be reached within a day from both cities, normally by coach. Consequently, a great short itinerary of Thailand could include a trip that starts in the northern city of Chiang Mai, before traveling south to Bangkok via Sukhothai Thailand, and Ayutthaya could also be included en route.