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Sukhothai Historical Park
Wikipedia | Google | Google Images | FlickrWidely considered Thailand's most important UNESCO site, these 13th century ruins draw in thousands of tourists from all over the world every year. Many of the temples are over 800 years old and contain some of Thailand's earliest recorded history. With 198 chedis (Buddhist stupa) and an overwhelming amount of temples stretching 2 kilometers, it is no secret to the reasoning behind Sukhothai's popularity. Sukhothai Historical Park is the remnants of what was once the late Kingdom of Sukhothai's capital city.
This historical trip is easily navigable with its paths for bicycles and walkers, making it a wonderful day trip from the current standing city of Sukhothai. Also, due to its opening in July 1988, it is still a relatively new park to explore.
HistoryThe Kingdom of Sukhothai lasted from 1238 to 1583 and stretched in size twice as large as Thailand today. However, its existence goes back even earlier.
Widely believed to have been settled in 1180, this highly debated piece of information could mean that its history dates back even further. Its demise, however, is due to the loss of strength to neighboring Ayutthaya, Thailand's proceeding capital. King Ramkhamhaeng the Great , third ruler of the Sukhothai Kingdom from 1278 to 1298, was the creator of Thai script and ruled within the confines of what is now the Sukhothai Historical Park. The creation of written Thai script by King Ramkhamhaeng was established within this old city. (Before this, most history is word of mouth!)
Due to major wars between Burma (modern day Myanmar) and Siam (Thailand) during 1765-1767, much has been destroyed of the old kingdom's original remains.
In 1833, a monk named Mongkut discovered the Ramkhamhaeng stele inside of Wat Mahathat. This is a controversial piece of evidence in Thai history supposedly documenting the written language of Thailand. However, many skeptics believe it to be a fake and to have been written centuries later. Wat Mahathat still remains, but many of the artifacts and Ramkhamhaeng stele are now in the National Museum in Bangkok.
Things to see inside the parkWith no shortage of ancient structures, one can spend days trying to fully understand the significance of this site. With its abundance of temples, below are a few of the most important places to visit within the park.
Ramkhamhaeng National MuseumRamkhamhaeng National Museum houses 2,000 objects and some of which are from other areas of Thailand. Impressively, some of the items even predate the Sukhothai Kingdom.
Wat MahathatWat Mahathat was created in 1292 and has 168 inscriptions that represent the fundamentals of Buddhism. Along with the inscriptions, it has two 9 meter tall Buddhist statues on each side of the entrance and 8 stupas . The structure itself represents the universe.
Wat Sa SiWat Sa Si is northwest of Wat Mahathat and represents a Sri Lankan influence, showing the diversity of the former capital.
Wat Phra Phai LuangWat Phra Phai Luang is the largest temple in the area and was built in the 12th century. Surrounding this temple complex is a double-moat. This temple marks a transition from Khmer style temples to Theravada Buddhism when the ruling Khmer empire ended.
Wat Si ChumWat Si Chum hosts a 15 meter high Buddha statue that was constructed in the 14th century. After being excavated, found on its walls inside the main chamber were depictions of the life of Buddha. (These drawings are the oldest modern examples of Thai art!)
Wat Traphang Ngoen
Wat Traphang Ngoen is a 14th century temple that is illuminated by the sun and features it's own artificial lake.
Get In and around the parkThailand is known for its heat, so it's better to get there early and beat the crowds. Luckily, it's only 30 minutes from the city center to reach the old city. A good tip is to catch a songthaew (the red truck) for around ฿15 ($0.47) in different places in the city and have them take you to the park for cheap.
This wonderful park also only has a ฿100 ($3.10) entrance fee which is far cheaper than most historical sites in the world. However, if you have a motorcycle prepare to pay ฿30 ($0.93) more. If you have a bicycle, prepare to pay ฿10 ($0.31) more.
Bicycles are widely considered the best way of getting around the park due to how large it is and can be easily rented outside the park. You can usually rent one for around ฿30 ($0.93) inside. A good idea is to not rent one from the bus stop most songthaews will drop you off at, as they are more beat up and cost more. Walk around the corner of the entrance and rent a bike there.
Another option is the ฿500 ($16) Tuk Tuk driver tour. While a little expensive, if you're lucky you will get a knowledgeable guide to show you around. (If you want a cheaper method you can also get an audio guide for ฿150 ($4.65) at the entrance. )
Similar AttractionsAyutthaya Historical Park is another collection of ancient Buddhist temples near Bangkok.
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Author: ChaseHunter. Last updated: Jan 12, 2015