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Sukhothai Historical Park: Khmer and Thai ruins of the 12th-14th centuries

Table of contents

1. What is Sukhothai Historical Park? Is it worth visiting Sukhothai Historical Park

2. How to get to Sukhothai Historical Park

3. Sukhothai Historical Park Map

4. Boundaries of Sukhothai Historical Park. Additional tickets for exploring the western and northern parts of the park

5. Bicycle and electric car rental. Is it possible to ride a motorcycle in Sukhothai Historical Park?

6. Tram route

7. How much are tickets to Sukhothai Historical Park?

8. Main attractions of Sukhothai Historical Park

8.1 Wat Mahathat

8.2 Wat Sra Sri (Wat Sa Si)

8.3 Wat Si Sawai (Wat Sri Sawai)

8.4 Wat Traphang Ngoen

8.5 Wat Chana Songkhram

8.6 Wat Mai

8.7 King Ramkhamhaeng Monument

8.8 Ramkhamhaeng National Museum

Conclusion

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What is Sukhothai Historical Park? Is it worth visiting Sukhothai Historical Park

Sukhothai Historical Park is the ruins of ancient buildings (mostly temples) that were built between the 12th and 14th centuries. The condition of ancient buildings is very different – from some only the foundation or platform remains, others have been restored. These ancient structures are located on an area of approximately 4×5 km (that is, 20 square kilometers). Some of the ancient buildings can be seen directly from public roads passing by, but the access to the most interesting of them is blocked and requires the purchase of a ticket.

Most of these buildings are 700-800 years old. The earliest ancient buildings date back to the period when the Khmer people inhabited the area. Then the Sukhothai Kingdom appeared here, which later became one of the provinces of modern Thailand.

There are only a few such historical parks in all of Thailand. There are two such places in Sukhothai province. For the second of them, see the article “Si Satchanalai Historical Park: a city from 1250 through which we rode 8 km on bicycles and missed 80% of the buildings”.

In my opinion, Sukhothai Historical Park is worth a visit. Those interested in history and ancient architecture will find a lot of interesting things here. For everyone else, there are many picturesque places here, including the interesting idea of reflecting buildings: unique ancient temples are reflected in the water of the surrounding ponds.

How to get to Sukhothai Historical Park

Sukhothai Historical Park is located in the Thai province of Sukhothai, at a distance of approximately 10 km from the city of Sukhothai.

To get here you need some kind of personal transport. Another option is a package tour. I saw a lot of big buses with tourists here.

If you are traveling on your own, you can stay at a hotel in Sukhothai and head to the historical park the next morning.

Another interesting option is to book a hotel near the historical park. There are many inexpensive hotels here, which are located very close to ancient buildings.

The entrance to the central part of the park is located near the Ramkhamhaeng National Museum, at this point: go to the map.

Entrance tickets are sold in the building to the left of the entrance.

Sukhothai Historical Park Map

A map of Sukhothai Historical Park, which is posted on the stands, and can also be taken in paper form when purchasing tickets.

Another map:

The numbers on the map above indicate the following buildings (the number on the map corresponds to the number on the list):

  1. King Ramkhamhaeng Monument
  2. Wat Mahāthāt
  3. Ramkhamhaeng National Museum
  4. Wat Traphang Ngoen
  5. Wat Sri Sawai (Wat Sri Svāya)
  6. Wat Traphang Thong
  7. Wat Sra Sri (Wat Sa Si)
  8. Wat Chana Songkhrām
  9. Wat Trakuan
  10. San Ta Pha Daeng (Ta Pha Daeng Shrine)
  11. Wat Phra Phai Luang
  12. Turiang Kilns
  13. Wat Sangkhawat (Wat Sanghāvāsa)
  14. Wat Si Chum
  15. Wat Chang Lom
  16. Wat Thraphang Thong Lang
  17. Wat Chedi Sung
  18. Wat Kon Laeng
  19. Wat Ton Chan
  20. Wat Chetuphon
  21. Wat Chedi Si Hong
  22. Wat Si Phichit Kirati Kanlayaram (Sri Vicitrakirtikanlyārāma)
  23. Wat Wihan Thong,
  24. Wat Asokaram
  25. Wat Mum Langka
  26. Wat Saphan Hin
  27. Wat Aranyik (Wat Arannika)
  28. Wat Chang Rop
  29. Wat Chedi Ngam
  30. Wat Tham Hip
  31. Wat Mangkon
  32. Wat Phra Yuen
  33. Wat Pa Mamuang
  34. Wat Thuek
  35. Phra Ruang Dam

Boundaries of Sukhothai Historical Park. Additional tickets for exploring the western and northern parts of the park

Ancient people, when they built their temples and palaces, did not think that someday there would be a park in this place, and therefore, although they erected stone buildings quite closely, they were still scattered over a fairly large area. At the time of the creation of the historical park, people already lived in this territory, actually among ancient ruins, and roads were built.

As the title of the article “Si Satchanalai Historical Park: a city from 1250 through which we rode 8 km on bicycles and missed 80% of the buildings” suggests, in a similar park I missed many ancient ruins for a rather ridiculous reason – just because they are outside territory for which you need to buy entrance tickets. That is, some of the ancient buildings outside the historical park could be viewed for free after or before visiting the main part of the park.

Looking at the map of Sukhothai Historical Park given above, it seems that this is definitely impossible here – the perimeter is completely clearly visible here. Right?

No, not even close.

Firstly, according to the maps, moving from the direction of Sukhothai city, we arrive at the eastern gate (Kamphaeng Hak Gate). In practice, I didn’t even notice or remember these gates. In fact, the entrance to the park is located much further, namely in the Ramkhamhaeng National Museum area.

The next thing you notice is that there is a through road running through the park – intercity highway number 12. So, this road is actually the upper part of the park’s perimeter.

That is, when you buy a ticket and enter the park, only buildings with numbers: 2, 4, 5, 7 and 8 become available for exploring. That’s it.

This is important because if you don’t figure this out before visiting, your visit will be limited to 5 of the 35 ancient ruins.

Some of the ancient temples outside the main area are accessible without a ticket. But in the western and northern parts of the historical park, you need to buy a ticket to visit the ancient ruins. Moreover, what unpleasantly surprised me is that the ticket you bought to explore the central part is not accepted here! That is, in addition to the tickets you have already purchased, you need to pay more if you want to explore all parts of the historical park.

Bicycle and electric car rental. Is it possible to ride a motorcycle in Sukhothai Historical Park?

Near Sukhothai Historical Park you will see several shops where you can rent a bike. The cost of renting a bicycle is only 30 baht.

Near entrance to the park there are electric cars for rent, the cost is as follows:

  • double electric car – 100 baht for 1 hour
  • four-seater electric car – 200 baht for 1 hour
  • six-seater electric car – 300 baht for 1 hour

As for traveling with your own personal transport, for example, on a motorcycle, the central part of the historical park is closed to private transport.

Since public roads pass through the historical park, it is possible to travel by vehicle in some parts of the park. But to get closer to ancient buildings you usually need to get off the vehicle.

Tram route

An electric tram runs through Sukhothai Historical Park every 15 minutes.

Ticket price:

  • for Thais – 30 baht
  • for foreigners – 60 baht
  • children – 10 baht

The tram stops at the following points:

  • Point 1. Tram stop
  • Point 2. South of Wat Mahathat.
  • Point 3. Wat Sri Sawai
  • Point 4. Rochanaprapa pavilion
  • Point 5. Wat Traphang Ngoen
  • Point 6. Four pavilions.
  • Point 7. Wat Sa Si
  • Point 8. Monument to King Ramkhamhaeng the great
  • Point 9. Wat Mai
  • Point 10. Wat Mahathat

That is, the tram runs only inside the central part of the park.

How much are tickets to Sukhothai Historical Park?

Ticket prices are as follows:

  • Thais – 20 baht
  • foreigners – 100 baht
  • bike – 10 baht

Please note that this is the cost of visiting only the central part of the park! Access to the western and northern parts of the park will require the purchase of additional tickets.

Main attractions of Sukhothai Historical Park

 Wat Mahathat

Wat Mahathat or Mahathat Temple is the most important and impressive temple in Sukhothai Historical Park. The temple's name translates to 'temple of the great relic'. The temple was founded by Sri Indraditya, between 1292 and 1347 as the main temple of the city as well as the Sukhothai Kingdom. The design is based on a mandala, representing the universe, with a principal stupa, built in 1345 to enshrine relics of the Buddha, surrounded by smaller stupas in eight directions. The main stupa has the shape of a lotus bud, which characterizes Sukhothai architectural arts. Its base is adorned with 168 stuccoed sculptings of Buddhist disciples walking with their hands clasped together in salutation. The eight smaller stupas, of which the four at the corners are in Mon Haripunchai – Lanna style and the four in between show Khmer influence. At both sides of the main stupa has two nine-metre-tall (30 ft) standing Buddha images called Phra Attharot. The temple also includes an assembly hall (vihara), mandapa, ordination hall, and 200 subordinate stupas.

Since ancient times, only stone structures have survived, and these are almost always exclusively temples. Even the royal palaces have not survived. From this we can conclude that only temples were built from stone, and all other buildings and dwellings were made, for example, of wood or other less durable materials. That is, the territory of the city did not look as one might imagine from first impressions – several stone temples and nothing more. Most likely, within the city and outside the city there were many dwellings and other buildings made of wood, among which stood Buddha statues and temple complexes.

The view of the ancient temples has been reconstructed and you can see the supposed images of each of them on stands next to the corresponding temple. In general, modern temples have maintained continuity and look similar. Usually this is a characteristic two-level roof, which is located on columns. Often there are no walls.

Wat Sra Sri (Wat Sa Si)

Wat Sa Si is a small temple close to Ramkhamhaeng Monument. Wat Sa Si is beautifully situated in the midst of Traphang-Trakuan lake northwest of Wat Mahathat. Due to its location, the temple is one of the most beautiful place in Sukhothai. The temple has a Lanka styled stupa. The vihara of Wat Sa Si is situated on the east side of the stupa. Further east lies the ordination hall on its own little island. Also a large number of smaller stupas, of which today only the foundations are visible. Due to the similarities in structure and similar Bai Sema landmarks, it is believed today that Wat Sa Si were built at the same time of Wat Tra Kuan and Wat Chana Songkhram.

Some short videos of Wat Sa Si:

Columns next to the Buddha statues indicate that the statues were originally under a canopy. But what confuses me is that often the columns are lower than the statues. Does this mean that the corner of the canopy was located almost above the very heads of the statues? Moreover, the columns in the rest of the temple are even lower. It turns out that it was possible to see the top of the statue only by approaching it almost closely and lifting your head up?

And finally, the size of these buildings in terms of how many people could fit there. There is no need to talk about any crowds of people – a group of several people could be in the temple at one time. Also, in front of the temple there are no squares or other places where a large number of people could be accommodated. It can be assumed that these temples were intended for kings and the elite of the nobility.

Wat Si Sawai (Wat Sri Sawai)

Wat Si Sawai or Si Sawai Temple is one of the oldest temples in Sukhothai. The temple was founded in the late-12th or early-13th century as a Hindu Shrine for Vishnu and the place for the Thiruppavai ceremony before the liberation from Lawo and foundation of Sukhothai Kingdom. The temple has three well-preserved laterite prangs, representing the Hindu trinity, enclosed by a double rampart and a moat. The lower parts of prangs are apparently Khmer, while the upper have been expanded or renovated by Thais in brick and stucco. The central prang is held in Lawo or Hindu-style. Each prang contains a cella, possibly a podium for lingam and crypt. There are few remaining stucco works on the top of central prang. Later around the 14th century the temple was adapted to the needs of the Buddhist faith: vihara were added to the south of the central prang. Numerous Chinese porcelains and Hindu god statues had been found in the area. One of artifacts is the Shiva statue discovered by Vajiravudh in 1907.

Wat Traphang Ngoen

Wat Traphang Ngoen means silver lake monastery. The temple was probably built in the 14th century, around the same time with Wat Mahathat. Wat Traphang Ngoen is oriented so that it is illuminated by both rising and setting sun. The main structures of the temple are a central stupa, the ruins of a vihara, a large Buddha image on a pedestal in the west and an ordination hall on an island in the middle of an artificial lake, "Traphang Ngoen" (Silver Lake). The stupa is typical 10 meters Sukhothai style in the form of a closed lotus flower stands on a square laterite base, followed by five smaller and smaller levels of brick with a plain stucco, standing Buddha image in niches in the four cardinal directions. An ordination hall lies to the east of the main stupa on a small island in the middle of the lake. In the Sukhothai time, the ordination hall was separated by a water area from the rest of the temple complex to symbolize purity. Today only foundation bricks, some fragments of columns and a pedestal on which probably used to be a Buddha image are visible.

Wat Chana Songkhram

Wat Chana Songkhram is a small temple close to Ramkhamhaeng Monument north of Wat Mahathat in the same area with Wat Sa Si and Wat Tra Kuan. The temple was built in the time of the Sukhothai Kingdom. Today only ruins of the former layout can be seen. The largest stupa is an example of the Lanka – Sukhothai style with bell shaped. Buildings are arranged around the number of smaller stupas. Located on the east side of stupa have Ayutthaya period building. An ordination hall is located on the eastern border of the temple.

Wat Mai

King Ramkhamhaeng Monument

Ramkhamhaeng National Museum

Ramkhamhaeng National Museum is a branch of the National Museum of Thailand in the Sukhothai Historical Park. It was opened in 1964 by Thailand's King Bhumibol Adulyadej and Queen Sirikit. More than 2,000 artifacts were donated from Phra Ratchaprasitthikhun, the abbot of Ratchathani Temple. Locals also contributed to the collection by donating many historical objects. Most of the objects on display in the main museum building, come from Sukhothai, others were found in Si Satchanalai, Kamphaeng Phet, Phichit and Phetchabun. The collection including Buddha images and Hindu god sculptures from Wat Phra Phai Luang and Wat Mahathat, sculptures from the pre-Sukhothai period (about 13th century), Sukhothai artifacts from the 14th and 15th centuries, early Ayutthaya artifacts from about 1351 to 1488, porcelain from the Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties, which was found during the excavations in Sukhothai and Si Satchanalai.

Conclusion

You can see the large spreading trees in the photos above. So, from one of these trees a huge snake fell on my wife. We were riding bicycles around the park and were about to finish our walk. Driving along the road under the crown of one of the trees, I heard a sound that reminded me of the sound of a broken branch, and a few moments later a second knock was heard – a dull slap on the asphalt.

I turned around and saw a snake near the front wheel of the bicycle on which my wife was sitting. Very close – 10-20 centimeters. The snake did not move for several moments, and then quickly crawled into the grass towards the tree from which it had fallen.

The size of the snake was at least a meter. It was green (most likely poisonous).

Just be careful in this park…

If you read my articles, then you know that my wife and I have taken many routes through mountainous and wooded areas. We were very lucky, until that time we had encountered a snake only once – in the Si Racha mountains I almost crushed a small snake.

It's probably statistically unlikely and snakes don't fall on the heads of visitors every day in the historical park, but be careful in any case.

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