The Sukhothai means Dawn of Happiness was the first capital of Siamese Kingdom 700 years ago. It flourished during the Golden age of Thai civilisation during 13th – 14th century. Temples and monuments have been restored, therefore Historical Park is an area worth to visit with numerous sites of historical ruins.
Sukhothai is also known as Thailand’s Angkor Wat and it if it went to the competition with Ayutthaya it would win. You won’t see headless images of Buddha, nearly all the statues have been restored to their former splendor.
This city is declared as the World Heritage site in UNESCO. Which is square and a circle. The square in the middle symbolizes a creation of mankind while the circle drawn around the square represents nature. Both of them are closely related to on another. Furthermore, the circle means the world consisting of creations of the human intelligence and nature, and can also be used as a symbol of protection.
Sukhothai ancient city is divided into five zones, with the largest one at the center. The central zone is where you’ll find the most ruins clumped together, as well as some of the largest, and is easily explored by bicycle. Outside of this area with a short cycling distance away are the north, south, east and west zones that each have one or two noteworthy sites.
Firstly when you enter through the gates on the ancient city it best for you to visit Wat Tra Phang Thong. The name of the temple means golden lake monastery. As you can understand from it’s name, you’ll have to walk the bridge to get there. It is also the only temple of the Historical Park, in which an active community of monks lives.
Impressive statues of Buddha and well decorated chedis can be found within the great complex of the City Pillar Shrine (San Lak Muang). Cycling between the ancient ruins is the best way to explore the ancient city.
Next to it you will find Wat Mahathat. Don’t get confused by the name, because there is one with the exact name in Ayutthaya. Nevertheless it is the most important and impressive temple in this city. The temple design is based on mandala, representing the universe with the main stupa surrounded by eight smaller stupas.
If you walk a bit further in the central zone you will find Wat Chana Songkhram small temple. And close to it the King Ramkhamhaeng Monument. Who expanded the Sukhothai kingdom area back in those days.
Wat Sorasak is similar stupa to one you can see outside the ancient city. It is surrounded by elephants sculptures and fragments of Buddha image.
The best place to watch the sunset is close to Wat Tra Phang Ngoen. The name of the temple means silver lake monastery. It was built around the same time with Wat Mahathat. Wat Tra Phang Ngoen is oriented so that it is illuminated by both rising and setting sun. But we recommend you the sunset more, especially if you are not an early bird.
Close by you can visit a temple Wat Si Sawai. The one of the oldest temples in Sukhothai. The temple is important for study how the transformation of Khmer art to Thai art.
It is one of the greatly preserved zones of the ancient city. You can see the big Buddha there. Wat Si Chum is known as mandapa with a huge 11 meters wide and 15 meters high seated Buddha image called ‘Phra Achana’. You’ll be definitely amazed by it’s size and the serenity of the place can hardly be put into the shade by the crowds.
If you get to that corner of the ancient city, be sure to visit Wat Phra Phai Luang as well. It was the ritual center of Sukhothai and the biggest temple in the city area.
It is on the road to the new Sukhothai or from it. There are two main temple complex worth mentioning. Wat Chang Lom has a large bell-shaped stupa surrounded by 32 elephant sculptures around the base.
When biking around in that area, take a small real leading to Wat Ya Kron. It is remotely from any other temples and it feels that it stand in the middle of village.
This part of the ancient city is lesser visited by many tourists. Still, it has some main features standing in it. Wat Chetuphon temples has a big standing Buddha image and is surrounded by pond with red lotuses.
A long side there is a Wat Chedi Si Hong. There is a large, bell-shaped stupa on a high, square base. Around the base of stupa are the remains of unique stucco reliefs depicting many-armed deities with flower vases, their clothing and jewelry attest to the fashion in the time of Sukhothai Kingdom.
Anniversary of Historical Park
We didn’t have opportunity to visit the western part of the ancient city, therefore we attended the celebration of 25th anniversary of Historical Park.
If you are visiting Sukhothai Historical Park between 3rd December 2016 and 3rd January 2017, be sure to watch the light show. The light show take place every night between 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. It is the best to come before the sunset as there is usually a colorful sky behind the principal Buddha image and it’s nice to wach how the temple area starts to ‘light up’.
As we were participants of the festival we had enjoyed traditional Thai dances, bubble show and tried some uncommon Thai sweets (head to this post to find out more about sweets in Thailand). We could feel the Christmas Spirit floating in the air at the festival. The atmosphere was so romantic: slow music, lights and belowed person by my side.
P. S. You probably wonder why I call it dragonflies kingdom, right? Well, while it is relatively wet in Sukhothai there are many dragonflies. And we visited it at the right time when many dragonflies are trying to find they partner. If you are lucky enough, you can also experience it!
All words by Eisve Treciakauskaite and all images by Justinas Lekavicius, unless otherwise noted.