Thailand’s northeast town Sukhothai, little-visited, is an escape from the whirlwind pace of life of its southern rival, also a backstreet of the crowded, and commercial city – Chiangmai. If you want to stretch your legs outside the Chiangmai city, Sukhothai is the best place that lend to great walks and rides. It is still firmly Thai in its aspect, atmosphere, and attitude, after long periods of ups and downs.
The Sukhothai (Rising of Happiness) Kingdom flourished from the mid-13th century to the late 14th century. This period is often viewed as the golden age of Thai civilization, and the religious art and architecture of the era are considered to be the most classic of Thai styles. Walking in the ancient ruins, recalling the brilliant past, you would feel how as insignificant human is as a grain of sand in front of the history flows.
This little pocket of Thailand is split into two towns: the old and new. The main attraction – the history park – is in the old town. So when you took a bus from no matter Chiangmai or Bangkok, you are recommended to get off at the old town. The place you get off (next to a 7-11) is a small ticket center, where you can buy your return ticket. The ticket sales and his wife are quite nice and tried to guide us the route with their extremely poor English.
We were looking for Pasathai Resort and he could not fully explain the location in English, so he went into the kitchen and presented us an old round-corner aluminum mess tin. And said: “This is what your hotel looks like.”
What? We are even more confused and saw his wife kept laughing and laughing…
In the end, we got to the accommodation and everything turned to be hilarious when we saw this:
Putting all our luggage at the guesthouse, we rented bikes with 30 baht per day from the hotel and planned to go to historical park first. So fortunate are we that the entrance fee is exempted since these days are the traditional holiday of Sukhothai. In the normal season, you would be charged around 100 baht for each area in the park.
The park is divided into five areas — the central, north, east, south and west zones, with each of these having a separate entrance fee. Of these, the central zone is the largest and has the most impressive ruins. Of course, this also meant more tourists, but at Sukhothai it was far from overwhelming. A tour group of 10 people, a few couples on bicycles, it was still easy to find peace and quiet here.
I found myself wondering why Sukhothai isn’t more popular. These ruins were seriously impressive and yet it rarely makes it onto travellers’ itineraries. But anyway, this was a good thing. No crowds make us very happy.
The night view of Sukhothai’s main street with lots of restaurants. Food selection in this small town is relatively limited. Therefore, the top option is 7-11 where you can buy fast food and they also taste good.
In the evening, we planned to find the way to Wat Saphan Hin, preparing for watching the sunrise there next morning. Before we set out, we only knew that it was located on the crest of a hill that rises about 200m above the plain. Half way of the riding there, it’s getting late and the light faded. I then noticed all the street lights had failed. Without road lamps, the village is pitch-black, with only dogs barking and some trucks roaring past.
After consulting some locals who could not give us the specific directions, we had to give up and continue our search next morning. So we ventured into the darkness next day around 5:30 am when the sky has not yet broken. It is a long 30 min ride but seemed as long as a century. Without road lamp, we have to bring our flashlight. Our phones had no Wifi or mobile data to connect, we have to find the way all depending on our sense of direction. But we finally get into the wrong track and was lost in a small yard. I can hear several dogs barking and running towards us. I could hardly describe how creepy I felt at that moment.
Fortunately, we recognised the coming roads and ran away as quick as we could, to get rid of those huge wild monsters. It is really too dark to find the way up to the hill. We almost gave up until we saw a woman, riding her bike closer and closer. We are more than delightful to meet her and more importantly, she is also Chinese and came from the same city as us! She looked quite brave and rushed into the brushwood to read the signals, all written in Thai…
She ultimately led us to the entrance of Wat Saphan Hin – a uphill road stretching in front of us.
Then, the most incredible views in my entire life appeared as the sun went up. All the fears were gone and all the efforts were paid off. I almost cried!
A couple and a family also climbed up after we arrived. There are no more than 10 people in total we met all along the adventures. But really a precious memory in life!
Seriously, Sukhothai is amazing.
If you’re planning on visiting Thailand you should definitely try to work it into your itinerary. You won’t be disappointed.