Jess and I had decided to explore the northern Thailand, Bangkok seemed the logical place to fly into, but where to go from there? Chiang Mai was a given to see at some point, we had plans to visit the Elephant Sanctuary. But surely there must be something in-between. A little research showed that there was in fact, and quit a bit at that. One town in particular stood out, Sukhothai, and all of the glorious ruins it had to offer. This was something we absolutely had to see.
Sukhothai is a wonderful place, because despite its relatively small population it has something for everyone. History buffs, photographers, spiritual types, nature lovers. The parks are just about perfect even for someone just looking for a quiet place with few people to practice driving a scooter!
Let's go see some ruins!
Jess and I hopped on a bus north out of Bangkok that cost us somewhere in the neighborhood of 300 Baht ($8.60 USD) and took about 7 hours to get to Sukhothai. The buses leave regularly, and so I would recommend leaving Bangkok before noon so that you don't arrive in Sukhothai too late. The entire Sukhothai province only has a population of about 600,000 people, and most don’t even live in the city. If you arrive anytime after about 9:00 or 10:00pm and you will find yourself standing in the middle of a ghost town. This was the case for Jess and I. We ended up eating dinner with our bus driver at the only street vendor (or person at all for that matter) who was still around.
The next morning, after a bit of breakfast, Jess and I started looking into transportation. While Sukhothai offers a seemingly endless supply of absolutely beautiful Buddhist Temple Ruins, they aren’t exactly all in one place so walking just isn’t an option.
We Needed Some Transportation!
Our first thought was to rent a bike. At 10-50 Baht ($0.30-$1.43 USD) a day it seemed like a good deal. The problem was that while a bike would be great for getting around one park that was about it. Additional parks would have been a bit too far to be peddling to.
Next we thought about hiring a Tuk Tuk driver to take us around for the day. They would obviously know all of the best places to go, and would be able to get us there in no time at all. This didn’t pan out either though, because while we were able to get them down from their initial asking price of 600 Baht ($17.20 USD) for the day to 300 Baht ($8.60 USD) even that was still a little too steep for our backpacker budget.
This left us with the final option of renting a scooter. We would be able to get around quickly enough and at about 150 Baht ($4.30 USD) a day it was right up our ally. The only catch was that this was towards he beginning of our travels, and at that point I had not driven a scooter since I was about 13 years old.
Here goes nothing..
After a little scooter practice and seeing some of the smaller outlying parks Jess and I eventually found our way to Old Sukhothai or Sukhothai Muang Kao. This was by far the largest park with the most to see. It was beautiful, and impressively well maintained. There were vendors selling everything from the usual touristy trinkets to food stalls with tons of delicious options.
We quickly realized that because this park was so large, and the roads within were really nice that we should have gone there first for scooter driving practice, as opposed to being out on the actual roads with the cars. Oh well, at least we looked cool on our bright pink scooter!
I can't believe you can touch them!
One shocking thing about Old Sukhothai, and all of the other parks really, was that you are allowed to interact with the ruins however you like, and my “interact” I mean climb on and generally do whatever you want. This was amazing to me. Sukhotahi was the capital city of Siam when the temples were originally constructed over 800 years ago. That’s several hundred years older than the entire country I came from. While I must admit it was great to be able to actually touch history like that, please if you ever find yourself in Sukhothai, treat the temple ruins with the respect and dignity they deserve. It’s also probably not that surprising to know that Old Sukhotahi is a UNESCO world heritage site.
Jess and I had so much fun scootering around Sukhothai looking at the ancient wonders it has to offer. We stayed late at Old Sukhothai and got some beautiful pictures of the ruins with the sunset.
Sukhothai means “Dawn of Happiness” and it holds true to its name. The locals are unbelievably friendly and the city as a whole has a very calming peaceful feeling to it. Take an extra day or two between Bangkok and Chang Mai and stop in Sukhothai. If you want to learn more about Buddhism, consider a Mediation Retreat!
Have you been before? Leave a comment below and tell us about your experience with Sukhothai.