Sukhothai Travel Information
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Introduction || City Attractions || Old Sukhothai || Historical Background || Sukhothai Historical Park || Inside the City Walls
 
Introduction


The Province covers 6.596 sq.km.and is above all noted as the centre of the old Thai kingdom of Sukhothai, with major historical remains at Sukhothai and Si Satchanalai.

Sukhothai is located on the lower edge of the northern region, with the provincial capital situated some 450 km. north of Bangkok and some 350 km. south of Chiang Mai. The province covers 6,596 sq. km. and is above all noted as the centre of the old Thai kingdom of Sukhothai, with major historical remains at Sukhothai and Si Satchanalai. Its main natural attraction is Khao Luang mountain park. The provincial capital, sometimes called New Sukhothai, is a small town lying on the Yom River whose main business is serving tourists who visit the nearby Sukhothai Historical Park.

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City Attractions

Wat Si Chun Wat Phra Si Rattana Mahathat

Phra Mae Ya Shrine

Situated in front of the City Hall, the Shrine houses the Phra Mae Ya figure, in ancient queen’s dress, said to have been made by King Ramkhamhaeng as a dedication to his late mother Nang Sueang.

Sangkhalok Museum

The Museum displays Sangkhalok (Sawankhalok) ceramics of the kind produced in old Sukhothai and ceramics produced in the old Lanna Kingdom (now northern Thailand). Located 1 km. from town on the Phitsanulok Road; open daily 8 a.m.- 5 p.m.; admission : 100 baht adults, 20 baht children.

Fish Museum

Located in Rama IV Park on the Phitsanulok Road, the Museum displays a variety of freshwater fish mentioned in Thai literature. Open daily except Tuesdays 9 a.m.-5 p.m., admission free.

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Old Sukhothai


Old Sukhothai

Founded in the 13th century, Sukhothai was the first truly independent Thai kingdom, and it enjoyed a golden age under the great King Ramkhamhaeng. Abandoned and overgrown for many centuries, the superb temples and monuments of this splendid city have been restored in Sukhothai Historical Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A must-see for all travellers, Sukhothai is one of the most important historical sites in Southeast Asia.

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Historical Background


Wat Chang Lom

Sukhothai, which means “Dawn of Happiness”, was the first kingdom of the Thais, formed after Thai forces drove the Khmers out of the city, a major frontier post of the Khmer Empire, and established it as their capital in 1238. The first king’s son, Ramkhamhaeng, ascended the throne in 1278 and reigned for forty years. A fine warrior, King Ramkhamhaeng the Great made Sukhothai a powerful and extensive kingdom which included many parts of what are today neighbouring countries. King Ramkhamhaeng the Great opened direct political relations with China and made two trips there, from which he brought back Chinese artisans who taught the Thai fine pottery techniques, resulting in the famous Sawankhalok ceramics.

A major achievement of his reign was the revision of various forms of the Khmer alphabet into a system suitable for the writing of Thai. The alphabet that the king invented in 1283 is essentially the same that is used today. King Ramkhamhaeng the Great’s reign is noted for prosperity and happiness, as recorded in a stone inscription well-known to Thais. “This realm of Sukhothai is good. In the water there are fish; in the fields there is rice. The ruler does not levy a tax on the people who travel along the road together, leading their oxen on the way to trade and riding their horses on the way to sell. Whoever wants to trade in elephants, so trades. Whoever wants to trade in horses, so trades. Whoever wants to trade in silver and gold, so trades.”

King Ramkhamhaeng the Great also promoted religion and culture, and through his efforts Buddhism progressed among the people. Inspirational faith gave birth to classic forms of Thai religious art. Images of the Buddha sculpted during the Sukhothai era are cultural treasures which impart a feeling of peace and serenity. Eight kings ruled Sukhothai, whose gradual decline occurred during the last two reigns. The end of the first Thai kingdom came in 1365 when it was reduced to a vassal state by Ayutthaya, a young and rising Thai power to the south, which became the capital for four centuries, succeeded by Bangkok.

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Sukhothai Historical Park


The Park is located 12 km. from Sukhothai town on the Tak Highway; open daily 8.30 a.m.-4.30 p.m.; admission 40 baht. Bicycles can be rented for touring the ruins. The Park’s Tourist Service Centre (Tel: 0 5569 7310) provides information and displays models of historical buildings and structures of the old Sukhothai. Lying over an extensive area, ruins of the royal palaces, Buddhist temples, city gates, walls, moats, dams, ditches, ponds, canals and the water dyke control system are preserved, with major restoration by the Fine Arts Department in cooperation with UNESCO.

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Inside the City Walls

Wat Mahathat Loi Krathong and Candle Festival
King Ramkhambaeng the Great Monument

The core city was surrounded by walls and earthen ramparts; this forms the centre of the historical park. It was rectangular, 1,300 m. by 1,800 m., with four gates. A stone inscription records that King Ramkhamhaeng the Great set up a bell at one of the gates. If his subjects needed help, they could ring the bell and the king would come out to settle disputes and dispense justice. Within the walls are the remains of 35 structures. The most notable are described as follows:

Wat MahathatRoyal Palace and Wat Mahathat

The Royal Palace lies in the centre of the city, surrounded by a moat and contains two main compounds: the royal residence and the royal sanctuary. Here, the famous stone inscription of King Ramkhamhaeng the Great was found by King Mongkut (Rama IV) in the 19 th century together with part of the stone throne called Manangkhasila-at. King Ramkhamhaeng the Great set up a throne in the midst of a sugar-palm grove where, at his request, a monk preached on Buddhist holy days and the king conducted the affairs of state on other days. This throne was later installed in Bangkok’s Temple of the Emerald Buddha.

Lying west of the Royal Palace compound is Wat Mahathat, the royal sanctuary, which is Sukhothai’s largest temple with a customary main chedi (bell-shaped stupa) in a lotus-bud shape and ruined vihara (image hall). At the base of the chedi are Buddhist disciples sitting in adoration, and on the pedestal are sitting Buddha images. In front of this reliquary is a large vihara formerly containing a remarkable sitting bronze Buddha image of the Sukhothai style, which was cast and installed by King Lithai of Sukhothai in 1362.

In the late 18th century, the image was moved to the Vihara Luang of Wat Suthat in Bangkok by the order of King Rama I and has since been named Phra Si Sakaya Muni. In front of the large vihara, is another smaller vihara which was probably built during the Ayutthaya period. Its main Buddha image (8 m. high) was installed inside a separate building. In front of the southern image, a sculpture called Khom Dam Din was found, now kept in the Mae Ya Shrine near the Sukhothai City Hall. To the south stands a pedestal of a large stepped chedi, whose lowest platform is adorned with beautiful stucco figures of demons, elephants, and lions with angels riding on their backs. A mural painting adorns this chedi.

King Ramkhamhaeng the Great Monument

Situated to the north of Wat Mahathat, the bronze statue of King Ramkhamhaeng the Great sits on a throne with a bas-relief at the base depicting the king’s life.

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