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Sukhothai

The site of the first independent Thai Kingdom

Ancient stupa in Sukhothai province
Ancient Sukhothai stupa

Sukhothai is a province with forested mountains, waterfalls, valleys and important historical sites located in the North of Thailand, some 400 kilometers North of the capital Bangkok. The name of the province translates to “Dawn of Happiness”.

Sukhothai province played an important role in Thai history. It was here that the first independent Thai Kingdom was established in the 13th century after it liberated itself from the Khmer. The provincial seal shows King Ramkhamhaeng the Great, the 3rd King of the Sukhothai Kingdom, under whose reign the empire was at the height of its power and size.

The ruins of the UNESCO World Heritage Site Sukhothai Historical Park are today the province’s best known attraction.

To do & see in Sukhothai

Sukhothai province offers both historical and natural attractions.

Historical parks

The province houses two important historical parks, Sukhothai and one of its vassal towns Si Satchanalai. Together with Kamphaeng Phet Historical Park located in neighboring Kamphaeng Phet province they make up the UNESCO World Heritage Site “Historic town of Sukhothai and associated historic towns”.

The historical parks contain the ruins of dozens of temples from the Sukhothai era, the Khmer era and the Ayutthaya era.

Historical museums

Sukhothai province houses a number of museums where the visitor can learn about the area’s history. The Ramkhamhaeng National Museum in Sukhothai and the Sawanworanayok National Museum in Si Satchanalai exhibit artifacts discovered during excavations around Sukhothai and its sister cities as well as a collection of ancient Buddha images. To learn about the Sangkhalok ceramic wares produced during the Sukhothai era visit the Sangkhalok Museum in Sukhothai or the or the Celadon Kiln Site Study and Conservation Center in Si Satchanalai.

Cycling in Sukhothai

Several companies like Sukhothai Bicycle Tour and Cycling Sukhothai organize cycling tours around the Sukhothai countryside and historical park. Participants have a choice of several programs from half a day to several days like Sukhothai Historical Park tour, Sunset tour, countryside tour as well as tailor made programs. Bikes are well maintained; apply plenty of sun cream and wear a hat or cap for some protection from the sun.

Boon Lotts Elephant Sanctuary

Boon Lotts Elephant Sanctuary (BLES) is a privately run sanctuary for elephants rescued from abuse, where the focus is on the welfare of the animals instead of commercial interest. Located in a rural area with stunning scenery in the North of Sukhothai province the elephants live in a 500 acres natural forested habitat. Visitors have a chance to interact with these gentle animals by feeding them or walking with them in the forest. There are no rides, playing football, painting or other tricks. A small guesthouse offers visitors the opportunity to stay overnight. BLES is also involved in education about elephants and the environment, as well as protecting the area from deforestation. For more information, visit the BLES website.

Getting to Sukhothai

Sukhothai province is located about 400 kilometers North of Bangkok. There are several ways to get there.

Air

The quickest and most comfortable way to get to Sukhothai is by air. Sukhothai’s airport located about 30 kilometers North of Sukhothai town is privately owned by Bangkok Airways. The airline offers direct flights from Bangkok’s international airport that take 1 hour and 15 minutes. Prices start at 2,290 Baht one way. Shuttle busses from the airport to Sukhothai town take around 20 minutes, the fare is 150 Baht per person. A tuk tuk will cost between 200 and 250 Baht one way.

Train

There is no direct rail connection between Bangkok and Sukhothai. The nearest train station is Phitsanulok on the Bangkok to Chiang Mai route. Trains leave multiple times daily from Bangkok’s Hualamphong station. Depending on the type of service the trip takes between 5 and 7 hours. Fares for the 389 kilometer trip are 69 Baht for third class, 159 Baht for second class and 324 Baht for first class. The bus from Phitsanulok to Sukhothai town (60 kilometer) takes about one hour, the fare is 50 Baht. To get to the Phitsanulok bus terminal, take a tuk tuk from the train station for about 60 Baht.

Bus

Several bus companies offer air conditioned and non air conditioned bus services from Bangkok to Sukhothai. Busses leave from Bangkok’s Northern bus station Mo Chit. The trip takes some 6 to 7 hours, prices vary from 300 to 400 Baht.