Some Tips on Visiting Sukhothai Thailand

In this guide, I’ll talk about the town of Sukhothai Thani, Sukhothai Historical Park, and my experience in both. I’ll start by covering the logistics of my journey before briefly touching on Ramkhamhaeng National Park itself. I’ll just briefly cover the park, because I don’t feel qualified to go in-depth into the history of the ancient capital, but I can explain my experience there and things I would do on a return trip. I took this trip to Sukhothai in the spring of 2019. Ok, it might get confusing, so I’ll call Ramkhamhaeng National Park Sukhothai Historical Park. I’ll call the town surrounding the park “Old” Sukhothai. Finally, I’ll call the town of Sukhothai Thani (the town about 7.5 miles east of the historical park) “New” Sukhothai. This is what the local people I spoke with seemed to do. The distance between Old and New Sukhothai is about 7.5 miles. I’ll include some Google Map links too, because that still sounds confusing.

Why did I choose to visit Sukhothai instead of Ayutthaya (the historical park about 40-miles north of Bangkok)? Well, the main reason was for Wat Si Chum, which I’ll briefly talk about towards the end. I’ve also read reviews that suggested Sukhothai was less crowded than Ayutthaya, and that appealed to me. Sukhothai Historical Park covers the former capital Sukhothai of the Sukhothai Kingdom from the 13th and 14th centuries. It has at least 20 wats (temples), from the time.

Plan how to get around

I found local travel more challenging, then the larger cities in Thailand. This was because there were no taxis or Grab (Thai Uber) that I could find. After arriving at Sukhothai Airport, I assumed I could take a taxi to my destination. A wave of fear rushed over me when I realized this was not the case. I feared having to hitch a ride or make a 16-mile hike south to my hotel. Luckily I found a songthaew. Songthaew literally means two rows, and it’s a truck with two benches, in its bed for passengers. It was ok, but it’s difficult to enjoy the scenery since you’re seated facing the passenger opposite of you. Since the songthaew was the only transportation I saw, I decided against trying to haggle. Between New and Old Sukhothai, I used another larger songthaew that served as a bus between the two locations. At the end of my trip, my hotel arranged a ride, with a car service, back to the airport. Ultimately, transportation shouldn’t be an issue, but it does require more planning than in Bangkok.

7-11 is a bad landmark

I found myself tempted to use 7-11’s as a landmark while I was in Thailand. Coming from the states I’m familiar with the convenience store, so it would make a memorable landmark, right? No, there are far too many 7-11’s in Thailand, and you can get confused using them as a marker. It’s difficult to see in the photo above, across from the 7-11 on the left is another down the street on the right. If you look at this Google Maps link of the street, you can see the two are less than 100 meters apart. The street in the above photo is Jarodvithi Thong, the main road that runs through town.

Some Local Eats

Restaurant in Old Sukhothai

Kwansiri Restaurant was located directly west of the central park (about 200 meters) and due south of Wat Si Chum (about 650 meters). It’s about 20 meters north of 12, which was the main road in Sukhothai (Jarodvithi Thong). Its address is Mueang Kao, Mueang Sukhothai District, Sukhothai 64210, Thailand, which probably makes as much sense as my previous explanation. I had a pork fried rice. It’s hard to go wrong with that dish, but I wouldn’t eat it every day. The outdoor seating was covered from the hot sun and far enough from the road, so exhaust didn’t bother me during the meal. The lady serving me spoke enough English to have no issues. I stumbled upon this restaurant, because I was walking on foot from the central historical park to the northern one. I’ll briefly touch on the differences, between the parks, soon.

Drinks and Eats in New Sukhothai

Khun Aew Pad Thai was a nice little street restaurant, on Jarodvithi Thong Road. The woman, who seemed to be the owner, did not speak much English at all. This is common at many street food locations. Luckily like most of Asia, it is common to see pictures of every menu item, so you can point at what looks good. Like I said, the owner’s English was not so good, and my Thai was probably worse. I just chose the pad thai. I did misunderstand her and thought she meant 300THB, she quickly and kindly corrected my mistake. The meal cost me 30THB which is $0.99. The water I drank from was from a water cooler. I didn’t bother asking about bottled water. You might want to carry your own water, which you should, because Thailand is hot. You could also drink a soda as a last resort when you can’t find bottled water. The food was good, it was served with fresh bean sprouts, crushed peanuts, a slice of lime, and some crushed red pepper on the table. It was around this point, in my journey through Thailand, that I decided I need to try something other than pad thai or fried chicken.

Enjoying a drink with a new friend, at Choppers Bar

I also ate and drank at Choppers Bar. Choppers Bar was located just slightly off of the main road but still visible from it. The bar had a second-story patio with a nice view of the main street. I don’t remember much about the meal, but the beer was cold, and I was given a complimentary fruit dish. The fruit was gorgeous. It was perfectly ripe and deliciously sweet. In the States, it seems that all the fruit I get from the supermarket is still green and doesn’t ripen as well because it’s picked so early. I did not have this issue in Thailand.

I also went to Bar 64000. They may have had food options here, but I couldn’t tell. Just a note, many bars do have food options because they can get the food from a nearby vendor and then serve it to you. At Bar 64000, I sat in front of the bar a few feet away from the sidewalk. The people-watching was great even in this small town, and it seemed to get better the later into the evening it went.

On my way back to my hotel, I stopped by a street food vendor and ordered a sweet snack roti. Roti is a thin pan-fried bread, and in Thailand can be found quite thin almost like a crepe. Roti is not always sweet, but the one I had was. It had banana filling and was topped with condensed milk. With a warm gooey filling and slightly crisp shell, the roti made a delicious snack. Please keep in mind that not all food vendors are the same, but as a rule of thumb if locals eat there, it’s probably good.

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Blue House Sukhothai

I stayed at Blue House Sukhothai one deluxe room and two nights of stay cost me $34.76 in the spring of 2019. For $17 a night, I had zero complaints, and I would recommend this to my friends. I’ve referred to this as a hotel, but it’s more like a large house, similar to a US fraternity or sorority house. Since this is considered a house, one of the first things you do is to remove your shoes, before entering the building. You are provided with “house” shoes if you like. Once inside the receptionist was very friendly and spoke English well. He provided me with a small map of the Old Sukhothai, and explained the shuttle times and cost to the historical park. The only two negative complaints I had were: the refrigerator seemed to shut off when the key was removed from the room, and there was a loose tile that would make weird noise when stepped on. I was warned about the tile before entering the room. The house also had a restaurant, and the front desk had some drinks and snacks for purchase. Even though I enjoyed my stay here on a return visit, I would consider staying closer to the historical park, in Old Sukhothai.

Another Nearby Town

Staying in New Sukhothai, is not the only way to visit the ancient city. Some people choose to stay in Phitsanulok. Phitsanulok is a 600-year-old city and maybe twice as large as New Sukhothai. The city itself has several temples and historical sights to see. Since I was flying into the area through the Sukhothai Airport, I decided to stay in Sukhothai. Maybe if I had decided to come by train, I would have stayed in Phitsanulok. I decided to fly because the flight (Bangkok to Sukhothai) was 1613THB or $53.31, and I would fly to Koh Samui next. I would also have chosen to stay in Phitsanulok if I planned to spend more then two nights in the area, since the town has more to do and see.

Wat Mai

Sukhothai historical park

Let me start by saying Sukhothai Historical Park is a large park that consists of a central park, a northern park, a western park, and a museum just east of the central park. Each location requires a different fee. In the spring of 2019, it was 100THB ($3.30 today) for each park and 150THB ($4.96 today) for the museum. I went to all but the western park. I think if I had rented a bike, I could have seen all four locations easier. Bicycle rental was 30THB for the day, or $3.30. If I return to Sukhothai, I’d walk the central park and then rent a bike to go to the other sites. The main reason to rent a bike is because you will have to walk on the streets to get to the other sites. Also, each site is some distance from each other. The northern park is about 1.5 km from the center of the central park, and the western park is approximately 1.8 km. This historical park is a national park, but the different sites require a bit of a walk and a separate entry, since it’s surrounded by the town of Old Sukhothai.

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Not gonna lie, it got a bit emotional there

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My walk around Wat Maha That

The central park includes at least six unique ancient temples, and the whole park has over 20 different temples, sights and ruins worth seeing. The central park itself is roughly 1 square km, and I enjoyed walking through it because of how close the different sights were to each other. Some sites I saw in the central park were:

  • Wat Mai – a small but interesting temple near the main entrance
  • Wat Maha That – one of the more impressive temples
  • Wat Sa-Si – a small temple located on a lake
  • Wat Traphang Ngoen – a small temple overlooking a lake and its ordination hall
  • Wat Tra Kuan – with its stupa (bell-shaped building of Sri Lankan influence)
Wat Traphang Ngoen – Ordination Hall

In the park there will be a small building near the gate, on the east side of the central park. This is where you will buy the tickets for each park you want to enter. Again, tickets for each of the three parks were 100THB or $3.30. After this you can enter the gate. On the day I went, the gate guard was very polite and spoke some English to let me know where to buy tickets. As a side note, Thailand receives most of its tourism from non-English speaking countries. So don’t expect English to be the lingua franca everywhere.

Wat Si Chum

In the northern park, I only viewed Wat Si Chum. I missed out on Wat Phrapai Luang and others, partly because I was ignorant of their locations and because it was getting late. Now that I’m writing this, there was a lot I missed. At the time, I didn’t regret this because my plans were set on seeing Wat Si Chum, and I wasn’t disappointed. You start by walking past ancient pillars to a view an enormous seated Buddha. Legend has it that kings or monks would hide behind this massive Buddha, and people would believe the Buddha was really speaking to them.

A quick walk in Wat Si Chum

I finished my day with a stroll through the Ramkhamhaeng National Museum. The air-conditioned complex was a pleasant change of pace from walking outside in the warm Thai sun. Again the museum entry fee was 150THB or $4.96. The museum has over 2000 artifacts and different buildings to view them in.

The Ramkhamhaeng National Museum

Overall, I remember my journey to Sukhothai fondly, and I’d recommend it to my friends. This post was not meant to convince you to go to Sukhothai, just to cover some logistical concerns and some of my experiences in the area. These concerns might apply to other less populated areas anywhere in South East Asia. Some things I’d consider on a return visit or a visit to rural southeast Asian historical sites, are as follows:

  • Consider more than one full day to enjoy the park, two days sounds perfect to me
  • Consider renting a bike, at least for the north and west parks
  • Consider staying closer to the park in Old Sukhothai
  • Double-check with my hotel about transport to and from the airport
  • Consider bringing a nicer camera

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