Happy Travel Tuesday! This week is themed, with the theme being “a sporty adventure”, so link up any activity/sports/hiking/camping/snorkeling/etc. etc. post you’ve got!
I thought hard about of what sporty adventures I’ve partaken in recently, and couldn’t come up with anything. This embarrassingly means I’ve been lazy (and my expanding waistline and thighs can confirm). But then I remembered that I never talked about my bike ride around the ancient wats of Sukhothai! Guess this is as good of a time as any!
I’m not sure why I never wrote about Sukhothai (save for a brief mention in my November 2014 travel recap). Most likely because I couldn’t find the right words to describe it. But let’s not dwell on words. Sukhothai Historical Park is best shown through photos anyway.
Sukhothai (located towards the north of Thailand) is rich in history, having been around since the 13th century and the capital of the old Kingdom of Siam. Many consider it to be the birthplace of Thailand. Today, its near-200 temple ruins are scattered about in the old city, covering an area of about 27 square miles (or 70 square kilometers).
But don’t worry, you don’t have to run all over town. Most visitors will want to head to the Central Zone only (about 1 square mile) as this is where the most important temples are. Also, this section is a protected historical park (an UNESCO site if you keep track!) surrounded by a moat. A couple more noteworthy wats are located just outside the moat. While arguably walkable, a bike (available to rent just outside the main entrance) will be a much better, and much more enjoyable, way of getting around.
I’m not an expert on the wats here (and there are a couple dozen in the Central Zone alone – here is a map I found), but I did do a little bit of research beforehand and knew there were a few “famous” ones we wanted to hit up.
This the most important temple complex, located in the center of the park next to a lotus pond. This is known as the royal temple (next to this was the royal palace) and was founded by the first king of Siam.
Wat Phra Phai Luang
This is one of the oldest temples in Sukhothai, built by the Khmer before the establishment of the kingdom even. It’s located just outside of the moat that encloses the Central Zone on the north side.
Wat Si Chum
Most visitors will not leave Sukhothai without visiting Wat Si Chum. This is probably the most famous temple in Sukhothai, popular for its large sitting Buddha (the largest!) with one very special feature: a large golden right hand.
Wat Si Sa
I think this was the most picturesque wat! Located on an island surround by water from all sides and only accessible by little wooden foot bridges, this wat was the picture of serenity.
Wat Si Sawai
This one is another old temple built by the Khmer in the Khmer style. We actually just chanced upon this while biking around the park and stopped because of the really impressive looking bodhi tree next to it.
But this post isn’t a guide on which wats to see in Sukhothai (I did say I’m no expert, after all). Now that we’ve got the wats intro out of the way, let’s talk about biking around the beautiful Old Sukhothai Historical Park.
Here I should admit that while I do think these ancient wats are amazing, I am also very prone to temple-fatigue. When the sun is scorching and you’ve sweated through your clothes, after seeing a few of these wat ruins (which let’s be honest, all start to look more or less the same), it’s hard to muster up the excitement for yet another one.
And just for the record, I looked like this (hat bought from the same bike rental place, as the sun was just too, too punishing without one):
But Sukhothai never bored me. The park was absolutely gorgeous with all its reflective ponds and lush greenery. The most enjoyable part to me was not seeing the wats, but simply just biking around taking in the sights. Around every turn was a new gorgeous view. There was so much to look at and so much to take photos of.
And probably the best part – COWS!
We came across this area with a ton of cows just chilling. There were a few people sitting by the road (I think maybe they’re the owners of these cows?) so I asked if we can walk out onto the grass and take some pictures. I cannot come across an animal without taking a million photos, and lucky me gets to share them here. :P
When we got hungry with all that biking (and sweating), we decided that we would stop at the next eatery we come across. There are a few dotted around the perimeter of the park and soon enough we rode up to a little restaurant by the side of the main street, where we hungrily slurped up steamy bowls of Sukhothai noodles.
Sukhothai noodles are a specialty of the area (duh, as the name suggests) and is an aromatic noodle soup made with thin rice noodles, a slightly sweet pork broth, tender chicken pieces, fried garlic, crushed peanuts, and cilantro. Even though the day was dreadfully hot, it still went down deliciously.
After the quick meal, it was back to wat-hopping and biking. Some last park pictures:
A common question: Ayutthaya or Sukhothai?
Both are famous for their temple ruins. Both we explored by bike. I was originally going to compare the two for this post as this is a common question for tourists to Thailand, but decided to focus just on Sukhothai as 1) my pictures for Sukhothai are way prettier, and 2) I enjoyed it FAR more.
Both sites have their “famous” wats, but for me, I didn’t exactly have anything that was a must-see. So as far as overall experience goes, Sukhothai wins by far. The wats in Ayutthaya are just randomly scattered around town and you have to bike to each on the streets shared with cars, scooters, and tuk-tuks. I found it to be very stressful. The Sukhothai wats, on the other hand, are in a protected park and I loved leisurely biking around the beautiful park without having to worry about getting hit every 10 seconds.
The thing that makes Sukhothai inconvenient to visit is that it is rather far – about a 6 hour bus ride from Bangkok or 5 from Chiang Mai, whereas Ayutthaya could be done as a day trip from Bangkok. But if you have the time in your Thai itinerary, I would highly suggest coming to Sukhothai.
Where we stayed
Sukhothai is comprised of two cities – New Sukhothai and Old Sukhothai, separated by about 12 km. The modern city is in the new part while all the temple ruins are in the – you guessed it – old part. We were there for 4 nights and wanted to explore more of the city, so we stayed in New Sukhothai, but it is also perfectly doable to find decent guesthouses in the old city next to the ruins.
It was my job to find accommodation for us, so of course I looked for the cutest thing I could find! Which means that I loved it and D hated it a little.
We stayed in the lovely Lotus Village guesthouses, run by a French man and his Thai wife. The village has quite a few bungalow models available and I booked us a private one. It was seriously the cutest! Once in the village, you feel like that you are miles away from the city. The location is a bit secluded but definitely walking distance to the town center (maybe 15 minutes).
A complimentary breakfast was provided every morning in the open lobby area. I didn’t expect much but I was very pleasantly surprised. The breakfast was all cooked to order for each guest as they arrive and included your choice of drinks and eggs.
I would highly recommend Lotus Village to anyone visiting Sukhothai and looking for a peaceful retreat!
Practical Information for Visiting Sukhothai
Getting there: There are long distance buses (don’t worry, they are air-conned!) from Bangkok, Ayutthaya, and Chiang Mai (all take about 5-6 hours) that goes to New Sukhothai. From the bus station there, it’s easy to find a tuk tuk to your guesthouse.
Cost: I believe both the entrance into the park and the bike rental cost only a couple of US dollars each.
Last tips: A day of wat-hopping under the hot Thai sun is no easy task. Wear a hat and bring plenty of water. There are a few small shops inside the park selling drinks as well.
Have you ever been to Sukhothai or would want to visit?
To join the blog party, just link up below!
1. SHARE a post about travel! Anything goes here… whether it’s trips abroad or local adventures, past travels or dream vacations, travel tips and tricks, or anything in between! Just make it about travel!
2. GRAB the lovely button above! And link back to your lovely hosts: that would be Bonnie, Swags, Diana, and yours truly.
3. LINKUP goes live! Every Tuesday at 8 am GMT.
4. HOP around and meet new travel loving bloggers! Link up will be open for a few days, make sure to check back to visit some of the newer travel posts!
1. Please only one linked up post per blogger. Save other posts for future linkups!
2. The last Tuesday of every month will be a themed prompt if you want to join in!
Powered by Linky Tools
Click here to enter your link and view this Linky Tools list…