We hadn’t been the biggest fans of the south of Thailand, but the north is completely different. And, apparently, we were going to love it – if the other travellers we’d talked to were to be believed. The major tourist destination in the north is the city of Chiang Mai, a 12 hour bus from Bangkok. However Jake and I didn’t fancy 12 hours straight if we could avoid it, so we decided to break the journey by stopping over in the town of Sukhothai for a couple of nights.
Around 750 years ago when the Kingdom of Siam first materialised, Sukhothai was its first royal capital. So followed a golden era where the culture of Thailand was created – the alphabet, architecture, customs, monarchy and religion all originate from here. After a few hundred years the centre of the Kingdom moved elsewhere and the old city was left to fall into ruin. Some of the ruins survive today, and have been restored to create the Sukhothai Historical Park. This park is more or less the sole draw of the town, and reason enough for us to stop here and check the place out.
We were staying in New Sukhothai, a modern and fairly featureless yet convenient town, so caught a local bus to the ruins. Here we rented bikes for 30 baht (60p) and entered the park to have an explore. The only buildings that remain of the ancient capital of Sukhothai are of course the largest ones made from stone – everything else made from wood has gone. This meant the ruins consisted of large ornate temples with wide spacious and grassy areas in between. The park was fairly quiet, with only a scattering of tourists and a few school groups around. We cycled leisurely around, checking out the impressive ruins, some positioned on islands in little lakes, some that form larger complexes, and some that were more isolated. There are several different zones to explore, but we didn’t want to get templed out again so just stuck to the central one. We spent a couple of hours there, cycling about, and left when the grumbling in our stomachs could no longer be ignored.
Besides from the ruins, there isn’t much else worth mentioning about our stay in Sukhothai. What we’d heard about the north however seemed accurate. People seemed nicer and much less pushy, the food and accommodation were much cheaper, and things felt much more relaxed. We decided everyone had been right, we did like it more.
Before long we were already on our next bus to the best place in Thailand, Chiang Mai.