Attractions in Sukhothai
Sukhothai Historical Park
Inside the City Walls
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:
Royal 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.
Wat Si Sawai
Situated amid magnificent scenery southwest of Wat Mahathat is Wat Si Sawai, with three prangs surrounded by a laterite wall. Inside the wall, the vihara in the west, built of laterite, is separated from the main prang (Khmer-style pagoda) which was constructed in the Lop Buri or Hindu-style. A trace of the Hindu sculpture Sayomphu was found here, indicating this was origi-nally a Hindu shrine, later converted into a Buddhist temple.
Wat Traphang Ngoen
Situated to the west of Wat Mahathat is Wat Traphang Ngoen with its square pedestal, main sanctuary and stucco standing Buddha image in four niches. There is a vihara in front, and to the east of the pond there is an island with an ubosot (consecrated assembly hall). This edifice has crumbled and only
its pedestal and laterite columns remain. Many monuments and magnificent scenery are visible from this location.
Wat Chana Songkhram
Situated to the north of Wat Mahathat is Wat Chana Songkhram. Its main sanctuary is a round Singhalese-style chedi. In front of the chedi is the base of a vihara and behind the chedi stands an ubosot. Bases of twelve small chedi are also visible. Near Charot Withithong Road is a strange chedi with three bases, one on top of the other.
San Ta Pha Daeng or Deity Shrine
Situated to the north of Wat Mahathat is San Ta Pha Daeng. This monument consists of a single laterite prang with a staircase in front. Sandstone Hindu divine objects (Lop Buri style) were found here.
Situated to the north of Wat Mahathat is Wat Mai, with an Ayut-thaya-style brick vihara as the main sanctuary, its columns made of laterite. A bronze image of Buddha under a Naga (a Lop Buri-style image) was found here and is now preserved in the Ramkhamhaeng National Museum.
Wat Traphang Thong
Situated to the east of Wat Mahathat is Wat Traphang Thong. The temple is located on an island in the middle of the large pond. There is a ruined laterite Singhalese-style chedi and a new mondop containing the Lord Buddha’s Footprint slab that was created by King Lithai in 1390. An annual fair to worship this sacred footprint takes place during the Loi Krathong Festival.
Ramkhamheang National Museum
The museum offers an outstanding introduction to the arts and crafts of Sukhothai and its vassal cities, displaying objects unearthed or collected from Sukhothai and nearby provinces. Inside the spacious building are Khmer statues, Sukhothai Bud-dha, Sawankhalok ceramics and other archaeological artefacts gathered from the area. Open daily 9 a.m.- 4 p.m.; admission 30 baht.
For more information, call (66) 5569-7367.
Outside the City Walls
The Sites to the North
Wat Phra Phai Luang
This temple lies 500 m. north of San Luang Gate (northern-gate). This sanctuary, formerly a Khmer-Hindu Shrine but later converted into a Buddhist temple, is surrounded by a moat. It is second in importance to Wat Mahathat. Inside, there are three prangs like Wat Si Sawai, but the southern and the central ones have crumbled leaving only the northern one decorated with stucco figures. In front of these prangs are a vihara and a crumbled chedi; the latter has a pedestal decorated with stucco sitting Buddha images. A mondop contains ruined Buddha im-ages in four postures: sitting, reclining, standing and walking. A Sivalinga (phalic emblem of Hindu gods) was unearthed in the compound of this sanctuary.
Ruins of the Old Celadon Factory (Thuriang Kiln)
Thuriang Kiln is a site where Sukhothai celadons were made.
Kilns exist in an area measuring 100 m. by 700 m. Each kiln is divided into three sections; the fire area, the baking oven and the flue. The pottery found here mostly has three painted designs on the bottom: a disc, a fish and a flower. Forty-nine kilns and small edifices are visible. To the north, a pond has been dug into the stone.
Wat Si Chum
This lies about 1,500 m. north of Wat Mahathat and was origi-nally surrounded by a moat. A square mondop (an edifice which is square in plan, cubicle in form, with a pyramidal superstruc-ture for roofing), the main sanctuary, contains a monumental stucco-over-brick Buddha image in the attitude of Subduing Mara, called Phra Achana. This Buddha measures 11.3 m. from knee to knee.The mondop is 32 m. square and 15 m. high, and the walls are 3 m. thick. There is a passageway in the left inner wall itself which leads to the above crossbeam. On the ceiling of the passageway are more than fifty engraved slate slabs illustrating Jataka scenes.
The Sites to the West
Wat Saphan Hin
Situated on a 200 m. hill, the sanctuary is approached by a pathway of slate slabs.
Wat Chang Rop
This temple, situated in the Aranyik area, has a chedi decorated with an elephant emerging from the base, in front of which is a vihara base and laterite columns.
Phra Ruang Dam
This earthwork dam was built to hold back water in a dam be-tween the Phra Bat Yai and Kio-Ai-Ma hills and was restored by the lrrigation Department. The dam is referred to in the famous Sukhothai stone inscription.
The Site to the South
A mondop enshrines four Buddha images in different postures: sitting, standing, walking, and reclining. The outer walls of the mondop still retain a section in the form of a slate pillar balus-traded window. There is an entrance to the mondop to the north. Just behind the mondop is a small sanctuary which contains a Buddha image known locally as Phra Si Ariya Maitreya, the
Lord Buddha of the Future.
The Sites to the East
Wat Chang Lom
This temple is located to the north of Charot Withithong Road with a bell-shaped chedi of Ceylonese influence standing at the centre. The chedi is situated on a three-tiered square base with a platform decorated with rows of elephants. This type of elephant – decorated chedi is to be seen in many ancient towns of the Sukhothai period; for example, Kamphaeng Phet and Si Satchanalai.
Wat Traphang Thonglang
A square mondop is the main sanctuary. In front of the mondop to the east is a vihara and beyond the vihara stands an ubosot. The outer wall of the mondop is beautifully decorated with stucco figures in niches. The southern side portrays the Lord Buddha flanked by angles descending from Tavatimsa Heaven (the second heaven in Buddhist six heavens). The west side por-trays the Lord Buddha preaching to his father and relatives. The north side depicts the episode when the Lord Buddha returned to preach to his wife. These stucco figures, especially those on the south side, are masterpieces of Sukhothai art.
Ramkhamhaeng National Park (Khao Luang Sukhothai)
This exquisite national park with a combined natural and historical background covers an area of 341 sq. km. of high hills and steep cliffs, some over 1,200 m. high, together with water-falls, varied vegetation and wildlife are the natural attractions alongside archaeological remains.This park is accessed via Highway 101 south from Sukhothai for about 20 km. then west via a 16 km. laterite road. Trekkers must bring food and essential equipment with them. Bungalows and tents are available.
For more information in Bangkok, contact the National Park,Wildlife and Plant Conservation Department
Tel. (66) 2562 0760.
Sawankhaworanayok National Museum
Located at Sawankhalok town, 38 km. north of Sukhothai via Highway 101, the Museum features sculptural art from various periods and Sangkhalok (Sawankhalok) pottery from the Sukho-thai era, some of it retrieved from sunken vessels in the Gulf of Thailand.
Open Wednesday to Sunday, 8.30 a.m.- 4 p.m.; except public holidays.
For more information, call (66) 5564 1571.
Si Satchanalai was a city of the Sukhothai kingdom, located close to the modern town of Si Satchanalai, which is 67 km. north of new Sukhothai via Highway 101.
Si Satchanalai Historical Park
Si Satchanalai Historical Park contains the remains of Sukho-thai-era Structures in a park and setting similar to Sukhothai Historical Park. The 13th to 15th century ruins are located beside the Yom River among hills and are less restored than those of Sukhothai.
Open daily 8.30 a.m.- 4.30 p.m.
The ancient site was the kingdom’s second city and the residence of the crown prince. It enjoyed great importance, as demonstrated by the size of its remains. Ruins of 134 structures have been discovered within the park area.
Wat Phra Si Rattana Mahathat
This temple, also called Wat Phra Borommathat Mueang Chal-iang or Wat Phra Prang, is situated 3 km. to the south of ancient Si Satchanalai’s walls. An immense laterite prang on a square base marks the centre of the temple. A steep staircase in front of the huge prang leads to a room where a reliquary is enshrined.
Wat Khao Phanom Phloeng
This is a hilltop temple within the old town of Si Satchanalai. A laterite chedi in the centre, a large vihara or image hall in front and a small sanctuary behind all lie in ruins. Some laterite pillars and a damaged Buddha image constructed of laterite slabs and coated with mortar are seen.
Wat Khao Suwan Khiri
The hilltop temple is situated 200 m. from Phanom Phloeng Hill. A huge bell-shaped chedi on a five-tiered base marks the centre of the temple. Ruins of a vihara, chedi and fragments of huge stucco figures lie scattered on the ground. The similarity between some figures here and those at Sukhothai’s Wat Chang Lom lead to the belief that King Ramkhamhaeng the Great had this temple constructed.
Wat Chang Lom
A huge bell-shaped chedi supported by 39 elephants, with four at the cardinal points elaborately decorated marks the centre of the temple. Above the chedi’s base there are niches enshrining images in the attitude of Subduing Mara (demon).
Wat Chedi Chet Thaeo
This is one of the most beautiful temples in Sukhothai Province. Stupa of different artistic styles and influence were built here. Remnants of old mural paintings can still be seen in some stupa.
Wat Suan Kaeo Utthayan Yai
Located near Wat Chedi Chet Thaeo, across a dirt road, this temple has the ruins of a large image hall. It is also called Wat Kao Hong, the Nine-Roomed Temple.
Wat Nang Phaya
This temple is famous for its delicate stucco reliefs on the re-mains of the northwestern wall of the seven-roomed vihara. The pillars are decorated with unglazed ceramic designs. The central laterite stupa is surrounded by lamp-posts and accessible by a set of narrow stairs.
Wat Suan Kaeo Utthayan Noi
This temple’s ruins consist of a frontal vihara housing a Buddha, complete with a laterite roof.
Sangkhalok Kiln Site Study and Conservation Centre
At one time, hundreds of huge pottery kilns lined the Yom River in this area. Several have been carefully excavated and one, oval with a curved roof and 7-8 m. wide, can be viewed within the centre, while at another site a short distance away, there is a large outdoor kiln prepared for viewing. The centre displays pottery and potsherds, found in the area and information on the evolution of ancient ceramics. Located some 4 km. north of Si Satchanalai;
open daily 9 a.m.- 4 p.m.
To get there, drive 6.5 km. north of Si Satchanalai Historical Park to Ban Ko Noi, or take Highway 1201 from Si Satchanalai.
Si Satchanalai National Park
This forest and mountain park (213 sq. km.) offers trekking routes to waterfalls, caves and a hot spring. The park is about 100 km. from Sukhothai via Highways 1113 and 1294 and can be reached by a local bus (once daily, 50 mins) from Si Satchanalai where there is accommodation.
For reservations and more information in Bangkok,
call (66) 2579 5734, (66) 2579 7223 or (66) 5561 9214 to 5.