Sukhothai Historical Park is one of the main attractions in Sukhothai (which means Dawn of Happiness). It is about 12 kilometers from the new city and features over 190 ruins spread across 70 square kilometers of land. The walls fortifying the park forms a rectangle, measuring 2 kilometers east by west and about 1.6 kilometers north by south with a gate in the center of each wall. On December 12th, 1991, it was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
Each year, thousands of people visit the park and marvel at the location’s many historical relics such as ancient Buddha statues, palaces and temple ruins. The good thing about the park is that it is easily explored by foot or bike. A tram service also runs from site to site.
A good starting point to a tour of Sukhothai Historical Park is the Ramkhamhaeng National Museum. The museum is named after King Ramkhamhaeng, known as the founder of the current Thai alphabet. A comprehensive collection of Sukhothai artifacts are kept here, as well as several Buddha images. Antique art and documents choreographing the development of Sukhothai are also housed at the museum.
The main design characteristic of Sukhothai temples are the lotus-bud shaped stupas. The historical park also features monuments with designs from Sri Lanka. Inside are the remains of the royal palace and twenty-six temples, the largest being Wat Mahathat one of the oldest and most important temple monuments in Thailand, believed to have been built in the early 13th century. Its structures include a monastery surrounded by 10 smaller monk living quarters, an ordination hall and 200 stupas.
Not too far south from Wat Mahathat is Wat Si Sawai, a temple that was built with Lopburi inspired designs. Discoveries of lintels, Hindu images and a linga (a symbol used for the worship of the Hindu deity Shiva) indicate that the temple was initially a Hindu sanctuary which was later converted into a Buddhist temple.
About a kilometer and a half away from Wat Mahathat is Wat Si Chum and its distinctive large sitting Buddha. The stucco Buddha is seated inside a square building with an opening at the top. There is a passageway in the inner left wall that leads to a set of stairs to the roof. It is believed that the ritual of stair climbing was a symbolic ascent to Buddha-hood.
Outside of the historical park walls and near the northern gate is Wat Phra Phai Luang. It was originally a Khmer Mahayana Buddhist temple that predates the Sukhothai era and eventually converted into a Theravada Buddhist temple. A lot of the stucco art found at the temple has been moved to Ramkhamhaeng National Museum for security reasons. The temple, however still boasts a fine collection of decorative art.
A visit to the city of Sukhothai and its historical park will offer you a glimpse of ancient Thai culture. It itself exudes an enchanting feel with its monuments and temples dotting the city. Experience the city with Exotissimo’s Sukhothai in Depth tour. Witness the many temples and ruins in Sukhothai and its surrounding area. You can also experience northern Thai life with a rickshaw ride to a local market and an option to don the traditional farmers’ costume and plant rice in a field. See Exotisimo’s recommended Thailand tours page for other memorable tours into this wonderful country or contact us if you have any questions.
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