Situated at the lower edge of the northern region, bordering the Central Plains, Sukhothai, the cradle of the Thai Nation and the first capital city, was founded in the 13th century. Today the extensive ruins of Sukhothai, as well as those of its nearby satellite town, Si Satchanalai, are preserved in well- kept historical parks that have been designated UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
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A view of the Pagoda of Wat Chang Lom in Si Satchanalai.
At the centre of Sukhothai stands the magnificent remains of Wat Mahathat, which was the administrative and spiritual heart of the ancient Kingdom. Spreading out from Wat Mahathat, over an area of some 70 square kilometres, are the ruins of more than 20 other major monuments attesting to the glory that was Sukhothai.
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Sukhothai truly offers an experience that you wouldn’t forget.
Si Satchanalai, 56 kilometres to the north, is a smaller, though nonetheless impressive site, where a cluster of ruined temples are attractively backed by wooded hills. Arriving in Sukhothai is like taking a journey back in time, since history continues to dominate the area.
Some of Sukhothai’s major attractions are :
1) Sukhothai Old City
Nearly 200 temples were excavated and partly reconstructed here, providing visitors with a look at what Thailand’s early capital might have been like. This was the cradle of Thai culture, and archaeologists have found the remnants of artistic and religious works that would define a society for centuries.
2) Wat Mahathat
The most splendid Wat of the present ruined city (and one of the oldest and most important in Thailand) is the Wat Mahathat. It was near the earlier Royal Palace. Built in a purely Sukhothai style, the top is crowned by the tip of a lotus bud. The middle section resembles the Khmer prangs, and the high square base is decorated by a procession of worshippers with 40 figures of about 1 m high on each side.
3) Wat Traphang Ngoen
To the west of Wat Mahathat, on an island covered with lotus blossoms in the Traphang Ngoen (“Silver Lake”), lie the outstandingly beautiful Chedi of the Wat Traphang Ngoen and the proud columns from a larger wiharn. Mountains form the backdrop of the chedi, which holds statues of Buddha in its niches and is crowned by a lotus bud.
4) Wat Sra Si
Wat Sra Si makes a quintessentially Thai picture, as the bot stands on an island in a pond surrounded by lotus flowers. The wat must have been a magnificent sight when it stood in all its glory. Ten chedis still stand, as do six rows of columns and the beautiful statue of a seated Buddha. Some of the wat’s buildings are still inhabited by monks. This is where Loy Kratong (the light festival) is celebrated every November.
5) Wat Sorasak
The 24 exquisitely carved elephants that still guard the decaying chedi of Wat Sorasak are the real highlight of the park. Wat Sorasak was constructed in 1412, toward the end of the Sukhothai Empire. The niches are occupied by statues depicting Buddha sitting in a “western” position, with legs hanging down.
6) Wat Si Chum
Visitors to Wat Si Chum will be especially impressed by the mondhop: a huge, windowless cuboid construction that stands on a high pedestal. Inside, you’ll find the colossal statue (nearly 15 m high) of a seated Buddha.
7) Wat Phra Pai Luang
Extensive Wat Phra Pai Luang is one of the oldest temples in the Sukhothai area. Thought to date from the end of the 12th or beginning of the 13th century, it was probably one of the most important in this region.
Picture credits – http://www.planetware.com/tourist-attractions-/sukhothai-tha-su-sus.htm