Sukhothai Historical Park is located Mueang District in Sukhothai Province, approximate 430 kilometers north of Bangkok. The Historical Park contains the ruins of old Sukhothai which is the capital of the first Kingdom of Siam in the 13th and 14th century. Sukhothai was the first independent Thai Kingdom and Sukhothai means ‘The Happiness of Thai’ or ‘The Dawn of Happiness’ because the great civilization. Sukhothai Kingdom was a unique state in terms of political and administrative systems base on the patron-client relationships, powerful social, religious institutions and codified laws.
The Historic town represents a masterpiece of monument sculptures, wall paintings, decoration features, Thai architecture, literature, language, religious and art objects known as the ‘Sukhothai style’. Characteristic for the Sukhothai style is most typified by the lotus-bud shape stupa with a square base structure on a three tiered base, bell-shaped stupa with double tiered and statue of a walking Buddha with the clothing draped around the body.
The History of the Past and Now
The Old Sukhothai was a part of northern Thailand known as Sokhodaya under Khmer rule. In the 11th century, Mon and Khmer people had occupied the Yom valley but early in the 13th century they was drive out from the area by two local chieftains(King Pha Muang and King Bang Klang Hao). So, King Pha Muang and King Bang Klang Hao became the ruler of Sukhothai.
The most well known king of the Sukhothai Kingdom is King Ramkhamhaeng the Great, who is considered the Founding Father of the Thai Nation. In the reign of King Ramkhamhaeng the Great, Sukhothai reached the zenith of its influence. According to the first stone inscription, King Ramkhamhaeng the Great was a model King who acted as both temporal and spiritual leader of the Kingdom. In adittion to, King Ramkhamhaeng the Great is credited with the creation of the Thai alphabet and introducing Theravada Buddhism to Thailand. So, Sukhothai Kingdom in his reign was peaceful, people were content and happy.
The first stone inscription was found in 1833 by King Mongkut of Siam when he had made a pilgrimage as a monk with a large group of followers. He found this stone inscription beside Wat Mahathat which was written in Thai alphabet. Today it is on display in the National Museum in Bangkok.
Sukhothai Historical Park was officially opened in July 1988. On 6 June 1962, The protection of the area was first announced in the Royal Gazette. Nowadays, The protection enforcement through the Act on Ancient Monuments, Antiques, Objects of Art and National Museums. Sukhothai Historical Park is under the direction of the Fine Arts Department, Ministry of Culture of Thailand with help from UNESCO. On 12 December 1991, It was declared a World Heritage Site as part of the Historic Town of Sukhothai and Associated Historic Towns.
Sights of Sukhothai Historical Park
Inside the City wall or Central Historical Park
King RamKhamhaeng the Great Monument is in a sitting position. The face was sculptured as a Buddha image in Sukhothai style. The right hand of the statue is holding a scripture and on the left is a dagger. The Monument was moled from bronze mixed with copper which is weight about 3 tons. King Ramkhamhaeng the Great is still respected as the king who introduced the style of benevolent monarchy that remains today.
Noen Prasat or Palace Hill is remains the Royal Palace of the Sukhothai Kingdom. The Prasat was discovered in 1833 by King Mongkut of Siam when he had made a pilgrimage as a monk. The Palace was built on a square base with the dimensions of 200 meters wide and 200 meters long. It is believed that the palace of the Sukhothai kings was made of wood. In the southwest, there are the brick platform which they found ashes and bones inside, So It can be assumed that it was the royal cremation place.
Ramkhamhaeng National Museum was opened in 1964 by Thailand’s King Bhumibol Adulyadej and Queen Sirikit. More than 2,000 artifacts were donated from Phra Ratchaprasitthikhun, the ex-abbot of Ratchathani Temple. The National Museum have two storey, Most of the objects on display in the building come from Sukhothai, others were found in Si Satchanalai, Kamphaeng Phet, Phichit and Phetchabun. The collection including Buddha images, Hindu God sculptures, stucco relief images, inscribed stones and sangkhalok ceramics.
Ta Pha Daeng Shrine is contains a Prang made of laterite brickstones and the beautiful Hindi divine objects made with sandstone and crafter in Lop Buri style.
The Town Pillar Shrine or Thai people call ‘San lak Muang’ that means ‘The Heart of The Town’. This is a small building was constructed on as elevated base of a square with a tiled roof of wooden structure.
The City Wall of The Old City is located in Muang Kao Sub-District and surrounded by earthen ramparts. The north and south walls are each 2,000 meters long. The east and the west walls are each 1,600 meters long. The walls contain four main gates : On the north is Sanluang, On the south is Namo, On the east is Kamphaenghak and On the west is Oar. A stone inscription mentions that King Ramkhamhaeng the great set up a bell at one of the gates. If his subjects needed help, they would ring the bell and the King would come out to settle disputes and dispense justice.
Wat Chana Songkhram is a small temple close to Ramkhamhaeng Monument. Wat Chana Songkhram was formerly known as Wat Ratchaburana. The temple was built in the time of the Sukhothai Kingdom. The largest stupa is an example of the Lanka-Sukhothai style with bell shaped.
Wat Mahathat is situated in the heart of the town that was built in accordance with Indian ancient concept of Mandala. The temple is the most important and impressive temple in Sukhothai Historical Park. Wat Mahathat served as the royal palace and administrative capital for the entire Sukhothai Kingdom. The temple’s name translates to ‘temple of the great relic’. It still remains the largest of all the ruins in Sukhothai’s Historical Park.
Wat Mai is located on the north of Wat Mahathat. The temple having a brick Viharn as the main sanctuary that is in Ayutthaya style. The columns of the Viharn are made of laterite.
Wat Sa Si is a small temple close to Ramkhamhaeng Monument. The temple is one of the most beautiful place in Sukhothai Historical Park. Wat Sa Si was built by Lanka Styled Stupa.
Wat Sri Sawai is one of the oldest temples in Sukhothai. The temple is located on the northwest of Wat Mahathat and was built beautifully in the middle of a large reservoir known as Tra Phang Tra Kuan. There also three prangs were built in Lop Buri Art Style. The buildings include a chedi in a bell shape, a vihara and the ordination hall in the middle of the reservoir.
Wat Son Khao is well known for lotus bud-shaped chedi. Wat Son Khao is a name bestowed by local residents.
Wat Sorasak is located inside the northern wall of Sukhothai and close to Ta Pha Daeng shrine. The temple was founded in the time of the Kingdom of Sukhothai during the reign of Sailuethai. There also a great stupa, vihara and a building for Buddha image in the middle complex.
Wat Tra Kuan is a small temple. The name of the temple is not thai language, Tra Kuan is a Khmer term for a plant that is morning glory (a medicinal plant is used in traditional Asian medicine). Important buildings in this temple include a circular bell shaped chedi and the ordination hall. Buddha Images of the early art of Sukhothai period in Wat Tra Kuan style were also found here.
Wat Tra Phang Ngoen means silver lake monastery. The temple was built in the 14th century. Wat Traphang Ngoen is oriented so that it is illuminated by both rising and setting sun. The main structures of the temple are a central stupa, the ruins of a vihara, a large Buddha image on a pedestal in the west and an ordination hall on an island in the middle of an artificial lake.
Wat Tra Phang Thong means golden lake monastry. The main structure of the temple is the main chedi that was built in the shape of a lotus bud with four niches to enshrine standing and walking Buddha image. The most important artifacts of the temple is a footprint of the Buddha, which is located in a modern mandapa next to the stupa. The temple is the only temple in the Sukhothai Historical Park, in which an active community of monks lives.
Outside the city wall
1. North historical park
Sangkhalok Kilns : Sangkhalok means Thai Ceramics that was made in both Si Satchanalai and Sukhothai during Sokhothai period. The ceramics were found in Sukhothai Historical Park are generally large bowls and jars. Most of Sangkhalok klins in Sukhothai were made of brick while some klins in Si Satchanalai were slab klins dug in the ground.
Wat Mae Chon is consists of a vihara of five chambers on a base and three chedis behind the vihara. On the northwest of this temple is an ancient well lined with slate.
Wat Nong Prue is composed of a vihara that was made by brick, laterite on a base and the temple have roof with wooden framwork was covered with tiles.
Wat Om Rop is consists of a main lotus bud-shape chedi, a vihara that was made of brick and nine suborinate chedis.
Wat Phra Phai Luang was the ritual center of Sukhothai and the biggest temple in the city area. The temple was built in the late 12th century during the reign of Jayavaraman VII. The temple has one of the Khmer style prangs famous in Angkor and in Sukhothai that is an important place to study the transition of Khmer art to Thai art.
Wat Rong Khwang Tawan is a small temple consists of a vihara and two brick chedis.
Wat Sangkhawat is a small temple in a remoter area in the northern section. The temple is composed of a vihara with a stucco image of Sukhothai style.
Wat Si Chum was built in the late 14th century by King Maha Thammaracha II. The temple is one of the most famous Buddha statues in the world. The ancient monument is well known for a sitting Buddha image of large size with 11.30 meters wide occupies the total space of the building. Most of people call the Buddha statue ‘Phra Achana’ that means one who is not frightened.
Wat Tao Thu Riang is supposed to built after the production of glazed earthenware in this area came to an end. The temple is consists of a vihara and small chedis. In the past, there were stucco reliefs of Buddha in the posture of subduing Mara surrounded by a group of Gods.
2. South historical park
Wat Asokaram or Wat Salat Dai was built in the late 13th century during the reign of Sailuethai. Local people call the temple is Wat Salat Dai because the terrain of Euphorbia antiquorum was overgrown in the temple area. The temple consists of the large five stage step pyramid stupa, a vihara, a mandapa and subordinate chedis.
Wat Chedi Si Hong was built in the late 14th century during the reign of Lithai. The temple consists of the main chedi in bell shape, a vihara and subordinate chedis. The base of the main chedi decorating by stucco reliefs.
Wat Chetuphon is famous for four Buddha images of vast size in four different postures such as sitting, reclining, standing and walking. The partially collapsed outer wall surrounding the mandapa, made of extra-thick slate, features pillar-balustrade windows, another architectural highlight unique to this temple.
Wat Kon Laeng is a small temple which is consists of the main chedi with one of a lotus-bud shape on an elevated base, a vihara and subordinate chedis.
Wat Phrong Men is well known for circular bull-shaped chedi on an octagonal base. The base is composed of four levels, the first three levels having plain shapes and the last elaborate one decorated with stucco reliefs.
Wat Si Phichit Kirati Kalayaram was built in 14th century during the reign of Phra Ratchachonnani Si Thammaratchamada Mahadilok Ratanaratnatkanlong Mae, the queen consort of King Thammaracha II. The temple consists of a main chedi with bell shape, a vihara, the ordination hall and subordinate chedis.
Wat Ton Chan is well known for terracotta of Buddha sealing or votive tablets called Sa Ne Chan. The temple is composed of the bell shaped chedi of large size is made of brick with porches on four sides to enshrine Buddha images
Wat Wihan Thong was built by Phra Maha Thepi Si Chulalak, who dedicated it to Venerable Phra Maha Wan Ratana Thera.
3. East historical park
Wat Chang Lom is temple complex consists of a large bell shape stupa in Lanka style, the ruins of a vihara and an ordinationhall. The stupa stand on the square base with thirty two elephant statues around the base, each elephant seems to be on a small brick niche. The ruins of a vihara to enshrine a Buddha image and square laterite pillars. The last building, the ordination hall surrounded by moat in accordance with the concept of Udaka Sima.
Wat Tra Phang Thong Lang have three intricate stucco relief images of the Buddha performing three miracles. The reliefs can be found on each side of the outer mandapa wall.
Wat Chedi Sung is well known for the main chedi on a very high base about 14 meters wide and 14 meters long with 20 indented corners. The temple consists of a mandapa, a vihara, subordinate chedis and the ordination hall. The mandapa made of brick in square was built to enshrine a Buddha image which is now in ruins.
4. West historical park
Sariphong or Thamnop Phra Ruang is an ancient dam. The dam was stretched between Khao Phra Bat Yai mountain and Khao Kio Ai Ma mountain in order to carry water into canals for irrigation and water supply in Sukhothai.
Thewalai Mahakaset consists of base of small building that was built of brick, the ordination hall, a vihara and a rectangular laterite cistern with supply of water all year round. Each of the small buildings was for a monk to practice insight meditation.
Wat Aranyik was one of the first temple built in the beginning of the 13th century. The buildings are arranged rather scattered over a relatively extensive grounds. There is a small Khmer style ordination hall on a high stone pedestal with eight Bai sema on the separate stone pedestals.
Wat Chang Rob as s forest temple. In Sukhothai period the Buddhist monks could be divided according to their way of life in two groups. The first group live in monasteries within the city and focus on Tripitaka study this group call ‘Kamawasi’. The other group live in monasteries outside the city in quiet forest areas and practice meditation this group call ‘Aranyawasi’. The temple consists of a bell shape stupa in Lanka style, a small vihara with laterire pillars, the ordination hall and five subordinate chedis. The stupa stands on a large square base with twenty four elephant on the four side.
Wat Chedi Ngam situated on the mound with an ascent paved with slate slabs. The temple consists of the main chedi and a vihara. The main chedi was built by brick in bell shape with Lanka style on a square base with porches to enshrine Buddha images on four sides. A vihara made of laterite with tiled roof was used to practice meditation.
Wat Mangkorn or Dragon monastery consists of a large chedi, a vihara and the building for monks. The large chedi was made of laterite with niches to enshrine Buddha images. The vihara to enshrine Buddha footprints. The building was made for monks to practice insight meditation.
Wat Pa Mamuang means the mango forest monastery that was a temple of the prestigious forest monks in which the Sangharaja resided. The temple consists of a main chedis and the ordination hall.
Wat Saphan Hin or Wat Taphan Hin means stone bridge monastery that name comes from the slate stone pathway for climb to the top of the hill only slightly easier. The temple situated on a top of a low hill which overlooking the old city. The stone pathway is about 300 meters long. There also the large Buddha images stands at the crest of the hill.
Wat Si Thon has never been mentioned in any documents, the only evidence is old photographs of stucco relief that available at the National Archives. The temple was a place where to learned monk with knowledge of the Tripitaka or Pali canon from Sri Lanka stayed. The wall of the temple decorating of the stucco relief depicts the story of Lord Buddha descending from heaven.
Wat Tham Hip Bon significant ancient monuments consists of a main chedi with a bell shape, a vihara that was made by laterite and two buildings that were made by brick for monks to practice insight meditation.
Wat Tham Hip Lang have ancient monuments were mostly of stone and laterite. The temple is composed of the main bell shape chedi and a vihara.
Wat Tuek is a small temple that was founded in the time of Sukhothai Kingdom. The temple consist of a small mandapa and a vihara. The mandapa was made with a side length of eight meters and a seated Buddha statue which is made of bricks. The mandapa have three brick walls and a porch on the east side. There also a stucco reliefs which depicts the life story of Lord Buddha.
When Sukhothai Historical Park open?
The Historical Park opens everyday from 08.30 am to 06.00 pm.
The Park comprises of five zones : the inner city, north, west, south and east zone that each charge an entrance fee of 100 baht per person and 10 baht extra per bicycle or you can pay 350 baht per person for pass to all five zones.
If you would like to entrance The Museum you have to pay 150 baht per person. It opens daily from 08.30 am to 04.30 pm. And making photographs inside the museum is not allowed.
Free maps of the park are available at the ticket office.