Sukhothai, ThailandKirsty Turner
The name Sukhothai means “Dawn of Happiness” in Thai and this is an interesting province in northern Thailand located in the valley of the Yom River. Sukhothai is approximately 427 kilometres north of Bangkok and covers an area of around 6,600 square kilometres. The province was established in the 13th century and was the first independent Thai Kingdom – the Kingdom of Sukhothai.
Today, most visitors come to see the spectacular Sukhothai Historical Park, which is full of interesting temples including Wat Si Chum, Wat Saphan Hin, Wat Si Sawai and Wat Trapang Thong. There are twenty six temples in all and Wat Mahathat is the largest, although all are worth a visit. Both the excellent Ramkhamhaeng National Museum and Sangkhalok Museum are good places to get to grips with Sukhothai’s intriguing history. Exploring the temples in the sunshine can be hot and sticky, but the sunset bicycle tours, which run daily, can be a good way to see the sights whilst beating the heat.
But Sukhothai isn’t all about temples and history. In fact, there are plenty of other dimensions to this province which cause travellers to extend their stay and visit time and again. If you are suffering from the relentless sun, you can cool down and enjoy a quick dip in the swimming pool at Suan Nam Premsuk, or get fit at the nightly aerobics classes opposite Wat Rachthani.
The night stalls opposite the Poo restaurant are a great, cheap place to sample the local cuisine, whilst indulging in a drink and a spot of people watching. Simply buy a food voucher and make your selection.
The Si Satchanalai-Chaliang Historical Park, 50 kilometres to the north, makes a great day trip and highlights include Wat Chang Lom, Wat Khao Phanom Phloeng, Wat Chedi Jet Thaew and Wat Nang Phaya. While you are there, stop in at the informative Sawanworanayok Museum and if you are interested in the ancient art of pottery don’t miss Swankhalok Kilns, where you can learn all about the skill and how it has developed over the ages.
Another great day trip is Ban Hat Siaw, where you can bargain hunt amongst the colourful collection of textiles.