Well, we actually never made it to Sukhothai, which is about 70 kilometers north of Phitsanulok. We went right past the exit on our way to the Sukhothai Historical Park.
This was Sunday, and apparently everyone in the family was ready for a family outing to the park. We loaded 8 people into the truck and headed further north, stopping twice short of Sukhothai to pick up Nan’s daughter and her daughter’s boyfriend. Here’s a little about Sukhothai:
From 1238 to 1438, Sukhothai was the first capital of Siam (followed by Ayutthaya, Thonburi and Bangkok). The most famous and influential of its nine kings was King Ramkhamhaeng, the second son of the founder of the state (reign from 1275-1317). He significantly expanded the Siamese empire through his military victories to a territory even bigger than modern Thailand, developed the first Thai script (Siamese alphabet), imposed strict observance to the Buddhist religion, and founded a military and social organization that was soon copied by the Khmers.
Today the historic town of Sukhothai, and its associated historic towns (Kamphaeng Phet and Si Satchanalai), is one of Thailand’s five UNESCO World heritage sites.
The Sukhothai Historical Park covers 70 sq. km), so it’s a good idea to explore the site by bicycle, which we did (130 baht per bike). Entrance fee was 30 baht per person.
The Central Zone is the main zone of the park and has some of the most preserved and most impressive monuments. Most visitors to Sukhothai only come to visit this zone.
Located in the center of Old Sukhothai, Wat Mahathat is not only the largest Wat (206 meters long and 200 meters wide), the Buddha images also reflect what is known as the typical Sukhothai style: A flame appears on the top of the head of the Buddha, the hair is fine curled, the face is oval with a downward gaze, a hooked nose, high curving eyebrows and shows a somewhat smiling expression.
It was also during the Sukhothai era when the four postures of the Buddha were created: sitting, reclining, standing and walking.
Other highlights of the Central Zone include the Khmer style Wat Si Sawai, Wat Sa Si, a monestery that sits on an island, Wat Trapang Thong, the original site of Thailand’s Loi Kratong Festival and the Ramkhamhaeng National Museum.
This is a beautiful park, kept almost pristime. No trash anywhere. But the number of temples, stuppas and other structures was just too much to try to identify while riding around. So here’s a photo review:
Finished with our tour, everyone decided it was past time for lunch. We biked a hundred yards away from the front entrance, where there were several restaurants and souvenir shops (I did end up buying a Sukhothai-themed t-shirt – $6). My guests selected one for no apparent reason (to me) and we ordered, all 10 of us. I opted for the chicken in coconut milk soup I like but was disappointed. I didn’t notice the reataurant offered something called Sukhotahi noodles, hwich would have been nice to try.a also had a disappointing coconut milk shake. Also disappointing.
The bill for the 10 of us came to 1,100 baht, about $30.
We were not done, however. As I mentioned previously, I’m just tagging along on Nan’s return to see her family. So we made two stops on the return, one to visit an aunt and another a cousin.
It was a long and fun-filled day, but it was not over. Dinner was yet to come.