The ancient city of Sukhothai is a UNESCO heritage site with over 193 monuments, statues and pagodas; opened in 1988 the historical park is the main reason people travel to Sukhothai.
Sukhothai which roughly translates as ‘the dawn of happiness’ was briefly a major trading center and a powerful city during the 13th Century during King Ramkamhaeng’s reign. Ramkamhaeng, is credited with developing the Thai alphabet and facilitating the spread of Therevada Buddhism.
There are two parts to Sukhothai two check out: the old city and the new city. The Old City is smaller and consists of a fairly good choice of guesthouses and restaurants located right next to the historical park. The new city is about 9km away from the historical park, and although it has a little bit more going on there isn’t much difference between the two. If you are only passing through Sukhothai for a day or two it’s probably easier to stay in the Old City and explore the historical park on your doorstep before jumping on a bus to your next destination.
Buses run from Chiang Mai fairly frequently, 2nd class buses depart every hour and are the cheapest option at ฿200 ($5). First class buses run at 12pm, 11.30pm and 2am and cost ฿266. The journey is 6 hours long and most buses will first stop at the old city before reaching the bus terminal in New Sukhothai. From New Sukhothai bus terminal you can grab a motorbike taxi for about ฿40-60 to your guesthouse or hostel.
It is also possible to get here via train from Bangkok or Chiang Mai, the nearest train station is Phitsanulok about 60km away, so you’ll need to get a train and then a minibus.
Where to Stay
I can highly recommend If You Want Hostel in New Sukhothai. It’s a really well run hostel with nice clean rooms, great communal spaces and movie room. Breakfast is included in the cost of the room. Prices start at ฿250 and tend to be cheapest if you book online through Agoda. The staff are incredibly helpful and will give you a good idea of any local events or attractions in the area.
Where to Eat
The food in New Sukhothai is pretty decent, whereas the food in Old Sukothai pales in significance so if food is important to you stay in the new town. One of the best local specialities on offer is Khao Soi: a chicken egg noodle curry soup which is delicious and best found at one of the local carts you’ll see dotted around the main road running through New Sukhothai. There is a night market of sorts but don’t expect anything like you’d get in Chiang Mai or Bangkok, it’s geared towards locals, although you can find excellent finger food and an array of curries and local Thai dishes. It’s fairly easy to spot as all the carts set up to the East of the bridge on the main road running through Sukhothai.
Things to Do
If you’ve come to Sukhothai you’ve pretty much just come for the Historical Park, there are hundreds of temples to see in the park so don’t focus solely on the main two of Wat Mahathat or Wat Si Sawai. Grab a bicycle from the rental shops by the park and spend the day cycling around the entire site exploring the lesser known ancient ruins.