Sukhothai Tourist Information
Sukhothai literally means "Dawn of Happiness". It has an area of 6,596 sq.kms. is about 427 kms. (267 miles) north of Bangkok, and was founded in the year 1238 A. D. Sukhothai was capital of Thailand for approximately 120 years. It is administratively divided into 9 Amphoes Muang, Ban Dan Lan Hoi, Khiri Mat, Kong Krailat, Sawankhalok, Si Nakhon, Si Samrong, Si Satchanalai and Thung Saliam.
SUKHOTHAI's HISTORICAL BACKGROUND
Sukhothai was the first kingdom of the Thais in this Peninsula. Two Princes -Pho Khun Pha Muang of Muang Rat and Pho Khun Bang Klang Thao of Muang Bangyang - combined their forces and fought the Khmers who commanded an extensive empire throughout this part of the world.
They drove the Khmers out of Sukhothai, a mojor frontier post of the Khmer Empire, and established it as their capital in 1238. Pho Khun Bang Mang Thao, urged by the people to be King, was enthroned with the royal title of Pho Khun Si Indrathit.
King Si Indrathit had two sons. Pho Khun Ban Muang and Pho Khun Ramkhamhaeng. After his death, Pho Khun Ban Muang, succeeded him. His brother, Pho Khun Ramkhamhaeng, ascended to throne in 1278 and reigned for forty years. He was Thailand's first great King.
One of Thailand's finest warriors, King Ramkhamhaeng made Sukhothai a powerful and extensive kingdom which included many parts of what are today neighboring countries. A number of ancient cities paid him tribute.
King Ramkhamhaeng opened direct political relations with China and made two trips to China - the first in 1282 to visit the Emperor Kublai Khan and the second in 1300 after Kublai Khan's death.
From the second visit he brought back Chinese artisans who taught the Thais the art of pottery. Today the old "Sangkhalok Potteries" are eagerly sought by collectors.
A major achievement of King Ramkhamhaeng was the revision of various forms of Khmer alphabets into a system suitable for the writing of Thai words. The alphabet that he invented in 1283 was essentially the same as that in use today.
During his reign there was prosperity and happiness. There was water in the paddyfields and fish in the water. A stone inscription reads in part, "--This Muang Sukhothai is good. In the water there are fish, in the field there is rice. The ruler does not levy a tax on the people who travel along the road together, leading their oxen on the way to trade and riding their horses on the way to sell. Whoever wants to trade in elephants, so trades. Whoever wants to trade in horses, so trades.. Whoever wants to trade in silver and gold, so trades--".
King Ramkhamhaeng also promoted religion and culture and, through his efforts, Buddhism made headway among the people. Inspirational faith gave birth to classic forms of Thai religious arts. Images of the Lord Buddha sculpture during the Sukhothat Era are cultural treasures which impart a feeling of peace and serenity.
A total of eight kings ruled Sukhothai. The gradual decline of Sukhothai occured during the reigns of the last two kings. The end of this first Thai Kingdom occurred in 1365 when it became a vassal state of Ayutthaya, a young and rising power to the south. Ayutthaya became the capital of Thailand before Bangkok.
In Amphoe Muang :
Phra Mae Ya Shrine This shrine is situated in front of the City Hall and is highly respected by Sukhothai residents. It houses an idol of Phra Mae Ya, a stone figure with face and long hair, and dressed as an ancient Queen. The Idol is about 1 meter high and supposed to have been built during King Ramkhamhaeng's reign as a dedication to his late mother, Nang Suang.
The Sukhothai Historical Park The former greatness of Sukhothai has been preserved. Ruins of the royal palaces, Buddhist temples, the city gates, walls, moats, dams, ditches, ponds, canals and the water dyke control system which was the magical and spiritual centre of the kingdom are now preserved and restored by the Fine Arts Dapartment with the co -operation of UNESCO, not only with a view of fostering Thailand's national identity but of safeguarding a fine example of mankind's cultural heritage.
The park is open to the public everyday from 8.30-16.30 hrs. The admission fee is 20 baht. Places of interest are as follows
Inside The City walls :
The walls of The Old City The citywalls are located in the centre of the historical park in Tambon Muang Kao and surrounded by earthen ramparts. The north and the south walls are each 2,000 meters long, whereas the east and the west walls are each 1,600 meters long. The walls contain four main gates : Sanluang on the north, Namo on the south, Kamphaenghak on the east, and oar on the west. A stone incription mentions that King Ramkhamhaeng set up a bell at one of the gates. If his subjects needed help they would ring the bell.
Tourists Service Centre, situated near Wat Phra Phai Luang, the centre provides information and convenience for tourists. A model of the old city of Sukhothai with ruins of Wats and other buildings is also on exhibition there.
The Ramkhamhaeng National Museum The Ramkhamhaeng National Museum was built in 1960 and opened on January 25,1964. The museum collection include gifts from the ex - abbot of Wat Ratchathani and art objects unearthed in Sukhothai and nearby provinces. It is open daily from 9.00 -16.00 hrs. except on Monday, Tuesdays and official holidays. Admision fee 10 Baht.
The Royal Palace and Wat Mahathat The royal palace lies in the centre of the town and covers an area of 160,000 square meters. This area is surrounded by a moat and contains two main compounds; the royal building and the sanctuary in the palace. In the royal compound exist the ruins of the royal building called Noen Phrasat, which might be Sala Phramat or Buddha Sala mentioned in a Sukhothai stone incription.
Here, the famous stone incription of King Ramkhamhaeng was found by King Mongkut in the 19th century together with a piece of the stone throne called "Manangkhasila Asana" King Ramkhamhaeng set up the throne in the midst of a sugarpalm grove where, at his request, a monk preached on Buddhist Subbath days and the king conducted the affairs of state on other days. This throne was later installed in Bangkok's Temple of the Emerald Buddha.
A sanctuary lies to the west behind the Royal Palace compound. It is Sukhothai's largest Wat and a customary main chedi in lotus - bud shape, and a ruined viharn. At the base of the Chedi stand Buddhist disciples in adoration, and on the pedestal seated Buddha images. In front of this reliquary in large viharn formerly containing a remarkable seated bronze buddha image of Sukhothai style, which was cast and installed by King Lithai of Sukhothai in 1362. At the end of the 18th century, the image was removed to the Viham Luang of Wat Suthai in Bangkok by the order of the King Rama 1 and has since been named Phra Si Sakaya Muni. In front of the large viharn is another smaller viham which was probably built during the Ayutthaya period. Its main Buddha image (8 m. high) was installed inside a separate building. In front of the southern image a piece of sculpture call "Khom Dam Din" (a Khamerwho came by was of walking underground) was found, and is now kept in Phra Mae Ya Shrine near the Sukhothai City Hall. On the South stands a pedestal of a large chedi built up in steps, the lowest platform is adorned with beautiful stucco figures of demons, elephants, lions with angels riding on their backs. Mural paintings adorn the crept to this chedi.
King Ramkhamhaeng Monument Situated on the north of Wat Mahathat is the King Ramkhamhaeng Monument. The bronze statue of King Ramkhamhaeng sits on a throne named Phra Thaen Manangkhasila Asana with a base relief recording his life.
Wat Si Sawai Situated among magnificent secenery southwest of Wat Mahathat is Wat Si Sawai. Three prangs are surrounded by a laterite wall.
Inside the wall, the viharn in the west, built of laterite, is separate from the main prang which was constructed in Lop Buri or Hindu - style but the others also constructed beside the prangs, are Buddhist viharns. The Crown Prince (King Rama VI), found a trace of Hindu sculpture Sayomphu, the greatest Hindu God in this sanctuary. In his opinion this ruin was once a Hindu shrine, but was later converted into a Buddhist monastery.
Wat Traphang Ngoen Situated to the west of Wat Mahathat is Wat Traphang Ngoen with its square pedestal, main sanctuary, and stucco standing Buddha mage in four niches. There is a viharn in front and, in the east of the pond, an island with an ubosot. This edifice has already crumbled and only its pedestal and laterite columns still remain. Many monuments and magnificent scenery are visible from this ocation.
Wat Chana Songkhram Situated to the north of Wat Mahathat is Wat Chana Songkhram. Its main sanctuary is round Singhalese - style chedi. In front of the chedi exists the base of a viharn and behind the former stands an ubosot. Bases of twelve small chedis are also visible. Near the Charot withi Thong Road is a strange chedi having three bases, one on top of the other.
Wat Sa Si Situated near Wat Chanasongkhram is Wat Sa Si. Around a Singhalese - style chedi is the main sanctuary on an island in the middle of TraphangTrakuanpond. Alarge viharn contains a stucco Buddha image. To the south stand nine chedis of different sizes.
San Ta Pha Daeng or Deity Shrine Situated to the north of Wat Mahathat is San Ta Pha Daeng. This monument consists of only one laterite prang with a staircase in the front. Sandstone Hindu divines (of Lop Buri-style) were discovered here.
Wat Mai Situated to the north of Wat Mahathat is Wat Mai. Wat Mai, having a brick viham as the main sanctuary, is in Ayutthaya style. The columns of the viharn are made of laterite. A bronze image of the Buddha under a Naga, (Lop Buri - Style) was found here and is now preserved in the Ramkhamhaeng National Museum.
Wat Traphang Thong Situated to the east of Wat Mahathat is Wat Traphang Thong. The monastery is located on an island in the middle of a large pond. A ruined laterite Singhalese - style chedi is on the island. In front of it, a new mondop contains the Lord Buddha's Footprint slab that was created by King Lithai in 1390 on Samanakut or Phra Bat Yai Hill. This Footprint was removed to the new mondop some years ago. An annual fair to worship this sacred Lord Buddha's Footprint takes place at the same time as the Loi Krathong Festival.
Outside The Citywalls - The Sites in the North :
WatPhra Phai luang This temple lies about 500 meters north of San Luang Gate. This sanctuary, formerly a Khmer Hindu shrine, but later converted in to a Buddhist monastery, is surrounded by a moat. It is second in importance to Wat Mahathat. Inside there are three prangs like Wat Si Sawai, but the southern and the central ones have crumbled, leaving only the northern one decorated with stucco figures. In front of these prangs are a viharn and a crumbled chedi the later has a pedestal decorated with stucco seated Buddha images. A mondop contains Buddha images in four postures : sitting, reclining, standing and walking. They are now all in ruins. A Sivalinga (Phallic emblem of Siva) was unearthed in the compound of this sanctuary.
Ruin of Old Celadon Factor (Thuriang Kiln) Thuriang Kiln is a site where Sukhothai celadons were made. Kilns exist in an area measuring 100 by 700 meters. Each kiln is divided into three sections; the fire area, the pottery baking oven, and the flue. The pottery found here is usually decorated by three different painted designs on their bottom: a disc, a fish and a flower. Forty - nine Kilns and small edifices are visible. To the north a pond has been dug into stone.
Wat Sangkhawat This lies about 1,980 meters north of Wat Mahathat. The viham enshrines a stucco image of Sukhothai style. Behind stands a Singhalese -style chedi. To the south, a brick ubosot base is surrounded by slate semas.
Wat Hin Tang This lies about 2,400 meters north of Wat Mahathat. The Singhalese-style brick chedi is supported by a laterite base and surrounded by a laterite wall. A Sukhothai inscription of Wat Hin Tang described Buddhist relics and religious rites.
Wat Khung Wai This lies about 300 meters away from Wat Hin Tang.
Wat Si Chum This lies about 1,500 meters north of Wat Mahathat and was originally surrounded by a moat. A square mondop is the main sanctuary and contains a monumental stucco-overbrick Buddha image in the attitude Subduing Mara, Called'Phra Achana'. This Buddha measures 11.30 meters from knee to knee.
The mondop is 32 meters square and 15 meters high, and the walls are 3 meters thick. There is a passageway in the left inner wall itself which leads to the above crossbeam. On the ceiling of the passageway are more than fifty engraved slate slabs illustrating jataka scenes.
Outside The Citywalls - The Sites in The West :
Wat Saphan Hin This is situated on the hill 200 meters high. A pathway of slate slabs leads to the sanctuary yard.
WatAranyik Wat Arnyik is located near Wat Saphan Hin. In the Aranyik area dwelling places for monks (kuti), caves, and the bases of ubosot and viharn line the pathway to the sanctuary.
Wat Chang Rop This is situated in Aranyik area. A chedi is decorated with an elephant emerging from the base. A viharn base and laterite columns are in front of the Chedi.
Wat Chedi Ngam This is situated on the hill in Aranyik area. The main sanctuary is a round Singhalese-style chedi decorated with four niches. On the east are a viharn and four small stone edifices. On the north is a stone pond.
Wat Tham Hip This lies on the hill near Wat Chedi Ngam in the Aranyik area. A viharn and chedi base are still in existence.
Phra Ruang Dam This earthenwork dam was formed to hold back water between Phra Bat Yai and Kiu Ai Ma Hills and restored by Thailand's Irrigation Department. Water from the dam will be used as replacement whenever the water level in other reservoirs goes down. This dam is referred to in the Sukhothat inscription.
Wat Mangkon A big viharn and a round Singhalesestyle chedi are visible. Sangkhalok architectural decorations were found here.
Wat Phra Yun This lies some 2,500 meters west of Wat Mahathat. The viharn enshrines a standing Buddha image.
Ho Thewalai Kasetra Phiman The palce of god in the field near War Pa Ma Muang is a square laterite tripletiered pedestal. Its form resembles that of a mondop and was probably used to install Hindu images.
Wat Pa Ma Muang The sanctuary of the Mango Grove is an important one referred to in Sukhothai inscriptions. The base of the Singhalese-style chedi and the ubosot still exist.
Wat Tuk This lies about 110 meters from Ho Thewalai. A square window-less mondop is the main sanctuary: a viharn and chedis are in front.
Outside The Citywalls - The Sites in The South :
Wat Ton Chan This is situated outside the southern city wall 1,150 meters away from War Mahathat. A Brick Singhalese-style chedi enshrines Buddha images in niches. The brick viharn contains a handless stucco Buddha image. Fine votive tablets called Sanaechan are found here.
Wat Chetuphon A mondop enshrines four Buddha images in different postures: sitting, standing, walking and reclining. The outer walls of the mondop still retain a section in the form of slate pillarbalustraded window. There is an entrance to the mondop on the north. Just behind the mondop is a small sanctuary which contains a Budha image know locally as Phra Si Ariya (Matireya), the Lord Buddha of the Future.
Wat Si Phichit Kirati Kanlayaram Wat Si Phichit Kiti Kanlayaram with a round Singhalese-style chedi on a square pedestal and a viharn in front, is surrounded by moats. A broken stone inscription in Pali and Thai was found and might have been inscried between 1400-1404.
Wat Wihan Thong or Wat Thaksinaram This is situated near Wat Asokaram. The main sancturay is the brick lotus-bud shape chedi.
WatAsokaram or Wat Salatdai This large monuments is situated outside the southern city wall 1,400 meters away from Wat Mahathat. The bases of the main chedi, the viham and the mondop are visible.
Wat Mumlangka This is situated near War Asokaram. The Singhalese-style brick chedi and ubosot still remain.
Outside The Citywalls - The Sites in The East :
Wat Chang Lom is located to the north of Chotwithithong Road with a bell-shaped chedi of Ceylonese influence standing as the center. The chedi is situated on a 3-tiered square base on which a platform decorated with a row of elephants seen by their front halves supporting the round chedi. This type of elephant-decorated chedi is to be seen in many ancient towns of Sukhothai period, for example, Kamphaeng Phet and Si Satchanalai.
Wat Thraphang Thong Lang A square mondop is the main sanctuary. In front of the mondop to the east, is the viharn and beyond the viharn stands an ubosot. The outer wall of the mondop is beautifully decorated by stucco figures in niches. The southern side portrays the Lord Buddha flanked by angels decending from Tavatimsa Heaven. On the west the Lord Buddha preached to his father and relatives. The northern side depicts the episode when the Lord Buddha returned to preach to his wife. These stucco figures, especially those on the south, are masterpieces of Sukhothai art.
Wat Chedi Sung This is situated near Wat Traphang Thong Lang. The upper part of the chedi is round. The base is constructed in three tiered stages. This interesting Sukhothai type of chedi is of Sivijaya and Singhalese style. In front of the chedi stands a small viharn.
Wat Hot Phayom This is situated in the ricefield outside the eastern city wall 2,000 metres away from Wat Mahathat. The base of the viharn and the laterite pedestal are still visible. Wat Ko Mai Daeng This is situated in the ricefield near Wat Chedi-Sung. The main chedi is still in existence.
In Amphoe Khirimat :
The Ramkhamhaeng National Park (Khao Luang, Sukhothai) This exquisite national park, with nature and historical background combining, covers an area of 341 square kilometers, and is declared to be a national park on October 27, 1980.
High hills and steep cliffs, some of over 1,200 meters above sealevel, together with fascinating falls, different species of plants and wild lifes are some of the major attractions available in this park offer to natureloving tourists or visitors. Furthermore, the archaeological and historical sites with ancient remains and relics make the park even more attractive especially for critics and theologians.
To reach the park by road is by taking Highway No. 101 to Km. 414 (20 kms. from Sukhothai) then take the left turn along the laterite road for another 16 kilometers to get to the park's office. For accommodations, reservations for bungalows and tents can be made through the National Park Division, Forestry Department, by Tel. 5790529, 5794842
In Amphoe Sawankhalok :
Sawankha Woranayok National Museum 38 Kms. from Sukhothai with a 2 kms. left turn, the museum puts on exhibition sculptures of different periods. Also on exhibition are ceramic wares of Sukhothai period and ceramic wares from shipwreck in the Gulf of Thailand. Open daily except Mondays, Tuesdays, and national holidays, from 9.00-16.00 hrs.
In Amphoe Si Satchanalai :
Si Satchanalai Historical Park is located on the bank of Yom River at Tambon Muang Kao, Amphoe Si Satchanalai. The ancient town, formerly called "Muang Chailang," was named "Si Satchanalai" during the reign of Phra Ruang Dynasty when new administrative center was established to replace Chaliang. Ruins of 134 monuments have been discovered within the parks, the main attractions are Wat Phra Si Rattana Mahathat also called Wat Phra Borommathat Muang Chaliang or Wat Phra Prang, is situated 3 kilometers to the south of the ancient Si Satchanalai's wall. An immense laterite prang on a square base marks the center of the Wat. A steep staircase in front ofthe huge prang leads to a room where a reliquary is enshrined.
Wat Chang Lom is an important monument within the old town of Si Satchanalai. A huge bell-shaped chedi supported by 39 elephants, with 4 of them at 4 cardinal points elaborately decorated, marks the center of the Wat. Above the chedi's base, there are niches enshrining images of the Buddha subduing Mara.
Wat Chedi Chet Thaeo is on of the most beautiful temples in Sukhothai Province. Chedis of different artistic styles and influence were built within the area of this Wat. Mural paintings, seriously damages, are still to be seen in some chedis.
Wat Suan Kaeo Utthayan Yai is located near W at chedi Chet Thaeo with only a dirt road in between. A large image hall lies within this Wat. The monastery is also called Wat Kao Hong or the 9-room temple.
Wat Nang Phaya is famous for its delicate stucco reliefs on the remains of the northwestern wall of the 7-room "vihara" or "image hall". The pillars of this vihara are decorated with unglazed ceramic designs. The central laterite chedi is surrounded by lampposts and accessible by a set of narrow stairs.
Wat Suan Kaeo Utthayan Noi is the only one monastery within the old town of Si Satchanalai with a brick building in front. The ruins of this Wat consist of a whole laterite image hall with laterite roof.
Wat Khao Phanom Phloeng is a hilltop temple within the old town of Si Satchanalai. A laterite chedi in the center, a large vihara or image hall in front, and a small sanctuary behind all lie in ruins. Some laterite pillars and a damaged Buddha's image constructed of laterite slabs and coated with mortar are still to be seen.
Wat Khao Suwan Khiri is also a hilltop temple situated 200 meters away from Phanom Phloeng Hill. A huge bellshaped chedi on 5-tiered base marks the center of the Wat. Ruins of vihara and chedi and fragments of huge stucco ligures lie scattered on the ground. The similartity between some figures here and those at Wat Chang Lom in the old town of Sukhothai leads to the belief that it was King Ramkhamhaeng the Great of Sukhothai Kingdom who had this temple constructed.
Si Satchanalai Historical Park is open daily between 8.30-16.30 hrs. Admission is 20 baht. Travelling to the park is by taking Highway No.101 to Km. 64, turn left and crossing the bridge over the River Yom, then turn right for another 2 kms.
Celadon Kiln Site Study and Conservation Center is located at Ban Ko Noi, some 5 kilometers to the north of Si Satchanalai. More than 500 kilns have been excavated up to now. Numerous celadon wares in perfect condition as well as potsherds have been discovered. The kiln is oval in shape with a curved roof and is 7-8 meters wide.
The center consists of 2 buildings situated on the kiln site area with 2 kilns: Nos. 42 and 61. There are also exhibitions on artifacts and on the evolution of ancient ceramic wares. The center is open daily during 9.00-12.00 and 13.00-16.00 hrs. Admission is 20 baht.
To get there, drive, for some 5 kilometers to the north of Si Satchanalai Historical Park to Ban Ko Noi where the remains of ancient kilns are seen scattered around. The center is also accessible by the provincial Highway No. 1201 from Amphoe Si Satchanalai, a distance of 7 kilometers with the buildings located on the left.
Si Satchanalai National Park originally called Pha Kha (a cogon field), the park covers a very vast stretch of coon field with various natural attractions such as Namtok Tat Duan Namtok Tat Dao Namtok Sai Khao Tham Khang Khao It is situated 45 knits. from Amphoe Si Satchanalai on Highway No. 1201 to Ban Nong O, turn right to Ban Sarachit then take Ban Kaeng-Ban Pak Kayang-Ban Pa Kha route till reaching the park's office. Accommodations within the park available at National Parks Division, Royal Forestry Department, Tel. 579-0529, 579-4842.
Si Satchanalai Ordination Celebration or "Buat Chang" is a local event held annually during April 7-8 at Ban Hat Sieo, Amphoe Si Satchanalai. It features a spectacular procession of ordination candidates in colourful costumes on the backs of some 20-30 decorated elephants.
Loi Krathong and Candle Festival held annually on the fullmoon day of the 12th lunar month, the festival was revived in 1977 with an aim to resurrect the Loi Krathong Festival amid the atmosphere of ancient Sukothai dating back more than 700 years. The entertainments planned for the festival include krathong competition, Nang Nopphamat contest (a beauty contest in Thai costumes), and a spectacular procession.