Sukhothai is filled with some of the most beautiful Siamese Buddhist and architectural ruins I have ever seen. Plus, outside of the walls of the historical park, are another 70+ additional places of historical interest. Sukhothai (meaning ‘dawn of happiness’) was Thailand’s first capital city and flourished for more than 200 years from the mid-13th century to the late-15th century.
This famous kingdom was once the pinnacle of Thai civilization and its ancient relics are considered to be in the most classical of all the Thai artistic styles and eras. During the course of the Sukhothai Dynasty there were also a total of 9 kings who reigned.
Starting with the Great King Ramkhamhaeng, many of the kings of the Sukhothai period took part in developing the Thai written alphabet. Thai is a script that is closely related to the Sanskrit and Pali group of languages and which is still in use today all throughout the Thai Kingdom. In fact, many of the other regional SE Asian languages also use other forms of scripts that look similar to Thai.
The art of the Sukhothai period flourished in many different ways and not only in ceramics, sculptures, and paintings, but artwork in general. The Buddha images from this era are also some of the most beautifully formed of all time and still even greatly inspire depictions of The Lord Buddha amongst Thai artisans today. There are also a mix of artistic styles, including some of the roof structures that resemble architecture from the earlier Khmer period.
What makes this historical preserve even more picturesque are all the colorful lotus ponds and fruiting trees surrounding the vast collection of ruins. Whenever I go there, the first thing I do is rent a bicycle for the entire time because it is by far the best way to easily go around the different sites and see everything in a most convenient way.
As I pedal around, I imagine what it would have been like to be living in such a beautiful Kingdom during the time of its reign. My favorite of all though is a mid 14th century temple called Wat Sri Choom, which is known as the temple of the Bodhi tree and located about 1,500 meters northeast of the park’s northwest gate. It is a most peaceful location, surrounded by a moat and quite often white cows can be found freely grazing around the environs outside of the temple.
As you approach Wat Sri Choom from the road you will see what looks just like a tall and narrow wall and some smaller temple wall ruins surround. But what makes this Buddhist temple so special is the huge 15 meter tall seated Buddha image known as Phra Achana hidden inside its walls, which can only be seen by entering through a narrow passageway into the hidden confines of this temple.
The walled structure that encloses the Phra Achan statue has no roof on top of it and was designed to hide this incredible statue from invasions by the Burmese at the time. The statue itself is made of white stucco and the sheer power of its large physical presence inside its narrow, protective walls is mesmerizing to a visitor. The hands alone are twice the size of a human being and whenever I visit Sukhothai I find myself spending the most of my time there sitting in front of and admiring this powerful statue.