Photo gallery: Sukhothai, Thailand's ancient capital

Photo gallery: Sukhothai, Thailand's ancient capital

For a real Bangkok escape and an amazing photo opp, head north to this stunning UNESCO World Heritage site

For many tourists, Thailand’s ancient history involves a day trip to Ayutthaya. They see a few demolished ruins between the crowds of other tourists, and return to the hotel thankful they got that out the way and can now go into R and R mode.

It’s a shame they don’t head further north to Sukhothai; it's still the best place to experience a laidback glimpse of Thailand’s pre-Bangkok days.

Sukhothai was the capital of Thailand from 1238 until 1438 and features the Sukhothai Historical Park, which was unaffected by last year's floods. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is filled with the ruins of royal palaces, Buddhist temples and historical monuments.

If you get there early enough you’ll enjoy the golden morning light and have the park to yourself, which makes for an incredible photo opportunity. The best way to tour the ruins in and outside the city walls is to rent a bicycle or a motorbike, which also gives you a chance to see the scenic countryside surrounding the old town. Bike rentals are available at the park gates.

Moving Picture GalleryA walking Buddha stands between a bell shaped chedi and a small pagoda at Wat Traphang Ngoen, the largest and principal temple of the Sukhothai Kingdom.Moving Picture GalleryThe best time to visit Sukhothai Historical is right when it opens at 6am. The main pagoda of the Wat Mahathat is lit up by the rising sun.Moving Picture GalleryA seated Buddha at Wat Sa Si at sunrise.Moving Picture GalleryA cardinal point is reflected in a lotus pool at Wat Mahathat.Moving Picture GalleryA seated Buddha at Wat Trapang Ngoen.Moving Picture GalleryA seated Buddha at Wat Trapang Ngoen in the early morning light.Moving Picture GalleryA Sinhalese-style chedi at Wat Sa Si.Moving Picture GalleryBuddhists pay their respects to the seated Buddha at Wat Trapang Ngoen.Moving Picture GalleryA seated Buddha is reflected in a lotus pool at Wat Mahathat.Moving Picture GalleryA Buddhist monk takes a photo of the seated Buddha at Wat Trapang Ngoen. Moving Picture GalleryWat Sa Si is reflected in a moat surrounding the old town of Sukhothai.Moving Picture GalleryBuddhist monks examine the craftsmanship of Wat Mahathat.Moving Picture GallerySunset at the entrance of the Sukhothai Historical Park.

getting there

  • Buses depart from Bangkok’s Mochit Bus station daily. The trip takes roughly five-and-a-half hours.
  • There are no direct trains to Sukhothai but you can travel as far as Phitsanulok and then take a local bus to Sukhothai, which is about 50 kilometers away.
  • Bangkok Airways flies twice daily to Sukhothai in the morning and afternoon. The flight takes approximately one hour.
Sukhothai is divided into the old and new towns, which are 12 kilometers apart. If you want to get to the Sukhothai Historical Park early in the morning, it’s best to stay in the old town.
A full range of hotels, resorts and guest houses lies adjacent to the park. Public buses ferry guests between the old and new town every 20 minutes.  

Derrick Chang is a Canadian photojournalist based in Hong Kong. His work has appeared in Time, the New York Times, CNNGo, Huffington Post, and other Asian media outlets. He enjoys hiking from one mountain village to another, waiting for the golden light and dining on street food.

Read more about Derrick Chang
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