Founded in the 13 th century, Sukhothai (literally means "Dawn of Happiness") was the first truly independent Thai Kingdom, which enjoyed a golden age under King Ramkhamhaeng, credited with creating the Thai alphabet. The superb temples and monuments of this great city have been lovingly restored in Sukhothai Historical Park, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and a must-see for all travellers.

Sukhothai is located on the lower edge of the northern region, 427 kilometres north of Bangkok or some 350 kilometres south of Chiang Mai. The province covers some 6,596 square kilometers.

:: Attractions

HHaving gained recognition as a UNESCO World Heritage site, the Sukhothai Historical Park is situated at the actual site of the ancient kingdom, with many of the important ruins located within the walled Royal City in the middle of the entire layout. Ruins of royal palaces, temples, city walls, moats, dams, ditches and other infrastructures have been well preserved and constantly restored to display the magnificent beauty of Thailand's cultural heritage. Best way to enjoy the park is by bicycle.

At the heart of the moated Royal City is Wat Mahathat , the most important temple complex in Sukhothai. As the kingdom's spiritual center, the first king erected the first chedi to house Buddha's relics at the epicenter. Additional buildings were added to the complex by successive kings. By the time it was abandoned, the complex contained some 200 chedis, with the lotus-bud chedi as the main one, as well as numerous wiharns (prayer halls) and bots (chapels) to house Buddha images that face east, as do all major religious structures and Buddhist images in Thailand.

Entering the Royal City from the east, the first wat (monastery) to be encountered is the remarkably scenic Wat Traphang Thong , surrounded by a lotus-filled pond. The bell-shaped, Sri Lankan-style chedis dates back to the mid-14th century.

The King Ramkamhaeng Monument is situated north of Wat Mahathat. The bronze statue of the king sits on a throne with a base relief documenting his life. The king was the creator of the first Thai alphabet.

Reflecting the Khmer influence, Wat Si Sawai , on the southwestern part of the Royal City, contains three Khmer-style prangs (towers), dating back to the 12-th-14th century.

To the south of the Royal City are the ruins of Wat Chetuphon. A mondop (a square-based structure) contains the remains of 4 Buddha images in various postures: sitting, standing, walking and reclining.

The old town of Si Satchanalai was the most important satellite-city of the Sukhothai Kingdom. The ruins of the Si Satchanalai-Chalieng Historical Park lie on the bank of the Yom River, north of Sukhothai. It is considered by many to be the pinnacle of Thai city planning, with temple complexes at the heart, surrounded by city walls, rivers, and forests. The nearby ruins of Chalieng are thought to be an earlier Khmer outpost dating back to the 12th century.

The Celadon Kiln Site Study and Conservation Center, 4 kms north of Si Satchanalai, contains more than 500 oval-shaped kilns that have been excavated. There are exhibitions of artifacts, including numerous unearthed celadon wares in perfect condition, and displays on the evolution of ancient ceramic wares.

Opened in 1984, the Sawan Woranayok National Museum features sculptured arts from various periods. Of interest are the Sangkhalok crockery from the Sukhothai era and Sangkhalok items retrieved from sunken vessels in the Gulf of Thailand.

The Si Satchanalai National Park contains mainly high, winding mountains covered with a tropical jungle. Main attractions include Tat Dao and Tat Duan Waterfalls, a hot spring, Khangkhao Cave and the Thara Wasan Cave. Perfect for trekking.