SUKHOTHAI

The Kingdom of Sukhothai (Thai: สุโขทัย; pronunciation) was an early kingdom in the area around the city Sukhothai, in north central Thailand. The Kingdom existed from 1238 until 1438. The old capital, now 12 km outside of Sukhothai in Tambon Mueang Kao, is in ruins and has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Historical Park.

Prior to the 13th century, Tai kingdoms had existed in the northern highlands including the Ngoenyang Kingdom of the Tai Yuan people (centred on Chiang Saen and the predecessor of the Lan Na), and the Heokam Kingdom of the Tai Lue people (centred on Chiang Hung, modern Jinghong in China). Sukhothai had been a trade centre and part of Lavo (present day Lopburi), which was under the domination of the Khmer Empire. The migration of Tai people into the upper Chao Phraya valley was somewhat gradual.

Modern historians stated that the secession of Sukhothai (also spelled Sukhodaya) from the Khmer empire began as early as 1180 during the reign of Pho Khun Sri Naw Namthom who was the ruler of Sukhothai and the peripheral city of Si Satchanalai (now a part of Sukhothai Province as Amphoe). Sukhothai had enjoyed a substantial autonomy until it was reconquered around 1180 by the Mon people of Lavo under Khomsabad Khlonlampong.

 

 

Two friends, Pho Khun Bangklanghao and Pho Khun Pha Mueang revolted against the Khmer Empire governor of Sukhothai.  Khun, before becoming a Thai feudal title, was a Tai title for a ruler of a fortified town and its surrounding villages, together called a mueang; in older usage prefixed by pho (พ่อ) “father”(comparable in sound and meaning to rural English Paw). Bangklanghao ruled Sukhothai as Sri Indraditya – and began the Phra Ruang Dynasty – he expanded his primordial kingdom to the bordering cities. At the end of his reign in 1257, the Sukhothai kingdom covered the entire upper valley of the Chao Phraya River (then known simply as Menam, “Mother of Waters,” the generic Thai name for rivers.)

Traditional Thai historians considered the foundation of the Sukhothai kingdom as the beginning of their nation because little was known about the kingdoms prior to Sukhothai. Modern historical studies demonstrate that Thai history began before Sukhothai. Yet the foundation of Sukhothai is still a celebrated event.

The capital of the Sukhothai Kingdom is fondly referred to as the Dawn of Happiness. The 13th-century Sukhothai Historical Park features the ancient remains of Sukhothai. In addition, this park exhibits one of Thailand’s 21 UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The recreation centre here incorporates four extensive lakes inside old dividers, with 70 destinations inside a 5 km (3.1 mile) span.

The remains are divided into five zones. The design of the Sukhothai temples is epitomised in the great lotus-bud, highlighting a tapered tower on a three-layered base. Observe the rich architecture, like the bell shaped Sinhalese and two-fold Srivijaya chedi. Regardless of being famous, this park is huge and you could definitely use a bicycle to explore it.

Wat Mahathat or Mahathat Temple(Thaiวัดมหาธาตุ) is the most important and impressive temple in Sukhothai Historical Park. The temple’s name translates to “temple of the great relic”. The temple was founded by Sri Indraditya, between 1292 and 1347 as the main temple of the city as well as the Sukhothai Kingdom. The design based on Mandala, representing the universe with main principal stupa, built in 1345 to enshrine relics of the Buddha, surrounded by smaller stupas in eight directions. The main stupa has the graceful shape of a lotus bud, which characterizes the Sukhothai architectural arts. Its base is adorned with 168 stuccoed sculptings of Buddhist disciples walking with their hands clasped together in salutation. The eight smaller stupas, of which the four at the corners are in Mon Haripunchai – Lanna style and the four in between show Khmer influence. At both sides of the main stupa has two 9 metre tall standing Buddha images called Phra Attharot (Thaiพระอัฏฐารส). The temple also comprises assembly hall (vihara), mandapaordination hall and 200 subodinate stupas.

Noen Prasat or Palace Hill (Thaiเนินปราสาท) is the remain of the royal palace of the Kingdom of Sukhothai. The Noen Prasat was discovered in 1833 by Mongkut, who had made a pilgrimage to the north of Siam as a monk. The palace was built on a square base with the dimensions of 200 x 200 meters. Nearby were two small ponds where the archaeologists found the remains of terracotta pipes which probably been used to supply water from city lake to the ponds. In the southwest, there are the remains of a 1.50 meter high brick platform on which they found ashes and bones inside, so It can be assumed that it was the royal cremation place. The Ramkhamhaeng stele was discovered here by Mongkut. He also discovered the so-called “Manangasila Throne” (Thaiพระแท่นมนังคศิลาอาสน์), an approximately 1m x 2,50m x 15 cm large slab of gray stone, which is decorated with lotus petals depiction. In the Ramkhamhaeng Stele describes that Ramkhamhaeng erected this stone throne in the sugar palm grove. Mongkut brought his findings to Bangkok.

Wat Si Sawai or Si Sawai Temple(Thaiวัดศรีสวาย) is one of the oldest temples in Sukhothai. The temple was founded in the late 12th or early 13th century as Hindu Shrine for Vishnu and the place for Thiruppavai ceremony before the liberation from Lawo and foundation of Sukhothai Kingdom. The temple has three well-preserved laterite prang, representing the Hindu trinity, enclosed by a double rampart and a moat. The lower parts of prangs are apparently Khmer, while the upper have been expanded or renovated by Thai in brick and stucco. The central prang is held in Lawo or Hindu-style. Each prang contains a cella, possibly a podium for lingam and crypt. There are few remain stucco work on the top of central prang. Later around the 14th century the temple was adapted to the needs of the Buddhist faith, vihara have been added in the south of central prang. Numurous Chinese porcelains and Hindu god statues had been found in the area, one of artifect is the Shiva statue discovered by Vajiravudh in 1907. The temple is important for study how Khmer art transforming into Thai art.

Wat Phra Phai Luang (Thaiวัดพระพายหลวง) was the ritual center of Sukhothai and the biggest temple in the city area. Built in the late 12th century during the reign of Jayavarman VII when the city was still under control of KhmerLavo. After the liberation and the construction of Wat Mahathat, Wat Phra Phai Luang lost it main ceremonial role and become Theravada Buddhist temple. Similar to Wat Si Sawai, the temple has three laterite prang, but only one still preserved in good condition. Archaeologists suspect that the three prangs originally stood on a common laterite base. All three prangs were open to the east, with doors flanked by columns which carry a richly decorated tympanum depicting scenes from the life of Buddha. The doors on the other three sides were so-called “false doors”. The tympanum The complex is enclosed by double moat. The outer moat is 600 meters length and is fed by the Lam-Pan River. In the north-west of prang complex are the remains of late 14th century viharamandapa and a small ordination hall with eight Bai Sema. The temple is an important place to study the transition of Khmer art to Thai art. Since in the 14th century the prang has been renovated by adding elaborate stucco in leaves and frames patterns which become the basic pattern of Thai art; however, most of stucco arts are now kept at Ramkhamhaeng National Museum.

Wat Asokārām (Thaiวัดอโศการาม) or Wat Salat Dai (Thaiวัดสลัดได) was founded in the time of Sukhothai Kingdom in the reign of Sailuethai in 1399. The name of Asokaram was forgotten for a long time. Locals called the temple “Wat Salat Dai” because the terrain of Euphorbia antiquorum (Thaiสลัดได) was overgrown in the temple area. In 1958 treasure hunters dug the stupa, they found a stone inscription. Today it is on display in the Ramkhamhaeng National Museum. The stone inscription informed that Wat Asokaram was found in 1399 by the widow of Luethai, the Queen Mother, the “Satṃtec brah Rājadebī Sri Cuḷālakṣana Arrgarājamahesī Debadhòranī Tilakaratana”. She was the daughter of Lithai. By her husband, Luethai they had two sons, Sailuethai, and Asoka. It is not clear why she named the temple Asokaram. One possible reason is to be a monument for her son, Asoka, other reason might have been even the name of an ancestor or even the Indian ruler Asoka. Another possibility is the name refers to “Asoka trees” Saraca asoca that are common on the temple grounds. The temple attractions are the large 5-stage step pyramid stupa, a vihara, a mandapa, and foundations of smaller pagodas.

 

Sukhothai Historical Park

Address: Mueang Kao, Mueang Sukhothai District, Sukhothai 64210, Thailand

Price: from 3 USD

Opening Hours: 6 am – 9 pm.

Contact: +66 55 697 241

WebsiteSukhothai Historical Park (in Thai)

 

For an authentic Sukhothai experience, you must taste the Sukhothai-style noodles and pad Thai at Jayhae. This famous restaurant also serves tasty beverages.

Poo Restaurant, near Mae Nam Yom, is famous despite its deceptive name. Unlike the name suggests, Poo offers a selective collection of Belgian beers. A meal in Poo restaurant will cost you from 50 to 200 THB (1.49 to 5.97 USD) for two people.

Likewise, Ta Pui claims to be the first shop in Sukhothai to have sold Sukhothai-style noodles. In general, the shop is a brick floor with a tin roof, serving phenomenal food, at a great price.

 

Jayhae Restaurant

Address: Th Jarodvithithong, Sukhothai, Thailand

 

Poo Restaurant

Address: Jarot Withithong 24/3, Sukhothai 64000, Thailand

Price: from 1.49 USD

Opening Hours: 11 am – 11 pm.

Contact: +66 93 197 4070

 

Tapui Restaurant

Address: 1.3 km (.8 miles) west of Mae Nam Yom, off Th Jarodvithithong