Sukhothai is a small provincial capital located 427 km north of Bangkok in Thailand; its name means “the dawn of happiness.”
- Sukhothaï is divided into two distinct parts: The new city on the banks of the Yom River and the old city 12 km further east, this is where you can discover the historical park of Sukhothaï.
The modern city nicknamed “New-Sukhothai” is a popular tourist destination; it is a quiet city with many guest-houses, restaurants, and taxis ready to drive you to the historic park.
History of the Kingdom of Sukhothaï
Before the 13th century, Tais kingdoms were established in the hills of the far north of present-day Thailand.
The city was a commercial center of the kingdom of Lavo, a vassal of the Khmer Empire whose capital was the current Lopburi.
The migration of Thai populations in the upper Chao Phraya Valley was still ongoing.
According to modern historians, the secession of Sukhothaï from the Khmer Empire began in 1180, under the reign of Po Khun Sri Naw Namthom, ruler of Sukhothaï and the neighboring city of Sri Satchanalai (now Amphoe Si Satchanalai, in Sukhothaï province).
Sukhothaï enjoyed a significant degree of autonomy at that time, but it was taken over around 1180 by the Lavo Mon under their king Khomsabad Khlonlampong.
Two brothers, Po Khun Bangklanghao and Po Khun Phameung (Po Khun was a nobility title) took Sukhothai from the Mon in 1239.
Bangklanghao ruled the region under the name of Sri Indrathit and was the first ruler of the Phra Ruang dynasty.
He expanded his kingdom to neighboring cities. At the end of his reign in 1327, the kingdom of Sukhothaï covered the entire upper Chao Phraya valley.
Traditional Thai historians consider the founding of the kingdom of Sukhothaï as the beginning of their nation because little is known about the previous kingdoms, even if the studies of modern historians have shown that Thai history begins before.
Expansion of Sukhothai under Ramkamhaeng
Po Khun Banmeaung and his brother Ramkhamhaeng (r. 1239-1317) enlarged the kingdom at the expense of neighboring civilizations.
For the first time, a Thai state became a dominant power in Southeast Asia.
Historical tradition describes the expansion of Sukhothaï with many details, but the accuracy of these is discussed.
In the south, Ramkamhaeng submitted the kingdom of Supannabhum and Sri Thamnakorn (Tambralinga, on the Malaysian peninsula) and, through it, adopted the Theravada Buddhism as the state religion.
In the north, Ramkamhaeng made Phrae and Mueng Sua (Luang Prabang) pay tribute.
In the west, Ramkhamhaeng came to the aid of Wareru (who was supposed to have kidnapped his sister) at the time of the fall of the Pagan kingdom, to found a Mon kingdom in Martaban (the kingdom of Hanthawaddy, later centered on Pegou).
For this reason, Thai historians consider that this kingdom was a vassal of Sukhothaï. In practice, this domination was probably purely formal.
Ramkhamhaeng asked the monks of Sri Thamnakorn to spread Theravadan Buddhism in Sukhothaï.
In 1283, he invented the Thai alphabet, which appeared on the famous “Ramkamhaeng stele” discovered by King Mongkut (Rama IV) 600 years later.
This stele represents a key testimony to the country’s history.
Ramkhamhaeng’s government is characteristic of that of the kingdom of Sukkhothaï, a patrocratic monarchical type, where the king is considered as the father and the subjects as his children.
Ramkhamhaeng encouraged trade by saying, “If you want to sell elephants, let him do it. If you want to sell horses, let him do it. »
It was also during this period that the first relations with the new Yuan dynasty began and the kingdom began sending trade missions to China.
Sukhothaï exported Sangkalok (literally, pottery from the Song dynasty!).
It was the only period when Siam produced Chinese style ceramics.
Sukhothai decline and Ayutthaya domination
The power of the city was short-lived.
After Ramkhamhaeng’s death, the vassal kingdoms were emancipated under the reign of his son Phaya Loethai (1298-1323).
These were first the province of Uttaradit in the north, then the Laotian kingdoms of Luang Prabang and Vientiane.
In 1319, the Mon broke their allegiance to the west, and in 1321 the Lanna (founded in 1259) took Tak, one of the oldest cities controlled by Sukhothai.
In the south, the powerful city of Suphanburi also gained its independence under the reign of Loethai.
Thus the kingdom was quickly reduced to its former local power.
Then from 1350, the new kingdom of Ayutthaya continued to gain power.
In 1378 his armies invaded the city and King Thammaracha II was forced to become his vassal.
In 1419, in the face of the city’s decline, King Saluethai transferred his capital to Phitsanulok.
In 1424, after Sailuethai’s death, the two brothers Paya Ram and Paya Banmeung fought for the throne.
King Nagarindrathirat of Ayutthaya intervened by dividing the kingdom among them.
Their sister married Borommaracha II of Ayutthaya and had a son, Prince Ramesuan.
Boromban having died without an heir in 1446, Ramesuan became king under the name of Trailokanat (or Boromtrailokanat).
He was also crowned king of Ayutthaya in 1448, which marks the end of the Sukhothai kingdom.
The Silajaruek-Sukhothai is a collection of hundreds of stone inscriptions that form a chronicle of this period.
The most important are the Ramkhamhaeng stele (Silajaruek Pho Khun Ramkhamhaeng), the Silajaruek Wat Srichum (a narrative of the history of the region and Sri Lanka) and the Silajaruek Wat Pamamamuang (a political-religious account of King Loethai’s rule).
The huge city is now ruined. The wooden palace of its kings has disappeared.
However, the city still has many remains of temples, built of laterite and brick.
Most of the buildings that have been discovered, some of which have been surveyed, are located within a reinforced moat wall.
But many other buildings, scattered in the surrounding rice fields, are waiting to be cleared of the earth envelope that covers them.
What to do in Sukhothai
The historical park
It takes at least 3 hours to visit the site. You can rent bicycles (about 20 baht).
The Park contains the historical remains of 193 sites over an area of 70 km2.
A restoration program, begun in 1960, has restored or rebuilt almost all the monuments.
The park is divided into 5 zones (Centre, North, South, East, West).
The Centre, North, and West zones are charged (100 THB) because they host the main sites.
A ticket combined with the ruins of Si Sachanalaï is possible.
The Ram Khamhaeng National Museum
This museum, which traces the evolution of Sukhothai’s art, is located within the historic park.
This national museum houses many archaeological remains and ancient artifacts found among the ruins of the city of Sukhothai.
Useful information on the historical park
Song-teou (pick-up-taxis) shuttle from the city center.
Be careful; there is no more service after 5:30 pm!
The site of the ruins of the ancient city of Sukhothai is open from 8 am to 6 pm.
Built on the banks of the Yom River, about 60 kilometers north of Sukhothaï, Sri Satchanalai was the kingdom’s main satellite city.
It was a potters’ center, and excavations made it possible to clear the underground furnaces.
In the suburbs of the city, the famous Sawankhalok ceramic, named after the region at the beginning of the Ayutthaya kings’ period, was produced.
Abandoned at the end of the 18th century, many of its monuments were cleared and restored as part of Khun Nikom’s programs.
The best time of year to visit the region is from November to February when the weather is cooler.
The city is mainly visited during the Thai festival of Loy Kratong (the festival of lights) because for the occasion great ceremonies and shows are organized on the historic site.
Finding a hotel in Sukhothai
You will have no trouble finding hotel places, but if you come between November and February, the high season in Thailand, it is better to book in advance.
You can compare the largest travel sites in a single search to find the best hotel offers with Hotellook.com
How to get to Sukhothai
You can get an idea of the price of transport to Sukhothai or book your tickets via 12go.asia
From Bangkok, take the N1 Motorway and then the N32 North towards Nakhon Sawan.
Highway N32 becomes Highway N1 again, continue to Kamphaeng Phet, then take Highway 101 towards Sukhothaï.
Air-conditioned buses leave from Bangkok’s North Bus Station (Mo Chit 2) to Sukhothaï (7 hours’ journey).
The nearest railway station is in Phitsanulok, from where there is a regular bus service to Sukhothaï, 50 km away.
Trains leave Hua Lamphong Railway Station in Bangkok.
Bangkok Airways offers daily flights from Bangkok to Sukhothaï (about 1 hour’s journey).
The airport is 40 km north of the city.
Source: wikipedia.org; wikitravel.org
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