A Step Back in Time
top left Creatively inclined visitors can also pay a visit to Prasert Antique, a craft shop that specialises in sangkhalok – a type of ceramic ware
top right A sacred Bodhi tree in the Sukhothai Historical Park
bottom right The best way to explore Sukhothai is by bicycle. Many locals still use them as their means of transportation various waterbirds, which are often seen stalking fish among the luminous pink lotus flowers – a Buddhist symbol for enlightenment.
The Sukhothai Historical Park covers a vast area of around 45 square kilometres, home to ruins from the era that historians consider as “the golden age” of Thailand. The Sukhothai period was seminal in the establishment of Buddhism in the country, introducing Hinayana Buddhism from Ceylon (what is today Sri Lanka). The World Heritage Site, recognised by UNESCO in 1991, is a showcase of classic Thai-style architecture, with strong influence from Sinhalese design and Khmer art. The impact of Indian theology is also evident in many of the monuments: Besides the anticipated Buddha images, carvings of Hindu gods are abundant, owing to extensive influence from Brahmanic deities at the time. The kingdom also borrowed much of its art and sculpture from the Gupta period.
That being said, Sukhothai remains quintessentially Buddhist, and its construction ushered in designs that would become the prototypes of Thai architecture: the wat, or monastery; viharas, or temples; the stupa; and stone imaginings of the Buddha – sitting, walking and reclining.
The best way to explore the historical park is by bicycle. The landscape is, somewhat surprisingly, a far cry from your typical Southeast Asian jungle vegetation: Covered in
Sukhothai’s most famous export – which visitors can design themselves; a steady hand is required.
Often as not, when the time comes to leave, there’s an air of anticlimactic despondency at the prospect of seeing out the last couple of hours of a place stuck in an overly air-conditioned airport with an overpriced drink. But Sukothai Airport – privately owned by Bangkok Airways – has been shrewdly intuitive in establishing its Organic Agricultural Project a mere five minutes from the runway. Putting community work into practice, you can don a set of farmer’s kit in a royal shade of purple, hop aboard the rural vehicle of choice – an ee đăan – and gather duck eggs, plant rice seedlings, and cap it off with a fantastic meal sourced directly from the garden in the Krua Sukho organic restaurant (the collected duck eggs make their way in there, too).
The combination of centuriesold history, warm hospitality, and community-supported initiatives has put Sukhothai on the traveller’s map – but the drop pin is still just far enough off the beaten banana pancake trail to allow its quiet, bucolic character to remain authentic, and unspoiled. ag The best time to go is in the dry season between November and February Sukhothai
The combination of centuries-old history, warm hospitality, and communitysupported initiatives has put Sukhothai on the traveller’s map WHEN WHERE