The first two stops on our holiday itinerary were Sukhothai and Ayutthaya, two ancient Thai capital cities in between Chiang Mai and Bangkok. We put a lot of thought and research into how long to stay in each place and everyone has a differnt opinion on which city they prefer, Sukhothai or Ayutthaya?
Sukhothai is considered by most to be the first independent Thai kingdom, and came about around the 13th century, and reigned for about 150 years. Sukhothai is known to some to have been the start of Thai art and architecture and what was produced during this period is called “sukhothai style.” Sukhothai in English means “Rising Happiness”. The Sukhothai historical park ruins provide a peaceful and relaxing visit.
We arrived around 7pm in Sukhothai by bus from Chiang Mai. The bus took about 6 1/2 hours. Once we arrived at the bus terminal we hopped in a Sawngtaw to go to our guesthouse, TR guesthouse. We stayed in New Sukhothai, which is about 12 km from the ruins, so we explored the whole tiny town in less than a few hours.
In the morning we walked to the bus station to catch a bus 12 km to Old Sukhothai so we could visit the historical park. The historical park is a designated UNESCO world heritage sight. Once stepping off the bus we walked across the street to rent bikes for 20 baht (less then a dollar) a day! We casually rode our rented bikes both in and out of the beautiful park area.
The ruins of Sukhothai reminded us a lot of a mini Angkor Wat, which we visited when we first arrived in Southeast Asia in September. We also saw a lot of Thai families so it must be a popular place for a Sunday outing. The ruins are surrounded by a wonderful natural landscape with large ponds and old trees. There are 21 historical buildings inside the city walls and about 70 sites within a 5 kilometer radius.
Ayutthaya is another fallen ancient Thai city. It was built on the confluence of three rivers, so Ayutthaya itself is an island. The city ruled from 1351 until about 1767, until it fell and was looted by the Burmese. After the fall of Ayutthaya, the remaining Thais moved to re-establish themselves near present day Bangkok.
We arrived on the outskirts of the city via bus. We then had to pay a driver to take us to our guesthouse in the city. Upon arriving in Ayuttaya, we noticed that unlike Sukhothai, Ayuttaya’s ruins are scattered throughout the city. Meaning there will be ruins next door to a guesthouse or restaurant. We dropped off our bags and left to start exploring.
In Ayuttaya Keith and I again chose to rent bicycles as our transport around the city. We worked up a good sweat cycling around the city checking out different ruins and temples.
Sukhothai or Ayutthaya?
Sukhothai! Keith and I both agreed that we enjoyed Sukhothai much more than we enjoyed Ayutthaya. It was clear to us that Sukkothai was much more preserved. We also liked that the ruins in Sukhothai were interspersed with nature instead of bustling city like in Ayutthaya. If you could do only one, we would chose the peaceful and calm feeling of Sukhothai versus the city buzz in Ayutthaya. But if you can, visit them both!