Wat Sa Si, in the middle of a reservoir, is
reached via a wooden bridge.
|About a four-hour drive southeast from
Chiang Mai, or a four-hour drive north from Bangkok, on the
flood plains of the Yom River, lie the remains of the first great
capital of the Siamese. Declared the 358th World Heritage
Site by UNESCO in 1991, the ancient city of Sukhothai, along with
its vassal towns of Si Satchanalai and Kamphaeng Phet, is considered
to be a cradle of Thai civilization. But there is more to Sukhothai
than just the crumbling remains of a once mighty city. A visit to
this ancient capital can be combined with a trek up the legendary
mountain, Khao Luang, at the heart of Ramkhamhaeng National Park,
providing an opportunity to experience the natural environment,
upon which those early citizens of Sukhothai depended for their
By the 11th century AD, Mon and Khmer people occupied
the Yom Valley, but early in the 13th century, two local chieftains,
Pho Khun Pha Muang and Pho Khun Bang Klang Haw joined forces to
drive out the Khmer from the area. Thus began the 'golden age' of
the Sukhothai kingdom. Pho Khun Bang Klang Haw then founded the
Phra Ruang dynasty, which ruled the kingdom for two centuries, until
Sukhothai was gradually subsumed by the growing might of the Ayuthaya
kingdom from the mid-fourteenth to the mid-fifteenth centuries AD.
Today, all that remains of that once great capital are the ruins
of temples, palaces, and city walls, dominated to the south by the
looming presence of Khao Luang. Dark brown columns of laterite,
red brick chedis, and serene statues of the Buddha contrast strikingly
with bright green, neatly manicured lawns created by the Fine Arts
Department when the area was developed into an historical park in
the 1970s. Water is a prominent feature of the park.
and canals of an ancient irrigation system, fed by water draining
from Khao Luang, are now speckled with pink lotus blossoms.
All civilizations depend on a reliable water supply, so it is
little wonder that the mountain that supplied water to Sukhothai
became revered as the sacred abode of the kingdom's spirit guardians.
The entrance fee to the historical park is 40 baht per person, plus
50 baht for vehicles. A combined ticket, which includes entrance
to the historical park, the museum and all other nearby historical
sites, can be obtained from the Ramkhamhaeng National Museum (near
the entrance to the historical park) for 150 baht. The monuments
are spread out over a wide area so visitors are advised to rent
a bicycle from the park entrance (the site is very flat) or climb