Enjoying our stay in Sukhothai, we rented a pair of trusty bikes and decided to explore some of the additional parks and sites around the main Sukhothai Historic Park. It’s 30C and a large area, so the bikes are a great addition. Our hotel location at Old City Guest House was ideally situated, and had cats to keep us company too!
Our trip starts by heading past the main gates: can’t resist taking a photo of the ‘tourist shuttle’ that runs from the main town where the bus arrives, and the ‘New City’ that is at the gates of this UNESCO Heritage site where we are staying. Moving along, we quickly get diverted to our first Buddhist temple along the route: outside the managed park area, you can just roll up on your bikes to admire. We’re the only ones here. As we continued along to the North Park, we quickly got diverted when we saw a marked bike path (shared) lane that headed back to the Old City, parallel to the main roadway, so we had to check it out! Riding along these quite local roadways, we were in the country side and quickly stumbled onto more historic sites: starting with Wat Chang Lom. The countryside was quite and peaceful: lot of local activity, hotels, and farming in the area. I’ll never get weary of riding past large paddies of green rice fields!
Along the way, we rode beside the Mae Remphan river, that twisted it’s way towards the Old City. We didn’t get far until we noticed a large shiny temple spire towards the roadway, and we had to roll in and visit Wat Ban Khwang along the way for a photo op. As we were taking photos of the seemingly empty site, we got a call from a local monk sweeping up the place. He was eager to practice his English, an we got a private tour of the Wat as he flung open the doors, and insisted on giving us a proper Thai Buddhist blessing with a water ceremony. Very grateful, we exchanged greetings and a photo op with him: designating him ‘The Chatty Monk’ for the rest of the trip. The site was fascinating and had lots of history as well, including cemetery of past monks. Bidding farewell, we continued along the shared roadside for another while along the river, enjoying views along the way.
Turning around, we decided to return to our original objective: the Northern Sector Historic Park! As it was approaching noon, we checked into the main government tourist building and sought shade for break and a cold drink. Fantastic site with impeccable bonsai gardening, and and lots of info on this section of the UNESCO Heritage site. Inside the park, we quickly found some of the famous Thuriang Kilns that have been excavated: these were the sites that made pottery in the 1400’s. These are in various stages of being uncovered: and there are litteraly hillsides of sites to be found. Moving onto the main temple site of Wat Phrapai Luang, we took additional time in the shade to explore this huge complex: taking a lap around the Northern Sector, we then headed out to the more remote Western Sector. This area is massive, and probably a 8-10km ride: with temples dotted along the forest and hilltops with minimal tourists. At most sites, we were the only ones there – a true hidden gem, and not at all a secret!
Hot and weary, we make it back to the ‘New City’ and returned our bikes for some AC to relax, and then find a good dinner site along the market road. There was a 3 day festival starting to celebrate the start of 2020 here in Sukhothai, and were were encouraged to head back to the Central Historic site for entertainment and the light show. Passing through one of our favorite spots: Wat Traphang Thong in the setting sun, there are lots of Thai locals enjoying feeding the carp, and the cooler night air. Heading into the park, the light show and entertainment was definitely festive. A great place to get some Thai street food and enjoy a free English/Thai show at this historic site. Truly a memorable evening and a great sendoff to our next destination in the morning.