It might be a public secret but I am somewhat of a cultural barbarian… Place me into a jungle (well, ok, if it’s ok with you, I’d rather stay on the edge!) and I can spend hours staring at little animals or waiting for that one bird to appear, but put me into a museum and the change is big that I will run away screaming. It’s not that I don’t appreciate art, I do. But I just don’t see the fun in staring at paintings. We once did the Louvre in a record speed (and it is big there, so I consider one hour record speed) and also when we are travelling I try to avoid going into stuffy musea.
I do love temples and ruins though, but in countries like Thailand or in general in Asia, you might soon suffer from “temple overdose”. After temple number 349 you might just give up and stop seeing them all together. So when we got into the direction of Sukhotai during our trip around Thailand (in 2004) I was very tempted to skip the trip to Sukhotai. For one because we had seen a fair share of temples at that point and secondly, it is so big that it is a good idea to ride a bike. And let me tell you people, Tom and riding a bike is NOT a good combination. He hates biking and gets very grumpy (and that’s an understatement) when he has to ride one.
Sukhotai is the old capital of Siam and most of the temples you see there are dating from the 12th and 13rd century. Enormous buddha statues, where some are still used by the local population to bring flower offers and pray. It’s an enormous area and using a bike is really not an excessive luxury. Of course you can walk if you want to but it can get really hot and at some point it is hard to find any shade. So riding a bike provides some much needed wind. (until you stand still that is…)
Sukhotai is most famous for it’s lotus shaped stupa;s which you see around the compound. A stupa is essentially a grave (if I understood correctly) and the most famous of them all can be found at the Borobodhur in Indonesia.
All in all Sukhotai is a must see as far as I’m concerned (and even Tom agreed!) and when you’re in Thailand it’s a good idea to spend a day there. It can be quite busy so try and go at a less crowded time and rent a bike! Not only will it give you some needed coolness from the wind, but it will also get you away from the crowds and into calmer areas. Not everyone will rent a bike and when we were there we only encountered two other people on bikes. Wonderfully quiet!
A lot of the buildings and statues are well preserved or renovated (which I always find a bit of shame too. You can usually see the difference between old and new stones really well) but it is a beautiful place and rather impressive.
Sukhotai is located between Bangkok and Chiang Main in the neighbourhood of Phitsanoluk. You can rent bikes at the entrance for around 30 baht. Just pay attention that your bike is ok as some are rather badly maintained.