Undoubtedly Sukothai is the place mom and I loved most in Thailand. If you have already read our post “Sukhothai – Tracing the last bricks of ancient Siam”, you know why.
Sukothai houses more than 200 ruins. Unless you settle there for more than 15 days, you can’t see everything. As a layman tourist, you find many ruins similar and may get bored. Though you need not read a history book before going to Sukothai, it is always good to know about the ruins here, especially when you are in Sukothai for 2-3 days.
Here is a list of the best archaeological Ruins in Sukothai, covering four out of five zones.
Heads Up – Combo tickets for all zones valid for a day isn’t worth it since you can’t see all zones in a day. I recommend you to buy tickets at the temples/ruins individually over the combo tickets.
Dress up modestly as these ruined temples are considered holy among locals, and some of them are still active places of worship.
Wat Mahatat (central zone)
The main area of the Central Zone of the walled town is Wat Mahatat. It was the largest and the focal point of the entire palace complex. You may have heard of the word “Mahatat” in Ayutthaya too. Mahatat means *Great Relic.”
When you see this temple, it looks more like a cluster of many structures than an individual building because it was built with the concept of Mandala ( The Hindu symbol representing the universe in geometrical patterns). Few of them are true to Lanna (the northern Thai style) style, while some remind you of Polonnaruwa, Sri Lanka. There are pavilions and steps in many corners of this zone for visitors to chill in the evening.
You can easily spend two hours walking around all the structures here. Don’t forget to notice the 12m tall Buddha standing inside a small broken room. During sunset time, you see many travellers doing Yoga, meditating, reading a book – So this zone is best for solitude seekers or people like us in duo to relax conversing.
Wat Sa si (central zone)
The one right next to the lotus pond with the white sitting Buddha in front of the chedi is Wat Sa Si. The bridge connects either side of the pond. To one side, there is a gazebo overlooking the wat. Smaller chedis around the big one add beauty to the main chedi.
Wat Si Sawal (central zone)
This Cambodian delight in the central zone of Sukothai park is a temple dedicated to Hindu god Shiva! While you walk around Wat Mahat, it is easier to spot Wa Sa Si, but not Wat Si Sawal. You don’t even get a hint of a Khmer style temple behind the thick bushes and broad trees. Instead, follow the map and walk towards the west end of the wall.
The laterite stone wall and some stucco works depict the stories related to God Shiva. As Hindus from India, we could easily relate to these stories here – The stucco work of Adi Shesha, Naaga (serpents), brahmins with their offerings.
In front of the temple ruins, the Podiums are a great place to sit and enjoy birds singing and leaves rustling on a breezy day.
Wat Tra Phang Ngoen (central zone)
The 14th-century Sukothai style small temple consists of a pillared hall and a sitting Buddha statue in the front. The unique thing about this temple is the graceful image of a walking Buddha on the pedestal. This looks like Buddha is walking and talking to his disciples.
Wat Sorsak (central zone)
Elephants and Hindu mythology have a strong connection. It continues even to the eras where kings owned elephants in warring. In the Buddhist era, they were considered the protector of Buddhist temples in Thailand. Wat Sorsak’s main chedi’s base is surrounded by elephants and covered with stucco. There are a few chedis in Sukothai with elephants on chedis, but this is the best-preserved one. The temple is located in the central zone, but you have to cross the main road to reach it.
Wat Si Chum (north zone)
The most famous of all the temples in Sukhothai is Wat Si Chum. This is a “hide and seek” place where you see only 1/4th of Buddha’s statue through a narrow tapered opening in the front wall. You can go cycling or hire a tuk-tuk for a 3km drive to reach this in the North zone of Sukothai historical park.
15m high and 11m wide statue sits inside a brick Mandap with no roof above. There was a stairway near the entrance of the Mandap, which was locked for visitors. This active temple is worshipped every day by Buddhist monks. “Phra Achha” style image of Buddha’s statue occupies the entire Mandap leaving minimum space for worshippers to walk around.
Phra Achha means” One who isn’t frightened” Buddha’s facial expression states is perfect! A smile that doesn’t stretch across the face, half-opened eyes, the poised posture of Buddha with his long fingers folded pointing to earth – For sure this says,” You can’t scare me, dude.”
Wat Phra Phai Lung (north zone)
The 12th century Khmer style temple is one of the oldest monuments in Sukothai. Other than a single tower, nothing much of the temple remains now. The temple was under restoration in 2019. But by the looks of it, I wonder if it ever is restored and to what extent it will be restored.
Wat Tra phang (East Zone)
Wat Chang Lom ( East Zone)
These temples in the eastern zone aren’t in good condition. What makes them worth visiting is the scenic countryside roads. We went there by tuk-tuk, but I can imagine how blissful it can be cycling here.
Wat Tra Phang Thong Lang was an entrance gate with mandapa and chedis surrounding it. Apart from Buddha’s portrait on one of the walls, nothing much is left here.
Wat Chang Lom is similar to Wat Sorasak of the Central Zone, with stuccoed elephants at the chedis’ bottom. It appears as if the elephants carry the chedi up.
Wat Chedi Si Hong (West Zone)
Wat Chetuphon (West Zone)
Like the east zone, most temples in the west are in poor condition. However, there are more than eight temples, out of which I found these two better than the rest.
Wat Chedi Si Hong stands unique with elements at the chedi’s bottom. The changs(elephants) sit with the front legs folded. There are stuccoed reliefs of elegantly dressed men and women wearing jewellery, holding up bowls with flowers between two changes.
Wat Chetuphon – Outside the central zone. This is the only temple surrounded by a lotus pond. All you can see here is a broken statue of Buddha and some pillars of the entrance hall. There are many other smaller chedis and unique structures on the opposite side of the road here. The special one is the stone rigs stacked that remind you of a kid’s toy! With a lotus pond and lots of shade, this is the best place to take a break from walking and cycling, sleeping under the tree.
I honestly can’t name a Wat to be the best. Exploring Sukothai temple ruins is not a thing to do – It is an experience as a whole. When you go on the road with green fields on either side, you can’t even guess if a temple or a ruin is hiding behind those lush green trees.
How do you want to experience Sukothai – Walking? Cycling or by Tuk-tuk. Let us know in the comment section below.