Almost equidistant between Bangkok and Chiang Mai lies the old Thai capital of Sukhothai. The city was founded in 1238 and remained the capital for about 140 years.
There are 2 Sukhothais; the old city/ Historical Park and the new city of Sukhothai which lies about 12km to the east. The new city contains most of the hotels and facilities – and that really is the only reason to be there. I didn’t warm to New Sukhothai, to the point that I even cut short my visit. Apart from a few hotels and farang bars there seems to be little of interest and the town centre is plagued by noisy roosting birds – these descend en masse at dusk, making a hell of a noise and covering everything in shit; walking about is a lottery.
Most of the tourist hotels and bars seem to be on the west side of the river bridge, this main road is also the route to Old Sukhothai, so at least it’s handy.
The reason for visiting this area of Thailand is the Historical Park; it’s a lovely place and worth the trip. Whilst no where near the scale of Angkor, the park is very serene and pretty. Much of what you see is restored, but tastefully and subtly done.
Buses (large Blue Songthow) run from New Sukhothai to Old on a regular basis for about 20 Bht, or the usual Tuktuk services are available (a day’s hire would be about 600Bht, with them taking you round the various sites and waiting for your return).
At the park you need to buy an entrance ticket and pay a fee for a bike if you have one (bikes can be rented just across the road from the main entrance, and would make touring the park easier). You can also take your car into the park – I did this, and it was great to be able to drive almost up to each of the monuments. It was quiet on my visit (early morning, mid January 2014) and hardly any other visitors for the first hour or so – not sure what the situation would be on peak days.
There is a food and souvenir area near the entrance (opposite the main temple, Wat Mahathat) and toilets scattered around the park; it’s a well developed and run attraction.