5 things to do in Sukhothai with kids
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Why Sukhothai is a great choice for a family visit
Sukhothai is an ancient Siamese city in Northern Thailand. It used to be the (obvious) capital of the Sukhothai Kingdom. The Sukhothai province is very much worth a visit with your family. Even though it’s not as well known as its counterpart Ayutthaya. But it’s just as impressive and without all the hordes of tourists. And you can roam around the site with a bike. Which makes it extra fun as a family activity. There are lots of things you can do here. You can easily add this site to your itinerary for 2 or 3 days, as part of an ultimate road trip through Thailand. Did I make you curious? Read on for 5 things to do in Sukhothai with kids.
Before I get to the juicy part, I’d like to tell you a little more about the site itself and its significance in Thai history. Sukhothai Historical Park isn’t just one site you can visit. There’s the centre part, where you will find some of the most known temples and buddha statues, but you need to travel around Sukhothai to see it all. All in all, there are 26 temples to see in 5 different zones.
Sukhothai is the biggest city in the Sukhothai province and it has about 600.000 inhabitants. The city is home to the UNESCO World Heritage site Sukhothai Historical Park. 200 ancient sites are scattered all around the area. Sukhothai is a concatenation of two words in old sanskrit, sukha meaning happiness and udaya meaning arise. This roughly translates to Dawn of Happiness. But when was Sukhothai formed?
After years of fighting for it, independence from the Khmer Kingdom was reached in the 1230s. Which is when the region became known as Sukhothai Kingdom. The kingdom grew bigger and even reached the border of Laos, but when King Ramkamhaeng died it grew smaller again. In the mid 1300s it was, yet again, a small local kingdom. On to the present. Over the years Thailand has restored many of the ruins within the 70 km² historical park, a leftover of Thailand’s golden age.
If you’re in Sukhothai during a weekend, you should head out to the center zone after dark. The lights are all on and you’ll get a beautiful, almost fairytale view of this ancient city.
How to get there
If you’re only visiting Northern Thailand and you don’t have a car, then the obvious option is to travel to Sukhothai from Chiang Mai. From the capital of the north to Sukhothai Thani is about 300km. You can get there by train, bus, taxi and plane. Check 12go for the best rates.
If you’re traveling to Sukhothai from Bangkok you can also travel there by train, bus and plane. It’s a slightly longer journey of about 435km.
But the most fun and my absolute top tip is to take your family on a self-drive through Thailand. Go on an ultimate road trip through Thailand with your kids from Bangkok to Chiang Mai and add Sukhothai to your itinerary.
Okay, enough about the history. Why should you visit Sukhothai with your family? And why is it fun for kids?
Let me tell you about the 5 things to do in Sukhothai with kids.
Biking through Sukhothai Historical Park
The first thing to do is to hire a bike for every family member. There are a few rental companies in near vicinity of the historical park. The one where we rented and the rental company next door also had a few bikes with child seats on the back for toddlers.
Biking through an unknown place is always a great way to get to know a city better. We did it in Bangkok, Chiang Mai, but also in other South East Asian countries like Cambodia (Angkor Wat).
Because Sukhothai Historical Park is spread out throughout the area you’ll need a mode of transportation. You can hire a Tuk Tuk for a whole day or a Songthaew, but you’ll feel more free with your own bike. And kids will probably enjoy the ride too.
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Before you head to the mean site, let me start with a cute and impressive temple located north of the center of the historical site. The main chedi is totally surrounded by elephants and is a great first temple to check out with kids. They’ll love it, because the elephants look very lifelike. It’s a small site with lots of trees around it to find some shade in to have a little picnic together.
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Wat Mahathat is undoubtedly the most impressive and important temple in Sukhothai Historical Park. And can be found in the center zone. The name of the temple can be translated as the Monastery of the Great Relic. Many ancient cities had a temple with this name and same significance, for example Ayutthaya. It’s the first temple complex you see when entering the historical park from the east. Which you probably will when you’ve rented a bike, since all the rental companies are situated on this side of the park.
The most common pictures, like mine in this post, show the sitting Buddha in front of the chedi. But I have to say I found the two standing Buddhas (named Phra Attarot) inside a large mandapa, even more impressive. If you’re interested, scroll back up to the third picture in this blog post, to see what it looks like.
You can walk and climb everywhere, but please do pay attention to your kids, because climbing on buddha statues is not forbidden but absolutely frowned upon.
The first time we visited you could buy a combo ticket that got you into all of the five zones. Nowadays that isn’t the case anymore. For 100 baht, about 3 euros, you can buy a ticket at the visitors center or at the main entrance of all the zones. If you bring a bike than you pay an extra 10 baht per bike.
Wat Si Sawai
Wat Si Sawai is also located in the central zone and right next to Wat Mahathat. Here you’ll find a mix of architecture. Meaning that you’ll see Khmer style architecture here as a leftover from the time of the Khmer Kingdom. This temple really reminded me of Angkor Wat.
Because of all the small nooks smaller kids will love hiding in them. You can park your bikes right next to this temple and explore this wat.
A ride in a Skylab
Thailand is known for all its different modes of transportation. When we arrived in Sukhothai we had already seen Tuk Tuks, Songthaews, normal taxi’s and bikes, but the Skylabs were new to us. The first and only time we spotted them during our road trip through Thailand was in Sukhothai.
A Skylab is a trycicle Tuk Tuk with 6 to 8 seats in front of the (motor)trycicle. Normally we’d have to split our family up in two Tuk Tuks, but the four of us easily fitted in the Skylab. A really fun experience for the kids.
That’s it, the top 5 things to do in Sukhothai with kids. Did you ever visit Sukhothai? Did you like it as much as we did? Let us know in the comments.
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