A day spent bicycling around the peaceful ponds and majestic ruins of Sukhothai is the ideal interlude
Situated in the northern Thai province of the same name, Sukhothai is home to a historical park that was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1991 for its dynastic relics dating back to the 13th century. The site’s reddish-orange brick and laterite temples are best seen by the bicycles rented out by shops outside the park gates. Along the way, lotus-dotted pools and stucco Buddha statues can be admired with no automobile traffic to disturb the serenity. Wat Mahathat, the park’s crown jewel, with nearly 200 temples surrounded by a wide moat, is a site to behold from every angle.
To the east is the Ramkhaeng National Museum, where excavated artifacts and replicas of early Thai writing are on display. A 50-foot tall Buddha with one downturned golden hand sits inside the temple walls of Wat Si Chum in the northwest corner of the park. The tourist tradition to buy gold leaf paper at the site’s surrounding stalls to add to the Buddha’s fingers is in the name of good fortune.
If your Sukhothai travel plans happen to coincide with the full moon of the 12th lunar month (typically in November), you’ll have front-row seats to the annual celebration of Loi Krathong, or the Festival of Lights. Come nighttime, rafted candles are drifted into the rivers and ponds, and floating lanterns are released into the sky all as an offering to the Buddhist gods.