Wat Si Chum & Wat Phra Luang in Sukhothai Historical Park

by Dave from The Longest Way Home ~ February 18th, 2015. Filed under: Thailand.
Buddha statue holding flowers

Sukhothai’s historic northern complex is best visited early in the morning

Visit the northern historic complex early in the morning for the best views

If you are spending a few days in Sukhothai I suggest you visit the northern complex first at dawn. Wat Si Chum itself faces the east so it catches the light beautifully on a good morning. There’s no need to hire a guide as it’s all very easy by oneself.

Keep in mind that Sukhothai historical park is made up of five complexes. A central one, then one to the north, west, south and east. You need a ticket (100 baht for each complex). Rent a bicycle or motor bike to get around. They are available outside and opposite the central historic section at the end of the road from New Sukhothai.

Getting to Wat Si Chum

Once you have your bike simply head off to the right of the main entrance along the smooth sealed road. The complex is in a grid formation so it’s very easy to navigate around. Wat Si Chum is about 2km from the central area park entrance. However, along the way there’s a great place to stop off at first.

Go past the first corner and just follow the signs to Wat Phra Phai Luang which is right beside Wat Si Chum.

Footbridge on the way to Wat Phra Phai Luang, Sukothai, Thailand

Footbridge on the way to Wat Phra Phai Luang, Sukothai, Thailand

There are two ways into Wat Phra Luang. The first and nearest is via a bridge over the moat. You can park your bike outside. There are metal poles outside the moat bridge to chain your bike onto. Keep in mind you’ll have to walk back again to collect your bike.

The alternative route means you ride all the way around to the main entranceway where you will be charged an entry fee (it doesn’t always happen via the moat bridge). The advantage of the main entrance is that you’ll be closer to your bike and Wat Si Chum later.

Wat Phra Phai Luang

Wat Phra Phai Luang, Sukothai, Thailand

Wat Phra Phai Luang, Sukothai, Thailand

Wat Phra Phai Luang dates back to the late 11th to early 12th century. Originally there were three Khmer-style prangs however only one remains today.

What Wat Phra Phai Luang originally looked like

What Wat Phra Phai Luang originally looked like

It is on this remaining prang that you’ll still find intricate and interesting stucco decorations (restored). On the western side of the prang you can see a depiction of the Buddha with followers praying.

Assembly hall at Wat Phra Phai Luang

Assembly hall at Wat Phra Phai Luang

Just before the ruins of the eastern prang is the former assembly hall which still shows some broken columns and at the base are some more images of Buddha.

To the east again is the square Mandapa temple. Outside this temple are two large statues of Buddha, one standing and one sitting.

Prang at Wat Phra Phai Luang

If you go inside the prang don’t be surprised to find a few bats hanging out

This area may once have been the center of Sukhothai in the 12th century but historic records are unclear.

From Wat Phra Phai Luang make your way out the main entrance and take a left along the road to Wat Si Chum. There’s a shortcut across a grassy track if you are on a bicycle. Otherwise you’ll need to follow the road.

Wat Si Chum

Wat Si Chum from the distance

Approaching Wat Si Chum

Built at the turn of the 12th century Wat Si Chum contains one of the most impressive and iconic statues of Buddha in all Thailand.You will have to pay 100 baht to enter the small compound and it’s well guarded.

As you enter there’s an unmistakable building directly ahead where you’ll see the top of the tall Buddha’s head under a pointed archway. Originally this building (mandap) would have had a roof over it.

Wat Si Chum

The impressive 15.5 meter Wat Si Chum

The 15.6 meter high seated buddha is 11 meters wide. You can enter into the building but must remove your shoes first.

There’s a small pathway leading to stairs to your left but it’s blocked off to visitors. Along this pathway there were 500 slate inscriptions from the Jataka tales or the previous lives of the Buddha. They have been removed and placed in the Ramkhamhaeng National Museum in Sukhothai where there are other inscriptions you can view for those with an interest.

What Wat Si Chum once looked like

What Wat Si Chum once looked like

The buddha statue itself is very impressive when this close to it. It is in the seated Mara pose which is presumed to be the posture mentioned in the “Phra Atchana” (the slate inscriptions).

The elongated gold leaf covered fingers are one of the most photographed images in Thailand.Again, it’s well worth making the effort to come here are dawn rather than near noon or the afternoon where the sun will make it harder to view the statue.

Elongated fingers of the buddha at Wat si Chum

Elongated fingers of the buddha at Wat si Chum

Do take a look around the Wat Si Chum complex before you go. Although there’s not much here there is a smaller temple area where another buddha statue sits which is often decorated with flowers.

Other sections of Sukhothai’s historical park

This northern section part of Sukhothai historical park is second only to the central section in terms of impressiveness. Don’t rule out the other sections though. I’ll be following up on some later via motorbike.

Up next will be parts of the vast central section which is by far the most popular part of Sukhothai Historic Park. Or you can read my guide to Sukhothai Historical Park.

Entrance fees into Sukhothai Historical Park
  • Entrance to Sukhothai Historical park = 100 baht
  • Bicycle surcharge = 10 baht
  • Mystery all section ticket = 350 baht (if you can find the right person)

Food and drinks are a touch and go affair in the park. There are a few cafes. They aren’t too outrageously expensive. But if you are on a budget bringing one’s own water will half your cost.

It’s 2 kilometers from the central zone ticket office to the northern section. The main road there is surfaced, flat and quite easy to use via a bicycle.

The park is open from 6am-18.00. Keep in mind the bicycle shops closed between 17.30 and 18.00 too. I’ll write later about night time viewing of the temples but sufficed to say, it’s very dark and very isolated so don’t get caught out alone after dark.

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21 Great responses to Wat Si Chum & Wat Phra Luang in Sukhothai Historical Park

  1. Denise Rollins says:

    Truly remarkable as I’ve only ever known about the templs in Bangkok. Wat Si Chum seems like reason enough to visit Sukhothai.

  2. Tin says:

    The giant Buddha hand is so elegant. I’ve not seen something like that elsewhere. Is it unique to Thailand?

  3. Derek says:

    We visited Sukhothai a few years ago and found it nicer than Angkor like you said. Less tourists, more space and just an all round better experience.

  4. Beth says:

    That Buddha statue looks HUGE! Are you allowed to touch it?

  5. Jose says:

    It’s amazing Thailand indeed. I’m not sure if places like Philippines or Malaysia are the same.

  6. Anna's World says:

    Beautiful photographs. Looks like an amazing place.

  7. Cho says:

    The flowers photograph is lovely. Did you put them there or are the put there by monks?

  8. Alex says:

    Great stuff Dave. Please keep publishing more about Sukhothai as we are planning our visit next year and this is just great!

  9. Joseph S says:

    Thanks for putting the smaller diagrams on display. It’s interesting to see what the temples used to look like versus what they look like now.

  10. Marcus says:

    Great write up on Sukhothai. It’s on our itinerary and this really helps. Thank you.

  11. For a little over $3 (entrance fee), Sukhothai Historical Park seems like a bargain.

    This is why I love Asia; great historical activities without the prohibitive prices like in the West.

    Great Post