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