When visiting Thailand, all loops almost always include Bangkok and the northern city of Chiang Mai. But since it’s a 10-hour bus ride from one to the other, it’s frequent to stop halfway through to discover another place… And that’s how I ended up in Sukhothai.
The city was founded in the mid-13th century, and prospered as the Kingdom of Sukhothai under the reign of King Ramkhamhaeng. He introduced Buddhism, created the first Thai alphabet, and supported the arts. All that comes together really well at the Sukhothai Historical Park, one of the biggest historical sites in Thailand (and for sure a popular one with foreign and Thai tourists alike). The park being massive and made up of several zones, the best plan is to hire a bike and cycle around to discover the various ruins of temples and city walls.
The park contains a statue of King Ramkhamhaeng, and when I went to see it, one of the many, many groups of school kids out visiting that day happened to be sitting down on the steps for a picture. All the kids I saw that day would wave and say ‘hello!’ enthusiastically. I wish we’d been that adorable and welcoming when I was on school trips in Paris as a kid.
Then at some point, the thunderstorm kicked in and nearly drowned me and my bike. Luckily we found refuge on the steps of a temple, where I sat with two Italian people and waited for the rain to stop.
It’s worth spending a day in Sukhothai, if only to find out what is considered a huge touristic site in Thailand; and also to see a side of religion that does away with opulence and luxury, and shows its belief in a way that’s more artistically raw.