Sukhothai is the cradle of Thailand. Under the reign of King Ramkhamhaeng, the kingdom of the same name and its capital city flourished in all its glory. Buddhism found its way into the kingdom and the Thai alphabet – as it is essentially still used today – developed (or as the nationalized version of Thai history has it: was first fully recorded by King Ramkhamhaeng). Hindu and Buddhist spiritualism met and mingled with animistic ideas. An illiterate and traditional population was familiarized with new values and a foreign culture. The result was a heterogeneous and open society, rich in the diversity that still characterizes Thailand today.

However, Sukhothai’s power only lasted for a brief moment; after around 150 years, Ayutthaya had become the new center of trade and power. Sukhothai was not conquered and destroyed overnight by foreign troops – as would later happen to Ayutthaya – it bled out and faded away.

Guy with Guitar in Sukhothai
Flowers in the Historical Park in Sukhothai
Historical Park in Sukhothai

Next to the historic Sukhothai, which is less than half the size of historic Ayutthaya, the new city of Sukhothai has emerged. It is a typical Thai city; the gateway to the north and surrounded by green hills and rice fields.

We ride through the historical park on bicycles. On this hot afternoon, we are almost always the only people roaming around the ruins of the temples. Except for one man who stumbles out of the bushes with his guitar, starts singing a Bob Marley song and interrupts himself halfway through, only to disappear into the bushes again just as quickly.

The temples inside the city walls are relatively well preserved, everything outside has crumbled almost beyond recognition. The park is well-kept, flowers are planted everywhere and it’s just a pleasure to be here. Finally, we wait for the sunset in front of a particularly beautiful Buddha statue of the central Wat Mahathat. Today it is in soft shades of purple.

Historical Park in Sukhothai

The next morning, we drive to the nearby Si Satchanalai Historical Park. Another site full of ruins whose historical significance we can barely fathom. Hundreds of bats hang in the temple corridors and hollow stupas. A pack of street dogs chases across a meadow. What will remain of our civilization? Of downtown Tokyo, the billboards in Times Square, London’s subway network, the towers of Dubai? In 500 years’ time, will families make pilgrimages to these places to see the last remnants of long-forgotten people and empires?

Info about our trip