Before Bangkok was the capital, Thailand had its rulers in Sukhothai and Ayutthaya. Today these ancient cities are UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
In the mid 1300s the capital of Siam was in Ayutthaya, 80 km north of Bangkok. Ayutthaya’s Old City has many ruins from its time as capital. The Old City is surrounded by a canal with most of the ruins on the island or on the edge of the water. You can see a few of the ruins by taking a long-boat cruise on the canal. One is a large ancient wat set right on the river. The sun was setting when we were there which made a beautiful glow on the old brick towers and stupas.
Then, from our boat we saw a gorgeous sun setting behind the wat.
The Old City is still a functioning part of the city and many ruins are set between homes and businesses on busy streets. People were going about their day around these amazing sites. Ayuttaya’s king was conquered by the Burmese in the mid 1500s. It regained its independence, but many of the buildings of that time were destroyed in the takeover. As a result, the ruins in Ayutthaya are quite damaged. It was still really interesting to walk through the old palace and wats and imagine how they once were and compare it to the opulence of the current Grand Palace in Bangkok.
We walked through the market, but passed on having any street food here.
Before Ayutthaya, the capital was in Sukhothai, 300 km north. This city dates back to the late 1100s. When Ayutthaya became the capital, Sukhothai was slowly abandoned rather than invaded. Therefore, the ruins here, although older, are in much better condition. There are partial walls and many pillars still in place. The Old City of Sukhothai has been preserved in a beautifully manicured park with flowers, shrubs and ponds. There were numerous old wats, stupas, and towers spread around this large park. It was much easier to imagine how it once was in this relaxing setting.
50 km north of Sukhothai is another site called Si Satchanalai. It was a city before and during the Sukhothai period so the ruins here are older than Sukhothai but still in fairly good condition. The site is very rural, set in a large natural forest. We biked from ruin to ruin in this very peaceful park. You can tell that some of the buildings are very old as some features are not as intricate and human or animal’s bodies are out of proportion. We really loved Si Satchanalai and Sukhothai for the relaxing settings and the well-preserved ruins.