At this point of the trip, I was pretty much in love with Thailand. The country was more than I have ever imagined. I wanted to stay for a long time in order to explore more and more. Therefore, it was really exciting to visit the place considered the origin of this fantastic kingdom. I am talking about Sukhothai, sometimes described as the first capital of Thailand.
This was the center of the great Sukhothai kingdom which lasted from 1238 to 1583. This monarchy controlled parts of present day Thailand, Laos and Vietnam.
The kingdom flourished during the reign of the third monarch. He is known as Ramkhamhaeng the Great. He is credited with the creation of the Thai alphabet and the establishment of the Theravada Buddhism as the official religion of the empire. What is known about the life of this king comes from the Ramkhamhaeng stele. This is a piece of stone inscribed with epic stories about Sukhothai and its kings. The original was found in Wat Mahathat which was the principal temple in the old capital. The original stone is located at the National Museum in Bangkok.
The surprising part of this entire story is that many scholars believe that the inscribed stone was created with political purposes in the 1800s. If the inscriptions are not original, then nothing is really known about the Sukhothai period. When I was in Thailand, none of this information was provided by my guide. I found about this later. It is interesting to see how in Thailand it is punishable to talk against the past and present monarchs. One time my guide was asked a question about the age of the current queen. She responded the questions. The person who made the question said that the photos of her all around the country were showing a much younger queen. My guide agreed and said that they have to use old pictures because the queen has undergone a lot of plastic surgery and her face does not look normal anymore. After saying that, she asked us not to talk about what she commented (specially with other Thais). The guide also discussed how it is not permitted to watch or posses movies like Anna and the King. It is believe that this movie (and others) denigrates the image of Thai royals. My guide saw the movies because her clients from Europe and the United States have sent her the DVDs. I find all this very interesting.
The Sukhothai Kingdom wasn’t a dominant power for very long. Once Ramkhamhaeng died, many parts of the kingdom started to break away. What was left, submitted to the prevailing Ayutthaya (which is Thailand’s second capital).
What is left of the old capital is located about 6 miles (12 km) from the more modern Sukhothai. The remains of the one glorious empire headquarters are now ruined and have been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. I have read that there are 193 ruins in the area. There is even a ruined temple behind the hotel where we stayed. We had a guided tour of the most important sights and then we explored by bicycle.
Since I learned about Thailand’s first capital, I wanted to visit. That is one of the reasons I chose this trip route over others. A lot of companies skip Sukhothai and visit other areas in northern Thailand. As I have said before, I love history and ruins. I felt very blessed with the opportunity to discover the place where this beautiful country has roots.
This post includes pictures of my guided tour. Next, time I will show pictures of the areas we explored by bike.
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