I’ve seen my fair share of ancient cities and weathered ruins, massive European castles and cities organically emerging from the walls of a large Roman palace. Sites that allow the traveler to walk the stones of ghosts and others that keep the curious at a distance from daring to touch the lives of centuries ago. There is a balance to this equation, between the human desire to literally know their ancient forbears by climbing and touching the physical remnants of their lives, and the desire to protect and preserve these monuments from further wear and tear for the generations that follow. Every ancient heritage site seems to face this challenge differently, along a spectrum from total engagement to complete human exclusion.
I wasn’t sure what to expect at Sukhothai, the remains of the ancient Thai capital surviving since the 13th century. Once a thriving capital of trade, religious pilgrimage, and political maneuverings, today the ruin of its temples spreads across a massive archeological park a few kilometers from the modern city. Due to the religious taboo of destroying religious sites and a centuries-old tradition of building new temples upon the crumbling foundations of older sacred sites, ancient Sukhothai remains.
I’ll admit, Sukhothai surprised me. Less visited than Ayutthaya to the south, the large expanses of manicured park and swampy lotus ponds between the dozens of ruins spread the tourist crowds thin. A pleasant bike ride to each complex, the shade of trees, and the numerous Buddhas resting ages under the stars, their shelters long ago heaving away their roofs, lent a startling intimacy to my explorations. Often I found myself completely alone, sitting on the bricks and contemplating the serenity that once bustled with city life.
To view my photos from the 13th century ruins of Sukhothai, click on the link below.