Visiting another World Heritage Site

Buddha head at Wat Phra Si_Rattana Mahathat_in Chaliang

A visit to Si Satchanalai historical park is on my agenda today. Si Satchanalai is located 80 km above Sukhothai. Both are Unesco World Heritage Sites. The owner of my guesthouse drives me together with a French couple to the bus station. She provides all the information I need to reach my destination; where to buy my ticket, which platform the bus leaves, and how to return. That makes traveling in Thailand even more comfortable than it already is.

Almost on the wrong bus thanks to a Buddhist monk

While waiting for the bus to arrive, a Buddhist monk looks at my ticket and shows a bus that I should board. Fortunately, someone from the bus station staff intervenes. I purchased a ticket for an AC (air-conditioned) bus, the one the monk pointed out to me is a local, third class bus. A little later my vehicle arrives, which the monk also enters. The journey takes approximately one hour. By the time we are almost at our destination, I start to pay attention to signs announcing Si Satchanalai historical park.

Dropped off at the second entrance of Si Satchanalai historical park

Some more tourists are on the bus. An English-speaking girl asks to get off in Mueang Gae, the Old City. Whether the conductor has understood her remains unclear, but at a particular moment, the bus stops, and we are instructed to disembark. We are at the entrance of Wat Mahathat, which is actually the second gateway of Si Satchanalai historical park, but that is good enough to start our exploration of the site.

Need to cross a suspension bridge to reach the site

suspension bridge to Si Satchanalai site

Immediately we are approached by a young Thai who rents out bicycles. But an old lady is also waving with a sign. According to the young woman, both rental places share the same manager, which I don`t believe at all. So out of sympathy, I cross the street and rent a bike from the old lady. To reach Wat Mahathat, I have to pass a suspension bridge. For safety’s sake, I do this on foot, with the bicycle in my hand. The reward is grandiose, a well-preserved Khmer-style temple, with some sitting and one standing Buddha. This place looks much more impressive than Sukhothai.

Wat Mahathat at ChaliangWat Mahathat Buddha sculpture at Si Satchanalai

Searching for a golden Buddha statue

I slowly cycle further. The actual entrance to Si Satchanalai historical park is 2 to 3 kilometers along the road. On the way, I pass another temple, but this one is more of a ruin. I also spot a sign that points to a golden Buddha, I turn into the road, but I don’t find the statue. It is only 11 o’clock, and I am getting hungry already, so I stop at a nearby eatery. The staff only speaks Thai, but I manage to order a meal.

large standing Buddha near Wat Mahathat

Cycling through the historical site at my own pace

At the entrance of the Si Satchanalai historical park, I meet the other tourists again who took the same bus from Sukhothai this morning. They first want to cycle to the furthest point and gradually descend. At that point, there are a few potteries, called kilns. I am not that interested to see those, so I decide to go my own way. With the heat, I really want to see the ruins at my own pace and also stop when I get tired of it. So our roads split again.

Si Satchanalai historical park is the highlight of my Thailand journey

2 sitting Buddhas at Si Satchanalai

Heavily sweating I drive from one ruin to the other. In general, all are in better condition than those in Sukothai. To me, Si Satchanalai historical park forms the historical highlight of my Thailand trip. It surprises me that this World Heritage Site receives such a small amount of tourists. For those who make an effort to come over here, they are rewarded with such well-preserved remains.

Climbing some hills to discover more Khmer-style temples

meditating Buddha at temple hill in Si Satchanalai

I climb two more temple hills in the park. The second climb rewards me with a beautiful sitting Buddha. But then the heat takes its toll. Gradually I return to the starting point of my trip. Along the way, I stop for refreshment and visit two more remote temples, again in Khmer-style. Then I return my bike. The old lady orders me to sit on a bench and stands on the lookout for the bus back to Sukhothai. The first bus rumbles past at high speed. The lady apologizes, but I don’t really care and just walk across the street to get another drink. Ten minutes later, the next bus arrives, third class this time, but for a ride of an hour, I cannot be bothered.

Khmer-style temple at Si Satchanalai historical park

Time to leave Sukhothai

The bus eventually takes an hour and a half to drive back to Sukhothai. Arriving at the bus station, I head straight for the AC city bus to the new part of town. Back in the guesthouse, I rest a bit, take a shower, and try to sleep in vain on my porch. Afterward, I order that delicious tom ka gai, sour coconut soup again, and prepare my trip to Ayutthaya. Sukhothai was nice, but new horizons await.