A Buddha rests in repose at Sukhothai Historic Park.
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The world, indeed, is like a dream,” said Buddha—words that seem to convey the grandeur that existed in Sukhothai from 1238 to 1376, when it was the bustling capital of Thailand’s first kingdom. There is a Through the Looking-Glass surrealism to peering into Wat (Temple) Si Chum and discovering a 48-foot Buddha gazing enigmatically back, legs folded in an eternal lotus position, slender fingers tipped in gold. Or turning to find 24 white stucco elephants trumpeting from the base of Wat Sorasak, as if conjured from the stone.
Today the city’s 193 restored structures—along with the temples at neighboring Si Satchanalai and Kamphaeng Phet historical parks—offer windows into this golden era. The perfect time to visit: November’s Loy Krathong festival, when floats topped with thousands of flickering candles are launched at night onto Sukhothai’s ponds and waterways to bring good luck.
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Photography by Michele Falzone/Jai/Corbis
This article was first published in September 2010. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.