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Central Thailand

You see pictures of Central Thailand gracing in-flight magazines of every Thai bound aircraft, and in virtually every book and magazine on Thailand. Yet comparatively few western tourists travel to the "Real Thailand". And perhaps this is the biggest mistake all tourists make, they miss out on areas such as Kanchanaburi (River Kwai), but especially Pitsanuloke and Sukhothai.

Which is very odd. Especially when these cradle towns of Thai culture / history are so accessible from Bangkok.

Here you will find hotel and meal prices half that of the main tourist destinations, some of the finest countryside going in Thailand, the absolute awe inspiring ruins of Old Sukhothai, some of the very, very best in traditional Thai cuisine, and a people so friendly, so unspoilt by tourism as elsewhere. You simply have to go.

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By "Central Thailand", we mean the area around the principle towns of Pitsanuloke, Sukhothai, Mae Sot, Tak, Ayuthaya and Kanchanaburi. There are, of course, many other towns for the adventurous traveller, but these are by far the main attractions. So those are the ones we will focus on.

Ayuthaya, the capital of Siam from 1350 to 1767. Easily accessible from Bangkok by special charter express boat, train (1.5 hours) or road (2 hours). Home of one of Thailand's largest Loi Krathong festivals, Ayuthaya's Historical Park is a large area, around 4 sqm, with several notable part ruin wats at the eastern area of the town, which is "sandwiched" between the Chao Phraya, Pa Sak and Lopburi Rivers. For photographs, Click Here, and for local information, Click Here.

Kanchanaburi, is associated with the infamous "Bridge over the River Kwai", where many thousands of conscripted western prisoners of war, and even more Asian civilians died. They were forced to build a Thai - Burmese railway line through some of the most difficult terrain, and with the most rudimentary tools going. Although, the bridge itself was a masterpiece of engineering, and nowhere near as conscript death intensive as "Hellfire Pass" further up the line. In Kanchanaburi itself, there a number of war cemeteries and museums dedicated to this shameful episode in Japan's past. And ironically perhaps, the actual railway bridge, since rebuilt, is extremely popular with Japanese Tourists. And with everyone during the big show, during the 1st week of December.

But Kanchanaburi is more than bad / sad memories. It is also a worthy tourist centre with some of Thailand's finest National Parks within easy reach (including Thailand's most photographed / famous waterfall), the border town area of Three Pagodas Pass (extremely popular for it's large Songkran Festival in April), reservoirs with floating hotel rooms (rafts), and large Hill Tribe refugee camps (please take the children old clothes and pens / pencils) - A particularly favoured time being the last week of July (Mon National Day). Good information on the National Parks in this area can be Found Here, and some good photographs here Erawan National Park and here Sai Yok National Park.

Mae Sot, with the reputation of a lawless border town, need probably be only a short visit for most. Of principle attraction here are the Karen hill tribe refugee camps and border market where exceptional Burmese cloth and Jade can be bought at extremely low prices (if well haggled for). A good information and photo site is Here for Mae Sot.

Pitsanuloke River FestivalChinnarat BuddhaPitsanuloke, perhaps Thailand's most underestimated "bargain"?! Thailand's capital for 25 years during the 15th Century. A charming city, the region's capital, cantered around the Nan River and its famous floating restaurants. Home to Wat Phra Si Ratana Mahathat, which house Thailand's second most important Buddha image. The "Chinnarat Buddha" with its striking flame-shaped halo. It has a market outside every weekend, but is at its very best during the February temple and September boat festivals. Good shopping and plenty of authentic Thai entertainment make this the much better bet over neighbouring New Sukhothai.

New Sukhothai during flood!Sukhothai, the cradle of Thailand. But, there are now two Sukhothai's. Both next door to each other. New Sukhothai is the "modern" town, which is virtually devoid of mid to upper class hotels or restaurants that might make it more appealing to most visitors. Although the riverside gardens are a pleasant enough spot to have a picnic, and there is a market area. There is very little else that can be said for this town really. Except, perhaps, if you want to stay in this area, to take Pitsanuloke (any day) over it!

Sukhothai National ParkSukhothai National ParkBut then there is Old (the real) Sukhothai. An absolutely magical place. Evocative beyond imagination. A spell binding place. And, along with, even above and beyond Pitsanuloke town. An absolute, repeat absolute place to visit. If you would like to know about the history and the names etc. of the various monuments set within the two main park areas, Click Here.

Sukhothai National ParkSukhothai National ParkIf you are after a quiet day, with a picnic for lunch, set amongst beautiful tropical green grounds, with scenery that will make even the most hyperactive member of the western "rat race" slow right down and even overwhelm them with a sense of historical awe. Then do this.

Get your hotel to pack your lunch and set off early. Hire a peddle powered Samalor "taxi" for the day from near the park itself, and then just wander at your own pace around the parks. Have your lunch around the ponds / lakes, and then get genuinely ready for a lifetime of memories from a single day!

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