For anybody planning a trip to Sukhothai, do make time to visit the picturesque district of Si Satchanalai. Home to historical ruins and scenic countryside, Si Satchanalai is the perfect accompaniment to a trip to the nearby Sukhothai Historical Park. And if you stay overnight at a homestay in the village of Ban Na Ton Chan, you can experience more of the local culture and hospitality that makes Sukhothai such a welcoming destination.
Si Satchanalai Historical Park
Most tourists travelling to Sukhothai province head straight to the Sukhothai Historical Park. This is the main attraction in the province and a wonderful place to visit. What many visitors don’t realise is that this is not the only site of historical interest in Sukhothai. Around 40 miles to the east is the stunning Si Satchanalai Historical Park.
Set amidst the lush countryside, the ruins at Si Satchanalai Historical Park see only a trickle of overseas tourists. Bicycle around the park and apart from the occasional group of Thai tourists and school children, there are times when you feel like you have the whole park to yourself. Signs in English and Thai explain the significance of the main sites and it’s a pleasure to simply cycle around the park discovering the ancient statues and temples.
Founded in 1250, Si Satchanalai was built on the banks of the Yom River as a satellite city for Sukhothai to the west. Along with the historical parks at Sukhothai and Kamphaeng Phet, Si Satchanalai is listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site with all three locations recognised for their importance as part of the original Thai kingdom and for their importance to Thai architecture and the arts.
During the 14th to 16th century, the area around Si Satchanalai (known today as Sawankhalok) was an important producer of celadon and ceramics. The unique pottery produced here was called ‘Sangkhalok’ and the kilns can still be viewed at Baan Koh Noi a few miles away from the main Si Satchanalai Historical Park. The town of Sawankhalok also makes an interesting diversion with a museum, vibrant street art, fabulous food and historic buildings.
Community based tourism at Ban Na Ton Chan
If you visit Si Satchanalai, you can combine it with an overnight homestay in the village of Ban Na Ton Chan. Located 10 miles away from the town of Si Satchanalai, Ban Na Ton Chan has won awards for their community based tourism initiatives which help tourists experience local culture and also help to preserve the old traditions of the village.
Homestay at Ban Na Ton Chan
There are more than 20 homestays in Ban Na Ton Chon with an overnight stay costing 500 Baht per person. This includes an evening meal on the first night and breakfast the following day. Additional activities that can be enjoyed in the village are extra.
Activities at Ban Na Ton Chan
Get up before dawn and make the short journey to climb up to the viewpoint and witness the early morning sea of mist over the Si Satchanalai countryside. After a hearty local breakfast, hire a bicycle (30 Baht) to explore the village and surrounding countryside. You can also hire a guide to learn more about the area and see some local highlights including the bamboo walkway over the rice fields. Tours of the village are also available on a modified version of an old-style tractor.
The village operates a number of community groups which promote traditional skills including Thai massage and folk music. Ban Na Ton Chan is also famous for their weaving and the mud-soaked textiles they produce. This technique was perfected by the ancestors of the village who wore sarongs while working in the rice paddies and discovered that the part of the cloth that was covered in mud became softer after washing. The old tradition has been revived and visitors can watch the process and also buy fabrics and clothes from the community shop in the village. These unique mud-fermented clothes are also sold via an outlet at Chatuchak Weekend Market in Bangkok.
Another Ban Na Ton Chan speciality that all visitors should try is a noodle dish known as ‘khao poeb‘. Made using steamed rice flour crepes, the dish contains a vegetable filling and is served in a tasty soup with minced pork and egg.
Good to know
Tour offices in Sukhothai can also arrange trips to Si Satchanalai or you can book a local guide online via Take Me Tour.
How to get to Si Satchanalai
The delightful Sukhothai Airport is approximately 15 minutes drive south of the town of Sawankhalok. Privately owned by Bangkok Airways, the airport is almost a destination in its own right with an organic farm, zoo and museum. From the airport, Si Satchanalai Historical Park is a 30 minute drive to the north while Sukhothai Historical Park is around 40 minutes away to the south. Bangkok Airways operate daily flights between Bangkok Suvarnabhumi and Sukhothai.
The city of Phitsanulok can also be used as a gateway to Sukhothai. The airport at Phitsanulok is around 70 miles south of Si Satchanalai Historical Park and 50 miles east of Sukhothai Historical Park. Low cost airlines Air Asia and Nok Air operate services between Phitsanulok and Bangkok Don Mueang.
Phitsanulok train station is on the main north-south rail line with regular services from Bangkok and Chiang Mai. On arrival in Phitsanulok, take a songthaew/tuk-tuk to the bus station for onward travel to Si Satchanalai or Sukhothai. There is also one train a day that runs between Bangkok and Sawankhalok.
Buses to Si Satchanalai depart from the main bus station in New Sukhothai. A helpful information desk at the bus station has timetables in English for tourists.