Both are a very similar destination, Sukhothai in a quiet rural setting and Ayutthaya in a busy urban environment.
Sukhothai is a bit out of the most frequent itineraries and for this reason generally there is no agglomeration of tourists. It is a special visit, to enjoy calmly, perhaps by renting bicycles.
Ayutthaya, near Bangkok, has a greater influx of visitors. In favour, it can be combined with the visit to the magnificent Bang Pa-In summer palace and one of the routes can be done by boat, sailing along the Chao Phraya River. We recommend the way back.
They have in common that the sites of historical interest are mostly Buddhist monasteries scattered over a large area, so one of the keys of the visit will be to make an adequate and not excessive selection, according to the time available and personal interests.
A stage in Sukhothai is well suited on an itinerary that is made by road to the north, either in a private vehicle or a group visit.
By regular bus it is also possible, taking into account that the schedules will probably be unfavourable when arriving shortly after midnight.
The explanation is that people usually travel at night to take advantage of the day in visits and activities, a schedule that works very well when the distance is 700 or 800 km because you leave at dusk and you arrive at the destination shortly after dawn. But in this case, the distance is much smaller and the arrival is after midnight, already the next day.
Once the visit is over, the connection with Chiang Mai from the same historical park can be done on a regular bus line but with numerous stops during the route, so the trip takes about four hours.
It is advisable to book accommodation directly in the historic park and not in the village of Sukhothai, 13 km away.
The railway line has a station in Phitsanulok, about 75 km away, and again the schedules are not going to be favourable for a short visit. The best option is to travel at night in bunk beds, and both arrival and departure (to Chiang Mai) will be shortly after midnight.
In both cases, train and bus, it will be convenient to book 2 nights of accommodation, first so as not to have to wait many hours in the street until 14h00 (check-in time) to access the room and, second, to not having to leave the room at 12h00 (check-out time) on the same day of arrival.
The nearest airports are those of Sukhothai (operated by Bangkok Airways) and Phitsanulok.
There is available a specific post with a beautiful video about Sukhothai.
Ayutthaya is located about 75 km away from Bangkok and the easy access by both road and train allows a day visit. Making the whole trip or just returning by boat along the Chao Phraya River is an attractive option since it is very pleasant and offers a different perspective of the landscape.
The visit can be combined with a stop at the Bang Pa-In Summer Palace or with an extension to Lopburi to visit the temple of the monkeys.
Schedules for transfers by train.
Train n. 135 Rapid 06h40 20 baht
Train n. 111 Rapid 07h00 20 baht
Train n. 75 Express 08h20 20 baht
Train n. 7 Special Express 08h30 345 baht
Train n. 201 Ordinary 09h25 15 baht
Keep in mind that the price is very low except for the Special Express at 08h30.
To update the prices and see combinations with the Bang Pa-In Summer Palace, check this website.
The city can be visited on your own, but if you prefer to join an organized group from Bangkok with a local guide, you can make the Ayutthaya Excursion Reserve here (not available yet). The return is made by a cruise on the Chao Phraya River.
Read more about Ayutthaya in this post, including a video.
When was Thailand the Kingdom of Siam?
The country was officially named the Kingdom of Siam during the reign of King Mongkut, Rama IV, in the mid-nineteenth century.
Apparently, its origin is based in the Portuguese translation of the Chinese term used to refer to the Kingdom of Ayutthaya, which was something like ‘HSIEN‘.
Thus we can speak of the Kingdom of Siam from the mid-fourteenth century. The truth is that it sounds lovely and exotic.
Nevertheless, considering that it was the same people and that there was continuity between the kingdoms of Sukhothai and Ayutthaya, it’s usual to refer to the two cities as the capitals of the Kingdom of Siam. It is not accurate, but it is simpler.
Later, in 1949, after heated debates not yet closed, the name was changed to the Kingdom of Thailand, the land of free men.
We have a short post with video about the history of Thailand, we offer 4 historical references to place the visits and excursions in Sukhothai and Ayutthaya.