Top Cities in Thailand for History Buffs to Visit

Wat Phra Sri Sanphet in Ayutthaya
Wat Phra Sri Sanphet in Ayutthaya | © Courtesy of Kelly Iverson
Kelly Iverson

Tourists often overlook the most interesting, historical destinations in the countries they visit. Relaxing beaches or epic nights out keeps them from exploring. There are plenty of historical cities in Thailand, worth visiting even if just for a day or two. Here are the top cities in the Kingdom to visit for history buffs.

1. Kanchanaburi

Bridge, Cemetery, Museum, Park

While many visitors tend to visit Kanchanaburi to see the seven-tiered waterfall at Erawan National Park, the apparently quaint city is home to some of the most historic relics in Thailand. It was here that prisoners of war built the Thai-Burma Railway, otherwise known as the Death Railway during World War II. Both the JEATH War Museum and the Kanchanaburi War Cemetery, otherwise known as the Don-Rak War Cemetery, are found here. In addition to these, one of the most picturesque yet disturbing spots in town is the bridge over the Khwae Yai River. Featured in a number of films, this bridge is a testament to those who suffered here and were forced to build it during the war, under appalling conditions.

Bridge over the river Kwai | © Courtesy of brianfagan/Flickr

Ayutthaya

With crumbling temples, ruins, and prangs on almost every corner, Ayutthaya is a history buff’s paradise. These relics, though extremely beautiful, came to be after the city was destroyed in a fire set by the Burmese in the 18th century. While many of the temples were destroyed at that time, the skeletal remains still remain in the city, and visitors are able to meander through and explore the amazing architecture. Ayutthaya was the second capital of the Siamese Kingdom after Sukhothai, and it flourished for many centuries up until the invasion.

Wat Phra Sri Sanphet in Ayutthaya

There are three main historical sites in and around Udon Thani. The Ban Chiang Archaeological Site is the most noteworthy of them all. It was declared a World Heritage Site in 1992 due to the ceramics and bronze artifacts found here in 1966. It is considered one of the oldest settlements discovered in Southeast Asia according to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). In addition to Ban Chiang, visitors of Udon Thani will find the Ban Chiang Historical Museum, where they can learn more about ancient relics, as well as the Phu Phrabat Historical Park, which is situated about 40 miles outside of the city. It is home to a number of strange rock formations intertwined with Buddha shrines.

The City Pillar Shrine, Udon Thani, Thailand

2. Si Satchanalai

Museum, Park, Ruins

Though Sukhothai may be a more popular destination for history buffs to frequent, the ruins from both the Khmer and Sukhothai period found at Si Satchanalai are arguably just as noteworthy. Before exploring the Si Satchanalai Historical Park, visitors should first check out the museum found at the entrance to get a better grasp as to what they will be seeing. There are a total of 204 relics to be seen at the park, which was established in 1988.

Wat Phra Si Rattana Mahathat Chaling | © Courtesy of John Shedrick/Flickr

Bangkok

Bangkok is the most visited city in the world, but not always for the most educational of reasons. The lure of its red light districts and thriving nightlife tends to draw in the craziest of crowds, however, the capital has so much more to offer visitors. The city has its fair share of flashy new skyscrapers, but scour the city a bit more and find grand temples, extravagant architecture, and historic relics throughout. Some of the most noteworthy historic finds include Wat Arun, Wat Pho, the Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaeo, Wat Saket and the Golden Mount, and more. Those hoping to really delve into the city’s history can also visit the Bangkok National Museum, the most extensive museum covering everything from Thai art to religion and more.

Grand Palace, Na Phra Lan Rd, Phra Nakhon, Bangkok

Bangkok National Museum, Khwaeng Chana Songkhram, Khet Phra Nakhon, Krung Thep Maha Nakhon 10200

Wat Arun Budha

Sukhothai

About an hour from Si Satchanalai is the more popular ancient city of Sukhothai. The city was established in 1238, and it was the country’s first Siamese Kingdom. This was known as the golden age, and some of the most classic Thai art and architecture came to be during this time under King Ramkamhaeng. The Sukhothai Historical Park is one of the main attractions in the city for visitors. One of the most impressive structures of them all is Wat Mahathat, which is now mostly in ruins. History buffs can also visit the Ramkamhaeng National Museum, and visitors do not need much more than a day or so to explore Sukhothai in its entirety.

Sukhothai

Chiang Rai

Chiang Mai was established in 1262 as the center of the Lanna Kingdom, making it one of the oldest cities in the country. The mountainous province has so much more to offer visitors than just its stunning terrain. Chiang Rai is oftentimes an overlooked destination because of its more popular neighbor, Chiang Mai, but this charming city has plenty of temples in addition to an education center that history buffs are sure to love. The most famous of them all is Wat Rong Khun, otherwise known as the White Temple. There are a number of smaller, noteworthy architectural wonders in addition to this famous temple, including Wat Ched Yot and Wat Doi Chom Thong, just to name a few.

White Temple, Chiang Rai, Thailand

3. Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai is oftentimes regarded as the northern capital of Thailand. With a buzzing city center and sprawling mountains just outside its core, backpackers, expats, and Thais alike all flock to this charming city. In addition to adventurous excursions and delicious eats found throughout the city, Chiang Mai is a historical grove of temples, Lanna-style architecture, shrines, and more. One of the most historic areas of the city is the village of Wiang Kum Kam. It is home to a number of temples, and this area was actually the capital of the Lanna Kingdom until Chiang Mai replaced it. The highlight of Chiang Mai for history buffs, however, are the hundreds of Buddhist temples found all over town.

Wat Phra That Doi Suthep in Chiang Mai | © Courtesy of Kelly Iverson

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