It had been a long time since our last visit to Sukhothai Historical Park. Actually 20 years since our first trip here. And what a wonderful experience we had, with many great memories. Naturally we stayed at Old Sukhothai town, which was just next to the entrance of the park. People were nice and friendly and not used to tourists yet. Even on our second visit a few years later, people were still nice, though tourism had detected this sleepy beauty and we came to attend the Loy Krathong festival in the park.
Not surprisingly was I all excited to go back and re-visit the town and the park again. I even made it a special trip worth with a long drive from Chiang Mai and on the way to Phitsanulok. I wanted to enjoy the park and have penty of time here, so I scheduled 3 full days to visit Old Sukhothai!
While we hardly had any choices for hotels 20 years back, the place now seemed to be just hotels. Well, hotels, restaurants and shops actually. It looked like every building had been converted into a place for tourists and everyone in town was working in the tourism industry. There was even a huge Seven Eleven store in the middle of town now and while we had no choice for restaurants years ago, there were now plenty of restaurants along the way to the park.
The biggest change however was that not a single person was friendly or smiling. Something that Thailand is actually known for – smiles! Not one person was friendly, from the hotel staff to the restaurant waitress to the staff of the ticket office of the park.
Can mass tourism really change such a small town to become the total opposite of what it used to be? I think so! Sukhothai Historical Park is now part of many tours through Thailand. It’s a stopover for a day, or even just a few hours. The food has been horrible and it was mostly western dishes or Thai food which was so bad that I ended up buying packaged sandwiches in Seven Eleven. Prices were high and portions were super small!
What a disappointment! Coming from friendly Chiang Mai and having met the nicest people along the way in Lamphun or Lampang, Old Sukhothai was the unfriendliest place I have ever experienced in 20 years of travelling through Thailand. Sad!