Our 12 Days in Myanmar (Burma) trip whetted our appetite for the intriguing history of the centuries-long warfare between Burma and Siam. Once we returned to Bangkok, we planned a quick road trip to Kamphaeng Phet and Sukhothai to explore the ruins in the UNESCO World Heritage Historical Parks located in each city.
While Kamphaeng Phet Historical Park has virtually no international visitor infrastructure, it was our favorite of the three similar ancient sites that we have visited in Thailand (Ayutthaya, Kamphaeng Phet, and Sukhothai).
Kamphaeng Phet Historic Park is 354 kilometers from Bangkok. It takes about 4 hours and 30 minutes to make the drive. Having independent transportation is vital to making the most out of your visit to Kamphaeng Phet.
It is easier to visit Sukhothai than Kamphaeng Phet if you are traveling by bus. Many international tourists visit Sukhothai on the way between Bangkok and Chiang Mai.
Our favorite way to visit Ayutthaya is by train. Only 64 kilometers from Bangkok, it is very easy to make this into a day trip.
Kamphaeng Phet Historical Park is part of the UNESCO World Heritage site “Historic Town of Sukhothai and Associated Historic Towns”. The name Kamphaeng Phet means “walls as strong as diamonds”, referring to the ancient walls protecting the city. An important part of the defense system of the Sukhothai Kingdom, Kamphaeng Phet was strategically situated to protect the capital Sukhothai from invasion by Burmese armies. The town was protected with a system of moats, city walls, watchtowers, and fortresses.
On the east bank of the Ping River, the park contains monuments built during the 13th to 17th centuries by the Sukhothai and Ayutthaya empires. The Buddhists at the time were divided into two groups: Khamawasi and Aranyawasi.
- Central Zone (City Temples) – Khamawasi monks resided in the city monasteries to preach to the people.
- Northern Zone (Forest Temples) – Aranyawasi monks resided outside the city and concentrated on meditation.
Central Zone is situated within its ancient walls and surrounded by a moat. The town was built in a trapezoid shape parallel to the river. The north wall is 2400 meters long, the south wall is 2160 meters long, the east wall is 540 meters long, and the west wall is 220 meters long. The structures are primarily constructed from laterite.
Laterite is a fascinating soil rich in iron and aluminum. When first dug up and moist, laterite can easily be cut into regular-sized blocks. Upon exposure to air, it gradually hardens into a rigid lattice structure.
The park is well maintained, and it was very peaceful wandering through the ancient temples. We had the park practically to ourselves!
Our favorite temple in Central Zone was the photogenic Wat Phra Kaeo. Wat Phra Kaeo translates as Temple of the Emerald Buddha. The largest temple in Central Zone, it was named after the Buddha image that, according to historical documents, was enshrined here in the early 1400s.
The famous Emerald Buddha is now housed in the Temple of the Emerald Buddha on the grounds of the Grand Palace in Bangkok. It is revered as the Buddha image that brings spiritual authority to the Thai king.
Northern Zone is located about 1.5 kilometers from Central Zone. There is a visitor center located at the northern entrance.
Northern Zone contains over 40 different sites spread over a large forested area. Shaded and peaceful, we loved exploring this park!
The large standing Buddha at Wat Phra Si Iriyabot is impressive! Its name translates to “temple of the four postures of the Buddha”. The 15th or 16th century temple once held four Buddha images (walking, standing, sitting and reclining) enclosed by laterite walls. Only the standing Buddha remains intact. Make sure you walk around to the back or you will miss it!
The Wat Chang Rop is a temple founded in the 15th or 16th century. Its name translates to “temple surrounded by elephants”. A very steep stairway at each of the four cardinal directions leads to the large platform on top of the well-preserved square base, at the center of which once stood the chedi surrounded by 68 elephant statues.
Nakhon Chum Temples
Want more temples? Across the Ping River, in Nakhon Chum (Kamphaeng Phet’s sister city), is a cluster of temples that are even older (settled during the 11th century).
Also referred to as Western Zone, its fortification and temple ruins are in a worse state of preservation, and there is no actual park. As a result, they are widely ignored by locals and tourists alike. The zone contains 12 ancient monuments, mostly small, brick temples.
Western Zone also contains the recently restored Thung Setthi Fortress. The square-shaped fortress was built during the Ayutthaya era. It is surrounded by 6 meter high laterite walls that are 85 meters long on each side.
We spent two nights at Maiyai Resort (590 THB / 18.5 USD per night). We stayed in one of the cute concrete cottages, and we enjoyed our stay.
Kapiho 2 – Sometimes you find a restaurant that you just love! When we were heading to Nakhon Chum, we decided to cross the southern bridge and drive through Kamphaeng Phet Rajabhat University. On the other side of the university, we passed a papaya salad restaurant that was packed, so we pulled over and grabbed a seat.
Nothing was written in English, and no one spoke English! Not even a little. Furthermore, there were no pictures on the menu. In cases like this, we enjoy pointing at two items on the menu at random and waiting for the surprise! It is often how we find new meals that we come to love.
It was the best papaya salad I have ever had!
We had a fantastic time in Kamphaeng Phet. It is a very laid-back town and we had most of the temples to ourselves as we explored. The temples are very beautiful, and there are lots of them! If you are interested in the ancient history of Thailand, I highly recommend taking a road trip to explore Kamphaeng Phet Historic Park.
Admission Fees and Information:
Kamphaeng Phet’s Historical Park consists of three separate parts: Central Zone, Northern Zone, and Nakhon Chum (Western Zone). Central Zone and Northern Zone have a separate admission fee of 100 THB / 3 USD each. A combined ticket for both sections is available for 150 THB / 4.7 USD each. There is a vehicle fee in Northern Zone – 50 THB / 1.5 USD for a car. The historical park opens daily from 8 am until 5 pm. The visitor center opens from 8.30 am until 4.30 pm. The walls, forts and the sights of Nakhon Chum can be accessed without ticket.
Tip: If you arrive after 5 PM you can enter without paying admission. Many locals take advantage of Northern Zone’s paths to get exercise in the evening. We timed our arrival to get there a little after 5 PM on the day we arrived so that we could enjoy an evening stroll through the park.
If you have a smart phone with a data plan, there are signs with QR codes in 5 languages throughout the park to make it easy to get explanations of the various sites.
We also visited the very informative Kamphaeng Phet National Museum (100 THB / 3 USD each). The museum is open 9 AM to 4:30 PM Wednesday through Sunday. The museum gives a very good explanation of the history of the area and exhibits artifacts found during excavations around several sites in Kamphaeng Phet.
From Bangkok: Take Highway 32 from Bangkok to Nakhon Sawan (passing Ayutthaya, Ang-Thong and Singburi) and then take along Highway 1 to Kamphaeng Phet.
GPS Coordinates: Kamphaeng Phet National Museum @ 16.488383,99.522287 Central Zone Northern Zone Nakhon Chum Temples
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Maiyai Resort @ 16.493068,99.537983
Kamphaeng Phet Rajabhat University @ 16.453265,99.514144
Kapiho 2 Papaya Salad Restaurant @ 16.464458,99.520759
Central Zone @ 16.487588,99.518215
Wat Phra Kaeo @ 16.488274,99.518029
Northern Zone Entrance 1 @ 16.507031,99.519939
Visitor Center @ 16.506929,99.518658
Northern Zone Entrance 2 @ 16.497832,99.515707
Wat Phra Si Iriyabot @ 16.501302,99.514715
Wat Chang Rop @ 16.502953,99.509691
Wat Chedi Klang Thung @ 16.472209,99.514310
Thung Setthi Fortress @ 16.473625,99.502701
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Kamphaeng Phet National Museum @ 16.488383,99.522287
Nakhon Chum Temples
You can copy and paste the latitude and longitude into Google Earth, your browser, or into your GPS.
*Disclaimer- ALWAYS verify locations, transportation routes, GPS coordinates, etc. Errors are made, routes changed, sometimes we are just plain wrong. No one knows what you like more than you. If the trip is worth doing, it is worth doing right! Do your homework.