They are not similar at all. Too bad you can only choose one because both are worth seeing, in my opinion.
Ayuthaya's temples are, for the most part, incorporated into the city whereas Sukhothai 's, (again, for the most part) are in an historical park where there is little to no development, though both are UNESCO Heritage sites. You'll find ruins of chedis and walls here and there throughout each area, but for the most part Sukhothai is set-up like an outdoor museum while Ayuthaya's temples and palaces have been built around.
With that in mind, visiting most of Ayuthaya's temples involves racing around the city, with a handful of the more popular ones within walking distance of the train station and centre of town. Sukhothai, on the other hand, is very quiet and peaceful and you can see the entire place at a leisurely pace on a bike. And Si Satchanalai Historical Park is even more quiet and peaceful than Sukhothai (and has better ruins, as well). Some of Ayuthaya's temples, though, sit on the banks of the Chao Phraya, which is really nice if you are taking a boat tour.
The internet and most guide books have info that you can read about the period architecture, Khmer influences, and conditions that the temples in each place were built under if that is important in helping you decide. But one thing that could be the deal clincher is that Ayuthaya takes about an hour to reach by train from Bangkok. Sukhothai is approximately 6 hours from the capital (around 5 hours by train to reach Phitsanulok, then another hour by bus or songthaew to reach Sukhothai). There are some direct buses to Sukhothai from Bangkok, as well. Then, it is another 12 km to the historical area (Old Sukhothai) by songthaew (5 baht, if I remember correctly).
If I was going to be heading north (or was coming back from the north) and had to choose, having been to both places, I'd choose Sukhothai and make sure that I also took in Si Satchanalai.
Good luck deciding. The agony of choice.
Just how much time do you have and where else are you visiting?
Both Sukhothai and Ayutthaya are pretty good, but the real advantage of Ayutthaya is its proximity to Bangkok. If you were completely rushed, you could do Ayutthaya as a day trip from Bangers, or better yet, as a late afternoon stopover on the sleeper train to Chiang Mai (for example). I like late afternoon best in Ayutthaya, because the day tours have already left and the light of the retreating sun on many of the temples is nice. It is a bit cooler then too.
If you do visit Ayutthaya, check out the the temples to the far west of the city - well beyond the normal cluster of places Tilapia mentioned above. There used to be an affordable small boat trip that made a trip around the island with stops at a few temples and other spots too, but I can't say if that is still there.
For an overall experience, including night life, I'd probably recommend Sukhothai. But if your time is limited, you'll do fine visiting just Ayutthaya. I hope that helps. Cheers.
I haven't been to Ayuthaya.
I like the serenity and compactness of Sri Satchanalai. But the most memorable statue for me is the Buddha with the most elegant hands in Wat Si Chum, Sukhothai Park. IMHO, if you go to Sukhothai than there is no need to go to Si Satchanalai.
I went to Si Satchanala as a day trip from Sukhothai. The problem I had with was that the bus stop had been moved. The bus stop was closer to Wat Phra Sri Rattana Mahathat rather than the main entrance of the park. The one shop that rented bicyles had just run out and it was a 2.5 kilometer walk to the park's main entrance under the blistering sun and another walk back to catch the bus back to sukhothai.
Ya, getting to, from, and around Si Satchanalai isn't entirely straightforward without having one's own transport. Best to rent a motorbike in Sukhothai (B200) and make an afternoon out of it. The ride up to Si Satchanalai along #1113 is excellent and the pathways through the park are great for riding on.
guernseydan, if you are interested, Wat Suthat in Bangkok (walking distance from the Khao San Road area, Royal Palace/Wat Phra Kaew), houses one of the original bronze Sukhothai Buddha images, Phra Sri Sakyamuni. It's huge, and the temple itself is a great place to visit, especially in the evening.
I've been to both several times each and tend to prefer Sukhothai. The historical park is isolated from the newer city of the same name so traffic is minimal, it's flat so you can bike around easily, and most of the desecrated Buddha statues have been faithfully restored. Ayutthaya ruins are tucked into various parts of a busy city so it's less relaxing, and most of the beheaded Buddhas have been left as-is. I like my Buddhas to be happy.
thanks for all the info, i was under the impression that both places were similar but as it seems like there not i will try to take in both
Im visiting for 6 weeks but planning on doing a month Muay Thai training on Samiu, so before that i was planning on a few days in BKK then train upto Ayuthaya then Chiang Mai or straight to Chiang Mai and catch Sukhothai on the way back south, but since they sound different its possible i could do both
I arrive on the 14th of August and would like to goto the Full Moon Party 1st September then train for a month on Samiu before i leave on the 30th September
I,ve done a fair bit of travelling around Thailand in the past but i've never been to either places before, so it would be great to do both
Maybe after BKK i could train to Ayuthaya early, stay the night and leave the next evening for Chiang Mai and the on my way south i could stay 1 or 2 nights in Sukhothai
I'd like to spend a week in Chiang Mai, have been before but i have lots of stuff to do, i've never been to Wat Pra Prabet Si Roy the 4 Buddha footprints temple and id also like to try some fishing at the Mae Ngat Dam, also some mountain biking on Doi Suthep
I rode to Pai from Chiang Mai a few years ago on a scooter and it was great so i would enjoy a short trip on a bike
After Chiang Mai i was planning on a week partying on Phuket before i go to Samiu but i could cut that down to a few nights and spend more time up north!
So much to do so little time!
#8 guernseydan has been a member since 26/12/2010. Posts: 52
That's a long scooter trip. Do you really need a month doing muay? Do 2 weeks and have more holiday time to see things.
#9 longbeach has been a member since 28/3/2012. Posts: 307
Im starting my basic training for the Army a week after i get home so the Muay Thai will help me keep fit
Also financially staying for a month on Samiu is important for my budget as its tight and doing a month training even with scooter and accommodation saves me cash and keeps me off the Chang Yai's!
I spent 9 months in Thailand last year so i had plenty of holiday time but Ayutthaya and Sukhothai are both places i neglected last visit
#10 guernseydan has been a member since 26/12/2010. Posts: 52
Chang Khuaat Yai
Khuaat means bottle
#11 longbeach has been a member since 28/3/2012. Posts: 307