Sukhothai is from Sanskrit sukha ( "happiness") + udaya ( "rise, emergence"), meaning "dawn of happiness". Founded in 1238, it is about 427 km north of Bangkok. Sukhothai was the capital of the Thai Empire for approximately 140 years. As of 2014, 193 temples have been excavated and partly reconstructed.
The stele of Ram Khamhaeng states the city had a triple wall and four gates. At its center was a pond, a "marvelous pond of clear and delicious water like the water of the Mekong in the dry season." The Aranyika monastery was west of the city, a great lake to the east, a market to the north, and the Khao Luang hill to the south.:207
Old Sukhothai is a quiet town with almost no hotels. Most visitors stay in New Sukhothai. Others stay in the nearby city of Phitsanulok, which has numerous hotels and restaurants and is on the rail line between Bangkok and Chiang Mai.