Kamphaeng Phet, 77km south of Sukhothai, was probably founded in the fourteenth century by the kings of Sukhothai as a buffer city between their capital and the increasingly powerful city-state of Ayutthaya. The ruined old city has, like Sukhothai and Si Satchanalai, been partly restored and opened to the public as a historical park. The least visited of the three, it stands out for its untamed setting and the gracefully weathered statues of its main temple. The historical park takes in the two most interesting areas: the zone inside the old city walls and the forested "Arunyik" area just north of that. A tour of both areas involves a five-kilometre round-trip, so the best option is either to rent a bicycle or motorbike in the new town or to bring your own transport from the larger nearby tourist towns of Sukhothai or Phitsanulok.
A new city has grown up on the southeastern boundaries of the old, the usual commercial blandness offset by a riverside park, plentiful flowers and an unusual number of historic wooden houses dotted along the main thoroughfares. You can even swim off an island in the middle of the river, accessible via a footbridge near Soi 21, a few hundred metres south of the night market.
Kamphaeng Phet is served by direct buses from Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Tak, but most travellers come here on a day-trip from Sukhothai or Phitsanulok, both of which run numerous services to the city. Should you decide to linger for a few days, Three J Guest House not only makes a pleasant base but can also arrange rafting and bird-watching trips in nearby national parks.