Bang Pa-In – The Royal Summer Palace of Thai Kings
Bang Pa-In is a strikingly beautiful Royal Summer Palace complex formerly used by the Thai kings. This 46-acres grand complex is located in the Bang Pa district, 60 kms to the north of Bangkok. It is a 45-minute drive from the main Bangkok city, along the glorious Chao Phraya river. The palace is quite near to Ayutthaya and the visit can be combined with your day trip to Ayutthaya.
Bang Pa-In Palace was originally built in the 17th century by King Prasat Throng. However, the original palace was destroyed by the Burmese army and it was left abandoned for almost hundred years. The palace was restored and reconstructed by King Mongkut (Rama IV) in 1850’s and then by his predecessor, King Chulalongkorn (Rama V). This beautiful palace is still used by the Thai royal family as a summer residence.
The entry fee to the palace is 100 Baht ($3.05 approx.) per person.
Dress code is strictly enforced in Bang Pa-In Palace. Make sure you wear a decent attire that covers your shoulders and knees. In case you need wardrobe adjustments, there is a gift shop at the entrance of the Palace where you can buy clothes at reasonable prices. The shop sells a variety of other items as well including souvenirs.
You can either walk around to explore the complex or hire a golf cart at 400 Baht ($12.25 approx.). It was a bright sunny day when we planned our visit. So, we preferred hiring the golf cart. You must have a valid driving license which you need to submit at the time of hiring the cart. You will get it back once you return the cart keys. There are cart parking areas scattered all over the complex. You can easily park your vehicle explore the buildings and click photographs.
The palace is a blend of European, Chinese and Thai architecture. It provides a great insight into the lifestyle of the royal family. The Palace complex is divided into inner palace and outer palace, both the sections connected by a covered bridge. The outer palace has four principle buildings and the inner palace has five principle buildings. Everything is beautifully set on a peaceful waterway with thoughtfully designed bridges, sculpted gardens and reserved ponds.
The iconic buildings are laid out along an artificial ornamental pond that is lined with formal plantings. Each of these buildings feature its own exclusive architectural elegance. A number of fascinating sculptors will attract your attention and offer a good photo opportunity.
The tour of the complex will take around 2 hours if you choose to walk and 1 hour if you hire the golf cart. Both ways, the stroll is a memorable experience. You will get to explore the splendid buildings telling enigmatic tales of the glorious past. Listed below are some of these iconic landmarks. I know their names are tongue twisters, but the buildings are very beautiful.
Phra Thinang Aisawan Thiphya-Art
Phra Thinang means ‘Royal Residence’ and Aisawan Thiphya-Art means ‘The divine seat of personal freedom’. This beautiful Thai-style pavilion has four porches and a spired roof. Built in the middle of the outer pond by King Chulalongkorn in 1876, It houses a bronze statue of King Chulalongkorn in the uniform of a Field Marshall. The statue was set up by his son King Vajiravudh (Rama VI). The prolific Thai architecture of the pavilion is a sight to behold.
Painted in white, it is a single-storey semi-circle building located along the southern wall. Formerly known as Devaraj-Damrongsorn, it was the passage used by the king to access the inner court. Currently, it is used for setting up the exhibitions.
It is a beautiful corner covered with a canopy of natural plants – a perfect place to enjoy the warm sun and cool breeze as well as to test your photography skills.
Keng Boo-Pah Pra-Paht
It is a little delightful structure with two porches and curved openings. Decorated with unusual fretwork, it is a great place to click amazing pictures.
This is another fascinating and picturesque building – a gate in the middle of the waterway. It looks like an enigmatic scene from a fairy tale. Perfect photoshoot opportunity!
Ho Withun Thasana
Ho means ‘Tower’ and Withun Thasana means ‘The sages lookout’. This dutch architectural style observatory tower was built by King Chulalongkorn in 1881. This three storey tower was used by the King to get the bird’s eye view of the surrounding countryside.
Phra Thinang Uthayan Phumisathian
Phra Thinang Uthayan Phumisathian means ‘Garden of the secured land’. This beautiful European style building is a private property of the royal family. Visitors can only view it and take pictures from outside. It was the favourite residence of King Chulalongkorn when he stayed at the Bang Pa-In Palace. The original mansion was built with wood in the style of two-storied Swiss chalet in 1877. It was painted in two shades of green and was luxuriously furnished. However, in 1938 the mansion was accidentally burnt down while undergoing minor repairs. The new building was constructed in 1996 on Queen Sirikit’s command.
Phra Thinang Wehart Chamrun
Phra Thinang means ‘Royal Residence’ and Wehart Chamrun means ‘Heavenly Light’. Painted in bright red glittering gold, this is truly a palace of romance. The ornamented tiled floors, delicate fretwork, massive ebony furniture, intricate artwork of gold, silver and porcelain – everything is a rich display of the excellence of Chinese architecture. The palace is a two-storied mansion – the ground floor houses a Chinese-styled throne and the upper storey contains the altars enshrining the name plates of King Mongkut and King Chulalongkorn with their respective queens. This elegant palace was built by the equivalent of the Chinese Chamber of Commerce and was presented to the King Chulalongkorn in 1889.
Phra Thinang Warophat Phiman
Phra Thinang means ‘Royal Residence’ and Warophat Phiman means ‘Excellent and shining heavenly abode’. This Neo-Classical style beautiful mansion was built by King Chulalongkorn in 1876 as his residence and throne hall. It is a one storey building that is still used by the royal family whenever they reside at the Palace. The chambers of the mansion are adorned by fascinating oil paintings depicting significant events in Thai History as well as the scenes from Thai Literature. You need to wear a traditional Thai sarong to enter Phra Thinang Warophat Phiman. Sarongs are available at the entrance of the mansion at no cost. Photography is not allowed inside the mansion.
Other Significant Buildings
There are some other significant buildings in the complex with intriguing history. There is a Memorial to Queen Sunanda Kumariratana who died in 1881 by drowning as her boat capsized. The onlookers couldn’t save her because the Thai law of that time prohibited the commoners to touch Royalty and the punishment for the same was death penalty. The memorial contains a poem written by her heartbroken king. There is a memorial to Princess Saovabhark and Three Royal Children who died in the same year in 1887. There are mansions of the former Queens and Princesses with interesting furniture.
Overall, Bang Pa-In Summer Palace is quite a fascinating place to visit. Peeping into the chapters of Thai History in a serene, peaceful and royal setting is such a splendid experience!