When you talk about tourist destinations in Thailand, what comes into your mind are majestic temples symbolizing the strong faith of Thais, amazing ruins that served as living proof of the rich history of the Kingdom, finest beaches and even elephant feeding.
Perhaps, less traveled compared to the ruins of Ayutthaya, Bang Pa in Royal Palace is a stunning former dwelling place of the Royals of Thailand. This ancient place is only two hours travel by ordinary train from Bangkok.
*Constructed in 1632 by the late King Prasat and restored by King Mongkut in the 19th century but most of the current structures are built during the time of King Chulalongkorn between 1872 and 1889. Bang pa in Palace is nestled beside Chao Phraya River in Bang Pa in District, Province of Ayutthaya. Aside from the beauty of these centennial buildings is a sad story of the late Royals but let me hold your curiosity and be smitten first with the beauty of Bang Pa in Royal Palace
- Grandest Structures
Feels Like Europe
You would not think you are in Thailand except perhaps the warm weather. Dubbed as the Summer Palace, these royal residences are designed with Romanisque Architecture painted with light colors such as White and Beige, fountains constructed on the man-made lagoon, antique lampposts seen around the palace, and ancient statues erected on every side of the wide foot bridge, all of these will take you to a like European tour that you only get to see (and me) in movies or magazines.
Light purple and white dominate the colors of the Royal Residence. Large French window designs and paneled doors are glimpsed of a European inspired building in the Palace. * King Chulalongkorn was the first Royal who loves travel and it includes Europe. In fact, was welcomed by the Russian Dynasty and Emperors of Germany.
Varobhas Bimarn Residence is the formal throne room and was open to the public but unfortunately was closed during our visit as it is under renovation. The wide Spartan design windows and gigantic posts are common sights you will see in the olden times such as in Greece.
The Chinese Touch
This two-storey Chinese style Phra Thinang Wehart Chamrun was a gift to King Chulalongkorn in 1888 by the Chinese Chamber of Commerce. Painted mostly with Red and Gold, this mansion became the favorite relaxing place of King Rama IV in 1900’s every time the late king visits the palace. With the Chinese Bamboos planted around, it really describes the oriental look of the Palace.
While Ho Withun Thasana served the tower of the Royals to view the panoramic site of the palace and neighboring countryside. This was built in 1881 by King Chulalongkorn.
Royals Love Literature
Known as the Floating Pavilion, Aisawan Thipya is the only structure related to Thai architecture and built under King Chulalongkorn. Constructed on the wide artificial lake, this house is also called the Divine Seat of Personal Freedom. The young Royals are said to frequent in this place to laid back and read poems.
2. Centuries-old House of the Royals
If you have the passion of learning history and seeing memorabilia like me, Bang pa in Palace is a must visit. On the back side, century-old houses of the late Royals are preserved. Even in the olden days, Thais have an eye to glamorous designs as seen in these ancient homes. Tropical flowers such as bougainvilla, orchids and century old trees surround the nostalgic place . Each old house has a picture of the old occupants hung on the outside wall such as on the mansion of Her Majesty Queen Sukhumala Marasri, daughter of King Mongkut and his concubine, Samli which later, became one of the four escort of her half-brother King Chulalongkorn. Queen Sri Savarindira, the Queen Escort of Siam also the half-sister of King Chulongkorn and the grandmother of the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej.
3. Behind Its Grandeur is a Tragic Story
Loss of the Queen and the Little Princess
Not only the designs made Bang pa in Palace different from other popular tourist spots of Thailand but the tragic death of the late Queen Sunanda Kumariratana, the first wife of King Chulalongkorn and was told his most loved among his four wives and Princess Kannabhorn Bejaratana, who was then 19 years old and almost 2 two years old respectively when the unfortunate incident happened on May 31, 1880.This is not a legend as it really happened. The Queen and the Little Princess were traveling Bang Pa In Palace by traversing the big Chao Phraya River when their respective boat were capsized by strong waves. What makes it sad was no one from the Royal Escort attempted to rescue the two royals. Even there were attempts from the people who were able to watch, the Royal Guards prevented them and just watched the boat to sink. You will surely ask now why? The Royal guards were following an ancient Siamese law forbidding ordinary people to touch the Royals and disobeying is punishable by death. The lead guard with his strict understanding on this law was imprisoned , by the order of King Chulalongkorn, who was so much in pain and sorrow for the loss of his three (the late Queen was pregnant when she met her untimely death) family members. After that devastating incident, the law was lifted.
It took seven months before the cremation was done on 09 March 1881 and the ashes were laid on 21 March 1881 by the King after six months of memorial dedications.
Today, you will see in Bang Pa in Palace monument constructed under King Rama V dedicated to his loving wife the late Queen Sunanda and the little princess.
To sum up, a visit to Bang Pa in Royal Palace is not only a glance of the beauty of the elegant structures but it also unearthed the most sorrowful story of the Royals which I am glad I learned upon my visit. Really, Amazing Thailand.
How to Get Here:
Take the ordinary train to Ayutthaya from Hua Lamphong Train Station. There are two schedules in the morning, 7 and 9. It will take you only two hours travel.
From Bang pa in Train Station, take sieng tiew for 20 Baht, motorcycle for 30 Baht or Tuktuk for 50 Baht which we did and share the fare. It took us only 20 minutes to reach the Palace.
Entrance Fee: 100 Baht for Foreigners (3.24 USD) and 50 Baht for Thais
Visiting Time: The gate is open at 8 am till 5 pm but tickets are sold until 3 pm only.
Dress Code: Like any other temples in Thailand, no shorts or mini skirt are allowed. If you happened to wear this kind of clothing, no worries. A store infront of the Palace has Thai Skirts or Sarong for rent for 50.00 Baht for one day.
Source: *Wikipedia, Chakri Dynasty, Thai Law page 9