Welcome to an unusually tranquil place not far from Bangkok. This used to be the Royal summer palace and still functions occasionally as a place for banquets and receptions.
The palace dates back to the 17th century but like Ayutthaya it was abandonded after the Burmese attack in 1767. Most of the buildings we meet today were constructed between 1872-1889 by King Chulalongkorn (Rama V) after his father had set up a temporary residence on the grounds.
There is no doubt that the king gathered impressions from visits abroad. The highly diversified architecture bears witness to visits to China and not least Europe. Versailles slips to mind not least in the gardens and big lawns. On the other hand there are unmistakable signs of Thai style as well, perhaps most of all in the smaller residences.
The palace complex covers a large rectangular shaped area, but not so big that you can’t cover it on foot. You basically walk from one end to the other along canals, between halls, towers and palaces. There are also golf carts for hire.
At the time of my visit there were very few visitors around, and even if the palace had been filled with thousands you would never get a feeling of it being crowded. The layout of the complex offers few alternative routes, but you should take your time and enjoy it all.
Have a look at that little hall in the middle of a pond, cross the white marble bridge and look inside the European styled wagon museum. Walk over to the Chinese styled palace and gaze up on the multi-coloured watchtower.
Unfortunately there are not so many shaded places to sit down and you do not feel welcome to step onto the large lawns, not even for a closer look at the elephant family carefully sculptured from trees. Nonetheless, you will be filled with a sense of harmony for everywhere you walk, there will be a loudspeaker sounding relaxing, soothing Thai music.
To get here you could take a boat on the Chao Phraya River from Bangkok to Bang Pa-In and all the way up to Ayutthaya, just like the royals. Beware what happened to Queen Sunanda Kumariratana and Princess Karnabhirn Bejraratana in 1880. Their boat capsized on the river but nobody would help the queen and young princess – it was illegal to touch members of the royal family. So they died.
By road the palace is one to two hours north of Bangkok depending on traffic, and less than half an hour south of Ayutthaya.
My visit to this palace was a result of a 24-hrs layover in Bangkok. To get the most out of the stay I prepared a map.
Here is my map showing the places I went but not least the most important sights of Bangkok. As always I made a rather good job at identifying and then selecting the places I wanted to go. Your priorities might differ. You will have to zoom in to find the Bang-Pa-In Palace. Work on the map as you like, click the markers and even expand the map into a separate window for more details.
All articles in this series:
Bangkok was a short stop on my way to the Himalayas.
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