Sunday, February 14, 2010

Bang-Pa-In Palace (Summer Palace):

Entrance to the Palace Grounds

This gorgeous 200 acre compound where kings and queens retreat to escape Bangkok's crowds and summer heat is in Ayutthaya Province. It dates back to the 17th century but each king has made additions unique to his own preferences. If a particular architectural style seen in another country appealed to him, he reproduced it here.

Rama IV (King Mogkut of "The King and I" fame) is responsible for many buildings that bear Roman and English influence. He was the first of the "modern" kings and never went around like Yul Brenner with his chest bared for all to see. (This is probably the main reason why the movie was banned here, according to a couple of guides who have commented on it.) He was very well educated and traveled, spoke five languages and would never have dreamed of appearing in public wearing so few clothes. (He did, however, have over 40 consorts and concubines and fathered 87 children.)

His son in the movie, Chulalongkorn, became Rama V who abolished slavery and made further "improvements" at the summer palace. (And his son became Rama VI who made Thailand a democracy fashioned on the English model of a monarchy and parliament.)

This royal playground of the past remains in use today. The Crown Princess visited on the morning of the day I was there, so many buildings were still closed to the public. But what I got to see was fabulous.

And I half expected Yul Brenner to come striding toward me at some point, perhaps en route to or from the quarters of his concubines. They were pointed out to us on the other side of a canal and rimmed the entire compound. Many of his concubines were gifts of royal blood from other countries and he had to provide handsomely for them, lest his name be cursed for his stinginess.

Anything here that looks like gold IS real gold. Thailand of old had many productive gold mines and yellow was the symbol of power--gold signifying the greatest power, while red signified good luck. Both derived from Chinese influences and the monarchy of Thailand displayed its great wealth in its solid gold Buddhas and gold ornamentation in important buildings.

The Divine Seat of Personal Freedom Pavilion built so that Rama V could sit in it and listen to music being played by musicians on the other side of the canal. It is exquisitely beautiful.

This building is set aside for other members of the royal family.

The present Queen enjoys staying in this mansion on weekends and it was not open to the public. Interestingly, the ailing 83 year old King, now hospitalized in Bangkok (saw the exact hospital from the back seat of a van) has not been here in over 20 years.

King Chulalongkorn built this lovely observatory or look-out tower in 1881 so that he could view the surrounding countryside.

Royal Residence of Heavenly Light: This was the main residence of the King. We were allowed inside but could not take photos. Massive black ebony furnishings, delicate porcelain tiles, breathtaking artwork and gold absolutely everywhere delighted the eye. It is a palace of romance and mystery befitting royalty. However, the King's bed was on the small side. We were informed that his concubines did not come here. Rather, he went to them--and they all had large beds.

Front Entrance

Detail on a wall out front.

Side view. The building was actually much bigger than I could get in one photo.

Another view of the look-out tower.

Peaceful, pastoral views dominate the compound and there are many fountains tinkling everywhere.

Charming side building.

Herd of life-size topiary elephants decorating the grounds.

Residence of a royal sybling.

Final image of the magnificent pavilion that shows Rama V enjoying the view.


  1. Love the life-size topiary elephants! That couldn't have been easy to do.

  2. now, that's some Royal housing! makes the White House look like a shack...