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Saturday, 14-Mar-2009 18:29 Email | Share | Bookmark
Summer palace - Bang Pa / Ayutthaya

The Divine Seat of Personal Freedom
View of the formal gardens, with palace buildings in the backgro
View of the gatehouse
The chinese styled "Heavenly Light" palace
The chinese styled "Heavenly Light" palace

A very short drive of 60 kilometers (40 miles) north of Bangkok along the banks of the Chaopraya River will bring you to Bang Pa In, summer palace of the kings of Thailand. The palace dates back to the 17th century, pre-dating the establishment of Bangkok as the capitol, although it did fall into disuse for a long period. All the buildings you see date from its revival by King Mongkut (Rama IV) in the 19th century. Today, the palace is only used infrequently, and then mostly for state occasions rather than as a royal summer residence.
The palace is very European in design. The buildings are laid out along an artificial ornamental pond. In what was formerly the public area of the palace, the lake is a long rectangular pool, lines with formal plantings and the odd folly. The most obvious of the ornaments is a modern copy of a Khmer style prang.
At the end of this formal entry promenade the pond take on a more natural shape. In this pond you see what has become the "signature piece" of Bang Pa In. It is an elegant Thai-style pavilion in the middle of a pond shown above right, with the rather daunting title of "The divine seat of personal freedom." It is really the only example of classical Thai architecture within the palace and was built by King Chulalongkorn (Rama V). It now houses a statue of him. The pond also serves to divide the "public" outer area of the palace from the inner private areas.
Within the inner palace are several buildings in various styles. The main residence is a modern reconstruction of the original building. Although the original building was said to be in the style of a Swiss Chalet, the modern building has a more "Paris Metro" art-deco feel to it. Note that the building, still occassionally used by the royal family, is not open to the public.
Perhaps the most interesting building in the inner complex, and the only one open to the public, is the Chinese style residence built in China and gifted to King Chulalongkorn (Rama V) by the Chinese Chamber of Commerce in 1889. You must remove your shoes to enter and enjoy the ebony and red lacquer interior.
Bang Pa In is one of three royal palaces featured at the Virtual Thai Palaces web site. This site, sponsored by the Royal Thai Household, is one of the most interesting Thai web sites. It requires some common plug-ins to view the 360-degree images, but they're easy to obtain and well worth it.

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