For a solo traveller like me, a guided tour is a perfect fit. Book and pay and everything is taken care of including transport to and fro from the hotel. However, sleeping in late is out of the question as most tours start very early except for the first ever half a day tour on the first day in the afternoon. For this tour, truly early, I was up by 5.30am prior to departing at 6.45am to arrive at the tour agent’s office, thereafter about an hour drive to Bang Pa-In Palace..
Setting foot in the huge compound from the main entrance, a short and sweet briefing by the tour guide before also being told that there’s option between paying 400 baht for the buggy service or a long walk. Seemed like I was the only one who opted for the "Ride-On" buggy, no regrets as it was the quick and fast way of viewing this royal site.
A must at this palace is decent dressing by covering your legs with the 100 baht wraparound skirt from the stall at the entrance, on your way out, return the skirt and money will be refunded. Bang Pa-In Palace or Summer Palace. originally built in 1632, most of the buildings standing today were constructed during 1872-1879 and restored in 199, the compound is divided into two sections - the outer and the inner palace. The outer consists of buildings for the public and ceremonial use:
- Ho Hemmonthian Thewarat - the stone Prang (pagoda) under a banyan tree near the pond within the outer part of the royal court and where an image of a deity is housed. King Rama V ordered its construction in 1879 to replace an old shrine built by villagers to offer to to King Prasatthong during the Ayutthaya period.
- Aisawanthipphaya-At Pavilion - a Thai design pavilion in the middle of the pond and built in the reign of King Rama V. Originally built of wood throughout, King Rama VI commanded to change the floor and pillars to be reinforced with concrete.
- Warophatphiman Hall was formerly a two-story wooden villa served as a royal living quarter and throne hall. Later King Rama V ordered the reconstruction, replacing it with a European-style to serve as a throne hall for royal ceremonies.
- Saphakhan Ratchaprayun. This two-storey building was a resident of the relatives of the king and non-consort members, and is now an exhibition hall displaying the history of Bang Pa-in Palace.
The Inner Palace on the other hand is reserved for the King and his immediate family -
- Phra Thinang Utthayan Phumisathian is a 2-story pink-colored Victorian style mansion serving as a residence for members of the royal family and their guests. The only mansion in Bang Pa-in Palace that is not open to public, this building is actually a new building ordered a construction by HM Queen Sirikit in 1938 to replace the old one, which was made of wood in Swiss chalet style and was burnt down in a fire accident.
- Wehat Chamrun Hall was the latest mansion during the reign of King Rama V, built in 1889 as the royal offering by the wealthy Chinese merchants led by Phraya Choduk Ratchasetthi (Fak). The mansion crafted in traditional Chinese Emperor style was used as a royal residence for King Rama V, his queen and their son, King Rama VI during a royal visit.
- Ho Witthunthassana: This three-storey tower-style building was used as the view spot to see the royal elephants and the surrounding area.
At least 2 hours at this palace if you walk but I took only an hour. Also, photos are prohibited and you are not allowed inside some of the buildings. I then walked out and at the stall outside, I had a simple breakfast of fried goodies and a drink while waiting for the rest.
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Up next - Wat Mahathat - Ayutthaya