The Grand Palace
The Grand Palace or Phra Borom Maha Ratchawang for Thai is today used by the king only for certain ceremonial occasions such as Coronation Day and is closed to the public. The exteriors of the four building are worth a swift perusal, however, for their royal bombast.
Borombiman Hall: a French-inspired structure that served as a residence for King Rama VI, is occasionally used to house visiting foreign dignitaries.
Amarindra Hall: was originally a hall of justice, but is used today for coronation ceremonies.
Chakri Maha Prasat: the largest triple- winged of the palace buildings, literally Great Holy Hall of Chakri, but usually translated as Grand Palace Hall. Built in 1882 by British architects using Thai labour, the exterior shows a peculiar blend of Italian renaissance and traditional Thai architecture. Each wing is topped by Mondop, a layered and heavily ornamented spire representing a Thai adaptation of the Hindu Mandapa, or shrine.
The tallest of the Mondops, in the centre, contains the ashes of each Chakri King who passed away; the flanking Mondops enshrine the ashes of Chakri princes who never inherited the throne.
Dusit Hall: initially served as a venue for royal audiences and later as a royal funerary hall.
Vimanmek Palace, the Palace in the Clouds, a three-storey mansion originally built in 1868 as a summer house on the island of Ko Si Chang. It was moved to Dusit Hall in 1901 and, quite understandably, soon became King Rama V’s favourite place, being used as the royal residence between 1902 and 1906. It was closed down in 1935 and remained in this state until Her Majesty Queen Sirikit re-opened it in 1982 as a museum to mark Bangkok’s bicentennial celebration.
With its European style, Vimanmek Palace Palace was built according to Thai traditional, using golden teak wood and not a single nail. Teak wood contains a special oil which makes it resistant to heat and heavy rains, and which also acts as an insect repellent.
Amongst the possessions of Rama V on display is Thailand’s first indoor bathroom and the oldest typewriter with Thai characters, as well as Thai ceramics, European furniture, precious China and lovely portraits.
The Other Pavilions of Vimanmek Palace:
The Royal Carriage Museum
Contains carriages mostly imported from Europe, which were very popular at the time of King Rama V. The small Suan Farang Kunsai Mansion has oil paintings and pictures of King Rama V and his family.
The Aphisek Dusit Throne Hall,
Built in a harmonious Euro-Thai style, has a display of handicrafts, including Thai famous Mat Mi silk; Malaeng Thap – collages made from metallic, multi-coloured beatle wings, damascene ware, nielloware and Yan Liphao basketry made by Queen Sirikit’s Promotion of Supplementary Occupations & Related Techniques (SUPPORT) Foundation.
Vimanmek Palace is opened from 09:30 to 16:00 daily; Aphisek Dusit Throne Hall is opened from 10:00 to 16:00 hours. Admission fee is 50 baht for adults, 20 baht for children. It’s free if you’ve already been to the Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaeo, and keep the ticket for Wiman Mek/Aphisek Dusit palace. As this is royal property, visitors wearing shorts or sleeveless shirts will be refused to enter.
Wang Suan Pakkad
Cabbage Farm Palace or Wang (Palace) Suan Pakkad was built by Prince and Princess Chumbhot of Nakhon Sawan who moved five traditional Thai houses from Chiang Mai in 1952. The cabbage garden was turned into one of Bangkok’s finest landscaped gardens and is calm in a uniquely Eastern way. The princess was one of the country’s most dedicated art collectors, and the house has been turned into a museum displaying everyday objects such as perfume bottles, betel-nut boxes and musical instruments. Antiques including an exquisite Buddha head from Ayutthaya, Khmer statues and European prints of old Siam.
Ban Chiang House: An entire house has been devoted to the elegant pottery and bronze jewellery discovered at Ban Chiang, an important Bronze Age settlement in Northern Thailand, dating from around 1666 to 500 BC. The ground floor houses a large collection of minerals and sea shells, mostly from Thailand.
Lacquer Pavilion: The exquisite Lacquer Pavilion, once part of an Ayutthaya monastery, was moved here in 1958 as a birthday present from the prince to the princess. The remarkable gold and black lacquer murals, painstakingly restored, depict events from the life of the Buddha and the Ramakian.
The grounds of Wang Suan Pakkad are opened daily except Sunday from 09:00 to 16:00. The admission is 150 baht (students 30 baht). It’s on Thanon Si Ayutthaya, between Phaya Thai and Ratchaprarop.
Anantasamakhom Palace and the Parliament
The Palace was built in the reign of King Rama V using marble for construction in Italian Renaissance architectural style. King Rama V desired to use the Palace for receiving foreign dignitaries and meetings of the Royal Advisory Council for national development. The Palace was completed in the reign of King Rama VI. The ceiling of the dome was highlighted by exquisite fresco paintings of important Royal functions during the reign of King Rama I up to King Rama VI of the Royal House of Chakri.
Anantasamakhom Palace was primarily used to hold important royal and state ceremonies and for parliamentarian meetings. After the new Parliament building was erected at the back of the Palace, parliamentarian meetings were transferred there. However, ceremonial openings of its first session, graciously presided over by His Majesty the King, are still conducted at the Anantasamakhom Palace.