Less than an hours drive North of Bangkok and just a few kilometers from Ayutthaya lies the Bang Pa-In Summer Palace.
The original Palace was built by King Prasat Thong of Ayutthaya in the first half of the 17th century. When Ayutthaya was invaded and destroyed by the Burmese in 1767, Bang Pa-In Palace was left abandoned for almost a century.
During the reign of King Mongkut (Rama IV) in the 1850’s some of the Palace was rebuilt. Most of the buildings of Bang Pa-In Palace today date from the late 19th century. The Palace is still used by the Royal Family.
A number of impressive buildings can be found in the Palace complex, built in very different architectural styles, some in classical Thai, some Chinese and some European design. The large landscaped grounds are very well maintained, the neo classical style European buildings give Bang Pa-In Summer Palace a little of a Versailles like atmosphere. A full day can easily be spent in this picturesque and very photogenic place.
The buildings of Bang Pa-In Palace
Maybe best known is the Aisawan Thiphya-Art Sala (Thai style pavilion) in a small lake, which is also called “The divine seat of personal freedom”. This structure was built in traditional Thai architecture during the reign of King Chulalongkorn (Rama V) and it contains a statue of the King.
This is the only building on the Palace grounds built in traditional Thai architectural style. This Royal Sala is a copy of the Phra Thinang Aphonphimok Pavilion in the Grand Palace in Bangkok, was built by King Rama IV.
Built in a very different style is the Phra Thinang Wehart Chamrun, meaning “Heavenly Light”. This Chinese style two story mansion was a gift from the Chinese to King Chulalongkorn presented in 1889. The throne room on the ground floor contains a throne in Chines style, the second floor contains a shrine dedicated to King Mongkut and King Chulalongkorn. It is a beautiful building full of fine decorations, art and Chinese furniture.
The Phra Thinang Warophat Phiman or “Excellent and Shining Heavenly Abode” is a one storey Royal mansion built in neo classical style. This building has a very European look and contains the throne hall. The buildings interior is richly decorated with beautiful paintings and has a very aristocratic feel. Today the mansion is still in use as private quarters for the Royal Family.
The Ho Withun Tasana or “Sages Lookout” was built by King Rama V in 1881. It somewhat resembles a lighthouse painted in several red and yellow colors and was used to observe the surrounding area.
The Wat Niwet Thamprawat is in fact a Buddhist temple, although it looks like a European Gothic style Cathedral. It even has the colorful stained glass windows found in European Cathedrals. The temple was built by King Chulalongkorn (Rama V), who was the first Siamese King to travel to Europe. The temple is located on the other side of the river and can be reached with a cable car crossing the river.
The Phra Thinang Uthayan Phumisathian or “Garden of the Secured Land” was built in 1877 and was King Chulalongkorn’s favorite residence. The original wooden building that looked like a Swiss chalet was completely destroyed by a fire in 1938 and was rebuilt at the end of the 20th century.