Abhisek Dusit Throne Hall
On Sunday, we were back in Bangkok for day two of our tour. On the first day we had visited The Temple of the Emerald Buddha (Wat Phra Kaew), The Grand Palace, a tour of the Thonburi canals, The Temple of Dawn (Wat Arun), The Reclining Buddha (Wat Pho), Jim Thompson’s House and finally the Erawan Shrine for some free Thai dancing. The highlight for my brother was the Grand Palace complex and the canal ride. It was a hot day and the fast boat ride was a good way to cool down. However, make sure that you put on sun cream as it is very easy to get a sunburn. He said that he felt a little “templed out” by the end, but I think that the three temples and one shrine we did visit offered a nice variety. My task for the second day was to give him even more of that variety.
I did discuss with him some different options to see what kind of things he would enjoy. I suggested first the National Museum which is back in the Grand Palace area. This is open Wednesday to Sunday and gives you a nice introduction to the history of Thailand and the region. But, he wasn’t so interested. As it was the weekend, I suggested that we should visit the large JJ Market which is an excellent place to pick up some Thailand souvenirs. He agreed and that is where we went first. If your hotel is on the sky train or metro route, then just head for Mo Chit/Chatuchak Park stations. Very easy. We spent about two hours there. Shopaholics might want more time. If you bought a lot of things then you will have to head back to your hotel to deposit your shopping. I had parked my car in the adjacent car park (there is a free bus shuttle) and so we were ready for our next destination.
When you visit the Grand Palace you are given a free ticket for Dusit Palace which includes Vimanmek Mansion and the Ananda Samakhom Throne Hall. This large area is north-east of the Grand Palace and next door to Dusit Zoo. From JJ Market it would be about 80 baht in a meter taxi. Maybe 60 baht from the Grand Palace. The free ticket is valid for seven days. Make sure that you use it. If you have to pay, then it is 100 baht for Vimanmek Mansion and adjacent buildings (75 baht for Thai) and 50 baht for the Ananda Samakhom Throne Hall (20 baht for Thai). The two price system here is not really that objectionable. Actually I think it is the only place I have visited where they put the two prices in both Thai and English. No disguising the fact here that there are two prices. Good for them. I wish more tourist attractions were as honest. I was hoping to show my brother the Thai classical dancing demonstrations which the guidebook said took place twice a day. Unfortunately, a sign at the ticket office said that this had now been discontinued.
Vimanmek Teak Mansion
Tours of Vimanmek take place every half hour from 9.45 a.m. to 3.15 p.m. You first enter a small building where security checks your bags. They are now far stricter than my last visit. You are not allowed to take beyond this point any bags, mobile phones and cameras. Lockers are provided though I felt it was a bit below the belt that they charged us 20 baht for using the locker. If it wasn’t compulsory to use the locker than I would understand. But, now they were making us pay another 20 baht even though we might only be depositing a mobile phone. It felt like a scam. Why couldn’t they just include this with the 100 baht entrance fee? I was also disappointed that from the back door of this building we were no longer allowed to take pictures of the front of Vimanmek Mansion. What was worse, after the tour had finished, I walked around the back and couldn’t find any clear view of the mansion. In the past you were allowed to wander around the gardens to watch the classical dancing. I got some good pictures of the mansion before. However, this time I only got some glimpses through the trees.
By the end of the 19th Century, the Grand Palace was starting to become too crowded with new buildings springing up all the time to house the ever extending royal family. As King Rama V was starting to find it too hot and uncomfortable staying here, he decided to move to a new location on what was then the outskirts of the city. He called this area Suan Duist which means Celestial Garden. The first permanent building was the Vimanmek Mansion. This is reputedly the largest teak mansion in the world. Apparently only wooden pegs were used to join the pieces of timber. The mansion was originally used as a summer palace on the island of Koh Si Chang (click here to read the report of my trip to this island last year). But King Rama V order it to be relocated to Dusit Palace. This was then completed in 1901. King Rama V lived here for five years until th completion of the nearby Amporn Satarn Villa in 1906. The king remained there until he died four years later.
The Hor Pavilion
Before you join the compulsory guided tours, you have to take off your shoes. Also, make sure that you are dressed politely as this is a royal palace. Our guide informed us that the house is an interesting blend of Thai and Western architectural styles. The building has two right angle wings with an octagonal building at one end which served as the residence for the king. Altogether there are 31 exhibition rooms containing collected art work and personal effects of the royal family. You can even visit his bed chamber. I enjoyed the tour though we were moved along at a rather fast pace. I would highly recommend people to visit the mansion as it gives you a unique glimpse into the world of a Thai king of the past. It is a shame that we weren’t allowed to take picture both inside and outside of the house. Once the tour had finished, and we had collected our bags and shoes, we then continued exploring the grounds of Dusit Palace. Most people only come for the mansion and are then whisked away on tour coaches. But, there is more to see.
Scattered around the grounds are a number of smaller buildings which were used as residences for various members of the royal family. Some of these have been turned into museums. These hold collections such as photographs, clocks, fabrics etc. Of particular interest to me were the photographs of royal ceremonies and also pictures taken by the present King. There was also an exhibition in the elephant stables. For all these buildings you weren’t allowed to take in cameras, mobile phones and bags. Like before we were provided with lockers to use. However, this time they were free. Maybe this is because hardly anyone visits these buildings and if people had to keep paying an extra 20 baht then they wouldn’t bother. The last major building we visited using the Vimanmek Mansion ticket was the Abhisek Dusit Throne Hall. This beautiful building was completed in 1904 and served as the throne hall for the palace. Inside is an exhibition of art and craft.
Ananda Samakhom Throne Hall
Our final stop was the magnificent Ananda Samakhom Throne Hall. This is situated at the southern end of Dusit Palace. On the other side of this domed building is the Royal Plaza and the statue of King Rama V on a horse. This was where countless thousands of Thai people wearing yellow shirts greeted His Majesty on the balcony last year. Today the place was practically deserted. It seemed like most people were just coming for the mansion. It is a shame as they missed a treat. Strangely, you are not allowed to take pictures of this building from the lawn. Nor inside. However, they did allow me to take this picture from the gateway before I entered the grounds. If you want a better chance to look around, then you should come on Children’s Day (the second Saturday in January) as the grounds are more open to the public at that time. Also, the nearby Parliament House.
King Rama V ordered for this grand reception hall to be built near his new palace. It took eight years and wasn’t complete until 1915, after he had already passed away. The hall was constructed in the Italian Renaissance and Neo Classic style of architecture. The exterior is decorated with marble from Carrara, Italy. The building is about 112 metres long and 49 metres wide. It is topped with a large dome in the center which is surrounded by six smaller domes. The outside is beautiful. The interior can only be described as breathtaking. I only wish we were allowed to take pictures. But, as usual, we had to deposit our cameras and bags in some free lockers. Before I forget, one interesting aspect is that women MUST wear skirts. So, if you go there wearing trousers then they will lend you a wraparound. There is no tour of the building which is great as you can really take your time. On the interior of the domes there are some painting depicting the history of the Chakri dynasty. If you want to see some pictures then please visit our sister blog at thaiphotoblogs.com.
By the time we had finished we had been in the grounds of Dusit Palace for nearly three hours. I think most people spend less than one hour here. We were hot and tired. There is more to see in this area of Bangkok but we already had enough. I think when the weather is so hot you don’t want to cram too much into your day. But, if you want more in this immediate area then you could consider Dusit Zoo or the nearby Marble Temple. I told you about this one not long ago. I would have taken my brother there but he had already seen enough temples. I can personally visit temples all day. Another location in this immediate area is the Suan Pakkad Palace. However, as the main attraction are the traditional Thai houses, and as we had already seen Jim Thompson’s House the day before, we decided to give that a miss too. However, I had actually gone there myself last weekend and I will be telling you about that visit soon. I finished our tour by driving around the Royal Plaza to show my brother the statue of King Rama V. As usual, there were many Thai people paying their respects at the foot of the statue. I think that this day had been another good day. The last day of his three day visit will be in my home province. I will tell you about that soon.