This is one of Bangkok’s more low key attractions. A beautiful wooden building in a large garden with not too many tourists around. I find the Vimanmek Palace a nice antidote to the hectic nature of much of Bangkok.
The Palace was constructed in its present location, the Dusit Garden, in 1900. Originally the palace had been built on the island of Koh Sichang. The King at the time liked to visit this island which was thought at the time to be a very healthy location. The King stopped visiting after an incident in which the French army briefly embarked on a military occupation of the island following a trade dispute. No longer in use, the building was brought to Bangkok and served as the Royal Place in the early part of the 20th Century.
The building is the world’s largest golden teak wood structure. It has three storeys and 81 rooms, many of which are open to the public. The design of the building is an interesting mix of European neo-classical design and traditional Thai architecture. This mix of styles is carried on in the interior – there is an eclectic range of antique furniture, glassware and porcelain. As is so often the case, the art and architecture reflects the spirit of the time. This is nowhere more true than the Vimanmek Palace which reflects the opening up of Siam to the outside world at the beginning of the 20th Century.
The Palace fell completely into disuse in 1932 following a military coup which put an end to absolute monarchy in Thailand. The transformation of the Palace into a functioning attraction occurred in the 1980s under the patronage of the current Queen of Thailand. Inside the Palace there are now a series of exhibitions and memorabilia relating to King Rama V. These exhibits dedicated to one of Thailand’s most important kings (he made lots of social reforms) were intended to revitalize the building and add more interest for visitors.
We say pay it a visit. It’s a 20 minute walk from Thewet Chao Phraya Express Boat pier. You can pick up the Express Boat at any of the piers along the river, although if you are coming by Skytrain go to Saphan Taksin BTS station to transfer to Sathorn Pier. Probably though you will want take a taxi unless you are short on funds. To get in it costs 100 Thai Baht ($3.3). Its open 8.30am to 4.30pm, Tuesday to Saturday (closed Sunday and Monday). Slightly oddly you have to join a free compulsory tour around the Palace. When you have finished the tour hang around in the garden and enjoy the traditional Thai dancing which happens daily at 10.30am and 2pm.
One last thing, dress smartly. They won’t let you in shorts, short skirts, ripped jeans or t-shirts. This is a Royal Palace after all.