A Palace fit for a Disney King

While in Bangkok, a couple of months ago, John and I toured the Thai Grand Palace, which is the official residence of the Thai king and, although it is no longer where the Thai royalty live, it is still used for many official ceremonies. The Grand Palace is, not surprisingly, one of the top tourist attractions in Bangkok and is a tour group infested compound  of over 100 buildings walled within 2 million square feet. None of the buildings are open to the public, except the Temple of the Emerald Buddha.

Statue on a bridge at Bang Pa-In with famous ‘floating pagoda’ in the background – such a mix of Asian and European architecture and art

When we reached Ayutthaya (prounounced eye-YOU-tie-uh) we learned that there is a summer palace for the royalty close by, known as Bang Pa-In. The original complex was built in 1632, fell into disuse, and was then rebuilt by King Chulalongkorn in starting in 1872. Unlike its neighbors Vietnam and Cambodia, Thailand was never a French colony, however the palace is an interesting mixture of Asian and 19th century European architecture.

The train we rode felt like stepping back in time

We took a train from Ayutthaya to see the palace, which was part of the experience itself. I don’t know if the train we rode is representative of train travel in the country, but the cars seemed pretty antique – passenger cars include flat wooden seats and small fans attached to the ceiling – no air conditioning. Our ride was short, but busy, with people up and down the aisles selling snacks and drinks.

We took a short tuk-tuk ride from the train station to the Palace and bought tickets. An option for getting around the complex, which is a pretty large place, is a golf cart rental. There are no other motorized vehicles allowed and I suspect that the golf carts are mostly used by people with mobility issues. We rented one for ease of getting around quickly and because, who doesn’t enjoy driving a golf cart?

The golf cart was a fun touch

Honestly, the place is so reminiscent of a Disney theme park, with its lagoons and fountains, wide pristine walkways, and beautiful, meticulously clean buildings. There are even topiaries! We were a little disappointed, but not so surprised, that the buildings are not open to the public to tour inside.

This was one of the few buildings we could enter, but it only had a small exhibit with signage in the Thai language and a souvenir shop. Still, it’s very pretty!
The topiaries were a surprise!
The Royal Residence
Royal Residence from the back side
A lovely little pagoda near the memorials to the queen and princess

There is a sad story about  King Chulalongkorn and his wife, Queen Sunanda. In 1881, the queen and her daughter, the princess, were enroute to Bang Pa-In on the Royal Barge, when the barge capsized. Neither the queen nor her daughter could swim and the law at the time forbade commoners to touch royalty, leaving onlookers to watch helplessly as the queen and princess drowned. There is a memorial to the queen and the princess on the grounds of the palace.

Queen Sunanda, who drowned when the royal barge capsized and her subjects were forbidden by law to touch a royal, therefore, could not save her
The Queen’s house on the palace grounds was furnished with some rooms of European style furniture and some in Asian style
Asian style room in the Queen’s house

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