Bang Pa-In Palace

Under Thailand's unfathomable road signing convention, this famous but modest-sized stop-off has precedence over the ancient capital. That is not to say that Bang Pa-In, doesn't merit such prominence; as this immaculate complex of gorgeous royal residences in a variety of architectural styles, set in and around a picturesque lake amongst rolling grass lawns and flowerbeds will surely surprise you with its serenity and beauty. Located close to the Chao Phraya River, the original palace was built in the 17th Century as a summer palace for the Ayutthaya Kings. It was abandoned after the sacking of Ayutthaya in 1767 but was partially restored by King Mongkut (Rama IV) in the 1850s. All but one of the present day buildings were built by King Chulalongkorn (Rama V) in the late nineteenth century, who spent most of his summers here with his numerous royal consorts. King Rama V expanded the original grounds, and traditional Thai architecture has been supplemented by European styles and even one in Chinese Emperor style. The main places of interest are: Ho Hemmonthian Thewarat - a stone Prang (pagoda) under a banyan tree near the pond, built in 1879. Aisawanthipphaya-At Pavilion - The only Thai designed pavilion in the complex and located in the middle of the pond. Warophatphiman Hall - Also built in a European-style to serve as a throne hall for royal ceremonies. Saphakhan Ratchaprayun. Another Rama V colonial-style two-floor building, built for the King's brothers, and now exhibition hall displaying the history of Bang Pa-in Palace. Phra Thinang Utthayan Phumisathian - A two-story, pink-coloured, Victorian style mansion, built in 1938 by Queen Sirikit which served as a residence for members of the royal family and their guests. Wehat Chamrun - The last mansion built during the reign of King Rama V was built in 1889 by wealthy Chinese merchants in traditional Chinese Emperor-style. It was used as a royal residence by King Rama V and his family. Ho Witthunthassana: This three-storey, brightly painted 'light-house' type marble building, was built in 1881 and used as a viewing point to see the royal elephants and it also provides great views of the surrounding area. Wat Niwet Thamprawat - Across the river from the palace yet another of King Chulalongkorn's European style buildings was built in 1878. It is an active Buddhist temple masquerading as a Gothic church. Access is via a cable car in the car park. All the buildings except the temple can be viewed during a walkable stroll through the palace grounds. For the physically challenged, a golf buggy can be rented for 400B for 1 hour plus 100B for each additional hour. Temple dress code should be worn and if needed, a wrap-around skirt can be purchased for 100B, or you can borrow one for a 200B refundable deposit. You might want to bring an umbrella to protect you from the harsh afternoon sun. Food and drink can be purchased from several small cafes scattered around the palace grounds, as well as a welcome ice cream to cool you down. There is no overnight accommodation, but everything can be easily seen during a single day or even a half-day trip (many tourists stop off at Bang Pa-In on their way to Ayutthaya). Entry: 100B Open: 8:30pm - 4:30pm Tel: +66 35261044 Address: Tambon Bang Len, Amphoe Bang Pa-In, Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya Getting Here: From Ayutthaya; minibus/songtaews connect to Bang Pa-In from the central bus station. The train leaves every 45 minutes until 1:30pm. From Bang Pa-In station take a tuk-tuk for around 40 baht. A round trip by tuk-tuk from Ayutthaya will cost around 600B. From Bangkok you can take the Chiang Mai train, from Hua Lamphong or by bus from Mo Chit bus terminal. The 64km trip from Bangkok by car on the expressway takes about 60 mins and the 20km trip from Ayutthaya via Route 3477 takes 30 mins.

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