Aug 31 2011
For many Bangkok visitors, Dusit forever remains an unexplored green blob on their city map. If you have some time after hitting the city’s must sees, this royal district adds a distinctly European vibe to Bangkok’s Asian energy. After his visit to Europe in the mid-nineteenth century, King Rama V had Dusit modernised to echo what he saw in the West. The result? Wide avenues, tree-lined streets and a royal palaces with a continental hint.
Unless you’re planning a day of slow strolls and reflective moments in the shade, Dusit Park really requires no more than half a day; it does however demand you be properly attired. Shoulders covered, skirts or pants past the knee and proper shoes. If you and I were going together, I’d insist we start the trip around lunchtime in order to get yummy pad thai from the lady working in the cafeteria not far from the Thanon Rajwithi entrance.
After lunch, we’d head to the park’s main draw, Vimanmek Mansion. A European aesthetic with a Thai touch, the mansion is built entirely of teak. A one-hour tour takes you through this 19th century royal residence, which houses a huge collection of King Rama V’s personal artefacts. Most guidebooks celebrate the fact that the mansion is home to the first indoor bathroom in Thailand but what I found the most interesting were the framed period snapshots of the royal family.
After the mansion, stroll over to Abhisek Dusit Throne Hall. To be frank, the detailed outside of the building is perhaps more interesting than the inside, but if you do go in there are extensive collections of Thai handicrafts all funded by one of the Queen’s pet projects. Across the courtyard from Abhisek Dusit Throne Hall is the Royal Elephant Museum. Not a must-see, but the museum is still a neat place to poke your head in. The two museum buildings are former stables for the royal elephants and inside you’ll find a quaint, charming exhibition of the history of the prized white elephant in Thailand.
The last stop on this Dusit Park tour is Ananta Samakhon Throne Hall and there’s no way you’ll miss it. Look for the building unabashedly channeling a Western-style capitol. The most interesting thing about the Throne Hall is that when you go into its dome, the ceiling is covered in murals detailing the history of the Chakri Dynasty. The juxtaposition of this Western-style building and these beautiful Asian murals is really a treat. From start to finish, these sites should all take about three hours. This gives you enough time to stop for a coffee outside the Throne Hall before making your way to your next adventure.
It’s not possible to get here on the MRT or BTS but buses 70, 56, 28 and 108 all pass nearby. The price of admission is 250 baht but entrance is free if you have a ticket to the Grand Palace that is less than one week old. Admission to the Ananta Samakhon Throne Hall is an additional 150 baht. The park is open daily from 09:30 until 16:00.
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