The Bang Pa-In Summer Palace contains a variety of striking buildings spread among manicured gardens, statue-lined bridges, ponds and fountains.
After finding the place well suited to quiet breaks from Bangkok, King Rama V commissioned the palace to include an unusual mix of Thai, Chinese and European architecture in the late 19th century.
Near the entrance, a wooden exhibition hall contains background info on Thai kings and the history of the Palace. The checkered marble verandas of Thansana Tower are worth the climb to catch a cool breeze and take in views over the grounds (mind your head going up the stairs). Nearby, the beautiful red-and-gold Royal Mansion features hand-painted ceramic floor tiles, mother-of-pearl inlaid furniture and an elaborate camel bone carving. By all accounts King Rama V liked a lot of company, and the small houses found along the outer wall were designated for his lady friends.
By now it could be time for a cold drink and what better setting than Therawat Khanlai Gate, which overlooks a Thai-style pavilion in the lake. It’s possible to find a quiet shady spot and enjoy these lovely grounds perhaps with a picnic or book, but be warned that local tourists arrive by the busloads on weekends.
Also don’t miss Wat Niwet Thammaprawat, a one-of-a-kind Gothic-style Thai Buddhist temple within walking distance of the palace in Bang Pa-In town. You could make this a full-day excursion by taking a tuk tuk to the Bang Sai Arts and Crafts Centre, located 20 kilometres south of Bang Pa-In in the village of Bang Sai. Bring an Ayutthaya map from the tourist info office, as it has a guide and map of Bang Pa-In on the back.
How to get there
The best way to get here from Ayutthaya is by train leaving every 45 minutes until 13:30. The trip takes 15 minutes and costs five baht. The palace is three kilometres from the station so take a tuk tuk for around 40 baht. Songthaews pick up in front of Chao Phrom Market on Naresuan Road in Ayutthaya and take a leisurely hour, costing 20 baht, and you'll still need a tuk tuk at the end of the ride. Expect to pay at least 600 baht for a return trip by tuk tuk.
If going on your own, Route 32 fastest but keep in mind that it's a major truck route. The more relaxing way would be to follow either Route 3477 on the east side of Chao Phraya River or Route 3469 on the west side, both of which end up in Bang Pa-In.
By David Luekens.
Last updated on 28th February, 2016.