Rama VI’s seaside hideaway
Published/Last edited or updated: 24th June, 2017
Located 12 kilometres south of Cha-am on the way to Hua Hin, Phra Ratchaniwet Mrigadayavan is a seaside palace featuring airy halls and long walkways built of golden teak in the early 20th century.
The structure was first built by order of King Rama VI up on Chao Samran Beach in 1916, then dismantled and rebuilt at its current location in 1923, just two years before Rama VI’s death. Serving as a hot-season getaway for the royal family, the complex includes three spacious sections for living and working quarters and a performance space for the plays that Rama VI was passionate about. There’s also a cottage built directly over the coast where the king went to swim and relax.
Featuring mostly Colonial-period European styles complimented by Siamese touches, the three-floor palace is more elegant than extravagant. Painted powder blue and cream with broad louvered shutters, spiral staircases, gingerbread carvings and chandeliers, the partially open rooms were designed to beat the heat in the days before air-con. Raised walkways enabled the royals to stroll around without getting their tootsies wet during flash floods.
When interiors aren’t being renovated, visitors can wander inside to check out a statue of Rama VI and some antiques used by the royals. There’s also a lovely English garden near a giant rain tree and souvenir shop. Thai-language tours are held every half-hour; we suggest hanging well behind these to glimpse the palace without too many other people getting in the way.
No longer used by Thai royalty, Mrigadayavan was one of four summer palaces built in this general region of Siam by four different kings from the mid-19th to early-20th century. Also open to the public nowadays is Rama IV’s Phra Nakhon Khiri built atop a large hill and Rama V’s German-style Phra Ram Ratchaniwet, both in Phetchaburi town, while Rama VII’s Klai Kangwon Palace down in Hua Hin is still frequented by the royal family.
The spelling Mrigdayavan seems to have been a poor transliteration from the distant past that has stuck; it’s actually pronounced maru-kadai-yawan and you’ll see this (or a similar) spelling used on signs.
Note that visitors wearing shorts or sleeveless shirts will have to rent sarongs to cover up before going inside.
Mrigadayavan Palace is located on a Thai military base about halfway between Cha-am and Hua Hin. From Cha-am, take Phetkasem Road (Route 4) south and look for a white sign pointing left to the palace. You’ll then pass through a checkpoint and go for another km before reaching the car park. Most foreigners who visit the palace come on package day tours.
David Luekens first came to Thailand in 2005 when Thai friends from his former home of Burlington, Vermont led him on a life-changing trip. Based in Thailand since 2011, he spends much of his time eating in Bangkok street markets and island hopping the Andaman Sea.
These tours are provided by Travelfish partner GetYourGuide.
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