First-time at the Phaya Thai Palace
It was a warm afternoon when we arrived at the Phaya Thai Palace or Phya Thai Palace in Bangkok’s Ratchathewi District. It plays a significant part in the royal family of Thailand as it was a Royal Residence during the reign of King Chulalongkorn or King Rama V.
When we got there, there were only a few of us inquiring about the building. The staff told us that they normally do not give an English tour but the volunteers who are helping them in the upkeep of the property gave us a tour in English, even when they found it a bit challenging. I commend our guide who did it really well and tried his very best even though he was not obligated to conduct the tour in English. Before I take you to our Phaya Thai Palace experience, here are a few important points about the place:
- Fee: Entrance to the Phaya Thai Palace is free. There are still repairs ongoing in the complex but the staff informed us that by next year or the near future, when they are fully ready to host large tours (including an English tour), they might already charge a fee.
- Opening hours: The brochure that the staff gave us indicated that the palace is open every Saturday and Sunday with free tours (in Thai) at 9:30 am and 1:30 pm. But we were there on a Thursday so we found out that Phaya Thai Palace is open from 9:30 am to 11:30 am and 1:30 pm to 3:30 pm during Saturdays and Sundays. It is also open from 1:00 pm to 3:00 pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays and they are closed on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
- Contact information: To be sure about fees and opening hours, you may try getting in touch with their number at (+66 2) 354 7987.
- Getting there: The palace is located at 315 Ratchawithi Road, Ratchathewi, Bangkok. To get there, you can take the BTS sky train to Victory Monument Station, go down at exit 3 and walk on Thanon Ratchawithi towards Phramongkutklao hospital, as the palace is located within its grounds, or take a bus plying Ratchawithi Road. The easiest is to take a cab going there.
History of Phaya Thai Palace
Some may have viewed Phaya Thai Palace when it became the 8th pit stop at the Amazing Race 14. But there’s more to it than just an old building. It was originally a farm where King Rama V could unwind and practice agriculture. Later on, it was used as a residence of Queen Siphatcharin, who is also known as Queen Mother Sri Bajrindra, a titled bestowed by his son, King Rama VI (King Vajiravudh). But when she passed away, King Rama VI used the property to build a new palace for himself.
During the last years of King Rama VI’s reign, he consulted his younger brother, who later became King Rama VII (King Prajadhipok), regarding the palace. At King Rama VII’s time on the throne, he accomplished the project in converting the palace into the Phaya Thai Palace Hotel in 1926. However, it didn’t last long and stayed as an international hotel only for five years.
Soon after, it became the location of the first Thai radio broadcasting station. When a change of regime took place, the Bangkok military medical division transferred to the Phaya Thai Palace in 1932 and changed its name to Pramongkutklao Hospital. At present, the palace is being converted into a museum that the public can visit.
Buildings in Phaya Thai Palace
What can be seen within the Phaya Thai Palace compound are the following:
- Phiman Chakri Hall – the main structure in the complex. This two-storey edifice has a mix of Romanesque and Gothic architectural styles. The ceiling is decorated with fresco seccos of beautiful flowers. The upper part of the walls, on the other hand, has ornamental designs. Its door panels have the gilded, carved wood quality of the Victorian era. Above the doors of primary rooms are the initials of the king.
- Waikun Thepayasathan Hall – to the east of the Phiman Chakri Hall is this two-storey building in Romanesque style. A third storey was later built for another bedchamber for the king.
- Sisuthaniwat Building – to the west of Phiman Chakri Hall is the two-storey structure with a small English Gothic-style turret. An open corridor connects the second floor of Sisuthaniwat Building and Phiman Chakri Hall. This building used to serve as the Queen’s audience hall. The ceilings and upper walls of the rooms are decorated with floral designs.
- Thewarat Sapharom Hall – with Byzantine architecture characteristics, this building is made of wood with a central dome and vaulted roof. Paintings of men, women and children, including floral and tree motifs, adorn the structure.
- Udom Wanapon Building – this is a simpler two-storey structure with a roof that is less steep. It differs from the other buildings as this does not have fresco seccos on its walls and ceilings. Instead, the walls are adorned with white glazed tiles. The front entrance and main staircase feature an art-nouveau wrought iron railing. The building has two identical sets of rooms on the upper portion, located at each side of the staircase. The lower part is composed of a huge hall. A long bridge made of reinforced concrete was later constructed to attach to the second floor of the Waikun Thepayasathan Hall.
- Mekhala Ruchi Pavilion – this building made of teak has two floors with clay-tile roofing. This is the first structure in the complex that King Rama VI had built. This pavilion was used while planning and supervising the construction of his permanent residence. Located at the bank of the Phaya Thai canal, the pavilion features a pond which believed to be where the King often bathed. Attractive paintings of Great Argus are found in the front hall.
- The Royal Car-Boarding Platform and Waiting Hall – this was later built when all the other structures were completed. Found across the Phiman Chakri Hall, this neo-classical style structure was where the King would ride or get off his vehicles while people who wanted to have an audience with him await in the hall.
- The Roman Garden – a Roman-style garden pavilion, this has a geometrical design with a domed roof supported by Corinthian columns. Open, roofless rectangular structures with the same columns are found alongside it. The pavilion can be accessed by marble steps with Roman-style marble statues on each side. A huge pond surrounded by broad pathways is found across the pavilion.