bang pa-in palace, thailand, royal summer palace, bang pa-in

The Royal Summer Palace of Thailand


This is the website of travel writer, Michael Turtle. After working in broadcast journalism for a decade in Australia, Michael left Sydney to travel the world indefinitely and write about his discoveries.

Bang Pa-in Palace, Thailand

It would be nice to have a Thai summer palace you could head to when the days got hot, wouldn’t it? You know, you could jump on a royal barge, float down the river to your tranquil holiday home and then spend the days walking around the compound, reading by the lake and entertaining guests from across the country.

bang pa-in palace, thailand, royal summer palace, bang pa-in

Well, it does sound nice. Unless you’re Queen Sunanda Kumariratana and Princess Karnabhirn Bejraratana who died on their way there!

The year was 1880 and on the way to the Summer Palace at Bang Pa-in their raft capsized. Back then it was punishable by death to touch a member of the royal family so everyone was scared to help them. As it turned out, a member of staff actually instructed everybody to not touch them… and so the queen and the princess sunk to the bottom of the river in front of all those pairs of terrified eyes and helpless limbs.

Bang Pa-in Palace, Thailand

bang pa-in palace, thailand, royal summer palace, bang pa-in

The staff member got jail time, courtesy of King Chulalongkorn, and his wife and daughter got memorials at the Bang Pa-in Summer Palace. They’re tucked away in a garden on one side, but are worth a look.

bang pa-in palace, thailand, royal summer palace, bang pa-in

The whole palace is, in fact, worth a visit. It’s about two hours north of Bangkok and just 20 minutes south of Ayutthaya. It spreads out over a huge area that is filled mainly with grassy lawns and massive water features. Little canals run through most of the compound, connecting to the river alongside it.

bang pa-in palace, thailand, royal summer palace, bang pa-in

bang pa-in palace, thailand, royal summer palace, bang pa-in

The buildings throughout the palace are interesting for their diversity. There’s a Chinese-style royal palace, a colourfully-painted lookout tower, and the traditional but simple Thai style of architecture for the smaller residences. But what’s really noticeable are the European influences. Those cherubs did not grow up in Thailand!

bang pa-in palace, thailand, royal summer palace, bang pa-in

Bang Pa-in Palace was renovated in the late nineteenth century by the then King Chulalongkorn. He was clearly inspired by some of the architecture and styles of the great palaces in countries like England and France. As the complex was restored, they were incorporated into some parts. It explains the statues that look like they belong in Versailles and the buildings which could have a game of croquet taking place on the lawn in front of them.

bang pa-in palace, thailand, royal summer palace, bang pa-in

These days the palace is very rarely used by the royal family – only for occasional banquets or special occasions. It has been left for the tourists (and there aren’t that many) to enjoy as their own little wonderland. It is still immaculately maintained and is fitting as any royal residence. With entry at only 100 baht (about three dollars) it’s very accessible.

Bang Pa-in Palace, Thailand

bang pa-in palace, thailand, royal summer palace, bang pa-in

To visit it feels like stepping inside a capsule, insulated from the madness of the countryside around it. Bang Pa-in is a tiny town in comparison to much of Thailand but there’s still the manic pace and the sensory overload. Inside the walls of the summer palace, all that dissolves and you’re left in tranquillity.

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  • Angela Gregory | Jan 27, 2013 at 7:06 pm

    Thanks for the great photos. I wish I can visit Thailand one day :)

    • Michael Turtle | Feb 6, 2013 at 1:35 am

      I’m sure you’ll get there one day. It’s a pretty easy country to visit and has so many beautiful things to see and do (and eat!)

  • Erin Smith | Jan 29, 2013 at 2:52 pm

    Beautiful photos. I love those elephant topiaries! I’m going to Thailand in March but unfortunately won’t have enough time to make a visit there. Looks beautiful.
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    • Michael Turtle | Feb 6, 2013 at 1:42 am

      Maybe next time? :)
      Where are you going in Thailand on this trip?

  • Gemma Winston | May 13, 2013 at 8:00 pm

    Nearby Ayutthaya its definitely worth a visit – UNESCO World Heritage Site and the old capital of Thailand. Still amazingly well preserved considering it was the Siamese Kingdom from 1351 to 1767.

    Royal Winter Palace – Phu Phing Palace – located in Chiang Mai, is also very cool! And has equally beautiful and colourful landscaped gardens (although I’m not sure about topiary elephants!)

    • Michael Turtle | May 25, 2013 at 5:14 am

      Yes, Ayutthaya is incredible and definitely worth a visit. I had a great time there.
      I didn’t make it up north this trip so missed the Winter Palace in Chiang Mai. I’ve seen some photos and it looks just as stunning!

  • Sam @ | Dec 30, 2013 at 9:18 pm

    What a beautiful place – we went here while in Bangkok, interesting different types of building, English style, Chinese style.

    Did you have a guide or did you do it on your own? We went a guide and got a history lesson at the same time

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