The Bang Pa-in Summer Palace was a surprising find for me. While most people skip it for a direct transfer between Bangkok and Ayutthaya, I decided to give this place a shot. The entrance to the palace was extremely crowded, comprised mostly of Thai people who were here for the weekend. As soon as I entered, the crowds thinned as everyone headed their own way to explore this sprawling summer palace.
The first area that immediately drew my attention was an ornamental lake surrounded by a few European-inspired buildings and a beautiful Siamese pavilion in the middle of it. While it was strange to see buildings of various styles in the same place, somehow they blended well together. Notwithstanding the heavy European influence on the palace architecture, what stood out were in fact the Asian-styled buildings and statues. As I walked through the compound, I could not help but notice the Siamese buildings more than I usually would in another Thai palace.
I strongly recommend that you begin on the eastern side of the palace after reaching the lake. You will see the living quarters of the King’s family and each house has an interesting story of its own. After reaching the end of the palace compound, make an about-turn and you will see a huge Qing dynasty era hall. I was pleasantly surprised at how beautifully designed the hall was, and you will be amazed by the extravagance of its interior design and furniture.
As you head back to the exit, walk along the river and explore the waterfront houses. Most people leave out this part of the palace, which makes exploring this area a quiet and relaxing experience.
After you leave the palace, do not be too quick to leave just yet! Head towards the river and look out for a cable car with a Siamese-style roof. I was lucky to find it, after noticing some monks heading towards the river. It was funny seeing a monk controlling the cable car from opposite the river. Although he was a young boy, his movements were so seasoned it felt as if he had been doing this for years.
Where does this cable car lead to, you might wonder? After the free ride, you will be transported to an island on the river, where Wat Niwet Thammaprawat is located. Wat Niwet Thammaprawat is unlike any other Thai Buddhist temple. Designed by an Italian architect, the entire temple compound was built in the Gothic Revival style. As you walk through the area, you would think that you are walking around a Christian church complex.
The highlight of the complex is the main prayer hall. Considering the strange architecture, it may be hard to identify where it is. However that should not be a problem with a little adventuring! I was amazed at how the prayer hall could perfectly balance European architecture with the demands of a Buddhist prayer hall. The stained glass windows exuded a classy vibe, but the main altar still retained its traditional grandeur. Seeing a monk pray in such a space was also a special experience for me!
The Bang Pa-in Summer Palace was a surprisingly worthwhile visit. It was not only a great getaway from the hustle and bustle of Bangkok but also a visual delight. If you are feeling temple-weary, Wat Niwet Thammaprawat breathes new life into Thai temples and would probably help you rediscover your initial awe for temples. Next time you head to Bangkok, visit the Bang Pa-in Summer Palace and Wat Niwet Thammaprawat. Just 60km away, they are a great excuse for a day trip from the always-busy Bangkok! Put Bang Pa-in Summer Palace in your itinerary in and around Bangkok.
Did you discover a new place to go the next time you visit Bangkok? Share this place with your friends! Tell me in the comments section below how you feel about Bang Pa-in, or if you have any other recommendations for a day trip from Bangkok.