Royal Palace Review
Bang Pa-In's extravagant Royal Palace is set in well-tended gardens. The original structure, built by King Prusat on the banks of the Pa Sak River, was used by the Ayutthaya kings until the Burmese invasion. After being neglected for 80 years, it was rebuilt during the reign of Rama IV and became the favored summer palace of King Rama V until tragedy struck. When the king was delayed in Bangkok, he sent his wife ahead on a boat that capsized. Although she could easily have been rescued, people stood by helplessly because a royal could not be touched by a commoner on pain of death. The king built a pavilion in her memory; be sure to read the touching inscription engraved on the memorial.
King Rama V was interested in the architecture of Europe, and many Western influences are evident here. The most beautiful building, however, is the Aisawan Thippaya, a Thai pavilion that seems to float on a small lake. A series of staggered roofs leads to a central spire. The structure is sometimes dismantled and taken to represent the country at worldwide expositions. China also fascinated the two rulers, and Phra Thinang Warophat Phiman, nicknamed the Peking Palace, is a replica of a Chinese imperial court palace. It was built from materials custom-made in China—a gift from Chinese Thais eager to win the king's favor. It contains a collection of exquisite jade and Ming-period porcelain.
The site's most striking structure, though, is a Buddhist temple built in best British neo-Gothic style, Wat Nivet Thamaprawat, which even has a fine steeple, buttresses, a belfry, and stained-glass windows.