Breakfast on the second day was exactly the same as the first, down to the sauces. No complaints however as we were there for just two days. So after downing two plates from the breakfast buffet, which tasted exactly the same as yesterday, plus some tea and milk, we resumed our whirlwind tour of Bangkok.
The ticket that we bought at the Grand Palace the previous day also included an entrance to the Vimanmek Mansion at the Dusit area. I wanted to see Dusit anyway so we chose this area as our destination for the morning.
The Dusit district is the more “buttoned down” area of Bangkok, as it is the location of the Dusit Palace, the Chitralada Palace (where the present king resides) and the Parliament house. The district has wide, tree lined roads with immaculate and well maintained sidewalks, and it almost feels like a big park. This district also houses the Dusit Zoo (No, the parliament is not the zoo. This isn’t the Philippines).
The Dusit Palace complex (yes, it’s another complex), was established by King Chulalongkorn (or Rama IV) as a new royal residence, replacing the Grand Palace which was getting too crowded with buildings. One of the first structures, the Vimanmek Mansion, temporarily housed the King of Thailand from 1901 to 1906. It is a large Victorian style mansion made out of teak (a type of wood), and was made to house the king while other structures in the complex were under construction. Today the complex has been converted to a series of museums.
We took a taxi straight to the Vimanmek mansion and got there before 9am. The guard at the front gate welcomed us, however, we were told that the mansion opens only at 9:30 am. He let us into the grounds though, to roam while waiting, and we gladly went around. I don’t know if tourists were really free to roam around at that time though. The staff, who were busy preparing, were giving us curious stares, as if surprised to find two tourists at such an early time.
We went in at exactly 9:30, and got bunched together in a tour group with several different nationalities. We can’t go around the mansion by ourselves, as tour guides are required to escort us all the time.
Just like the Grand Palace, they don’t permit short clothing (short skirts, short pants, etc.), but one can also borrow long clothes for free, so no worries (you have to deposit a certain amount, which will be returned once you return the clothes). The entire tour was supervised by guides, dispensing trivia about rooms and items in the house, each with his/her own designated area of responsibility. Some guides speak better English than others, and so sometimes I strain to understand what’s being said, depending on which guide is talking. Other than that, going to the mansion is a worthwhile experience. It’s a first hand look of what Thai royalty was like at the turn of the 20th century, and the strength of western influence, even on this country which never became colonized by any foreign power.
Photography is strictly not allowed in the mansion, and cameras and cellphones are required to be left behind on lockers inside the tourist office. The only opportunity to take pictures of the mansion would be from outside the tourist office, at the end of the tour.
From the Vimanmek Mansion, we walked to another area of the Dusit complex called the Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall. It was ordered to be constructed by King Rama V as a royal reception hall, however the King died before its completion. It later on became the Parliement Building, before Parliament was moved to a new location, still within the Dusit area.
The building was designed in the European Renaissance fashion, using marble imported straight from Italy. It is also surrounded by a very beautiful and well manicured park, and it looks as if the entire place would be more at home in Paris, than in the middle of Bangkok.
Inspite of the sky being covered with patches of clouds, it was a hot and humid day. After a whole morning of walking around, we were starved and thirsty. It was also the last day of our very short trip, so it was time to check out of our hotel.
After spending a few minutes to walk around the park, we took a taxi back to the downtown area and to the hotel, for two things. First, to prepare to leave Bangkok, and second, to prepare to see more of it. Irony? Yeah!
*This trip was taken August, 2010. All photos taken with Olympus E-420 and Zuiko 14-42mm f3.5-5.6