Bayside, New York
January 17, 2003
The battleship-green shutters evoke Victorian England; the manicured lawn and pole lanterns could easily be part of Paris’s Tuileries Gardens. But we are here in Bangkok, on the grounds of the Chakri Maha Prasat Hall, erected in 1882 by King Rama V. We were not permitted to enter the building, but our brochures on the entire Grand Palace site inform us that much of what is inside was heavily influenced by European culture:
"On the east wall is a painting of King Mongkut’s reception of the British envoy, Sir James Bowring. On the right wall is a depiction of the reception by Queen Victoria of King Mongkut’s ambassador at Buckingham Palace. Further along on the west wall is a depiction of Louis XIV’s reception in the Gallerie des Glaces at Versailles of the diplomatic corps sent by King Narai of Ayuthaya. A third canvas on the other side of the room depicts King Mongkut’s reception of a French envoy, and the fourth canvas features the reception at Fontainebleau by Emperor Napoleon III of another diplomatic group sent by King Mongkut..."
Guards are posted one either side of the entrance, and their demeanor is a weak imitation of the Royal Guards at Buckingham Palace. They do stand very straight and never smile; people were taking turns at being photographed with them, an exercise they must find completely boring. But then, it’s all in a day’s work. This is the only place I have ever seen Bonsai trees that are not miniature--their age probably reflects their existence during the first dynasty.
It was my understanding from our guide that the Buddhist-type roof was an afterthought, a sort of national endorsement. A harmony brings the two styles together, despite the gargantuan difference in style. This is usually the last stop on the tour, and most people linger there for photos and decide whether to continue on to Wat Pho, for which the price of admission is included in this ticket. I found outstanding flowers here as well--the very same they used in the reception area of the Oriental Bangkok hotel.
There were several other areas worth mentioning, but the group I wrote about are the ones that lingered in my memory most vividly.
From journal Thailand Ties - Part II