on December 1, 2008
Vimanmek Mansion: the world's largest golden teakwood structureTEL. +66 2 628 6300 Ext. 5120-5121FAX +66 2 628 6300 Ext. 5136On an often Mispronounced NameOne of the Thai consonants is usually transliterated to Roman letters as "v" despite its sound being "w;" thus the correct pronunciation of the mansion’s name is "Wimanmek;" in Thai it means "celestial mansion."HistoryUpon his return from Europe in 1897, King Rama V (1868-1910) purchased orchards and paddy fields between the Padung Krungkasem and Samsen canals for the construction of a royal garden, which he named "The Dusit Garden." In 1900 the King had the Munthaturattanaroj Residence – his Summer Palace in Chuthathujrachathan at Koh Sri Chang, Chonburi – dismantled and rebuilt in the Dusit Garden, after that the structure became known as the Vimanmek Mansion; it was inaugurated in Bangkok on March 27, 1901.King Rama V moved then his residence from the Grand Palace to stay permanently at Vimanmek Mansion for five years until the completion of Amporn Satarn Residence in 1906 where he lived until his death in 1910.Later, near the end of his reign, King Rama VI (1910-1925) gave permission to Her Majesty Indharasaksaji to stay at Vimanmek Mansion. After the King's death, she moved to stay another residence in Suan Hong compound north of Vimanmek Mansion. Then, King Rama VII (1925-1934) ordered the installation of new electrical wires and the repair of columns of the main pier at the artificial lake, but from 1932 onwards, Vimanmek Mansion was used only as a storage place of the Bureau of the Royal Household.In 1982, on the occasion of the Bicentennial Anniversary of Bangkok, Her Majesty Queen Sirikit, asked permission of His Majesty King Rama IX to renovate the Mansion for use as a museum to commemorate King Rama V by displaying his photographs, personal art and handicrafts, and the Thai national heritage. This museum is open nowadays to the public.AccessThe museum is open daily from 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM, including weekends and public holidays; the ticketing and guided tours stop roughly an hour before closure. Proper attire is observed (sarongs, pants and shirts can be rented), shoes must be left by the entrance at a special place, and cameras must be submitted to the guards by the entrance (they are kept in lockers for a small fee).The entrance to the mansion is exclusively as part of a guided tour (given also in English and included in the admission fee); wandering free inside is not permitted. Moreover, the site serves official functions, so despite it being open every day, it may close unexpectedly due to an official ceremony. Checking if it is open by phone before arriving is thus recommended.SetupThis is the world’s largest golden teak building; the three-storey royal mansion has 81 rooms built in European style from the end of the 19th century, halls and ante-chambers containing royal memorabilia. The building has two right-angled wings, each one sixty meters long and is three-storied except for the part where King Rama V resided, which is octagonal and four-storied. Although the ground floor is brick and cement, the upper floors are built of beautiful golden teakwood. There are thirty-one exhibition rooms, with the bedrooms, the throne room and the bathrooms offering an awesome display of classical Thai culture. Other exhibitions include Thai as reflected in silverware, ceramics, crystal, and ivory.Other BuildingsOther buildings in the same compound include an exhibition of H.M. King Bhumibol’s photography, H.M. Queen Sirikit’s collection of handicraft masterpieces created by rural people, the Paraphernalia of Rank and Portraits Museum, the Old Clocks Museum, Royal Carriages, the Royal Ceremonial Photographic Museum, the Suan Si Ruedo Residential Hall Museum, the Suan Bua Residential Hall Museum, the Ancient Cloth and Silk and others.Most of the structures hosting these institutions have a long history, dating back to King Rama V decision to allocate plots of land for the construction of residences for his consort, princesses, and other wives. Clear signs inform the visitor of the most relevant information about every structure.The VisitA visit to Vimanmek can be easily missed due the richness of the exhibits; it is impossible to see everything during a single visit. A first time visitor may find himself running between them in a futile attempt to cover everything before the place closes to visitors. Yet, some of the most attractive sights are the open spaces connecting between the buildings. Those are tastefully gardened and offer an unobstructed view into the life and preferences of royal Thailand. A point to keep in mind are the two traditional Thai dancing shows taking place daily at 10:30 AM and 2 PM.Bangkok is a big city; one of the biggest in the world. However, sometimes the crowds and the huge new buildings appearing in a daily base make it easy to forget that: crowdedness becomes coziness and the city is transformed into a small, intimate place. Vimanmek Mansion fixes that, restoring to Bangkok its grandeur.
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