Buddha: " Whenever you see things, just see. Whenever you listen, just listen. Whenever you know, just know."
The Wang Phayathai or Phya Thai Royal Palace - AKA Phra Ratchawang Phaya Thai, Rachathewi District, Bangkok, Thailand.
The Wang Phayathai or Phya Thai Royal Palace
AKA Phra Ratchawang Phaya Thai is within walking distance of BTS Skytrain station Victory Monument on the northern side of Ratchawithi Road.
Until recently this magnificent royal palace was used as offices for the Royal Thai Army Medical Corps and a local hospital. Originally built for King Chulalongkorn, Rama V and his Queen Saowabha, with building starting in 1909 when the area around it was royal farm land.
Rama V named it Phra Tamnak Phaya Thai or the Phya Thai Palace - Phaya Thai means Lord of the Thais and the building still bears his monogram and heraldic device. King Chulalongkorn died on 23rd of October 1910 only months after the palace's official inauguration.
During the reign of Rama VI, Queen Saovabha, the then Queen Mother who loved the palace, lived there until her death in 1919. Rama VI then had the entire palace grounds demolished, leaving only the Devaraja Sabharamaya Hall AKA The Phra Thinang Thewarat Sapharom and the Thewaratsaparom Throne Hall that you see today used as an intimate theatre and conservatoire. Rama VI was a keen playwright and actor, so the theatre was used well during his reign.
New palace halls were built, that adjoined the remaining original building together, forming the new Royal Phya Thai Palace and Rama VI lived here at the palace until the later years of his reign, when he moved to stay at the Chakraput Piman Hall or Phra Thinang Chakkraphat Phiman within the grounds of the Grand Palace until his death.
When Rama VII came to the throne he ordered that the palace be developed as an international hotel, serving foreign dignitaries on state visits as well as businessmen. The hotel enterprise failed five years later. The Phya Thai Palace then became the location of the first Thai Government radio station and later, after the 1932 democracy revolution which ended the absolute monarchy, like many royal residences the property was confiscated by the army. The army turned the old palace and grounds into a hospital, now called the Phramongkutklao Hospital - King Mongkut Hospital AKA Rong Phayaban Phra Mongkut Klao.
The main palace buildings you see today, undergoing restoration, are actually a small group of two and three storey buildings linked by open verandahs and walkways which give the complex the appearance of having a single facade. The central building of the group is the Phiman Chakri Throne Hall.
The building features a Germanic style round turret, on the western front corner, with a steep "fairytale" red conical roof. The ground floors are surrounded by airy corridors and the building has a grand staircase at the rear leading up to what were the royal apartments on the second floor. The largest room in the centre of the second floor was used as a throne hall. There are photographs in the current display areas that show it was decorated in a western style looking like a parlor, even having a fireplace at the back of the room.
The main entrance to the Phiman Chakri Throne Hall is covered by a roof that extends from second floor level to a house that was previously a waiting room, and now operates as a small coffee shop.
The room to the west of the throne hall was once the Queen Saovabha's bedchamber. The round room in the turret was the queen's study.
The building to the west of the Phiman Chakri Throne Hall, with its own squarish tower, is the Srisuthiniwat building. It was the reception and residence hall for the female members of the royal family, who at the time were still largely segregated from the male members and servants. At the time of our visit it housed the Royal Thai Army Medical Corps Museum.
There is a 'Roman' garden behind the palace buildings and a large garden with a water feature. In Rama V's time, this was where he managed an experimental farm, much like Rama IX at Chitralada Palace. Rama VI built the 'Roman Garden' and behind that a model city called 'Dusit Thani' built to help him train people how a real city should be run! There is a shrine to Thao Hiranphanasoon that remains from that time, still quite popular with local hospital employees and visitors. The shrine is surrounded very old bodhi trees on one side. On the other side of the shrine is a modern sala housing a Buddha image.
The The Wang Phayathai or Phya Thai Royal Palace buildings were open to the public but there was not much to see other than the buildings and garden, which we consider are worth the effort to see. It did seem a little strange visiting the grounds of a hospital as a tourist!
The few offices that were occupied in the buildings, mostly used for administration, and the staff were quite amenable to our visit, there was no admission charge or ticketing but we are sure this will change when the property renovations are completed and the building requires staff.