Thailand’s Blue Tiger: Day 11 (Scene 1)
Day 11 started in a sad way. Before breakfast, we all knew about how the violence exploded in Bangkok the night before. The bad part is that we were heading there. We had planned sightseeing for the morning and then, we were returning to the capital (Ayutthaya is pretty close to Bangkok). The thing is that nobody was able to have breakfast while most of the hotel guests were looking at the deadly images in all the main newspapers. There were protests and confrontations before we arrived to Bangkok. My theory is that the involved parties stopped the confrontations for Songkran because this is a really important holiday for Thais. Once the Songkran related festivities were over, the red shirt party retook the protests. We even saw red shirts driving to Bangkok when we were in the north of the country.
Well, the night before there was a huge confrontation in the Silom (in Bangkok) area. There were several people dead, grenades exploded and the Sky Train was even affected. The bloody images in the newspaper were disturbing. Our guide told us not to worry. We were not going to be affected and the airport was not going to be closed. I had reserves about the information she provided. Anyway, we were leaving the next day so we just had a night left at Bangkok. However, most of our group members were going to stay in Bangkok for at least three more days. We were worried for them. Inside me, I knew everything was going to be fine. It is hard to remained calm when you travel during critical times.
The good news is that everything went well and we proceeded to our first stop for the day, the Summer Palace of King Rama V. The place is also known as Bang Pa-In Royal Palace. It is located about 15 miles (30 km) from Ayutthaya on an island called Bang Pa-In. The island extends over the Chao Phraya River. The construction of the palace was started during the late Ayutthaya period. When Ayutthaya was burned and sacked by the Burmese, the place was deserted.
Once the Chakri dynasty was founded (the current reigning Thai Dynasty), the palace was restored and extended. The architectural styles are all over the place. There are Chinese, Khmer, Thai and European influences. This is really interesting. You can be admiring a Chinese style structure one minute, then you turn around the corner and you can find an European style building.
Some structures stand out from others. For example, Wehart Chamrunt (Heavenly Light). This is a Chinese-style royal palace and throne room. After observing the particular Thai architecture, I was not expecting to see a Chinese style palace. All the materials for this building were brought from China.
There is the beautiful the Aisawan Thiphya-Art (Divine Seat of Personal Freedom), a pavilion constructed in the middle of a pond.
The gardens and landscaping are wonderfully manicured. It is a delight to see all the ponds, flowers and trees converted into animal shapes.
And of course, my favorite structure in the whole complex, Ho Withun Thasana (Sages’ Lookout). This is a brightly painted lookout tower which was used to look at wild animals.
King Rama IX (the current king) rarely uses the palace. Therefore, it is open to the public. In my opinion, it is really well kept and it is a pleasure to walk around. You can get inside many of the buildings and observe the way of life of the previous kings.
I think not a lot of people visit this place but it is worth a visit. I am still amazed about the lookout tower. For some reason, I like that building a lot. Maybe it is because how different it is. Well, the whole place is different. That is what amazes me of Thailand. There are so many places to discover.