16 Ratchawithi Rd, Khwaeng Dusit, Khet Dusit
Situated in the grounds of a splendid park complex of lush verdure, the Vimanmek Mansion is a former royal residence that amazes visitors to it with its elegant beauty, as powerful today as it was a hundred years ago. The mansion’s name means “ The Mansion in the Clouds” or “The House of Heavenly Beings” in the Thai language. It is famous for being the largest house in the world, all of which was built from a valuable teak tree. Today, an extremely interesting museum, whose unique collection allows an insight into the Thai history and royal life, is situated in the monarchical rooms.
Back in the late 19th century, the King Rama V finally came back to Bangkok after a long trip to Europe. Impressed by the Old World’s luxurious palatial and park ensembles, he bought a number of gardens and rice fields in the downtown area in order to create a royal garden there. This was called the Dusit Garden and a new mansion was arranged in its grounds. The first building to was constructed on the park’s territory was the Vimanmek Mansion; earlier, it was to be Thai monarch’s summer residence and was located on the Sichang Island, but on the orders of Rama V, it was pulled down, moved to Bangkok and reassembled in the Dusit Garden. This feat of engineering was made possible, to a large extent, thanks to mansion’s unusual structure: it was built without nails, and all of the elements were connected only with wooden dowels.
The mansion’s architecture interweaves Eastern and Western styles and philosophies: Vimanmek is built in an architectural style that is typical of Europe’s architecture during those times; a neo-classical style, but with the inclusion of traditional Thai motifs, meaning that it resembles an elegant European house rather than typical Oriental palace. The royal residence has a total of three floors with more than eighty rooms: these include numerous living and reception rooms, several halls for audiences and a concert hall. The roof is topped with pointed spires and each apartment has its own name, which is given in accordance with its walls’ color: Pink, Green, Blue and so on. In addition to the inside rooms, there are open terraces and verandahs.
As well as its architecture, which is unusual for Thailand, Vimanmek is renowned for its many technical novelties. It was, for instance, the first building in the country where the electricity was installed, produced by an autonomous generator. Meanwhile a shower with warm running water (something of novelty to Bangkok) and the first elevator, which was powered by servants rotating a wheel with a rope, were also installed in the mansion. The shower was refilled manually.
King Rama V spent a little more than five years at the mansion. After his death, ruler’s relatives lived in the mansion for some time, but since the 1930s the building has remained uninhabited, although it wasn’t until 1982 that it was decided to turn Vimanmek into museum. Today, one third of residence’s rooms are open for visiting. Their interiors strike the eye with their luxurious décor and preserve the spirit of the royal age. Various objects that used to belong to the monarch and his family are exhibited there: collections of paintings and works of art, unique antique jewelry, flatware, porcelain, hunting trophies, books and samples of weapons. The museum also keeps the gifts that King Rama V received from ambassadors and rulers around the world.
Important! Visitors to the Mansion-Museum must follow certain dress-code. According to the code, men must wear long trousers with a shirt or long-sleeve T-shirt (shorts and vest tops are not allowed on the Vimanmek’s territory). Women must be dressed in long skirts with their shoulders covered (if necessary, a skirt can be bought at the entrance).
You can visit Vimanmek with the same ticket bought for visiting the Grand Royal Palace.