Bang Pa-In Royal Palace (Thai: พระราชวังบางปะอิน), also known as the Summer Palace, a palace complex formerly used by the Thai kings as a summer dwelling. The palace is located on the Chao Phraya River bank in Bang Pa-In district, Ayutthaya Province.
The palace remains mostly open to visitors, as King Bhumibol Adulyadej and his family use it only rarely for banquets and special occasions.
Bang Pa-in Palace is some 40 minutes from the Ayutthaya Temples. From Bangkok, it is 1 ½ hours away by train from the Hualamphong station, which leaves the platform at 7AM. From the station, tuktuks can be hired for just 30 bahts to visit Bang Pa-in.
I was particularly amused with one British lady who was filming a movie starring herself. Earlier that day, I'd see her running around the grounds like a rabid lunatic. She would shout as though she lost something, frantically running after someone who just wasn't there; shaking her wild mop of curly blond hair, waving across the lakes, and around pagodas. I caught up with her later by the orangery (for my Coca cola fix). She was explaining to everyone who cared to listen. She was doing a film about a girl running all over Asia for the man she loves. Such a sweet and novel concept, if you ask me. Reminds me of Oleta Adams', "Get Here". Trouble was, she was making a spectacle, calling attention to herself.
The Orangery (where drinks can be bought).
Across the Chao Phraya River from the Palace is Wat Niwet Thamprawat, another European-inspired brainchild of King Chulalongkorn. It was built in 1878. It is also a Buddhist temple cleverly disguised as a Gothic church, from the spiky eaves to the stained glass windows. Getting there is half the fun, as a basic motorized cable car takes visitors across the river! The cable car station is hidden behind the Bang Pa-In parking lot, which explains why the temple doesn't get many Western visitors. Entry is free, but donations are encouraged.
A buddhist community in the grounds of Wat Niwet Thamprawat.
I went inside the temple and sat on the floor to observe. Within minutes, a small group of the faithful came in to join me. A charming old monk made his way to the front of the temple, then started to bless everyone, including me. He flicked some liquid - like a holy water - towards us so I just bowed down. It was a nice ritual. Quite moving in its solemnity.
A charming old monk accepting guests (myself included).
The ride on the mechanized cable car is pretty exciting. There was no electricity involved, but some turning wheel and a rope that pulls the carriage across the river. For my ride, there were 4 of us, and as it crossed the river, you would feel the gentle swaying like on a hammock. I was concerned of its safety, but someone assured me. No incidents of a fall has been reported. But you wonder anyway, as the “car” is made of wood, and it is seemingly hangs "on air” as it glides across the river. Pretty amazing experience!