Have you ever dreamed of wandering around a cabbage field in the heart of Bangkok? Well, it’s possible at Suan Pakkad Palace, an attraction whose name means, in reality, the “palace in a cabbage garden”.
Over a hundred years ago, the area on which now stands the Suan Pakkad Palace, was a vast garden specialized in the growth of cabbage. This lasted until the end of the 19th century when Prince Chumbhot Paribatra, and his consort, received the land to establish a residence—a simple palace, built in a modern style for that time.
But the property had its destiny changed back in 1952. The Prince had decided to save 100-year-old traditional Thai homes, transporting them to his residential compound and rebuilding them in their original shape, with wooden hallways connecting each house. The ensemble of traditional houses were used by the Prince as a reception hall, but also a place to display art. In the same year, the complex was opened to the public and became of the country’s first private residence to become a museum.
And while the cabbages have long been gone (although some vases in one of the exhibition rooms are obviously honouring the palace’s name), Suan Pakkad Palace is probably one of the most beautifully preserved traditional Thai homes still left to be admired within the sprawling urban jungle that is Bangkok today. Conveniently located near the Phaya Thai BTS skytrain station, the palace and its gardens is like a hidden gem—a serene oasis in the midst of the never ending traffic of the streets and the frenzied crowds boarding the nearby Airport Express trains.
Inside, the palace is a wonderful introduction of the rich culture of Siam, starting back as far as prehistoric times with a wonderful collection of Ban Chiang potteries from Northeastern Thailand, and continuing to exquisite pieces of Buddhist sculpture, statues, lacquer objects, khon masks, and musical instruments.
The masterpiece of this outstanding collection is the Lacquer Pavilion. Dating back to the late Ayutthaya period, in the 17th-18th century, the delicate former library stood for many years unattended in a city temple in the former capital of Siam. “We can consider it as a sort of ‘Taj Mahal’ for Prince Chumbhot,” the museum guides explain with pride. Why this nickname? Because this architectural masterpiece was brought hereby the prince and restored, specifically as a birthday present for his wife. An incredible proof of love that visitors should certainly be thankful for.
The unique architecture of the Pavilion—a double structure, with its walls covered by paintings using real gold over black lacquer—shows how skilled and sophisticated were craftsmen in Ayutthaya in past centuries. Details in the artwork show daily life, evoke the spiritual destiny of Buddha, and illustrate scenes from Ramayana, the ancient Indian epic poem which greatly influenced the culture of Thailand.
Another highlight is an authentic royal barge, made entirely of teak wood, another proof of Siamese craftsmen’s skills. It was used by Prince Chumbhot’s fathers for processions. And finally there is a serene garden with its pond and exotic plants. And most would agree, a tranquil walk here is much nicer than strolling past rows of cabbages.
By Luc Citrinot
Suan Pakkad Palace
352-354 Sri Ayudhaya Rd.
(nearest BTS Station is Phaya Thai)
Open daily: 9am-4pm
Admission: B100 per person