Phra Narai Ratcha Niwet (King Narai's Palace)
Phra Narai Ratcha Niwet (King Narai's Palace)The main entrance to King Narai's Palace (as it came to be called at the time of the major renovations by King Rama IV in the 19th c.) is on Surasak Road, but it can also be entered from the side on the river. This would have had the landing stage where most kings would have arrived in Lopburi, since they tended to travel here by river. However, the tour that follows starts at the main entrance.The palace precinct is divided up by walls, with gateways, into several courtyards. The most interesting features are to be found in the inner courtyard.The whole compound is enclosed in majestic walls topped by battlements. Large parts of the old complex are 17th c. and were designed and built by King Narai. The more modern buildings added later owe their appearance to King Mongkut who had many buildings demolished and put new ones in their place, apart, that is, from the Chanthara Phisan Pavilion which was in a relatively good state of preservation and therefore worth restoring.Starting the tour at the main entrance on Surasak Road, this gateway is where fate is supposed to have caught up with Konstanin Phaulkon, whose residence is another of the sights of Lopburi. Lured to the palace on the pretext of being summoned to the presence of the dying king, the Greek adviser was grabbed by henchmen of Luang Sorasak, the Minister of War who had seized power, and subsequently beheaded.En route to the next courtyard, also entered through a monumental gateway, there are several structures that are of interest. The traces of buildings can still be discerned to the right and left of the path. However what they were used for has never been clear, not even from the old documents, although it is reported that on his deathbed the King asked for some precious garments to be brought to him from one of these twelve halls, so they may have been treasure chambers.Behind them to the right are the old brick water tanks which are fed by springs on a hill in the eastern part of the town. Italian and French engineers were commissioned to build a hydraulic system to pump the water to the palace, and it is supposed to have taken ten years' hard work to get it running properly. Beyond the water tanks, in a pleasant park setting, is the Phra Khlang Supharat which was the reception hall for foreign visitors.Just before the second gate, on the left, are parts of the outer wall of the royal elephant stables. The statues on the grass beyond the portal are in the Dvaravati style and include items brought here from places outside Lopburi as well. A few ruins are all that remain of a pool and the armories and magazines nearby.
Opening hours: 8am-6pm; Closed: Mon, Tue
Useful tips: Admission charge. Photography prohibited.
Phra Narai Ratcha Niwet (King Narai's Palace) Highlights
Royal Hall of Audience
On the left of the Phiman Mongkut Pavilion and surrounded by high walls are the ruins of the Dusit Sawan Thanya Maha Prasat, the royal hall of audience. Fragments indicate that the façade was European in appearance, with Gothic arches over the doors, for example, but the rear was Classical Thai. It was probably the tallest building in the whole of the palace compound and is reported as having a pyramid shaped roof, similar to the Dusit Maha Prasat in the Grand Palace in Bangkok. The interior must have been magnificent. The walls were covered with mirrors, a present from Louis XIV, and according to Nicholas Gervais, a member of the French delegation, the hall was full of frescos, mosaic floors, Chinese crystal and porcelain and, at the end, had a throne 2 m (61/2 ft) tall, which the king reached by climbing a flight of marble steps.
The foundations of the Sutthasawan Hall, where King Narai lived and, on July 11th 1688, died, are in the adjoining gardens. Some of the large laterite slabs were taken to Bangkok in the early 19th c. and used in the building of Wat Sakhet. According to Nicolas Gervais, the roof was covered with yellow glazed bricks and the roof beams were richly ornated with gold. Around the building there were four pools where the king was able to bathe, and if the sun was shining they would be shaded by an enormous baldachin. The king also had a little cave built by one of the pools.In the south-east courtyard are another two private reception halls, including King Narai's well preserved Phra Chao Hao, with more pools and store rooms, stabling and the living quarters of the guard.
Chanthara Phisan Pavilion
In the second courtyard, on the right, the Chanthara Phisan Pavilion, restored by King Mongkut and now a national museum, was the residence of King Narai. Built in about 1665, it has a balcony on the front from which King Narai greeted his guests. The pavilion holds a throne, and the walls were covered with mirrors brought here by the Chevalier de Chaumont, the ambassador of Louis XIV of France. Originally just one big room, the pavilion was divided into two during the restoration by King Mongkut. The second room has a painting by an unknown artist showing the arrival of the French delegation. In the actual audience chamber are two magnificent wooden thrones and a number of beautifully carved gilded bookcases.
Behind the royal palace in a secluded courtyard were the living quarters of the king's many wives and children (part of this is now a museum of agricultural implements). Even during King Mongkut's time this part of the compound could only be entered by the chosen few; it was still absolutely forbidden to have contact with members of the royal family, a ban that lasted until its abolition by Rama V, King Chulalongkorn.
Phra Thinang Visuthivinitchai
The building on the left of the Chanthara Phisan Pavilion is the three-storied Phra Thinang Visuthivinitchai, built by King Mongkut. The west wing was the Phiman Mongkut Pavilion; the top floor contained the king's apartments (large bedroom, study and gunroom) and the bottom floor rooms were for offices and giving audience. The pavilions now serve as museums displaying Dvaravati and Lopburi sculpture, votive tablets, arms, faãence and paneling.
Map - Phra Narai Ratcha Niwet (King Narai's Palace)
Phra Narai Ratcha Niwet (King Narai's Palace) Pictures
Map of Lopburi Attractions