Simply put, Bangkok’s Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall is the one of the most impressive sights in Asia. Seriously, of all of Asia’s historical sights, modern skyscrapers, and cutting-edge spaces, the Throne hall deserves a place among the greats. Mix one part Crown Jewels, one part Sistine Chapel, one part Asia and what do you get? Mind-blowing.
If you have heard of things to see in Thailand, have you ever heard of the Throne Hall? No? Don’t feel bad, our taxi driver didn’t even know how to get there. He knew the area, but not where the entrance was. We almost skipped it as tourist buses do because we knew nothing of it. That would have been a mistake and a half, as far as secret gems go, this is a gold plated, diamond studded, beetlewing accented Bangkok oasis nobody knows of. The most absurd thing is that many tourists paid the admission fee and never went, it is included with the Grand Palace ticket. The Grand Palace is a must see, but this is better, you get to go inside.
The reason this is a hidden gem, and will remain so, is that information is hard to come by. Tour books barely mention it and tours don’t regularly stop at it. While the Grand Palace admission ticket gives free admission to the Throne Hall and Vimanmek Mansion, there is only information about the Vimanmek Mansion in the admission packet. Vimanmek Mansion is also on the tourist bus circuit, but one of the dullest tours I have ever experienced. This is a rare time that the lack of information is hiding something so amazing you wouldn’t believe it anyway.
Photos are not allowed inside, therefore I will try to describe the contents of the museum. Photos here are from a package of postcards we purchased that only feature the frescos. If you want to know more you will need to see it yourself. The basics is that a Thai King Rama V, commissioned Italian architects Mario Tamagno and Annibale Rigotti to create a building in the style of the Sistine Chapel that depicted the history of the Chakri Dynasty (Thai Royal Family). The building is constructed of imported stones and in itself a work of art.
While the building could stand on its own right, its contents are equally exquisite. The Thai Royal Family filled it with the “Arts of the Kingdom” to support the traditional Thai artisans. The Arts of the Kingdom are unreal pieces of gold, gems, silk with absurdly rare accents such as real beetlewing. Each piece details the effort that went into it and it is not uncommon to find that a single piece took hundreds of people years of work. I have seen art and museums the world over, but what I saw here was like nothing humanity has ever shown me.
If you were to visit only one thing in Bangkok, I would seriously consider this to be it.
IF YOU GO:
- Women need to wear a long skirt. No exceptions. Even though women can wear long pants or knee length skirts to the Grand Palace and Vimanmek Mansion (both included on the same ticket), only a skirt to your ankles will get you into the Throne Hall.
- The 16, 18, 23, 70, 72, 503, 505, 509 bus will get you there. Then you will need a map to walk the last little bit. We took the 53 bus from Khaosan Road and needed a cab from there, the cabdriver didn’t know how to get to the entrance, but could get directions from locals.
- Your Grand Palace ticket grants you admission. If you are visiting the Grand Palace, your ticket will get you into the Throne Hall.
- If pressed for time or on a tour, skip Vimanmek Mansion and head over to the Throne Hall.