If the Phetchaburi Khao Luang Caves were not mysterious enough for you, I have yet another intriguing destination to visit. Just 2 hours from Bangkok and close to the caves, lies the abandoned summer palace of the Thai Kings. It is not just one building but stretches along three peaks. The Phra Nakhon Khiri Palace also called the Khao Wang Palace, enthralled me with its unique pagodas (chedis), beautiful temples, elegant throne rooms and mesmerizing views of the town.
Set on a hill-top, the Phra Nakhon Khiri Royal Palace had a delightful story to tell. The best part of my visit was that this place was devoid of the usual crowds, allowing me to explore to my heart’s delight. Possibly owing to my being here around its closing town or as my guide said – “The Phra Nakhon Palace is not a part of the usual tourist circuit“. I am sure that is about to change as you discover this palace along with me. By the end of the post, it will be on your list of places to visit in Hua-Hin or Bangkok.
About Phra Nakhon Khiri Palace
The name Phra Nakhon Khiri means “Holy City Hill“. The palace is also, popularly referred to as Khao Wang Palace which means “Hill with a Palace”. The cool green hill in this town of Phetchaburi was favored by King Rama IV, especially during the summers. He built his summer haven in 1860s .
The palace is in fact, spread over three major peaks in clusters – one with the royal palace buildings, the 2nd with a huge Chedi or Pagoda and the third with a red Chedi and a magnificent Royal temple. Along the base of these peaks are the stables, kitchen and the other buildings. Owing to this spread in the green natural forests, this palace is also, referred to as the Phra Nakhon Khiri Historical Park.
King Rama IV and his son enjoyed the palace not just as their summer residence but also, as a place to entertain foreign guests. The palace was later abandoned by the Royal Family and is no longer used for residential purposes. It is now a tourist destination, open to art and heritage lovers.
Arriving at the Khao Wang Palace
Straight from the airport, I was whisked off to Hua Hin and Chaam for the rest of my stay in Thailand. It was along the way that we stopped at Phetchaburi for the Khao Wang Palace. Ideally, my guide said it would be great if we could climb the hill but since we were so close to the closing time, she recommended that we zoomed up in a cable car.
Quite like the Phetchaburi caves, she forewarned me about the notorious dwellers – the monkeys. What she did not warn me of were how slippery the trails of Khao Wang Palace were going to be. Had I known, I would have worn my trekking shoes instead of my sports ones but well! Then I would not have had my skating stints – would I? 😉
Throne Hall of Phra Nakhon Khiri Palace
The Throne Hall is referred to as Phra Thi Nang Phet Phum Phairot and is the biggest cluster or building of the Palace. This is where the King had his living quarters. The building was a lovely mix of the Thai and European style of architecture. Instead of the sharp ornate sloping roof and the carved pillars, you see the colonial-styled ones. At the same time, the temples and a few other buildings around it had those typical Oriental roofs.
This complex has now been converted to a museum and no photography is allowed inside. The museum showcases the King’s collection of artifacts from different parts of the world. You can quite understand his lifestyle when you see his furniture that is kept along his living quarters – his bedroom, dressing room, washrooms etc. While you are at it, don’t miss the beautiful views of the hills and the rest of the palatial grounds from the various windows – it will make you realize why the King chose this location for his palace.
Royal Temple and Observatory
A short walk from the Throne Hall is a beautiful temple along with a tall tower. Phra Thi Nang Wetchayan Prasat – the temple was used for everyday worship. The tall tower behind it is called Ho Chatchawan Wiang Chai. This served as the royal observatory.
King Rama IV was a keen astronomer and was also, called the Father of Thai Science. He used this tower to observe and study the night skies. It reminded me of the Mughal Emperor Humayun in India, who was also, a keen astronomer and unfortunately, met his end while climbing down his tower in Delhi.
In the same complex, I found this one hall that looked like a hall of private audiences. Though there was no confirmation of the same anywhere, from the entire layout – the central space for the throne and the sides for the guest, I could not conclude it to be anything else.
Wat Phra Kaew Noi in Khao Wang Palace
Skidding along those moss-laden trails, I reached a bastion with a view. While on one side I could see the lovely Observatory and the Royal temple, at the other end, were two interesting sights . The first was a towering Chedi and the 2nd was an interesting temple flanked by a red Pagoda. This red and white structure is the Wat Phra Kaew Noi.
This Royal temple is on the Eastern Peak of the Khao Wang Palace hill. It was modeled around the Temple of Emerald Buddha in Bangkok. They say that this one too, has an Emerald Buddha Idol but I could not see the same as the temple was closed. However, despite the same, I enjoyed checking out the temple from the outside.
The Red pagoda is called the Chedi Daeng and is almost, like a landmark to the Phra Nakhon Khiri Palace. Five storied with green doors offsetting the red walls of the Chedi, it reminded me of the red cenotaphs of Mandore Gardens in Jodhpur. It was not just the red color but also, the remarkable similarity in the design of its spires.
The main temple had plenty to admire. Starting from its ornate doors to the golden eaves that outlined its entrances and pretty white roof. Walking around this temple, I climbed a small flight of stairs to see yet another Chedi. From here, I could see the other towering Chedi – my next stop in the Phra Nakhon Khiri Palace.
Phra That Chom Phet Chedi
The tall 40 m high Phra That Chom Phet Chedi was as mysterious as it was daunting. Small grey chedis interspersed by photographs of the royal family surrounded this central pagoda. A narrow tunnel led to the center of the Pagoda. I felt like a treasure hunter as I stepped into it. Once inside the Pagoda, I realized that the central shrine was stripped of idols or any other treasure it might have held. Walking around it, I realized there were three other tunnels from the outside – one in each cardinal direction.
The significance of this Pagoda was that it contained the relics of the original Buddha. Where and how was not very clear and whether they are still there or not – well that is the mystery part of it! 🙂
Skating past the Stables and Kitchen
With the three major peaks done, it was time to head back. It was past time for the last cable ride and Thank Heavens for that. It gave me a chance to explore a few other buildings along the way. The walk down was quite an adventure – I almost lost control of my steps. The ground was so slippery that whether I liked it or not, I just went whoosh down the slope. With a firm grip on my prized camera, I just decided to enjoy the forced skating downhill. And boy! Was it fun!
Among the many buildings of interest, the one important one was the Theater of Masked dances. Again, I could only glance at it from the outside as it was past the closing time and we were forced to exit. Then came the kitchens and the stables – the latter being quite conspicuous.
I could have spent more time here, for I bet I would have discovered little nuances within. Time was an enemy and well, politeness was not to fight it. I left with a satisfaction of having explored the three peaks of Phra Nakhon Khiri historical park. I wonder if you found it as interesting and whether you have added it to your list of places to visit in Thailand.
- Bangkok is the closest airport to visit the Phra Nakhon Khiri Palace. It is two hours by road. There are plenty of international and domestic flights connecting Bangkok to the rest of the world.
- You can either hire a taxi or take one of the public buses from Bangkok to Phetchaburi. There are trains also, available to Phetchaburi from Bangkok.
- This can also, be a stopover enroute to Hua Hin or Cha-am from Bangkok. It is just one hour from Hua Hin.
- Click this link to get it on your mobile.
- The Phra Nakhon Khiri entrance fees is 150 Thb per adult. This allows you to see the museum as well. If you wish to take the cable car, you will need to pay 50 Thb for a round trip in addition to this fee.
- The Palace is open between 8:30 to 16:30 every day.
- There is a map of the place at the entrance that gives you a good idea of where to go. Remember to click a picture of the same for your reference.
- Beware of the monkeys on the hills. They are quite notorious.
- Please wear comfortable clothes covering your shoulders and legs as you will not be allowed inside the temples otherwise.
- Wear shoes with a good grip as the trails through the park are quite slippery owing to the moss.
- There are a few public restrooms in the Palace.
- You will need to remove your footwear at the museum.
- The temperature on the hills is lower than the rest of the mainland and hence, it is advisable to carry a small shawl or a light jacket when here. Carry an umbrella or a raincoat if you are heading here in the rainy season.
- You can visit the Khao Luang Caves along with this palace. The entire visit can be combined with a stay in Cha-am. You can book yourself into any of these Hotels in Cha-am
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