The Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall is an absolutely beautiful building in the middle of Bangkok. It is situated at the end of Rajdamnoen Avenue between Vinmanmek Palace, the former royal residence, and Chitlada Palace, the current royal residence. Surrounding the throne hall is a vast ceremonial ground known as the Royal Plaza. When there are royal celebrations on these grounds, the throne hall stands as a grand spectator to the wonders that surround it. On normal days, when the plaza is full of tourists and tuk-tuks, the Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall stands as a resplendent reminder of the history held within those walls.
Back before the throne hall was first thought of, the land where it now stands used to be rural orchards and paddy fields. It became the location for the royal structure after King Chulalongkorn (Rama V) returned from his first European tour in 1897 and desired to emulate some of the grand royal parks and palace grounds he’d encountered on his trip. Bypassing the treasury and using his own personal funds, he purchased the orchards and paddy fields to create a royal garden which would become The Royal Dusit Garden, or Dusit Palace. This palace complex was composed of 11 palaces and royal residences where the king could escape the confines of the Grand Palace and the constant attentions of the resident courtiers. Among these grand palaces stands the Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall which was commissioned in 1907 after King Chulalongkorn returned from his second European trip and finished in 1915. Unfortunately, King Chulalongkorn died in 1910 and never got to see the throne hall completed. Upon his death, his son, King Vajiravudh (Rama VI), continued the work until it was completed as his father had desired. I think King Chulalongkorn would have been proud of what had been built for him.
The Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall was designed by Italian architects Mario Tamango and Annibale Rigotti in the Neoclassical Renaissance style. King Chulalongkorn placed the cornerstone himself in 1907 during the celebration to commemorate his 40th year on the throne. It took 8 years to complete and once finished boasts dimensions of roughly 157 feet wide and 331 feet long. The completed structure is two stories high and has a dome that reached 162.4 feet (49.5 meters) high. Along with the high central dome, there are also six smaller domes that dot the exterior of the building. On the interior of each of the domes were painted allegorical frescoes done by Galileo Chini. These frescoes depicted historical scenes from the first through sixth reigns of the Chakri Dynasty. The inspiration for the exterior design and the use of interior frescoes comes from both the Basilica di Superga in Torino, Italy, and St. Peter’s Bascilica in Rome.
As the throne hall was to be the crown jewel of King Chulalongkorn palace grounds,the hall was built using the finest materials, including Carrara marble imported from Italy as well as various other foreign materials. Inside, the walls are composed of brick overlayed with marble that has been carved with Roman and floral patterns of Renaissance and Baroque inspiration. Outside, the building is composed of Carrara marble decorated with putti carvings done by Italian sculptor Vittorio Novi. The windows and doors are also decorated with Carrara marble while the roof and domes are adorned with copper. As a result of using such luxurious materials, the throne hall was the most expensive building ever built in Thailand at the time. The cost came to a total of 15 million baht, which is about $456,468.30 USD. While that isn’t a lot of money now, when brought up to today’s value, that would equate to roughly $11,241,780.88 USD. Not so cheap now, is it?
Once Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall was completed in 1915, it was used as a reception and throne hall for Dusit Palace until 1932. The upper floor of the structure is comprised of audience chambers and throne halls along with grand reception rooms and waiting areas. The lower floor contains kitchen, utility rooms and storage areas. In 1932, the throne hall was overrun during a palace coup known as the People’s Revolution and used as the People’s Party headquarters. This revolution lasted from June 24th through June 27th of that same year. It was a very short revolution. After the revolution, the Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall was host to the first National People’s Assembly on June 28, 1932, before becoming the Parliament House until 1974. Since then it has been used as a museum that is open to the public. Occasionally it is closed for state functions that include welcoming foreign dignitaries, holding state council meetings and various other royal occasions.
This museum is the current home to replicas of ancient Thai artistry done by they students of Chitralada Vocational Centre as well as a few legitimate antiques. There are beautiful tapestries, wooden carvings, paintings, golden thrones, a few palanquins, jewels, hair pins, hair brushes, bronze boxes, brooches and all sorts of things made from metal, teak and beetle wings. It really is amazing. Room after room is filled with these beautiful pieces and every ceiling is painted with delicate frescoes. Unfortunately, much of the authentic ancient artwork has been destroyed and most of what is in the Throne Hall are replicas. That was very surprising to learn since all the pieces are meticulously crafted. It is very clear how much the artists love their work.
Along with the beautiful craftwork adorning the walls and ceilings, several tv screens have been placed throughout the building. There are different videos playing on each one that describe the artwork for that section, the history of it and how it is done. It was quite a nice touch to be able to learn about the craft and see it being created in these videos.
With all of the beautiful artwork and fascinating handiwork in this building as well as the beautiful architecture of the building, I really wish we’d been able to take photographs. It was almost painful to not be able to take pictures while we were there. Thankfully, though, I was able to buy some. If you visit the Throne Hall and do not want to leave empty-handed, they do have a gift shop behind the building that sells photo books and postcards (among other things), so there is that option for those who just HAVE to bring photos back with them. I’m one of those people and chose to get a packet of ceiling frescoes.
Click the arrows to scroll through the images or the pause button to pause the auto-play.
One interesting thing to note is that in addition to historical replicas and beautifully painted ceilings, housed in the Throne Hall are various winning art pieces from current artists. Queen Sirikit has worked hard throughout her entire reign to help the Thai people reconnect with their creative history. To do this, she instituted the Chitralada Vocational Centre and handpicks students who show a knack for artistry to go there. The students learn the ancient Thai way of making art out of beetle wings, doing embroidery, painting, woodcarving and metallurgy. Every year there are nationwide contest for each of the different artistic mediums with the winning items being placed in the Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall. It truly is fascinating to see how the ancient methods of creating art are being kept alive by the royal family and how skilled the people are becoming at methods that were almost lost. I highly recommend visiting the Throne Hall and supporting the Thai artisan culture.
Plan Your Visit
Price: 150 baht, which is pretty standard for tourist stops in Bangkok. If you have ID that shows you are over 65 you will receive a 50% discount, which is nice.
Hours: 10:00-5:00 daily except for October 23rd (Chulalongkorn Day), December 5th (the King’s birthday) and August 12th (the Queen’s birthday).
Dress: As for requirements to get into the Throne Hall, the dress code is quite strict. No shorts, tank tops or short skirts. Men must wear pants and a shirt with sleeves. Women must wear a long skirt and a shirt with sleeves. Short sleeves are okay, but sleeveless is not. Women wearing pants will be turned away, but you can purchase a sarong outside the entrance if you don’t have one with you.
Here are the sarongs we purchased outside the entrance. Pardon my messy hair. It was fairly windy that day.
Note: Unfortunately, there are no photographs allowed inside and all backpacks, purses and bags of any kind are secured in lockers (free) outside the building. They do not allow cell phones or anything that looks electronic to enter the throne hall. And they are fairly thorough about making sure people don’t sneak stuff inside. We had to show them Troy’s inhaler before entering and explain what it was because they could see he had something in his pocket.
And, because I like to try and take selfies of us wherever we go, here is the one I took here. It’s not the best. This was our very first travel trip and I didn’t give much thought to making sure I had awesome photos because I hadn’t even considered trying to turn my blog into a business. I was just having fun and wanting something to show my parents and put in my scrapbook. But, it didn’t turn out too bad. The building is in the picture, right? lol