Bangkok/Dusit

Dusit (Thai: ดุสิต) is a leafy, European-style area that functions as the political centre of Thailand. Its development dates back to the early 1900s, when King Rama V built the Dusit Palace, a complex of palaces and royal residences he created to escape the heat and chaos of the Grand Palace. The seat of power to this day, there are numerous political institutions, international organisations and royal palaces spread throughout the district.

Understand

King Rama V overlooks Dusit

King Rama V was the first Thai monarch to visit Europe. He was very impressed with what he had seen there, and came up with some drastic ideas to make Bangkok ready for the 20th century. Rattanakosin was a cramped district with many waterways, as opposed to Europe where broad avenues dominated cities like Paris and London. King Rama V decided that most of the original canals in Rattanakosin had to disappear in favour of roads for horse carriages. But this was only the beginning; King Rama V started designing a completely new district from scratch that had to become the "new royal city", a district with grandeur, wide avenues and a leafy, European feel. The result of this process is Dusit.

The best example of this modernization process is the Dusit Palace. It is a massive complex of royal residences and palaces in many different styles, some of them with a European feel. The Italian Renaissance-style Anantasamakhom Throne Hall dominates the stage, and right in front of it in the middle of a wide avenue stands the King Rama V Equastrian Statue, a large statue of the King himself that is beautifully adorned with garlands on Chulalongkorn Day (October 23). King Rama V is still popular among the Thai people and his modernization strategy is credited with having saved Siam from Western colonization.

It is the seat of power to this day with nearly all of Thailand's decision-making institutions within its boundaries. Near the Dusit Palace is the National Assembly, a modern building that is the parliament of the country. South of it lies the Venetian Gothic-style Government House, which is mostly used for state ceremonies, and can only be visited once a year on Children's Day (January 9). The Chitralada Palace, the official residence of HM King Bhumibol Adulyadej, lies just east of the Dusit Palace.

A good day to catch the stately feel of the district is at December 2, when Dusit hosts the annual Trooping the Colour ceremony. Hundreds of officers of the Royal Guard demonstrate their allegiance to the King by parading around Suan Amporn, which is right next to King Rama V's statue.

Get in

Map of Dusit

Dusit is not particularly easy to reach by public transport. The Chao Phraya Express Boat serves the district, but it is still quite a hike towards the Dusit Palace from the pier. There are plenty of bus lines going through, but we all know what a hassle that is. If you're too lazy to cope with all this, you might just want to go by taxi, which is by far the easiest option.

By boat

You can enter Dusit using the Chao Phraya Express Boat service. Thewet pier is an excellent entry point into the southwestern area of Dusit. From there it is a 20 minute walk to Dusit Palace.

Orange flag boats connect Thewet with Tha Chang pier (if you're coming from the Grand Palace) and Phra Arthit pier (if you're coming from Khao San Road). From downtown, you can take the Skytrain to Saphan Taksin station and transfer onto the express boat. A single trip from Sathorn (Taksin) in Silom to Thewet takes about 40 minutes and costs 13 baht. You can take any express boat, as Thewet is among the most important stops, but the yellow flag line is the fastest one.

There are some other express boat piers in Dusit, but they are far off the interesting sights.

By bus

If you're coming from the Old City, ordinary and air-conditioned Bus 70 runs directly to the Dusit Palace. Get on it at Sanam Luang if you happen to be around the Grand Palace, or get on at Ratchadamnoen Klang Road if you happen to be around Khao San Road. Get off outside the Royal Elephant National Museum at Uthong Nai Road. To be sure, ask one the locals where to get off, or you might go too far.

From downtown, take the Skytrain to Victory Monument station. There you can take air-conditioned Bus 515 that goes straight to the Dusit Palace over Ratchawithi Road. If this is too much hassle, you can take a metered taxi instead.

See

Vimanmek Mansion
The main structure is the Vimanmek Mansion, touted as the world's largest golden teakwood residence and the former home of King Rama V. Get a ticket for 100 baht on the northwest side of the palace grounds, or enter for free if you still have the Grand Palace entry ticket (remains valid for a week). You can visit all the museums on the palace grounds with one ticket, except the Anantasamakhom Throne Hall and the Royal Elephant National Museum which cost an additional 50 baht. Keep in mind that the same dress codes apply here as in the Grand Palace, so leave shorts and sleeveless shirts in your hotel room. You must store your belongings in a locker before entering each museum. It's free everywhere, except at the Vimanmek Mansion, so if you're on a stringent budget, go to another museum first and leave your belongings there. The last (compulsory) tour of the Vimanmek Mansion starts around 15:15. Some of the smaller museums close at 15:30. Allow a full morning and afternoon if you want to see all the buildings and museums. Also make sure you get a map when buying the ticket, as the palace grounds are large and hard to navigate without a map.

Vimanmek Mansion Museum

Belonging to the Vimanmek Mansion Museum are the residential halls that can be visited using the Vimanmek Mansion entry ticket. In order of visit:

Abhisek Dusit Throne Hall

Separate entry fee

Anantasamakhom Throne Hall

Parks and monuments

Temples

Wat Benchamabophit

Museums and galleries

Do

You might want to visit one of the two daily traditional Thai dance performances at the Dusit Palace. The shows start at 10:00 and 14:00 with free entry.

Buy

There is not much in the way of shopping in Dusit, but there are a few stores that might interest you.

Eat

Dusit is not a district for splurge meals, but the river view makes a beautiful setting. The guest houses also serve decent Thai food.

Drink

Don't expect any nightlife in Dusit. For that, head off to nearby Khao San Road. If you just want to fresh up with a glass of lemonade, the guest houses in southwest Dusit suffice.

Sleep

Dusit's wide avenues and heavy traffic make it a less than compelling places to stay the night. Most budget travellers sleep in nearby Khao San Road, while upper class hotels can be found in Sukhumvit. The adjacent Siam Square has some of both worlds. If you do want to stay in Dusit, and with that try something different, some small guest houses have congregated in the southwest corner of the district, close to Thewet pier.

Connect


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