Phra Bat Somdet Phra Poraminthra Maha Chulalongkorn Phra Chunla Chom Klao Chao Yu Hua, or Rama V was the fifth monarch of Siam under the House of Chakri. The 23rd October of every year is a national holiday in Thailand as it marks “King Chulalongkorn Day” or known in Thai as “Wan Piyamaharaj Day”. This is the memorial day of the passing away of King Chulalongkorn, otherwise known as King Rama V. King Chulalongkorn led major reforms in Thailand, for example in the areas of Thai educational system, military affairs, State Railway and Slave Liberation Act without bloodshed. King Chulalongkorn was the fifth monarch of Siam under the House of Chakri. He was the son of King Mongkut and the grandfather of the current King of Thailand, His Majesty the King Bhumibol Adulyadej.
He was born on September 20, 1853 and ascended the throne in 1868 at the age of 15. His Majesty then passed away on October 23rd 1910 at the age of 57. He had ruled what was then Siam, for 42 years. He was ordained as a Buddhist monk for a short time during September 15 to October 11 2516/1873 and then was coronated again on October 16 2416/1873 to announce absolute kingship to the people of Siam and the world. King Chulalongkorn is considered one of the greatest Kings of Thailand. His reign from 1868 to 1910 was characterised by extensive social and economic development, including the abolition of slavery.
He is also famed for his ardent Thai nationalism, and for his skill in fending off the threat of European colonialism, despite the fact that large tracts of Siam were ceded to the Europeans during the period. He managed to prevent Thailand from being colonised by extending friendship and travelling extensively to western countries including America, Great Britain, France and Russia. Because of this, Thailand remains as the only country in Southeast Asia to have never been colonised. King Chulalongkorn was the first Thai King to be educated in Europe. Throughout Chulalongkorn’s reign, radical writers had their works published for the first time. Works that were previously banned were allowed to be read by the public once again. He also modernized government and streamlined the administration of the country by dividing it into provinces and districts.
He replaced the traditional lunar calendar with the Western calendar. Siam was a Buddhist country but he made it clear that other religions (including Islam and Christianity) should have the freedom to practise without fear of persecution. Communications in the country were improved greatly with the introduction of postal services, the telegraph and the construction of Thailand’s first railway (from Bangkok to Ayutthaya). The King traveled extensively throughout the kingdom to personally investigate and share his subjects’ conditions and aspirations, often known in Thai as “Prapasstion”. It is very difficult to mention all of his numerous reforms. All the present-day ministries and departments owe their origin of his far-sighted concepts. Statues of King Chulalongkorn all around the Kingdom of Thailand will see ceremonies to honour his memory. Most businesses function as usual but Government organisations are closed on this day. Ram
Ratchaniwet Palace; A Phetchaburi Legacy of King Rama V
Phra Ram Ratchaniwet Palace or Ban Pean Palace, is located at on the Phetchaburi River waterfront in Muang Phetchaburi. The foundation stone was laid by King Rama V on 19th August 1910.
However the death of the King occurred in October of that year. The Palace was completed in 1916 during the reign of King Rama VI Approaching King Chulalongkorn Day, this was a timely excursion to see first-hand this Phetchaburi legacy to the founder’s memory King Rama V personally purchased over 300 hectares from local villagers for around 20,000 thb. Mr. Karl Siegfried Dohring, a German architect modelled the European design on Kaiser Willem’s summer palace in Germany. As King Chulalongkorn travelled to Europe in 1897, many buildings constructed in Thailand during that time were in a European style.
After the death of King Chulalongkorn, King Rama VI used Phra Ram Ratchaniwet to accommodate foreign state visitors. After that, the Palace was used for many purposes including a teacher training school, a boy scout leaders school and a public school for girls. During the Second World War, the Palace was used by the Thai military. During 1986 and 1987 the Palace was renovated by the Fine Arts Department. Apart from the palace, the grounds remain as headquarters of the Petchaburi Military District. The Palace is an impressive, very elegant, two storey building with high windows from floor to ceiling and a massive dark colored roof set in a very well kept garden. Thanks to the large windows the Palace rooms feel very bright and spacious. The interior of the Palace speaks of luxury and grandness.
The style is described as baroque or art nouveau, also known in Germany as ‘Jugendstil’. The layout of the building is a two story and rectangular with a high domed roof, central fountain and garden with surrounding gardens leading to the nearby Petchaburi River. Inside double curved staircases lead to the second floor. Pillars decorated with majestic green coloured glazed tiles and partly covered in copper. The stair rails are decorated with ceramic ‘cherubs’ holding a variety of animals including monkeys and birds as well as flowers and fruit. Although the spacious internal areas are largely without furniture, there are some surprises inside including a statue of Poseidon, the Greek God of the Sea. Tiled floors show a complex and imaginative selection of patterns and colours. This is a very stately and impressive structure At the entrance to the Palace, an imposing statue of King Rama V keeps a watch on visitors, although there is also a military presence in the grounds. The palace is not signposted and seems to be ‘off the map’ for the region’s tourists though well worth the visit.
Where: Travelling towards Muang Petchaburi from Tha Yang, turn off Petchakasem Road at the Big C, heading east. It’s not far to the Petchakasem River, where the military base is the most obvious feature of the western bank. The Palace grounds will be found after passing through the Army gates. Beware a sign that states ‘take down your windscreen’, just smiling through an open side window will do! Open: Daily from 08.00 – 16.00. The adult admission fee is 20 baht, children 10 baht and 50 baht for foreigners. You will be reminded by signs that taking photos inside the Palace is strictly prohibited, including for us, we don’t know why!