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.
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.
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 boatYou 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 busIf 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.
Dusit PalaceSometimes called New Royal City, Dusit Park, Dusit Garden, or simply Dusit, is a complex of palaces and royal residences in the south of the Dusit district. The palace was established by King Rama V, the first Thai monarch to visit Europe. He was impressed by the royal parks and residences he had seen there, which were leafy, relaxed, spacious and cool, as opposed to the Grand Palace, which was cramped with buildings for his numerous wives, children, and servants. These buildings blocked air flow inside the Grand Palace, which heated it up considerably. As a replacement, King Rama V started building the Dusit Palace.
- 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:
Vimanmek Mansionphone: +66 2 628-6300Touted as the world's largest golden teak building, this palace was the home of King Rama V in the early 20th century. It was built as a summer retreat on the island of Ko Si Chang, but was transported to Bangkok in pieces in 1901. A guided tour is compulsory and tells you all about the life of King Rama V, and about his collection of fin de siecle royal memorabilia placed inside the building. As King Rama V tried to modernise Thailand along European lines, you can see the first Thai indoor bathroom, the first typewriter with Thai characters, and some of the first portrait paintings of Thailand.
Abhisek Dusit Throne HallBuilt in 1904, this beautiful hall was formerly used for royal meetings and banquets. Its exterior is unique as it is clearly a mix of Victorian and Islamic influences. Home to the largest part of HM Queen Sirikit's SUPPORT Museum, it exhibits a collection of handicraft masterpieces created by skillful people from the countryside. Some of the items on display are handbags, baskets, pots, jewellery, figurines, and silk, all created using traditional techniques. HM Queen Sirikit set up this foundation to preserve and revitalise these traditional Thai handicrafts and techniques, as demand for them has significantly decreased in modern Thai society.
H.M. King Bhumibol's Photographic Museum No 2Besides being the current King of Thailand, H.M. King Bhumibol Adulyadej is also a photographer. Some of his works are on display in this building, that used to be the residence of HRH Princess Bussaban Bua-Phan, a sister of King Rama V. The collection includes pictures of the king playing music and pictures showing HM Queen Sirikit and other members of the royal family.
H.M. King Bhumibol's Photographic Museum No 1This two-storey-building was built by King Rama V for his sister HRH Princess Arun-Wadi. The residence has been turned into a photo museum showing pictures taken by the current King of Thailand, HM King Bhumibol Adulyadej. The photos here show projects HM King Bhumibol Adulyadej has supported to improve the conditions of the people living in poorer parts of the country.
Ancient Clock MuseumThis is a two-storey brick house that King Rama V built for his sister HRH Princess Puang Soi Sa-Ang. It is close to the other three residential halls that were built for his other sisters. The residence has been turned into a museum displaying old clocks and timepieces. The ground floor has 19th-century antique clocks on display from the United Kingdom, Germany, and the United States. The rooms upstairs display an art collection, royal gifts and souvenirs of King Rama V.
Ancient Cloth and Silk MuseumThis is the fourth royal residence King Rama V created for one of his sisters, and it is slightly larger than the other three. It has been the residence of HRH Princess Orathai Thep Kanya. Now there are plenty of rare fabrics and textiles on display here that were used during the reigns of King Rama IV and King Rama V. These textiles are around 150 years old. The SUPPORT Foundation also has modern pieces of textiles on show, which have been woven using traditional methods, but come from the 21st century.
Prehistoric Ban Chiang Pottery MuseumThis small brick building was the home of Princess Bootri, a daughter of King Rama III. King Rama V considered her his grandmother, as she raised Princess Phra Thepsirin who is the mother of King Rama V. Has a display of prehistoric pottery from the Ban Chiang Archaeological Site. This site in northern Isaan was discovered in 1966 by Stephan Young, and is considered one of the most important prehistoric sites of Southeast Asia. The artifacts on show are from a civilization that existed between 3600 BCE and 200 CE.
Paraphernalia of High Rank Hall No 1This is the former residence of Phra Raja Jaya Dara Rasmi, the daughter of the Prince of Chiang Mai and a consort of King Rama V. The building was completed in 1909. Now it displays some personal paraphernalia of King Rama V, including oil paintings that are about 100 years old. Other items on show are pottery from all over the world (such as China, Germany and the United Kingdom) and old European oil lamps.
Royal Ceremonial Photography MuseumThis two-storey wooden building is the first one you encounter if you enter the complex from its northern entrance. It previously was the residence of Queen Savang Vadhana, the grandmother of King Rama V. It now houses photos and models of the royal barges that are used in the beautiful Royal Barge Ceremony. If you want to see the royal barges yourself, you can visit the Royal Barges National Museum in Thonburi.
Royal Carriage MuseumAs King Rama V wanted to modernise Thailand along European lines, he filled up many of the traditional canals and turned them into roads, so horse carriages could be used. It was recorded that 2,698 horse carriages were in use in Bangkok by 1925. These buildings show off 23 royal carriages that have been used since the late 19th century. The museum was opened in 1991 on the 60th birthday of HM Queen Sirikit. It is the only museum where taking pictures is allowed.
Paraphernalia of High Rank Hall No 2Another building that houses a large collection of royal paraphernalia. On display is a royal palanquin with four gables and an ornate roof and palanquins that were used by the ladies of the court.
HM King Bhumibol Collection Museum No 2The former residence of Princess Saisavali Bhiromya, the royal consort of King Chulalongkorn. On display is a large collection of Buddha statues and photographs from the reign of King Chulalongkorn. Gifts HM King Bhumibol received on state visits to other countries can also be seen.
The Presentation HallThis hall features a multimedia slideshow about the history of the Dusit Palace. It also gives an overview of the different residential halls and their exhibits, so you can more easily decide which ones you want to visit. There's also a collection of pictures showing the Vimanmek Mansion beautifully illuminated at night.
Pottery from Shipwrecks MuseumTamnak Ho is a residence built in 1903 for the wedding of Prince Paribatra Sukhumbandhu, the Prince of Nakhon Sawan and son of King Rama V. It was built on the grounds of the Bang Khun Phrom Palace, but when the Bank of Thailand took over there, the building was moved to the Sukhothai Palace in 1985. Another move occurred in 1998, when HM King Bhumibol Adulyadej dismantled the building and moved it to the Dusit Palace. Now the hall displays pottery from the Sukhothai and Ayutthaya periods, which were recovered in 1976 from underwater shipwrecks at the bottom of the Gulf of Thailand (off the coast of the provinces of Rayong and Chantaburi). It is believed that these ships were Chinese and Vietnamese trade junks from the 15th to the 18th century.
HM King Bhumibol Collection Museum No 1This hall is a former residence of HM Queen Saovabha and HRH Princess Valaya Alongkorn, who is HM King Bhumibol Adulyadej's aunt. The Princess Mother has also lived here in her childhood. On display are gifts and art objects HM King Bhumibol Adulyadej received on the 50th anniversary of his ascension to throne in 1996.
HM King Bhumibol's Oil Paintings MuseumThis used to be the residence of HRH Prince Asdang Dejavudh, a son of King Rama V and Queen Saovabha. The prince lived here until his death in 1924. Now it is a museum that set up a display of HM King Bhumibol Adulyadej's oil paintings.
Separate entry fee
Anantasamakhom Throne Hallphone: +66 2 628-6300(-5119)This Renaissance and neo-classical-style building was constructed of Italian marble under the commission of King Rama V in 1906. He intended to use it as a royal reception and assembly hall. The construction was completed in the reign of King Rama VI. The dome of the throne hall houses picturesque frescoes of royal activities undertaken during the reigns of King Rama I to King Rama VI. The building serves as a venue for royal and state ceremonies and was used as the national assembly building before it was moved to the current building behind it. It now houses beautiful arts and crafts made with traditional Thai techniques.
phone: +66 2 282-3336address: Uthong Nai RdAt the site that used to house the royal white elephant stables, since 1988 has been a museum about these extremely rare creatures. They are considered holy animals in Thailand, as a white elephant with six tusks appeared in a dream to Buddha's mother when she conceived her child. This museum tells you all about the history of white elephants in Thailand and the criteria an elephant must meet in order to be considered a "royal white" elephant.
Parks and monuments
phone: +66 2 281-2000address: 71 Rama V RdThe zoo is an excellent destination for families and children. It is a lush and green zoo with many flowers, trees and ponds. A fun activity is floating on the water with the foot-peddle boats, or riding the small tram, but it costs 60 baht more. There are many playgrounds and picnic areas, as well as some restaurants in case you get hungry. They also have animals, such as giraffes, zebras, deer, hippos, elephants and tigers.
King Rama V Equestrian Statueaddress: Uthong Nai RdThe entrance to Dusit Palace is a gigantic motorway with the statue of King Rama V (Chulalongkorn) riding a stallion right in the centre. It is the first monument dedicated to a Thai king, completed in 1908 and inaugurated by King Rama V himself. The monument was financed by public donations, as the Thai people were grateful for King Rama V's pursuit of modernising the country. Each year on 5 December, the Trooping of the Colours ceremony is held here.
Wat Benchamabophitphone: +66 2 281-2501address: Si Ayutthaya RdThe newest of Bangkok's famous temples, this unique wat was constructed during the reign of King Rama V. It employs European ecclesiastical details, such as stained glass windows, and contains a cloister collection of bronze Buddha images. In the early morning, this is the best place to offer food and daily necessities to monks when they gather in front of the temple.
Wat Intharawihanphone: +66 2 628-5552address: 114 Wisut Kasat RdThis temple is known for the so-called Standing Buddha or Big Buddha (Luang Pho To), a 32 m high golden Buddha image. The statue is covered with 24,000 golden mosaics from Italy. The topknot of the Buddha image contains a relic of Lord Buddha brought from Sri Lanka. The temple is worth a visit just for the sake of photographing the Buddha. However, it's worth mentioning that this temple is a regular site on the "gem scam" circuit, so ignore anyone approaching you for a "free" tuk-tuk tour or bringing up the topic of purchasing gems.
Museums and galleries
phone: +66 2 283-5353address: 273 Samsen RdThe museum building is in the Bang Khum Phrom Palace, a former royal residence of HRH Prince Boriphat Sukhumphan, the 33rd son of King Rama V (Chulalongkorn). After 1932, the palace was used as a governmental office for a period, until 1945 when it became the headquarters of the Bank of Thailand. The Bank of Thailand Museum was established in 1982, accommodating 14 rooms on two floors. The first floor focuses on the history of Thai currency since the first century, while the second floor focuses on the 60 year history of the Bank of Thailand.
phone: +66 2 243-4326address: Room 109, Bangkok Co-op Housing Bldg, 1129/29 Thoet Damri RdThis art gallery shows works of some of the hottest upcoming Thai artists. The interior is whiter than white, so you can completely take in the beauty of the magnificent paintings. Some of the artists connected to the gallery are Niti Wattuya, Kamin Lertchaiprasert, and Natee Utarit.
Press Museumphone: +66 2 669-7124address: Nakhon Ratchasima Rd
Suan Dusit Art Galleryphone: +66 2 243-9051(-5)address: Nakhon Ratchasima Rd
Royal Turf Club of Thailandphone: +66 2 280-0020(-9)address: 183 Phitsanulok RdThis is a venue for horse races under royal patronage. Races are held every two weeks on Sunday.
Naga Housephone: +66 2 669-3416address: 315 Ongkharak Soi 13, Sam Sen Soi 28This antiques store is set in a wonderful teak house from the 1920s. There is plenty of furniture on site, including silverware baskets from northern Thailand, teak tables from China, and lacquer ware from Myanmar.
Thewet Marketaddress: Krung Kasem RdThis pot plant market is along the bank of Phadung Krung Kasem Canal. It has plenty of tropical plants for sale, as well as the seeds so you can grow them yourself. You can buy one if you wish, but first check with authorities to see if you are allowed to import them to your country. Even if you're not buying anything, it's still nice to stroll around and see the commercial activity take place.
In Lovephone: +66 2 281-9228address: 2/1 Krung Kasem RdThis is an elegant restaurant with breathtaking nightly views of the Rama VIII Bridge and the Chao Phraya River. As the name indicates, many Thais go here to impress their loved one, and so should you, as the atmosphere is very romantic. Try the plaa kraphong neung manao, a delicious steamed sea bass with lemon.
Kaloang Seafoodphone: +66 2 281-9228address: 2 Si Ayutthaya RdThis off-the-beaten-track restaurant is typical Bangkokian with its simple plastic chairs and unassuming interior. But its delicious seafood is a bargain and you get a nice view over the Chao Phraya River. The local favourite is the seafood platter, which gives you a lot of value for a small price. You might also want to try the yam pla duk foo, a spicy grilled fish salad, or the larb goong, a spicy shrimp salad with banana blossoms.
Krua Apsornphone: +66 2 668-8788address: 503-505 Sam Sen RdA great restaurant that places emphasis on its authentic Thai dishes prepared in a traditional way. While it looks unpretentious at first, it has won the "best restaurant" contest of the Bangkok Post in 2006, and has served members of the Thai royal family. The staff watch local soap operas on the TV and their children run around as if it were kindergarten, but disregard the surroundings. It's all about the food and a must-try is the mouth-watering crab omelette.
phone: +66 2 281-2497address: 37 Si Ayutthaya Soi 16Decorated like a tropical oasis, Shanti Lodge is surrounded by plants and trees and feels like a tranquil environment in the middle of a big metropolis. Its location is ideal, close to the river and to Rattanakosin. Expect somewhat basic rooms. The checkout at 10:00 is pretty early, so be aware of that. There's also a massage parlour and a restaurant with standard guesthouse prices (07:30-23:00 daily). Wi-Fi is good, but not available everywhere—best reception is in the common area and the restaurant.
Sri Ayutthaya Guest Housephone: +66 2 282-5942address: 23/11 Si Ayutthaya Soi 14Easily the best budget hotel in Dusit. The atmosphere is homey as you stay in a simple house made of wood. It feels kind of tranquil; while there are other backpackers around, it really is in a local neighbourhood with Thai families. Rooms are obviously basic, but good, and if you choose an air-con room you also get a good bathroom. Like the other guest houses, there is a restaurant downstairs with Thai, Western, and vegetarian food.
phone: +66 2 241-7571address: 295 Nakhon Ratchasima RdThis is a basic hotel, but it is clean and probably the closest hotel to the Vimanmek Mansion. It mostly caters to local teachers, students, and convention goers who want to stay near the university. That's why the staff's English is not that good, but at least they try their best. The restaurant serves good Thai meals and is not too expensive.
Tavee Guesthousephone: +66 2 280-1447address: 83 Si Ayutthaya Soi 14Simple budget hotel with clean and tidy rooms. There's a nice common space with wooden furniture and a restaurant that is open 24 hours. No longer has a dormitory.
phone: +66 2 281-5212address: Sam Sen RdInternet access for all visitors is limited to one hour. You must complete a form and give your passport as a deposit with the library staff. Also, games, chat, and USB devices are not permitted.