Home Things To DoRestaurants/Bars Discovering Dusit: The Regal Heart Of Bangkok

Discovering Dusit: The Regal Heart Of Bangkok

by Brian J

Dusit, one of Bangkok s most distinguished districts, is a treasure trove of royal palaces, stately architecture, and lush green spaces. Known for its regal ambiance and historical significance, Dusit offers a serene retreat from the bustling urban core of Bangkok.

This district, often considered the administrative and royal heart of the city, is a must-visit for travelers seeking to explore Thailand s rich cultural heritage and royal legacy.

Historical Background

Dusit was established in the early 20th century by King Rama V (Chulalongkorn), who sought to modernize Siam and imbue it with elements of Western architecture and urban planning. Inspired by his travels to Europe, King Rama V designed Dusit to resemble the grandeur of European capitals while maintaining Thai cultural elements.

This blend of Western and Thai influences is evident in the district s architectural landmarks and urban layout.

Major Attractions

1. Dusit Palace

The Dusit Palace complex is a highlight of the district, featuring several royal residences and stately buildings. Originally built as a retreat for King Rama V, the palace complex remains an important site for royal ceremonies and functions. Key attractions within the complex include:

– Vimanmek Mansion: Once the world s largest golden teakwood building, the Vimanmek Mansion is an architectural marvel. It served as a royal residence and now functions as a museum showcasing royal artifacts, photographs, and personal items of King Rama V.

– Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall: This magnificent Renaissance-style building, constructed of Italian marble, was initially used as a reception hall for state functions. It now serves as a museum displaying exquisite Thai arts and crafts, particularly those supported by the royal patronage of Queen Sirikit.

2. Wat Benchamabophit (The Marble Temple)

One of Bangkok s most beautiful temples, Wat Benchamabophit, is renowned for its stunning architecture and serene atmosphere. The temple s main chapel is constructed of Italian Carrara marble, giving it the nickname The Marble Temple.

Inside, visitors can find a revered statue of Buddha and a tranquil courtyard surrounded by orange-roofed cloisters. The temple is a masterpiece of modern Thai architecture and a serene place for reflection and meditation.

3. Dusit Zoo (Khao Din)

Until its closure in 2018 for redevelopment, Dusit Zoo was a popular family attraction. Plans for a new zoo in a different location are underway but the site where the zoo once stood remains an area of interest, often hosting events and public gatherings.

The former zoo area is adjacent to the Parliament House and the Royal Plaza, making it a part of a broader complex of interest.

4. Royal Elephant National Museum

Located near the Dusit Palace, the Royal Elephant National Museum is dedicated to Thailand s national animal, the elephant. The museum provides insights into the cultural and historical significance of elephants in Thai society, including their role in royal ceremonies and their symbolic importance.

5. Chitralada Royal Villa

While not open to the public, Chitralada Royal Villa is worth mentioning due to its significance. It serves as the primary residence of the Thai royal family and houses the Chitralada School, which was established for the children of the royal household. The villa’s grounds are also known for agricultural and scientific research projects initiated by King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

Accommodation

Dusit offers a range of accommodation options, from luxurious hotels to budget-friendly guesthouses. Here are some notable places to stay:

1. The Siam Hotel

A luxury boutique hotel located along the Chao Phraya River, The Siam offers an exquisite blend of Art Deco aesthetics and traditional Thai design. The hotel features spacious suites, private pool villas, and a riverside infinity pool. Its serene atmosphere and exceptional service make it an ideal choice for those seeking a lavish and tranquil retreat.

2. Royal Princess Larn Luang

This elegant hotel provides comfortable accommodations with easy access to many of Dusit s attractions. It offers well-appointed rooms, a swimming pool, and several dining options, making it a convenient and pleasant stay for travelers.

3. Hostels and Guesthouses

For budget-conscious travelers, Dusit has several affordable hostels and guesthouses. These establishments provide basic amenities and a friendly atmosphere, perfect for those looking to explore the district without spending a fortune on accommodation.

Activities and Experiences

1. Cycling and Walking Tours

Dusit s wide, tree-lined avenues and numerous parks make it an ideal district for cycling and walking tours. Several companies offer guided tours that take visitors through the historical and cultural landmarks of the district, providing insights into its royal heritage and architectural marvels.

2. Cultural Performances

Check out the cultural performances often held at the National Theatre, located near the Grand Palace. These performances, ranging from traditional Thai dance and music to contemporary interpretations, offer a rich cultural experience.

3. Visit Government Institutions

Dusit is home to several important government institutions, including the Parliament House and Government House. While these buildings are generally not open to the public, they can be admired from the outside, and their impressive architecture makes for excellent photo opportunities.

4. Explore Green Spaces

Dusit is known for its lush parks and gardens. The Royal Plaza, with its equestrian statue of King Chulalongkorn, is a beautiful open space perfect for a leisurely stroll. Suan Amporn, another nearby park, offers a peaceful environment for relaxation and is often used for public events and festivals.

Dining

Dusit offers a variety of dining options, from street food to upscale restaurants. Here are some recommendations:

1. Local Eateries

Experience authentic Thai cuisine at local eateries and street food stalls around Dusit. Must-try dishes include Pad Thai, Som Tum (papaya salad), and Khao Pad (fried rice). The street food scene in Dusit is vibrant and provides a delicious and affordable way to sample Thai flavors.

2. The Water Library

An upscale dining establishment located within the premises of The Siam Hotel, The Water Library offers a fine dining experience with a menu that blends Thai and international cuisines. The restaurant is known for its exceptional service and elegant ambiance.

3. Cafe Cha

For a relaxing break, visit Cafe Cha at The Siam Hotel. This charming caf offers a selection of teas, coffees, and light snacks in a sophisticated setting, perfect for a leisurely afternoon.

Practical Information

Getting Around

Dusit is well-connected by various modes of transportation. While the district does not have direct access to the BTS Skytrain or MRT, it is served by numerous bus routes and taxis. The Chao Phraya Express Boat is a scenic option for traveling along the river, with piers located near the district.

Best Time to Visit

The best time to visit Dusit, like the rest of Bangkok, is during the cool season from November to February when the weather is more comfortable for sightseeing. The hot season (March to June) and the rainy season (July to October) are less crowded but can present weather-related challenges.

Cultural Etiquette

When visiting temples and royal sites in Dusit, it s essential to dress modestly and behave respectfully. Cover your shoulders and knees, and remove your shoes before entering temple buildings. Always check for photography restrictions, especially inside temples and museums.

Dusit is a district that encapsulates the regal and historical essence of Bangkok. From its grand palaces and serene temples to its lush parks and cultural institutions, Dusit offers a unique and enriching experience for travelers.

Whether you’re exploring the architectural wonders, delving into the royal heritage, or simply enjoying the tranquil green spaces, Dusit promises a journey through the heart of Thailand’s illustrious history and culture.

This district is not just a destination but a regal escape that provides a deeper understanding of Bangkok’s royal legacy and modern charm.

Additional Points of Interest

1. Abhisek Dusit Throne Hall

Located within the Dusit Palace complex, this lesser-known but equally stunning hall is used for state ceremonies and banquets. The hall features beautiful interior decorations with intricate wood carvings and stained glass windows. Although not always open to the public, it s worth checking if any exhibitions or events are taking place during your visit.

2. National Library of Thailand

The National Library, located near the Dusit Palace, houses an extensive collection of Thai literature and historical documents. For those interested in Thai history and culture, the library offers a quiet and educational retreat.

3. Wat Intharawihan (Big Buddha Temple)

Not far from Dusit, Wat Intharawihan is home to a towering 32-meter-high standing Buddha statue, known as Luang Pho To. The temple complex is serene and less crowded than other major temples, providing a peaceful atmosphere for contemplation.

4. Thepsirin School

Founded in 1885 by King Chulalongkorn, Thepsirin School is one of Thailand s oldest educational institutions. The school buildings themselves are historic, and the grounds are often open to the public for exploration and photography.

Activities and Unique Experiences

1. Royal Ceremonies and Events

If your visit coincides with any royal ceremonies or public holidays, such as the King s Birthday or National Day, Dusit becomes a hub of activity. Events are often held at the Royal Plaza or within the Dusit Palace grounds, providing a unique glimpse into Thai royal traditions and celebrations.

2. Explore Nearby Canals

Dusit is adjacent to several of Bangkok s historic canals (klongs). Consider taking a boat tour to explore these waterways, which offer a different perspective on the city s layout and history. The tours often include stops at traditional neighborhoods and lesser-known temples.

3. Participate in a Meditation Session

Many temples in Dusit, including Wat Benchamabophit, offer meditation sessions for visitors. Participating in a session can provide a deeper understanding of Thai Buddhism and a peaceful respite from the city s hustle and bustle.

Dining Gems

1. Saneh Jaan

Located a bit south of Dusit in the Ploenchit area, Saneh Jaan is a Michelin-starred restaurant that offers traditional Thai cuisine with a modern twist. The elegant setting and carefully curated menu make it worth the short trip from Dusit.

2. Krua Apsorn

A favorite among locals and visitors alike, Krua Apsorn is known for its authentic Thai dishes, especially its crab omelette and green curry. The restaurant s relaxed atmosphere and reasonable prices make it a great spot for a hearty meal.

Shopping and Markets

1. Or Tor Kor Market

While not located directly in Dusit, Or Tor Kor Market is just a short drive away and is worth visiting for its high-quality produce, fresh seafood, and traditional Thai snacks. This market is less touristy than others and provides a more authentic shopping experience.

2. Wang Lang Market

Also nearby, Wang Lang Market offers a bustling atmosphere with a wide variety of street food, clothing, and accessories. It s a fantastic place to mingle with locals and enjoy a vibrant shopping experience.

Safety and Practical Tips

1. Stay Hydrated and Sun-Protected

Bangkok s tropical climate can be intense, especially during the hot season. Always carry water, wear sunscreen, and use a hat or umbrella to protect yourself from the sun.

2. Respect Local Customs

Thai culture places a strong emphasis on respect and politeness. Always use wai (a traditional Thai greeting involving a slight bow with palms pressed together) when greeting locals, and avoid raising your voice or displaying anger in public.

3. Transportation Options

While Dusit does not have direct access to the BTS Skytrain or MRT, it s well-served by buses, taxis, and tuk-tuks. Consider using ride-hailing apps like Grab for convenience. For a scenic and traffic-free option, the Chao Phraya Express Boat offers a pleasant way to travel along the river and connect to other parts of Bangkok.

Seasonal Considerations

1. Visiting During Festivals

Dusit hosts several festivals and events throughout the year. Visiting during Songkran (Thai New Year in April) or Loy Krathong (usually in November) can provide a unique cultural experience, but be prepared for larger crowds and festivities.

2. Monsoon Season

The rainy season, from July to October, can bring heavy downpours, though they are often brief. Carrying an umbrella and waterproof gear can help you navigate the city comfortably during this period.

Further Exploration

1. Adjacent Districts

Consider exploring neighboring districts such as Phra Nakhon, with its historic temples and the Grand Palace, or Rattanakosin Island, which offers a concentration of cultural and historical sites. Each district has its own unique charm and attractions, providing a broader understanding of Bangkok s diverse landscape.

2. Educational Workshops

Several places in Dusit offer workshops on Thai cooking, traditional crafts, and even language lessons. Participating in these workshops can enrich your travel experience and provide a hands-on understanding of Thai culture.

Conclusion

Dusit is a district that beautifully encapsulates the regal and historical essence of Bangkok. From its grand palaces and serene temples to its lush parks and cultural institutions, Dusit offers a unique and enriching experience for travelers.

Whether you’re exploring the architectural wonders, delving into the royal heritage, or simply enjoying the tranquil green spaces, Dusit promises a journey through the heart of Thailand’s illustrious history and culture.

This district is not just a destination but a regal escape that provides a deeper understanding of Bangkok’s royal legacy and modern charm.