Billed as the world's largest teakwood building, Vimanmek Mansion was built as a royal residence in the first few years of the twentieth century. It was only used for a few years before it fell into disuse and was practically forgotten until the early eighties. It was rediscovered by Her Majesty the Queen and turned into museum reflecting the Thai heritage from the dramatic reign of King Rama V.
The king's octagonal tower of Vimanmek Mansion
From a single restored building in the 1980s, the Vimanmek Mansion Museum has grown to include more than a dozen restored structures of the old Dusit Palace displaying everything from ancient artifacts of Thailand's pre-history to contemporary photographs donated by His Majesty the King. It has now become a large complex of museums where the buildings themselves form part of the "collection" on display.
Vimanmek is now on many main tourist trails. Large tour buses can be seen in the parking lot throughout the day, especially in the high season. However, most of the big groups will only tour the royal mansion and not leave time to visit even a few of the many other very interesting buildings. If you want to visit the entire complex, its best to go on your own or engage a personal tour guide who can make things easy. If you want to see most of what the museum has to offer, allow at least half a day. You may want to get an early start to avoid the heat of the day.
If your time is limited, or even if its not, it's a good idea to plan out a visit to Vimanmek to make sure you see everything you want to see. We've thus made this online guide as complete as possible to help you decide what buildings and galleries will fit your interest. The navigation links at the bottom of the page will allow you to step through the buildings one-by-one, or you can jump to specific sights using the links at the bottom of the page. We've also got an on-line map of the complex to give you an idea of the arrangement of the buildings and plan your route.
Admission to the Vimanmek Mansion museum is 100 Baht (2.60 USD), which entitles you to enter every building and gallery. Note that you will need to show your ticket to the attendant at the entrance to every building. The museum and grounds are open every day from 8:30 until 4:30. The ticket office closes at 3:30.
Before visiting Vimanmek Mansion, you should be aware of the following important information:
- Proper Dress Required
As a royal residence, the management insists that visitors dress "modestly." This means that men must wear long pants and short-sleeved or long-sleeved shirts (in other words, no tank tops or sleeveless shirts.) Women must wear skirts or pants extending at least to the knee, and also should not sport bare shoulders. Sarongs and other clothing to help cover up your naughty bits may be available for rent, but if there are already a lot of visitors, these may run out and you might just be refused entry.
- No Indoor Photography
You can take as many pictures as you want outside, but you will not be able to take your camera into any of the buildings. In fact, you'll be asked to store your bag and anything else you're carrying in lockers provided at the entry to every building. The lockers have locks so you can be sure your things won't be stolen.
- No Shoes Inside
Not only do you have to leave your camera outside, but you have to take off your shoes before entering any building as well (this is of course true of all Thai houses.) Since there are a lot of buildings, you're well advised to wear shoes that come off and on easily.
- Show Your Ticket
As mentioned above, you'll be asked for your ticket before entering each building. Keep it handy and don't throw it away in the first garbage can you pass.
- Check it's Open
Parts of Vimanmek are still used for state functions, such as receptions for visiting royalty. At such times, parts of the museum, if not the entire grounds, will be closed to the public. If getting there involves a long trip from your hotel, you may want to check its open before leaving.
The Dusit Palace is best reached by taxi. The Phayathai station is the closest Skytrain stop, but it's a long walk from there to the palace. The river is slightly closer. You can walk to the palace from the Tewet Pier, but it is a little far. If you do take the river route, there are usually a lot of tuk-tuks available for hire at the pier to get you the rest of the way there.