A fond look back
Historic Phya Thai Palace now houses part of the exhibition mounted for HM King Bhumibol’s cremation
PART OF the “Forever in Our Hearts” exhibition displayed at the royal cremation sites of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej has now moved to Phya Thai Palace.
The ceremonial grounds at Sanam Luang in Bangkok – which more than four million people visited – are now nearly dismantled, including Phra Thinang Song Tham (the royal merit-making pavilion).
But admirers of the beloved late monarch can now see the exhibition on his life and legacy at the palace within the compound of Phramongkutklao Hospital on Rajvithee Road.
A large portion of the “Forever in Our Hearts” exhibition from the royal cremation grounds has been moved to Phya Thai Palace./Courtesy of Forever in Our Hearts Organisers
Culture Minister Veera Rojpojanarat says the displays include 54 text boards in Thai and English, multimedia, books and other items related to the royal cremation ceremony.
“This will be a good opportunity not just for people who didn’t get to see the original exhibition but also for those who saw it but hadn’t yet explored it in detail because of the limited time,” he says.
Because interest was so keen, only 5,500 visitors per hour were allowed into the ceremonial grounds.
The life and legacy of His Majesty King Bhumibol are examined through text boards, multimedia and artefacts. /Courtesy of Forever in Our Hearts Organisers
Lt General Thamrongrat Kaewkarn, president of the Phya Thai Palace Preservation Foundation, says the government’s Fine Arts Department had agreed that the palace was an appropriate venue for the new show.
“The duration hasn’t been decided yet, but I think it’s possibly going to be here for at least six months.”
King Bhumibol founded both Phramongkutklao Hospital and the adjoining Phramongkutklao College of Medicine for training the Army doctors who accompanied him on his travels upcountry, helping people in need.
Five exhibition areas occupy both floors of the palace’s Biman Chakri Throne Hall, a Romanesque-Gothic structure with a distinctive pointed dome.
Some of the text boards have QR codes that can be scanned to view videos of the King attending to the public’s needs./Nation
“The Great Monarch” is an examination of then-Prince Bhumibol’s childhood at Srapathum Palace, home to the royal family after they returned from the United States, where King Bhumibol was born.
His mother, Princess Srinagarindra, and grandmother, Queen Savang Vadhana, educated King Bhumibol and his elder siblings, building character and imbuing virtues that would serve them well the rest of their lives.
“The Peaceful Reign” looks at King Bhumibol’s treks around the country, famously equipped with his four simple tools – pencil, map, camera and walkie-talkie – with which he recorded problems and shortcomings afflicting the people and planned out solutions.
Dr Sumet Tantivejkul, secretary general of the Chaipattana Foundation, once recalled how His Majesty requested 12 pencils every year – one for each month. No one dared throw any of them away half-used because, ever the conservationist, the King used them all down to the nub.
Samples of the daily essentials that the King distributed to people caught in disasters are shown. /Nation
When His Majesty learned of natural disasters or other emergencies, he used radio communications to arrange and monitor the preparation and distribution of aid supplies, of which several examples are on view. There’s even a tape recording of the King discussing plans to help flood victims.
Also seen are photos of the trains, boats, aircraft and wheeled vehicles used on his travels. Explanatory text has QR codes that can be scanned with a phone to view YouTube videos of the monarch on the road.
“We lived in the peaceful shade of His Majesty,” says Thamrongrat of the palace foundation. “In several pictures we see his car half sunk in water, but he never saw such things as a hardship. He persevered and carried on.”
“The Righteous King” zone /Nation
“The Righteous King” illustrates His Majesty’s devotion to dharma practice throughout his 70-year reign. He adhered to the Ten Virtues of a Righteous King – giving, good conduct, patience, precision, selfless sacrifice, being unequivocal and gentle, persevering, and never being angry or taking advantage of others.
“Furthering the Bonds of Friendship” has pictures and videos of his involvement in international relations. King Bhumibol, accompanied by Her Majesty Queen Sirikit, made 32 state visits from 1959 to 1994, including celebrated trips to the United States and 13 European countries.
The United Nations and many other international organisations recognised the enormous benefits he brought to Thailand, not least through the 4,000 royal initiatives he introduced. By the time he died in October 2016, the King had received more than 40 awards from abroad, 11 of them from UN agencies.
Photos and videos document the outpouring of grief that gripped the nation from the day the King died until the day of his cremation a year later. /Nation
The deeply moving segment called “A Chakri King Returns to His Heavenly Abode” assembles photos and videos of the mourning period following his death. Tens of thousands of black-clad citizens from all walks of life are seen bidding farewell, with images extending from Siriraj Hospital to the cremation grounds last October.
Official invitation cards to the cremation, commemorative books and the nametags of people involved in the funeral rites are displayed.
Invitation cards, books and nametags from the royal cremation are on view. /Courtesy of Forever in Our Hearts Organisers
Thamrograt calls the exhibition “a double bonus”.
“Visitors get to see both this significant exhibition and the historical buildings of Phya Thai Palace, which were built during the reigns of Kings Rama V and VI.”
Phya Thai Palace was known as the Phya Thai Residence when King Rama V had it built in 1909 as a personal residence and a locale to establish an experimental farm. He died the following year, though, and it became the home of Queen Saovabha Pongsri, the mother of King Rama VI. She stayed there until her death in 1919.
King Rama V built Phya Thai Palace as a residence. King Rama VI oversaw its renovation as a palace, adding the domed Biman Chakri Throne Hall. /Courtesy of Forever in Our Hearts Organisers
King Rama VI had the building renovated and added more structures, renaming it Phya Thai Palace. It was his permanent residence for six years and it’s where he composed several of his literary works, including his masterpiece, “Madanabadha: The Romance of a Rose”.
The Dusit Thani miniature model of a city – a “micro-nation” project initiated by King Rama VI to explore aspects of democracy – was moved there from Suan Dusit Palace. Court officials played the roles of citizens owning property in the city of 1:12-scale private houses, government offices, commercial establishments, hospitals, markets and a hotel.
Elections were held, a constitution written and two newspapers regularly published.
The Dusit Thani was dismantled after the death of King Rama VI in 1925, but you can still see one of the intricately designed miniature homes on display at Phya Thai Palace.
There are two-hour guided tours of the palace every Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday at 1.30pm and also at 9.30am on Saturday and Sunday. It’s free, though donations are welcome to assist with renovations.
The exhibition “Forever in Our Hearts” is open daily from 9am to 3pm at the Biman Chakri Throne Hall at Phya Thai Palace on Rajvithee Road, Bangkok.
Admission is free. Groups wishing to arrange guided tours should do so at least two weeks in advance.
Visitors are required to dress and behave respectfully.
Learn more from the Office of the Phya Thai Palace Preservation Foundation at (02) 354 7987 or (02) 354 7732.