What happened to Bangkok’s Vimanmek Mansion?

Images: Google Earth
Images: Google Earth

Eagle-eyed observers have noted that a 19th century royal villa and popular tourist destination in Bangkok’s old quarter appears to be gone.

Three years after it was closed for renovations, the Vimanmek Mansion, a Victorian-style residence built by King Rama V in 1900, appears to have been demolished or removed in recent satellite images.

Its Wikipedia entry refers to the mansion in the past tense, and includes the following note:

“In 2019, based on the sattlelite [sic] image from Google Map, Vimanmek Mansion was completely demolished. There is no official statement from the Royal Household office so far.”

The most recent Google Earth imagery is dated May 3, 2019, and shows the main structure, which had been the world’s largest golden teakwood mansion, no longer there.

The one-time palace was originally located in Chonburi province before it was rebuilt in Bangkok’s Dusit district, prompting speculation it was being relocated again, 119 years on. It was last visible in previous satellite images taken April 15, 2018, and missing from the next pass seven months later.

Rama V built Vimanmek as his palace after returning from a tour of Europe just before the turn of the century. It was used as his palace from 1901 to 1906.

According to its Wikipedia entry, in “1982 Queen Sirikit asked permission of King Rama IX on the occasion of the Royal Bicentennial Celebrations of Bangkok to renovate Vimanmek Palace for use as a museum to commemorate King Rama V by displaying his photographs, personal art and handicrafts, and to serve as a showcase of the Thai national heritage.”

It was open to the public for regular tours until July 2016, when it was closed for renovations. A search online was unable to turn up any notice about its demolition, removal or potential relocation.

Photo: Peerawat Buranapanit
Photo: Peerawat Buranapanit

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