Khaosod English Visits ‘Demolished’ Vimanmek Palace

BANGKOK — Palace officials on Thursday said a historic teakwood mansion will be fully rebuilt after repair works are completed, though no time-frame was given.

Vimanmek Mansion, which has been closed off to the public since mid-2016, appeared to be thoroughly dismantled in a recent visit by Khaosod English. City Hall documents say the subterranean foundation of the century-old villa needs repairs, while officials maintain the site will be restored in its former glory.

“Right now, they’re putting down ground columns,” a palace guard explained. “After that, the palace will be rebuilt exactly as it looked.”

Vimanmek will also receive a new landmark: a massive pond the size of a swimming pool located to the north of the mansion. The guard said it will be a large fishpond.

Publicly available documents put the renovation’s price tag at 81 million baht.

But here’s the bad news for anyone wishing to admire the mansion’s spectacular Thai-Western architecture once again – Vimanmek will not welcome visitors after the renovation efforts are over.

“It won’t be reopened to the public. It’ll be closed off permanently,” an official at the Office of His Majesty’s Principal Private Secretary, which manages the property, said by phone. “We don’t know when the renovation will be completed.”

Sorry, We’re Closed

Vimanmek is located inside the sprawling Amphorn Sathan complex, which is in turn part of a royal estate in Dusit district that spans multiple palaces and villas. It was relocated from its original site in Chonburi province a century ago.

The mansion was a popular tourist destination in Bangkok’s historic quarters until the Royal Household Bureau closed it off from the public in July 2016.

During a reporter’s unannounced visit on Thursday, the site where Vimanmek Mansion once stood is now a busy construction site. Heaps of earth, piles of construction materials, large cranes, and scores of workers dotted the land. Cement trucks were seen entering and leaving the palace’s northwestern gate.

Naturally, security was tight. Royal Guards armed with rifles stood at attention, facing the construction site while workers labored.

A reporter had to exchange his ID at a checkpoint opposite the King’s Guards 1st Division base before he was taken inside the palace complex to what was once Vimanmek Mansion. The reporter was also told not to take photographs of the works.

Documents published online by Bangkok’s Department of Public Works and Town Planning earmarked a one-million baht fund for daily “accommodation and transportation” for the laborers, since they are not allowed to live on the palace compound.

The same documents, dated Nov. 6, 2017, said Vimanmek Mansion’s metal and wooden foundations are in need of repair due to old age, especially the underground infrastructure.

The renovation includes replacing the foundation with new steel piles weighing 16 tons each, installing anti-vibration equipment, and raising the mansion structure by 30 centimeters. Workers will also rebuild air-conditioning systems, electric wires, ventilation, brickworks, and steel-reinforced concrete.

The documents named three engineers as overseers of the project, though no one was available for an interview during today’s visit. Three soldiers guarding the site questioned by a reporter said they weren’t told when the works will be completed.