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Palatial surrounds

In 1867 the French completed their annexation of Cambodia, taking large swathes of that country, including Battambang and Siem Reap, which had been under Thai control for centuries.

By Alasdair Forbes

Friday 2 March 2012, 05:01PM

Chaophraya Abhaibhubate, the Thai lord of Battambang, was invited by the French to stay on, but declined, not relishing the idea of being an instrument of French control.

He moved back into Thailand, taking up residence in Prachinburi Province, about 100 km northeast of Bangkok.

King Rama V appointed him Governor of Prachinburi and although he had
lost huge amounts of land to the French, he was by no means impoverished.

In fact, he was still rich enough to decide that a palace should be built specifically for a projected royal visit to the province.

The two-storey palace, built in Renaissance style and completed in 1909, is a delightful European confection, painted bright yellow with white stucco leaves, flowers and gargoyles everywhere and standing out magnificently from the morosely mouldy 1960s concrete blocks of the modern Prachinburi Hospital that now surrounds it.

Originally it had gardens stretching down to the nearby Prachinburi River,
but these have been nibbled away in the intervening century by a road along the riverbank and car parking for the hospital so that all that remains in front of the palace now is a small formal garden.

King Rama V never stayed in the palace – he was already ill when it was completed,
and died the following year, but his son, King Rama VI, was a regular guest, and in 1924 took Chaophraya Abhaibhubate’s granddaughter as his royal consort.

By 1941, the palace had passed its glory days and had become the administrative offices for the hospital growing up around it.


Recently, however, it has been restored and is now a museum, filled partly with artifacts from the Chaophraya and his family, along with fascinating photographs that give an inside glimpse into royal life at the time of Rama VI.

One large room is also a showcase for herbal medicine; the Prachinburi Hospital has in this century developed a reputation for high-quality herbal medicines and therapies to go along with conventional modern medical practice.

“Traditional” rather than “herbal” would be more accurate in describing some of the exhibits in this room. They include such non-herbals as bottled cobras, pit vipers, scorpions and centipedes, along with horses’ hooves and a slightly disturbing jar containing the bones of three pythons topped by their skulls.

After a stroll through the palace, a most pleasant way to end one’s visit is to spend
time in the shady garden behind the palace, with its fountain and beds full of carefully labelled herbs.

It is possible to stay in the hospital – it costs B800 a night for a room for two, including breakfast. But the mattresses seem to be made of concrete.

To get to Prachinburi, take Route 305 through Nakhon Nayok, Route 33 through Pak Phli and then Route 319. The palace is on the south side of the river. Anyone in the town will tell you how to get there.

–Alasdair Forbes

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