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Phra Nakhon Khiri Historical Park (Khao Wang)

Phra Nakhon Khiri Historical Park, Khao WangKhao Wang, originally called 'Khao Maha Samana' of 'Khao Khiri', is located on top of a prominent hill in Phetchaburi town. Khao Wang is the first Rattanakosin palace built outside of Bangkok. King Rama IV (King Mongkut) was so fond of the location that he used the palace as a residence during his trips to the area. The construction was completed in 1860, and named by royal command, Phra Nakhon Khiri, but the people of Phetchaburi still call it Khao Wang (Palace Hill) to this day.

At the foot of Khao Wang is a hillside temple called 'maha samanaram'. Within the rite hall are mural paintings by Khrua In Khong, a renowned Thai painter who uses Western-style perspective and bird's-eye views in his work.

Phra That Jom PhetKhao Wang comprises royal halls, palaces, temples, and groups of buildings spread out over three hilltops. The middle one is the site for the 40-meter white chedi, 'Phra That Jom Phet', which houses a relic of the Buddha. The western hill has the various buildings of the palace complex, while the eastern one is the site of Wat Phra Kaew. Architecturally, the palace is a harmonious blend of Thai, Western neoclassical and Chinese styles. The hilltop palace enjoys panoramic views over the surrounding province and the provincial capital.

Important buildings in the western palace complex include:

Phra Thi Nang Phet Phum Phairot: This is the largest building, formerly used as a throne hall, which houses various personal effects and utensils of the Rama IV and Rama V royal households, such as beds, mirrors, kitchenware, western-style dolls, etc.

Phra Thi Nang Pramot Mahaisawan: the royal bedchamber of King Rama IV and King Rama V.

Phra Thi Nang Phet Phum PhairotToday, both palaces have been converted into the Phra Nakhon Khiri National Museum, with priceless collections of antiques, bronze and brass sculptures used for decorative purposes, and ceramics from China, Japan and Europe. The museum is open daily from 8.30 am to 4.30 pm with an admission fee of 20 baht (adults). Admission is free for children (not taller than 90 cm).

Other buildings in the Khao Wang complex include:
Phra Thi Nang Wetchayan Wichian Prasat: built in the Khmer style with a 'prang' housing a sculpture of King Rama IV.
Phra Thi Nang Ratcha Tham Sapha: an unusual building incorporating mixed Thai, Chinese and Western styles.
Ho Chatchawan Wiang Chai: used by King Rama IV as an astronomical observatory. Nowadays, fishermen use it to observe 'Ban Laem' Bay. The best views of Phetchaburi and the surrounding farmland are from this tower.

Smaller buildings comprise 'Ho Phiman Phet Mahesuan', 'Tamnak Santhakhan Sathan', 'Ho Chatuwet Parit Phot' and 'Sala Thatsana Nakkhataroek', as well as a number of other structures typical of palaces such as garage, stable, 'sala mahat lek' (royal page hall), 'sala lukkhun' (official hall), 'sala dan' (post), 'sala yenchai' (hall for relaxation), 'thim dap' (bodyguards' quarters), and kitchen. Four forts stand at the four corners of the complex, each named in rhyme starting with 'thatarot pongpok' in the east. 'wirunhok borirak' in the south, 'wirupak pongkan' in the west, and 'wetsuwan raksa' in the north.

Phra Kaew TempleThe eastern hilltop is the location of Wat Phra Kaew, which is styled along the same lines as the Temple of the Emerald Buddha in Bangkok. The temple dates back to the Ayutthaya period. Its most outstanding feature is the red Chedi Dang pagoda, which is visible for miles around. Phra Sutasen Chedi, the gray-green marble pagoda behind Chedi Dang, was originally sculpted at Si Chang Island and reconstructed at its present site. The Phra Ubosot, or Buddhist chapel, features cement modeling or 'poon pun', a notable art form in Phetchaburi. The emblem of King Rama IV can be seen on the building's gable.

To get to Khao Wang from Bangkok, drive along Phetkasem Road (the old route), then turn left at the intersection to downtown. About 1 km before Phetchaburi's city pillar shrine, the stair access to the palace is on the right hand side. The walk up takes less than an hour.

Cable car offers another faster route to the top. The station is located to the west of Khao Wang. The daily service, including admission to the museum, costs 15 baht (adult) and 8 baht (children), for one-way or 30 baht (adult) and 10 baht (children) for the round trip.

On holidays, the State Railway of Thailand offers a one-day tour to Cha-am. The train departs Bangkok at 6.30 am to visit Phetchaburi, Kao Wang Historical Park, Cha-am Beach and Marukataiyawan Palace. The fee, including a meal, is 480 baht (adult) and 440 baht (child). For more details, contact the promotion counter at Hua Lampong Railway Station from 4.00 am to 11.00 pm or Tel +66 2 220-4334 ext 5217 and +66 2 225-6964.

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