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Klai Kangwon Palace

Built as a summer palace by King Rajakhipok (Rama VII) for his Queen Rambai Barni, Wang Klai Kangwon, remains the home of HM King Bhumipol, HM Queen Sirikit when in Prachuab Kiri Khan and neighbouring provinces. Now long after this royal seaside retreat became popularised among commoners, it's open to the public when royalty's not in residence.

It was designed in the Spanish style to suit the tropical climate, by Prince Iddhidesarn Kridara, a graduate from L'Ecole Des Beaux Art and the director of the Department of Fine Art. Site preparation began in October 1926 and on 21 September 1927 construction started, paid for by the Privacy Purse. Its completion was celebrated on 10-11 April 1929.

As it's a summer palace, there's no throne room for audiences. Originally just three two-storey mansions faced the sea. The largest, Phra Tamnak Piamsuk, sits between Tamnak Plukkasem to the north and Tamnak Noi to the south. Sectioned away by walls, the entourage resided in bungalows.

It feels more like a large house than a formal palace - hence the name "Far From Worries". Yet within just three years, worries found their way down to Hua Hin and on 24 June 1932, following a bloodless coup, it was the site of the abdication of absolute monarchy by King Prajadhipok and the acceptance of a constitutional one. There's nothing on display to record the event, unlike the pen and desk used in the abdication of Edward VIII of English, that are preserved at his Fort Belvedere study. In 1935, King Prajadhipok decided he was unable to continue as King and abdicated to live in Cranleigh, England, until his death in 1941.

More recently, HM King Bhumipol commanded a mansion to be built for HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn in the same style as the original seventh reign buildings. Fronting the palace an Italianate garden festures topiary bushes and trees, stone sculptures from Bali, nautical items and a sundial.

Klai Kangwon Palace, Petchkasem Beach Road, Hua Hin 77110 (66-32-511155, fax 66-32-510979) Daily 9 am.-4 pm. (except during royal residence); Baht 20.

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(May 1999)

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