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Lopburi is a small Provincial town, like there are so many in Thailand. You find markets, Temples (old and modern) there, like you would expect to find in any town in Thailand. But in Lopburi you should focus your attention in the first place on the remains from the time of King Narai. Afterwards I will lead you to the best place to observe the famous macaques of Lopburi.
We start our tour at the Palace of King Narai. The pictures above show the gate and part of the wall of the Palace grounds.
What you should know about King Narai is that he was the first Thai monarch who actively sought contact with Europe, and especially with France. This was quite revolutionary in the seventeenth Century!
During his reign a French foreign mission was sent to Thailand (Siam then), in the first place to spread Christianity there. But it was made very clear to the French by King Narai that he did not appreciate this. And thanks to wise people like King Narai Thailand is still a Buddhist country today.
Nevertheless the relationship with France stayed friendly. Also relations with the Netherlands were established during the reign of King Narai. A mission from Siam was sent to Amsterdam. And also the English came to Siam in those years, in order to set up a trade post.
One of the most important events during the reign of King Narai, however, was the arrival of Constantin Phaulcon, an adventurer from Greece. More about him can be found elsewhere on this page.
This is the Audience Hall in the Palace of King Narai. On the left hand side the whole building is shown, on the right hand side a detail from the inside. King Narai had a quite short figure and, as you may know, in Thailand nobody should be taller than the King. This often caused a problem, that was solved by King Narai by having a sort of balcony built in his Palace for him to stand upon. Look at the right hand side picture to see what I mean (the opening in the central wall).
And this is how King Narai may have looked at his visitors. The picture was taken from one of the sides of the balcony. The balcony itself is not accessible any more. But at the sides of the balcony were rooms where the King could retire, which he regularly did, because he suffered from some asthmatic disease. This disease became fatal to him in the end.
At the bottom of the balcony a remembrance plate has been erected for King Narai. It is shown above this text.
Not far from the Palace grounds you will find this magnificent compound, that was the residence of Constantin Phaulcon, the man from Greece, mentioned above. This place is called "Baan Vichaiyen" (House of the Vichaiyen).
Constantin Phaulcon succeeded in gaining the trust of King Narai in a surprisingly successful manner and he made a very fast "career" in Siam. "Vichaiyen" was a noble title, granted to him when he was at the height of his career and at that time the King gave him the residence, shown above. Here he lived with his French wife. In the Palace, however he had some quarters to share with his Siamese mistress, with whom he had several children.
Though not officially appointed to this task, Phaulcon was in reality the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Siam. Of course this did not make him very popular with others, who thought they were the right person for this office.
And so, after King Narai had died, Phaulcon could not retain his power for long and was murdered shortly afterwards. A sad ending of a man with a great and unusual career for a Westerner!
Like all other places in Thailand, Lopburi has several beautiful Temples. I give the above picture of Prang Sam Yot (Three Towers), probably dating from far before King Narai's days, as an example. The second picture shows one of the many interesting details of the building. The third one shows some of the Lopburi macaques. They live in the Kala Shrine across the street and in (and around) Prang Sam Yot.
The picture above shows the old Buddha Image of Prang Sam Yot. Of course Prang Sam Yot is no longer a Temple and so this Buddha Image should be considered as an antique treasure.
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