As expats who have lived in Asia for almost 25-years each, we recently got thinking about our proximity to famous, royal palaces. Scott is not so far from Bangkok’s Grand Palace and Trevor for many years lived very close to Cambodia’s Khemarin Palace. That got us thinking about other royal palaces we’ve been to throughout Asia, along with ones we have not yet visited. Then we wondered what constitutes a royal palace? We bumped into our friends Greg & Ed from the Bangkok Podcast, mentioned this to them, and realized we had a good episode on our hands, but it would be a heck of a lot more fun to chat about this as a foursome. So here we are, our second crossover episode together, where we’ll explore the royal palaces of Asia.


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Wat Phra Kaew, Bangkok

Scott & Trevor introduce themselves and then welcome Greg & Ed, asking them how long they have lived in Asia, what brought them here, and what do they do now?

Scott explains where the idea for the show came from: he was jogging past Bangkok’s Grand Palace and realized it had a dual purpose: a place of worship and ceremony as well as a residence of the monarch up until Rama 5, he thinks. Then he got wondering what constituted a royal palace, which ones existed in Asia, and which had we been to.

Greg: So it’s not really that long ago that many countries in Asia were governed in a much different fashion than they are today. For the most part, the arrival of Europeans began the process of starting to unravel the rule and authority of local monarchs. For centuries, most of the modern countries of Asia were ruled by local kings, absolute monarchs, who built kingdoms, civilizations, fought with rivals, jockeyed for territory and power. Today we’re left with many of these cultures and many of the buildings and palaces of these often former dynasties and times. 

So what is a Royal Palace?

Sheki Palace

Trevor answers: According to Wikipedia, a palace is a grand residence, often serving as a royal residence or the home for a head of state or some other high-ranking dignitary, such as a bishop or archbishop. The word is derived from the Latin name palātium, for Palatine Hill in Rome which housed the Imperial residences.

Trevor ask: So what is the difference between, say, a castle and a palace?

Ed  adds: Castles were built for defense, they will have battlements and crenellations. Palaces were built for living in and are usually ostentatious and very large. Along a similar line are manors, which are typically in the countryside, also built for living in and are a lot smaller than palaces. Often in Asia these are built in higher areas for a respite from heat or a change of residence that coordinates with a change in season.

Greg asks: So how many royal palaces are there in Asia?

Scott: Well over a hundred according to Wikipedia! We don’t have to discuss them all,  but let’s get into it!:

Potala Palace

Trevor: According to Wikipedia, the Royal Palace in Luang Prabang, Laos, was built in 1904 during the French colonial era for King Sisavang Vong and his family. In 1975, the monarchy was overthrown by communist insurgents and the royal family were taken to re-education camps. The palace was then converted into a national museum, which is primarily how I and other visitors have experienced it. 

The museum allows you to walk from room to room, including an entrance hall with Italian marble floors but also bedrooms, preserved as they were in 1975 when the royal family fled the palace. As you walk the rooms of the palace-museum I remember there were also paintings that told the story of the life of the Buddha and Dong Song Drums, which predate Lao, Thai, and Khmer civilizations. 

The star attraction of the palace, in a way, is the Phra Bang, a statue of the Buddha made of gold, silver and bronze that is believed to have been cast in Sri Lanka around the 1st century. It was later gifted by the King of Angkor to his son-in-law Fa Ngum upon the founding of the kingdom of Lan Xang in 1359.

The Siamese twice brought the Phra Bang to Bangkok in 1779 and 1827, but it was returned to Laos each time historic floods struck the kingdom, and finally returned in 1867. There are rumors that the one on display is a copy and the original was sold during the Vietnam-American conflict and the revolutions and civil wars that spilled over into Laos and Cambodia.

Luang Prabang Palace

Ed: Kyoto Imperial Palace: Ed visited 20 years ago. It’s located in the Kyoto Goen Imperial Gardens, large space with meticulous gardening and landscaping, very wide walkways, great examples of traditional Japanese architecture. It used to house Japanese Emperors before the Meiji Restoration; capitol moved to Tokyo in the late 1800s. The palace itself originally was constructed in the 12th C, but has burned down and been rebuilt eight times; the current structure was built in 1855 with the intention to follow the older designs from the Heian Period (794-1185 AD). Ed’s memory is that it’s a great place for a peaceful walk, it gives you the feeling of being in a different time (a la Angkor) and also good opportunities for landscape and architecture photography.

Scott: Palace of Shaki Khans. Scott went here in Sept 2019 with my Dad while traveling through Azerbaijan after Armenia and Georgia. The Palace of Shaki Khans in Shaki, Azerbaijan, was a summer residence for the Shaki khans. It was built in 1797 by Muhammad Husayn Khan Mushtaq. The palace was intended to house the khans who were in charge of controlling Shaki, as viceroys of the ruling Zand and later Qajar Persian dynasties around 1750 until the time when these territories were annexed by the Russian Empire per the treaty of Gulistan in 1813 after the Russo-Persian War (1804–1813). The Palace of Shaki Khans was nominated for List of World Heritage Sites, UNESCO in 1998 and On 7 July 2019, the Historic Centre of Shaki with the Khan’s Palace was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s in a very small town and they also have a Winter palace which is very close by. Not sure why they needed two. This palace is little more than a house really on a nice plot of land, but nothing ostentatious. Times have obviously changed but it’s not epic.

Listen to Episode 192, Royal Palaces of Asia to hear Scott, Trevor, Greg, and Ed’s other presentations of Royal Palaces in Asia

Trevor’s novel, ArAnna, the millennium mom-and-dad super-couple who change the world, launches April 22, 2024.

Click the image below to join the adventure.

The embodiment of the all-American family, the Joneses of New Hope, Virginia stand at the fulcrum of human history. Caught at the center of an unexplainable global phenomenon, their search to solve a supernatural mystery leads them to every continent, where the lessons of traditional cultures present themselves as guideposts toward the survival of the human species -if the bonds of love are strong enough to keep their family together.

*** Exploring the crossroads of magic, science, and religion, including the power of belief, the limitations of technology, and the wisdom of indigenous cultures, ArAnna is a rom-com mystery that reimagines the American dream ***

ArAnna’s story begins this Earth Day, April 22, 2024.
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