My gal and I were recently invited to join a media tour event of the recently opened Deva Manor (official Facebook page). This historical palace beside the Chao Phraya River recently opened to the public in October 2020 after an extensive 12-year long renovation by Col. “Sam” Fuangvich Aniruth-Deva.
Khun Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul, the Former Minister of Tourism and Sports, invited us to learn more about this beautiful residence with a rich historical past. Very few foreigners are aware of the place. That’s because there is very little information online in English about this gorgeous former palace of the Prince of Chanthaburi. My hope is that this article will remedy that.
Our group received a guided tour of the palace and grounds led by Col. Sam which was followed by a delicious lunch from their kitchen. As we were exploring I found it so surprising that a place of such historical significance and architectural beauty is so freely accessible to the public.
If you are fascinated by Thailand’s royal family history and have a love for architecture, Deva Manor is a place you will want to visit. This article will also be of interest to you!
Deva Manor: 125 Years Young!
It may seem odd to approach what was once a royal Thai residence and be greeted by Greek-style plaster sculptures and western architecture. It was King Mongkut (Rama IV), an enthusiast of European architecture, who first allowed Western-style buildings to be constructed under royal patronage. The Phra Nakhon Khiri Palace located in Phetchaburi province is the most famous example built during his reign in the years 1851-1868.
His son, King Chulalongkorn (Rama V), continued the trend of building in the European style during his reign from 1868 to 1910. This is especially noticeable today around the Grand Palace and Chao Phraya River area where western architects and engineers were brought in from Europe to “modernize” the urban landscape in such a way as to be equal to the British and French colonies in neighboring countries.
A welcome home gift…
Today’s Deva Manor originally began as “The Grand Villa, The Dheves Palace“. It and a group of buildings together were called Wang Deves (this also included the Thewet Palace). On this large plot of land, a famous Italian architect who at the time was serving as the Engineer-in-Chief of Thailand’s Public Works Department, Carlo Allegri, was tasked to build this palace by King Chulalongkorn (Rama V).
An interesting book titled, “ITALIANS: AT THE COURT OF SIAM”, shows the above original photo of the palace built by Carlo Allegri and can be found in this e-publication.
Completed in 1896, the palace was meant to be a welcome home gift to the king’s 12th son, His Royal Highness Kitiyakara Voraluksana (the Prince of Chanthaburi) who was returning after graduating from his studies at Oxford’s Balliol College in the United Kingdom. In this Grand Villa, the Prince of Chanthaburi lived his life until his passing May 27, 1931. He originated the House of Kitiyakara, served as Thailand’s first Minister of Commerce, and translated the Chandrakumarn Chadok from Pali to Thai.
A new family moves in…
After the Siamese Revolution of 1932 in which the country transitioned from an absolute monarchy under the Kings of Siam to a constitutional monarchy system of government, the descendants of the Prince of Chanthaburi divided the estate into 3 parts and sold off some sections:
- Mom Chao Nakkatra Mongkol’s Residence was presented to Prince Nakkhatra Mangkala Kitiyakara (later the Prince of Chanthaburi II) and his wife, Mom Luang Bua Kitiyakara. They are the parents of Mom Rajawongse Sirikit Kitiyakara, the Queen Mother of Thailand, consort to King Bhumibol Adulyadej (Rama IX), and mother to King Vajiralongkorn (Rama X). Presently this residence still belongs to the House of Kitiyakara.
- Mom Chao Kachornjob Kitikhun Kitiyakara’s Residence which was sold off in 1965 to the Ministry of Agriculture and is currently the office of the Department of Cooperative Promotion and Department of Cooperative Auditing.
- The Grand Villa of the Prince of Chanthaburi which was sold to Phraya Aniruth-Deva after he had sold the Banthomsinth House (now known as the Phitsanulok Mansion) to the Thai government so that it could be used as the Prime Minister’s residence. After his passing in 1951, the Grand Villa was vacant for 56 years which resulted in its deterioration.
A 12-year project…
In 2007, Col. Fuangvich Aniruth-Deva (a son of General Fuangchaloei Aniruth-Deva) relocated his family to the Grand Villa and began a 12 year long grueling project of restoring the residence to its former glory. He felt it was his duty to “bring life back to the house” and to honor the Prince of Chanthaburi, the Grand Villa’s original owner.
It’s clear to anyone who visits that a lot of effort has been put into the villa’s restoration. Chatting with Col. Sam, it’s also apparent the process has been a labor of personal dedication and love for the talented architect who originally built the villa and to the memory of the great family that has historically resided under its roof.
Entering Deva Manor, the first thing I noticed was the deep royal blue painted walls which were accented with white trim, Doric pillars, and tall, narrow original teakwood doors whose upper panes were ornately carved. The combination of white marble flooring and an abundance of natural light allows you to appreciate the richness of these two colors and their contrasts.
Much of the furniture is very modern western style with historical paintings, portraits, and furnishings from the villa’s past interspersed amongst the new.
Deva Manor contains 12 guest rooms. The bedrooms on the first floor are the largest. But don’t look on Airbnb for a listing. The villa is still a private residence. These rooms are reserved for the “friends and family” of Col. Sam. They are gorgeous, too.
Walking upstairs you will find a cozy sitting area between Ionic pillars, with a large stained glass window and colored Turkish lamps providing rich and colorful lighting. This wooden-floored space separates the main dining area, and additional bedrooms, and sitting rooms.
Seemingly around every corner is a secret little nook where you can take in the fresh air and enjoy a high tea service…
The upstairs area contains many of the family’s private spaces, but there is one corner bedroom that is displayed to the public. This beautifully furnished space overlooks the back lot of the property and from the large window, you can see the Spanish roofed building where the Queen Mother of Thailand, Mom Rajawongse Sirikit Kitiyakara, was born August 12, 1932.
The upstairs floor also contains a sizable formal dining area. The table and wooden chairs are original (with new cushions) and we were presented with a small setting that was plated with historical flatware.
Deva Manor has put together both private and public formal gala dinners. If you are shopping around for a place to have a private formal dinner (or a chef looking for a place to host a private formal dinner) you can contact them directly by e-mail: [email protected]. Follow their Facebook page to stay up to date for their public events.
Around the grounds…
The area outside around the house offers additional places to relax, take in the immensity of the two-story residence, as well as see their home garden and large coop of free-range chickens.
Returning to the residence’s ground floor, we took a quick peek at the kitchen. If it looks large in this picture then try to imagine if my gal was actually able to capture the kitchen’s third island as well! You’ll note the many golden birdcage-looking things lined neatly along the upper shelves. These are actually for high tea service which Deva Manor is especially popular for.
After viewing the kitchen we were invited to the small downstairs dining area to enjoy the lunch they had prepared for us. The table was already set with a variety of dishes. We simply sat in front of the dish we wanted.
It’s important to note that Deva Manor is not a restaurant. You will not find a menu with a list of dishes and prices to order from. But they do have a full-service kitchen and staff.
What we received for our lunch was a sampling of a few of the dishes they regularly offer guests. Dishes often change due to seasonality and availability.
Of course, we finished with Mango & Sticky Rice!
Because there is no menu available if you wish to coordinate a high-tea or lunch service it is important that you reach out to them in advance either via their e-mail ([email protected]) or their Facebook page.
As a parting gift, everyone in our group was given a container of 6 free-range eggs. They also have these on sale for 50 baht. If you’re doing any baking or have a recipe that calls for whipping eggs, you want these eggs!
I want to visit. Where is it?
Deva Manor is open daily to the public from 10:00 to 16:00 free of charge. You can walk in and enjoy the downstairs and outside common areas at your leisure. But if you would like to see more of the residence or would like to visit with a large group, it’s very vital that you first coordinate this beforehand either via their e-mail ([email protected]) or their Facebook page.
The manor is stunning, with Col. Sam successfully bringing life to this home, and restoring it to its former glory. You will not want to miss an opportunity to hear the story of how it was restored and the tales of those who once called this prince’s palace a home. That’s why it’s so important to coordinate with them in advance.
Deva Manor is just meters away from the Thewes Pier for those who wish to visit by boat along the Chao Phraya River. Those wishing to drive will have no problem finding parking nearby. This Google Map will guide you or any taxi service to where you want to go!
I want to hear from you!
Should you decide to experience Deva Manor, I’d love to hear your feedback in the comment section below, directly to me, or via message on either the Chow Traveller Facebook page or Chow Traveller Instagram (and feel free to like/follow these pages if you want to learn about more foodie gems). However you choose to reach out, I’d love to hear from you!