Connected to Ratanakosin via the boulevards of Rajdamnoen Klang and Rajdamnoen Nok, the spacious, leafy area known as Dusit has been a royal district since the reign of Rama V, King Chulalongkorn (1860–1910). The first Thai monarch to visit Europe, Rama V returned with radical plans for the modernization of his capital, the fruits of which are most visible in Dusit, notably at Vimanmek Palace and Wat Benjamabophit, the so-called “Marble Temple”. Even now, Rama V still commands a loyal following and the statue of him, helmeted and on horseback, which stands at the Thanon U-Thong Nai–Thanon Sri Ayutthaya crossroads, is presented with offerings every week and is also the focus of celebrations on Chulalongkorn Day (Oct 23). On December 2, Dusit is also the venue for the spectacular annual Trooping the Colour, when hundreds of magnificently uniformed Royal Guards demonstrate their allegiance to the king by parading around Suan Amporn, across the road from the Rama V statue. Across from Chitrlada Palace, Dusit Zoo makes a pleasant enough place to take the kids.
Today, the Dusit area retains its European feel, and much of the country’s decision-making goes on behind the high fences and impressive facades along its tree-lined avenues: the building that houses the National Parliament is here, as is Government House, and the king’s official residence, Chitrlada Palace, occupies the eastern edge of the area. Normally a calm, stately district, in 2008 Dusit became the focus of the mass anti-government protest by the royalist PAD movement, whose thousands-strong mass of yellow-shirted supporters occupied Government House and part of Rajdamnoen Nok for an extraordinary three months, creating a heavily defended temporary village in this most refined of neighbourhoods.