So, what happens when you bring American architects to Nepal? Particularly, in the time frame of the 1960's? You get the royal palace, now the Palace Museum. Dee thinks it looks like some sort of Christian church, I think it looks much more like a Florida retirement home. For those of you who have never seen the palace, let me describe it for you. I agree with Dee, the outside looks like a weird version of an Episcopalian church, painted in what can only be described as Pepto-Bismol pink. Basically, think of the stereotypical Florida pink exterior paint color, and that what the palace looks like.
The interior was worse. Wood paneling, flowered upholstery, and lots of portraits of people in ridiculously large glasses. Unfortunately, no pictures were allowed. As we first walked in, we saw the grand entrance hall with a double staircase leading down into it. I seriously only thought those things were only in the movies, where one person goes down one side of the staircase and the other goes down the other side, and they meet at the bottom. On the side of the staircase were two giant tigers, rearing up on their back paws.
There were only 19 rooms open to the public; the rest of the palace was closed off. We saw a lot of the receiving rooms for foreign dignitaries, heads of state, Nepali parliamentarians, and others. The receiving rooms were pretty much the same- lots of photos, wood paneling, plush velvet couches, flower patterns galore, and a mix of Western and Nepali art and figurines/trinkets. We also saw the various dining rooms- one for just the visiting dignitaries, and a large banquet room for huge parties of visitors.
There was one hallway in the palace that was lined with pictures of the late King and Queen with various visiting dignitaries. The Bangladeshi heads of state visited quite a lot, but they also got visits from the Swiss Confederation, England, Yugoslavia, and other Asian states. Those photos were really fascinating to walk past, seeing who has visited officially.
We also saw the various bedrooms in the palace. They have one bedroom for the visiting head of state, another one for that person's relatives traveling, and a final one for the head of state's first lady. This, of course, begged the question of, what if the visiting head of state is a woman? I guess the husband would get sent there. Visitors were also allowed to view the king and queen's bedroom. I was very surprised at how modest it was. I would say it is only slightly larger than a typical master bedroom in an American house, and it was very much not ornate in its decorations. I expected the bedroom of the king and queen to be large, ostentatious, and richly decorated. Clearly, my assumptions were way off here.
After viewing the palace we viewed the gardens, which were sad. The whole palace seems in a state of non-upkeep. The lawns and gardens were overgrown. Also, the fountain looked quite terrible, in the same style as the palace. Jakub stated that it looked like a communist swimming pool from back home. It was all white and seafoam green paint, with a little bit of a garish mauve. We did see one animal in the garden, which I believe resides in the deer family (I'm not sure what exact kind of animal it was).
Outside, they also had the grounds open where the building was where the royal massacre occurred. Unfortunately, all that was there were the foundations, as the building was destroyed soon after the massacre. Honestly, this doesn't help much in refuting the conspiracy theorists that think Gyanendra or some other force was behind the massacre. You know, something about destroying evidence (and the whole damn crime scene) so soon after the incident. It was a little surreal to see the site, although I think it would have been even weirder if the building were still there and they let people in there (although I'm sure they wouldn't have done that).
All in all, it was quite an interesting experience, seeing this palace that we've read about and seen so many times in our time in Kathmandu. It was also slightly disturbing to see that the interior looks just as horribly retro as the exterior. Hopefully, the next time someone in Nepal tries to bring foreign architects in, they will pick someone a little more renowned and with better taste. Although, I guess in their defense that was the style then...