A Sala Thai in Lausanne…


So have you heard of the Sala Thai in Lausanne… the only one in Switzerland and one of the four in Europe?

Ehhh… what is a Sala Thai?

Well… a Sala is a Sanskrit word used to describe an open pavilion generally found in Thailand (hence Sala Thai)  and normally used as a meeting place or as a shelter to protect people (especially travellers) from sun and rain… for which the oldest record dates back to the 13th century (Sukhothai kingdom).

But… since September 2007, Lausanne has had its very own Sala … not far from the small harbour of Ouchy and the Olympic Museum.  The Sala found here might not have been erected to serve the purpose that it is traditionally meant for back home… but it is nonetheless a nice addition to the Lausanne landscape, especially in the beautiful area of Ouchy lakeside.

The Sala Thai  can be found in Parc Denantou, a protected area, facing the beautiful Lake Geneva (or Lake Léman as it is called here). A really nice setting, indeed… and quite easily accessible via the métro M2. It takes about 20 minutes to walk to this Thai pavilion (although a bit longer for me lah… as the hubby had cheekily reminded me… as I stopped every so often to take snapshots of the view and the flowers along the lakeshore promenade 🙂 ) from the métro station in Ouchy.

The visit to Sala Thai  last week was our first visit there even though the hubby had mentioned its existence to me quite sometime ago. But as I like to believe… better late than never (go and visit)… am I not right? 🙂

Enjoy these photos of the Sala Thai, which you can see in larger format by clicking on them…

Hubby making his way across the field towards the Sala Thai… in Parc Denantou... with the fake 19th century ruin Tour Haldimand (Haldimand Tower) in the background (at the end of the road).

The Thai pavilion or Sala Thai… looking pretty against the green field and trees of the park.

The Sala Thai was a gift from the Royal Thai government to the city of Lausanne in honour of the 60th anniversary of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s accession to the throne as well as to commemorate the 75th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the Thai and the Swiss governments.

It is interesting to note that two Thai Kings – H.M. King Ananda Mahidol (Rama VIII) and H.M. King Bhumibol Adulyadej (Rama IX) had both lived in Lausanne for 18 years with H.R.H. the Princess Mother and H.R.H. Princess Galyani Vadhana Krom Luang Naradhivas Rajanagarindra, Their Majesties’ elder sister, from April 1933 to November 1951.

Built in the style of Jaturamuk (pavilion with four facades) with a Mondop top (a miniature palace at the centre of its roof top — this one being a five-tiered Mondop, a feature only used for kings)… this pavilion was not built using teak but takhien and other hard woods according to the architectural traditions of ancient Thai…and measures 16 m high (including the pinnacle), 5.8 m (in length and width) and weighs about 27 tonnes (because of the density of the hard woods used).

The different parts of this pavilion was prefabricated in Bangkok by as many as 50 craftsmen over a period of three months. They were assembled together to check that everything was OK, then disassembled with each piece diligently numbered… before being shipped and reassembled again in Lausanne by 13 artisans from Thailand.

Although Thailand was responsible for the design, construction and transport of the pavilion as well as the stone masonry (granite from Thailand was used to pave the floor and the staircases), the cement foundation for the pavilion as well as building equipment and assisting with the procurement of construction materials was undertaken by the City of Lausanne.

The plaque commemorating the pavilion’s inauguration by H.R.H. Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn on 17 March 2009. Unfortunately it is only in Thai and in French.

Although the pavilion was assembled in Parc Denantou from 30 August to 18 September 2007, the City of Lausanne had been informed of the Thai government’s offer to build a Sala Thai in Lausanne way back in 1999. So, why the long gap from the initial offering to the actual construction on site, you might wonder.

Well, the laws in Switzerland are such that construction projects can easily be vetoed by locals. In addition, Parc Denantou, the area which had been put forward by the local authorities, is a protected area, which means that no buildings are supposed to be erected there.  This, therefore, resulted in some squabbling between various departments of the City of Lausanne and even between the canton and the city… until the go-ahead was finally given (but without going through the ordinary channel of an administrative tribunal) to avoid a diplomatic spat between the two countries. (As we would say it in Singapore… so drama lah! :-))

And… because of the delay and of the location that was assigned to the pavilion… its dimensions were scaled down quite markedly by its architect, Arvuth Ngoenchuklin. But better late than not at all… so it was great that the Sala Thai was finally erected in Lausanne, despite the long delay!

In the centre of the pavilion on the ceiling is a commemorative description explaining why the building was built… but this time in Thai and English. On the right is the close-up shot of the English text.

Two different views of the golden spire in the shape of a Thai crown, with the two imbricated roofs and the five-tiered Mondop perched in between, visible on the picture on the right.

The orange tiles are in ceramic and the decoration makes use of parts of sacred or mythical animals — for instance, the eagle’s head (chofa), the serpent’s head (naga) and the swan’s tail (hang hongse).

The intricate designs and carvings on the ceiling reflect the excellence of traditional Thai architecture.

There are 12 of such pillars, decorated with gilded black lacquer (lai rot nam). The colours (black, dark red and gold) are the colours traditionally associated with the king in Thai culture.

Gold and glass gilding as well as gold-leaf paintings were used extensively in the design and construction of this beautiful pavilion. Imagine going there when the sun is at its peak… with all those gold colours. Just make sure you don’t forget your sun glasses! hehehe… 🙂

For info… no nails, rivets or other pieces of metal were used in the building with the exception of the bolts used to secure the building to foundation! Ingenious!

The lakeview as seen from the pavilion… almost like a painting!

Given its open but secluded location… a webcam, security cameras, smoke detector as well as lighting equipment were installed at the pavilion to keep it safe and free of vandals. Guess the security measure works… because the Sala Thai still looks in excellent condition despite having grace the park for nearly 4 years, now.

So, if you happen to be visiting the port of Ouchy while in Lausanne… do not forget to drop by to visit this Sala Thai !

By the way… in case you are interested in the other three Thai pavilions in Europe, there is one in Sweden (Utanede) and two in Germany (Hamburg, Hagenbeck animal park and in the spa town of Bad Homburg, near Frankfurt).

In addition, a documentary was made on the construction of the Sala Thai in Lausanne – a clip is available here (unfortunately in French only) if you like to watch it.


Other entries related to Lausanne sightseeing:


2 thoughts on “A Sala Thai in Lausanne…

  1. I have notice the movie on Youtube but have not actually seen it. Maybe I’ll watch it one of these days since you said its funny. I have been to Thailand a few times so the Sala Thai is not exactly a novelty. But what impresses was to see it in negri omputeh… that is a novelty. Didn’t know abt the summer Palace in Langkawi tho, otherwise would have gone and visit when we there a few years ago. Maybe if we come visit Langkawi again lah.


  2. Sawadheekap………jaga sikaaaaaaaaap(as said by actor Zami Ismail in film “Hantu kak limah balik rumah) Have u watch it? Hillarious… my son watched for 5 times. Crazy isn’t . But he said very entertaining.

    I myself never been to Thailand. Seen in photos only of the buildings. Though, it was beautifully carved but but I am quite scary to look at their intricate carving of sacred or mythical animals . Nice info. Thank you.

    I have seen the Summer Palace built for film “the king and I” in Pulau Langkawi years ago. The construction and design resemble a lot of Siamese culture. I think its still there standing nearby the beach.


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