A Thai pavilion may be the last thing a visitor would expect to see as far north as Sweden. Nevertheless, the little municipality of Ragunda in northern Sweden is proud host to a kind of building normally found over 5,000 miles away.
According to legend, a Swedish sailor from Nyland, a small village in the area, saved the daughter of King Chulalongkorn from drowning during a stay in the country then known as Siam. Thankful to the man who had saved his daughter, the king made plans to visit the sailor’s homeland. (King Chulalongkorn, for the record, was one of the princely children tutored by Anna Leonowens - the Indian-born British governess whose memoirs served as the basis for Rodgers and Hammerstein musical The King and I).
Unfortunately, there are no sources that can verify the sailor story. What can be historically confirmed is that King Chulalongkorn came to Sweden in 1897 to visit the Stockholm World’s Fair and to study the Swedish timber industry. The road that the king travelled on through Ragunda was renamed Kung Chulalongkorn’s Väg (King Chulalongkorn’s Road) in honor of his visit.
In 1997, Thailand and Sweden together established King Chulalongkorn’s Memorial Building to commemorate the 100-year anniversary of the state visit. The ground conditions at the site left something to be desired - there was a full 65 feet of mud on top of the building site. Unfortunately, this was discovered too late to move locations as the Thai monks flown in to bless the ground had already left. The issue was remedied with a 98-foot-deep foundation. The finished structure is a stunning piece of work, supported by 24, white concrete pillars and adorned with gold foil ornamentation.