The Grand Palace complex in Bangkok is possibly one of the most visited spots, if not the most visited, in Thailand. Its location in the capital, the immensity of its size and the other-worldly beauty of its buildings and monuments all add up to its popularity.
According to the guide booklet I received upon entering the complex, The Grand Palace was established in 1782, after King Rama I ascended to the throne. The two earliest structures built within the compound were the Dusit Maha Prasat Throne Hall and the Phra Maha Monthian. During King Rama I’s reign, a new palace was built to serve as his residence and the site of administrative offices. Now, The Grand Palace consists of not only the royal residence and throne halls and government offices but also of the world-renowned Wat Phra Kaew or Temple of the Emerald Buddha. The Grand Palace sits on a 218,000 square meters area and is surrounded by four walls that span 1.9 kilometers.
One day of walking and sweating it out under the unforgiving sun is not enough to cover all 35 points of interests within the compound. The sheer volume of tourists who visit the area is overwhelming. The colors and mythical creatures inside the complex are dizzying (or maybe it was just the heat). Most of my time in The Grand Palace was spent within the Wat Phra Kaew complex.
Phra Viharn Yod or the Porcelain Viharn is one of my favorite buildings at Wat Phra Kaew. Its colors are muted compared to the glaring red and gold that surround it. As its name implies, it is decorated with porcelain.
One of the buildings inside The Grand Palace is The Chakri Maha Prasat. It was built by King Chulalongkorn or King Rama V and was completed in 1882. It is composed of the Central Throne Hall and two wings.
Taking of photos and video inside the Temple of the Emerald Buddha is prohibited. If I recall correctly, there is another area where cameras and videos are not allowed. It is a room with a LOT of gold. 🙂 There was a man (I will keep his nationality to myself) who tried to take a stolen shot, and the vigilant guard with cat-like reflexes stretched his hand like Plastic Man (or Lastikman for Filipinos), covered the camera with his hand in what seemed like a nanosecond, confiscated the camera and quietly escorted the man out of the area (with the man’s tour guide in tow). It was like an action movie sequence! I was a meter away from where it happened, and I before I could panic (as I always do in situations like these) everything went back to normal. Whew! There were only four guards inside this room with a LOT of gold, but they are superheroes in my book.
The centerpiece of The Grand Palace complex is the Emerald Buddha. According to the guide booklet, the Emerald Buddha carved from a block of green jade and was first discovered in 1434 in a stupa in Chiang Rai. It is not actually made of emerald, but the people who discovered it saw the green stone and mistook it for emerald. The name stuck, and the legend of the Emerald Buddha began. “The Emerald Buddha is enshrined on a golden traditional Thai-style throne made of gilded-carved wood, known as Busabok, in the ordination hall of the royal monastery”. It is clad with one of the three seasonal costumes (summer, rainy season and winter). The costumes are changed in a ceremony led by the King of Thailand.
Thais believe that the Emerald Buddha possesses magical powers to heal the sick, stop natural disasters and create unity among the believers.
The Grand Palace is open everyday (except during royal functions/ceremonies) from 830am to 330pm. The entrance fee is THB 500 (US $14.17). Dress code is strictly followed inside The Grand Palace complex. Shorts, mini-skirts, tight-fitting pants, see-trough blouses and sleeveless shirts and strapless sandals are not allowed.