“A vacation in Bangkok is never complete if you’ve never set foot on the majestic grounds of the Grand Palace.” Normally you see these kind of quotes very cheesy and cliche, but after visiting the Bangkok Grand Palace for the first time, I beg to defer. As most of you know, I’ve been to Bangkok 3 times but this is my first time to the Grand Palace. Once I glance out of the taxi’s windows, I’ve already been mesmerized by it’s outer walls. The architecture is so unique and divine, no wonder the Thai people adore and worship their King like a God.
Our third day in Bangkok was our photography trip. Our plans initially started by going to the famous Wat Arun Rajwararam (Temple of the Dawn). After early breakfast, we quickly caught a taxi in order to get there early to see how the temple shines during dawn. We had a little trouble telling the taxi where our destination was. We tried to get the taxi to take us there by meter, but he refused and insisted on an overpriced fare of THB150. As time was running late, I couldn’t care more but to get on the taxi as soon as possible in order to not run behind schedule.
We thought the taxi understood where we wanted to go. As the taxi slowed down, I started to see so many structures that look so magnificant and majestic. I right away knew, something was amiss. The taxi has dropped us at the wrong spot, but this accident turned out to be a great mistake. We have landed ourselves at the doorsteps of the beautiful Grand Palace.
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The Grand Palace is situtated right in the center of Bangkok. This place is called Ratanakosin Island. ‘Ko’ is the Thai word for island. This is a large and ancient area and is the site of the Grand Palace and Bangkok’s City Pillar Shrine, among other places of historical significance.
Anyways, we reached the Grand Palace rather early (at 8am) and was unable to enter until 8:30am. As we waited by the entrance, slowly we saw tour buses stopping nearby and more and more people piled up at the gates. We were getting more and more excited as 8:30 comes near. Suddenly, we saw army buses unloading soldiers. We were curious what was happening. It looked like they were going to war or something as they marched towards the Palace gate.
Well, it was actually the army changing shift for their duties at the Grand Palace. We were really lucky to see this shift changing drill as they performed in front of us. It was worth the early wake and misunderstanding of the taxi driver. It was an eye opener for me to see such a wonderful exercise that shows how patriotic the Thai people are.
Please also note that there is a very very strict dress code. No shorts, short skirts, leggings and sleeveless shirts. If by chance you are under dressed you can borrow proper attire at a building near the entrance gate. You will have to leave a credit card or passport as a deposit. But for me and Fann, we were well dressed. so no troubles for us.
As 8:30am struck, everyone is allowed to enter the gates and roam around the outer compound of the Grand Palace. From one side, you can see all the beautiful structures of the Grand Palace’s compound. I was fascinated by the astonishing and impressive view. We were lucky that the weather was great on that day. It wasn’t too hot and there was a little bit of wind.
Before entering into the compounds, every tourist is required to buy a ticket. The entrance fee to the Grand Palace is THB350, which also includes a free admission to Vimanmek Mansion Museum but must be used within 7 days.
There are also personal audio guides available for rent THB100 in English, French, German, Spanish, Russian, Japanese or Mandarin. It even comes with a special guide pin pointing special areas of interest. English signs with directions are visible so you can go on your own tour with a good history book about the Grand Palace and that’s what we did.
The Grand Palace is a wonderful place to visit if you’re a person who adores architecture or loves photography. Fann & I spent almost 2 hours plus in the Grand Palace, just slowly wandering around it’s courtyard and slowly admiring their architectural marvels. As someone who loves photography so much, I told myself to capture as many things as I can in the Grand Palace.
It’s pretty useless for me to introduce one by one what these structures are because you can actually read more about it on the Grand Palace’s website and also when you’re there, you will be offered a free tour map of the Grand Palace, with each structures introduced neatly and nicely for you without any typo errors from us foreigners. So, what I’ll do here is to share some shots that I took inside the majestic wonder built by the ancient Thai King.
The Grand Palace has a unique sense of architecture. If you look closely, most of it’s structures has statues of elephants and mythical beings scattered around and with a generous touch of ancient Thai style architecture. Back in the old days besides India, China too had a great impact and influence on the Thai heritage, that’s why you could find some buildings even have Chinese elements which represents how the lovely Thai people accepts and respects other cultures too.
There is one great structure called The Temple of the Emerald Buddha. Where it houses one of Thailand’s most significant and sacred relic. The Buddha statue is entirely carved out from a huge block of Jade, but the monk who discovered it mistakenly thought that it was made from emerald, hence it’s name.
The Emerald Buddha is about 30 inches tall and it is so holy and revered that the only pair of hands that can touch it belongs to the King. The King performs a ritual 3 times a year corresponding with the 3 seasons by changing the Emerald Buddha’s robes; one for hot season, rainy season and cool season.
The Palace courts is not only a place for tourist, but mainly it stands as a holy ground for the King and the Thai people to worship and pray. If you stay a little longer and take a look around, you can see that most of the visitors are Thai and they come here to only worship and not tour around.
It’s very touching to see how strong the Thai people’s belief is and how much they respect Buddha and their own heritage. You can also see not only old people but young and even successful people who come here and bow and pray to Buddha.
In the Grand Palace, we also noticed that it has Western architecture. Notably the Borom Phiman Mansion. It was built in 1903, by King Rama V for the Heir Apparent, the future King Rama VI. At present the Borom Phiman Mansion serves as the Royal Guest House for visiting Heads of State and guests of Their Majesties. Unfortunately, tourists are restricted into this compound.
Oddly, there’s also structures that has a fusion of Western and Thai style elements in their architecture as well. Most notably the most majestic of all, Chakri Maha Prasat Throne Hall. The neatly maintained lawn and planted trees of weird shapes makes it the most beautiful of all. It is also the most recognizable building in the entire Grand Palace. The architectural style is definitely the most significant description with a blend of Thai and Italian Renaissance style.
Behind us was the beautiful gate of Phimanchaisri. What else can I say? Everything was so beautiful that I admired every single detail of the Grand Palace. It was an orgasm of majestic architecture. Too much to handle! We have walked a great and reasonable number of distance that should have covered the entire compound. But unfortunately there’s more. I’ll let the photos do the talking.
Lastly, we have finally ended our photography trip to the Grand Palace, and there are more that is waiting for us ahead. Like the Villas in Phuket Thailand that are fit for vacation, I heard it is amazing. Our next destination is the Dusit Park, where the famous Vinmanmek Mansion is situated. But I’ll cover that in another post. So, don’t forget to keep on to your Grand Palace tickets, because it too includes a free admission to the Vinmanmek Mansion, which is a taxi drive away.