Intricate Opulence: A Day At The Grand Palace
Cost: 500 THB ($25 CAD)
Hours: 8:30am - 3:30pm (and don't let anyone tell you otherwise)
Location: Na Phra Lan Rd, Phra Nakhon, Bangkok, 10200, Thailand
Heart of Bangkok by Chao Phraya River
Before You Go: Make sure your shoulders and legs are covered
Go For The History, Architecture & Art
From ancient lore, to a once populated by officials operation point, The Grand Palace was well worth the half-day visit. From 1782 to 1925 the Grand Palace served as the residence for the Kings of Thailand (Siam at the time). This immense complex of temples and buildings spans over 218,000 square metres. It’s HUGE. Have a good breakfast and plan at least 3 to 4 hours to truly enjoy every detail. I had about 3 hours and had just missed out on seeing the rest of this place.
Dress Code Is In Effect
This is a Royal Palace and respect must be paid to it. Your shoulders must not be revealed, nor your knees. Typically you shouldn’t even wear capri pants or long shorts. If you happen to walk in with the wrong apparel, the guards will instruct you to go to your right where there is a building that rents pants and shirts.
Ancient Lore: Ramakian
Upon paying my entry fee and walking into the Grand Palace I was immediately taken by art on the surrounding walls that span over 1,900 metres. In 178 scenes, they tell the story of Ramakian, Thailand’s version of the Hindu epic Ramayana. It is believed that this story took place after the Thai’s conquered Angkor in the 15th century.
Taken from Mytripblog.org, here’s an excerpt of the story:
The story of Ramakien:
Rama, the heir to the throne of Ayodhya, was sent into exile for 14 years by his stepmother. His wife, Sita and brother Lakshman went with him into the deep forest. Tosakan, the demon king of Longka (Sri Lanka), abducted Sita and carries her off to his island kingdom hoping to marry her. The brothers pursued him. Hanuman, the white monkey god, volunteers his service, together they won the alliance of two monkey kings, Sukrip and Chompupan, each with a powerful army. They march south to the coast opposite Longka. The monkey armies build a road of stone through the sea and lay siege to Longka. Many victorious battles are waged against Tosakan’s demon armies. Finally, Rama defeated Tosakan and killed him. Rama then crowns his ally, Piphek (Tosakan’s banished brother) as King of Longka and returns with Sita to resume his rign in Ayodha.
The Ramakien murals at Wat Phra Kaeo or “The Emerald Buddha” is beautifully depicted through a series of 178 colorful murals, dating from the late 18th century.
To this day many of these characters in the story play a huge role in daily Buddhist practices. Here are some of the photos I took of this tale.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned here so far it is that they throw gold on EVERYTHING. It’s the Frank’s Red Hot of Thailand. It serves to add to the beauty of their designs. Throughout my visit I noticed several people working on refurbishing and maintenance of the intricacies of all of the statues and murals. Within 2 hours they had only gotten through about 2 feet of maintenance. There’s so much attention to detail and they don’t waste their efforts (or gold, I take it).
In my subsequent visit to Northern Thailand I learned all about the Golden Triangle. It’s a piece of land that borders Myanmar, Laos and Thailand where they sold giant amounts of opium for gold back in the day.
Silence at The Jade Buddha Temple
No cameras were allowed inside but upon entering the temple of the Jade Buddha I was immediately taken by the same feeling as in Wat Saket. This time however, it was filled with locals and Monks. Silence filled the giant room. For a place so populated with so many people walking in and out, I was in awe at how quiet everything was. Everyone was focused on what seemed like prayer, devotion and respect. I sat there on the floor for a half an hour to take it all in.
After leaving the Jade Temple, I went to another area with seemingly European influenced design. Despite that, the roofs still remained very Southeast Asian.
Unfortunately I ran out of time and had to start heading out. All and all, the Grand Palace was worth every dollar and minute spent there. From the spiritual to the design aspects all the way to the simple admiration for the hard work that the locals put in to keep this complex beautiful and welcoming.