The Bangkok Grand Palace: A Golden Experience of Buddhist Architecture
Home of the Emerald Buddha, The Bangkok Grand Palace
Travel prep in Thailand is going to include one heck of a bucket list. Somewhere near the top will have to be The Grand Palace in Bangkok. There are thousands of temples in Bangkok, but this one glistens like gold at the top of every backpacker’s bucket list. A golden opportunity not to be avoided, even though it does have its downsides. Our guide to visiting The Grand Palace will prep you for everything so you can concentrate on its beauty!
Visiting the Grand Palace is a sensory experience. The place is jammed packed full of tourists. At certain times of the day, some of the main areas feel very stuffy (even claustrophobic). It’s all worth it though – the architecture, the paintings, the GOLD is mind blowing. There is so much gold everywhere. Golden Statues glistening in the glare of the Bangkok’s summer sun. Golden stupas rise upwards contrasting with the blue skies above.
An architectural wonder. King Rama I began construction on The Grand Palace in the late 19th century. The Thai royal family lived there until 1925. Although it is used ceremonially from time to time, it is now one of Thailand’s most popular tourist destinations.
What to See
The monumental compound covers over 200,000 sqm. divided into Inner, Middle and Outer Court. Wandering through the courts, you will find courtyards, temples and pavilions looking out onto open lawns. Make use of the guide maps as well as the staff. They’ll be happy to show you in the right direction. Whether you are headed towards the infamous Temple of the Emerald Buddha or any of the other wats.
Enclosed inside Phra Ubosot (The Chapel of The Emerald Buddha), a jade figurine of the Buddha is sat meditating. Carved from a single piece of stone, the king of Thailand visits the buddha three times a year. He dresses him in seasonal costumes: one for the hot season, one for the rainy season, and one for the cool season.
Situated on the terrace outside the chapel, the spires of Phra Siratana Chedi and Phra Mondop contrast each other. The former with gilt mirrored tiles; the latter with amazing carvings. Finely hewn, intricate elements are covered in gold.
Positioned around the courtyard, six terrifying yakshas. These demon statues guard the chapel of the Emerald Buddha. Hardly surprising there’s onsite security, the entire complex is a sea of not only colour but also gold. Everywhere you look, surfaces are gilded.
Tips for Visiting the Bangkok Grand Palace
Visiting the Grand Palace is a big commitment. Time, money and effort. It is worth getting to the complex early as it fills up quickly with tours after 09:00am. This is the time to discover some of the less-known buildings and gardens.
If you plan on staying all day, make sure you are prepared. Bring water to stay hydrated. Wear a hat or even get yourself a parasol to keep the heat of the day off.
Fortunately, the dress code has nothing to say about hats but the rest is pretty strict. The Grand Palace is not only a place of Buddhist worship, it is also a royal palace. As one of the most important buildings in Thailand, be respectful. Dress appropriately and you won’t miss one of the most beautiful sights of Thailand:
- Shorts, skirts above the knee, tight trousers and tights
- Any item of clothing that has any transparency to it
- Sleeveless tops of any kind
- Flip flops – they must have heel straps
- Sleeves rolled up on shirts
- Pyjamas, sweats, ponchos, fisherman trousers
How to Get to the Grand Palace
With numerous possibilities, access to the Grand Palace is fairly easy. The best options are:
- BTS and Boat – jump on the skytrain to Saphan Taksin then take the Chao Phraya River Express boat to the Maharaj Pier. It’s only a short walk to the entrance but walk straight past the “guides” and touts.
- Taxi – although it is the quickest and most convenient mode of transport, ask the driver to put on the meter. You don’t want to get a surprise at the end of your trip. Also, who needs to be taken to an “even more beautiful temple” after you’ve been to Wat Phra Kaew.
The current entrance fee is 500 baht. That’s why it’s the only major temple in Bangkok not included on our Bangkok Walking Tour. We’re in the area anyways though so the choice is yours. Be sure to ask our staff or check their official website for up to date information: https://www.royalgrandpalace.th/en/home
The official opening times of The Grand Palace is 8:30am to 15:30am every day. Don’t fall for that old tourist trap. The Grand Palace is rarely closed whatever all the local tuk-tuk drivers might be telling you. Admittedly, it did close for the King’s funeral a couple of years ago but that was BIG news.