Temple tripping in Bangkok: Inside the Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew

Bangkok
Bangkok is an amazing city to wander around because its bustling districts, colorful tuktuks, towering temples, and delicious food. With its vibrant attractions and people with genuine smiles, it is considered as one of Southeast Asia’s ideal gateway to travelers.
 
Grand Palace
 
I’ve been planning to visit some parts of the Indochina region on my own and the first stop is Thailand. My plan has finally pushed through after coming up with an itinerary a couple of months ago. And so with 6kgs of stuff shoved inside my 40 liter backpack, I got laced up and off I went to the airport for a 6am flight.

Welcome to Bangkok

Waking up from a quick nap by the window seat, the plane landed at the Suvarnabhumi International Airport at passed 8am Bangkok time (-01:00). I groggily headed straight to the train station located at the basement to finally reach the city centre.
 
Bangkok
 
It was not that busy when I reached Phaya Thai Station. The fruit stalls, mini pancakes, and some sweet delicacies welcomed me as I headed down to get a cab.
 
Bangkok
 
Bangkok

To the temples

The familiar scene of vehicles lined up in traffic was no surprise to me. The gridlock was quite manageable and traffic eases up when traffic lights went green. The driver and I started to have a conversation as we went passed some sites that are popular to the locals. He pointed at places while telling their names and functions such as the jockey field, Muay Thai stadium, museums, and monuments. Bangkok
 
Bangkok
 
Bangkok
 
After about 30 minutes, he dropped me off along Maha Rat road where the Grand Palace and the nearby temples are located. I payed the driver 95Baht as per meter and decided to have lunch at a local food stall before journeying on foot.
 
Bangkok
 
Bangkok
 
Since all the main attractions are within a 10-20 minute radius by means of walking, I decided not to hire a tuktuk and go on my own. The weight of the bag was bearable and I just covered my bald head with a bandana as I basked in the hot weather. I also decided to go to the hotel after my day tour since it was just a few minutes away from Wat Pho, and I might fall asleep If I saw how tempting it was to just throw myself into bed.

The Grand Palace

First stop is the Grand Palace complex located in the heart of Bangkok. Built in 1782, the 218,000 square meter palace was built under the order of King Rama I and was the seat of power in Thailand for 150 years.
 
 
Grand Palace
 
Security personnel check bags a few meters before the main gate. Once through, there will be fruit stores, cafes, and souvenir shops that are waiting for you to stop by and buy some stuff as you take a quick rest from the heat and the flock of tourists.
 
Bangkok
 
Grand Palace
 
I walked farther to the ticketing area and paid 500baht! This may be a hefty amount but it already includes full day access inside the complex, an entry to the Abhisek Dusit Throne Hall and Vimanmek Palace.
 
 
It was an overwhelming sight! I didn’t know where to start when I first set foot on the royal grounds but good thing there were arrows which served as guides to tourists. What amazed me was the art murals along the palace walls. 
 
 
It was quite difficult to absorb every small details because of the seemingly endless amounts of subjects and characters painted. Luckily, I was beside a tour guide when he was informing the visitors that the art depicts the complete epic tale of the Ramayana, an Indian poem about the adventures of prince Rama to save his wife Sita from Ravana the demon king.
 
The vast masterpiece has 178 scenes which shows the complete tale of Ramayana. It starts from the North gate and runs in a clockwise direction. The murals flow along the palace walls with gold paintings of temples and warriors. The earthly background of mountains, rivers, and vast lands also add to its archaic tone.
 
Grand Palace
 
I continued towards my next destination within the Grand Palace as I marveled at its unique architecture and intricate carvings. I couldn’t help but be impressed on how these crafts were made centuries ago.

Wat Phra Kaew (Temple of the Emerald Buddha)

Inside the Grand Palace is the majestic Wat Phra Keaw. This is where the famous Emerald Buddha statue is located. This temple is considered as the most revered structure in Thailand because of the iconic image. What’s fascinating about the Emerald Buddha is that it was carved from a slab of jade. According to legends, the statue brings prosperity to each country in which it is located, thus making the people venerate it. The Emerald Buddha is dressed in gold costumes 3 times a year depending on the season. Visitors are also not allowed to take photos inside as a sign of respect.

Grand Palace

Grand Palace

The spires of Wat Phra Kaew are covered in gold materials that reflects sunlight every time you stare at it.

Grand Palace
Grand Palace

The Exterior carvings are so detailed that each figures have different expressions. Each one dressed in colorful plating of stones, glass, and other intricate ornaments.

Grand Palace

The Chapel of the Emerald Buddha or Phra Ubosoth is another structure built by King Rama I. It is the venue of ordination by Buddhist monks and is one of the sacred places inside the Grand Palace.

Jutting away from the corners of the rooftops are Nagas. These are legendary snake-like creatures which are oftentimes mentioned in Buddhist mythology but has roots from early Hinduism. If you get a chance to see more Buddhist temples in Asia, you will notice these ornate figures depicted as protectors of Buddha.

Grand Palace

For each gates of the complex, 12 giant guardians stand tall to protect the place, mostly facing Wat Phra Kaew. They may look scary but the beautifully crafted designs and its colossal stature will make you admire these sentinels.

Grand Palace

Another feature inside the Grand Palace is the belfry. This beautifully crafted structure is hard to miss because of its colorful porcelain mosaics. The original bell tower built by King Rama I during the 18th Century no longer remains. It has been replaced by the current structure during the rule of King Rama IV. 

Chakri Maha Prasat

Grand Palace

Before exiting, people will be lead to one of the grandest structures in the palace called Chakri Maha Prasat. Built by English Architect John Clunich in 1876, this architectural wonder has a fusion of both Western and Thai designs.

Grand Palace

The Grand Palace is just too huge! What I showed was just a portion of this amazing place. I couldn’t believe It was just the first day of my solo backpacking trip and it was already worthwhile. 

It is hard to miss this historical site. Most of the visitors will definitely mention the Grand Palace whenever you’ll ask which place to go to in Bangkok. With its intricate architecture, well-decorated structures and colossal statues that are shrouded by legends, the Grand Palace complex is definitely a must see.

*Sources: Guide to the Grand Palace tourist map available in the ticketing area and several tour guides I spoke with during the trip.   


Dress Code:

There is a strict dress code policy inside the temples:

  • For men: Long pants and sleeved shirts are to be worn. No sleeveless or tank tops allowed.
  • If you’re wearing sandals, you should wear socks as well.
  • For women: See-through clothes and off-shoulder dresses are prohibited.
  • Short shorts are also not allowed.
  • If you dress up as per above, there is a booth in the facade where you can cover up.

How to get there:

  • From Suvarnabhumi Airport, go to the basement where the train station is located. Buy a token (30Baht) and head to Phaya Thai station. You can then get a taxi to drive you to the Grand Palace. (Always check if the driver is using a taxi meter.)
  • If you’re coming from the other side of the city, you can take a boat ride to cross Chao Phraya river for 4 Baht. Take the ones bound to Tha Chank Wang Luang Pier.

Where to stay:

I booked a hotel reservation at the Royal Tha Tien Village. It’s just 5 to 10 minutes away from the temples and is an ideal place to stay when exploring Bangkok. Please contact them or visit www.agoda.com for some good deals:

The Royal Tha Tien Village

Address: 392/1-2 Maharaj Road Pranakorn Pranakorn Bangkok 10200, Thailand
Phone: +66 95 151 5545
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