Visiting to the Grand Palace and the Temple of the Emerald Buddha

Ok so here I am at the entry point to the Grand Palace complex in Bangkok, Thailand. This was not my intended destination (HERE’s the post explaining how I got here) but since I’m here I reluctantly went in. I made my way through the crowds and found the ticket booths, paid my $500 Baht entrance fee and proceeded in. As you make your way through the gate, you’ll notice military guards/security in white uniforms, if you see these guys, you know you’re at the Grand Palace. Across the street there are armed military/security guards as well but those guys are dressed in green uniforms and guarding the Ministry of Defense compound. The palace guards are also there to help enforce the dress code policy as well. If you’re prohibited from entering due to your garments (foot wear included) then you can just go across the street where there are a bunch of shops selling clothes, food, souvenirs etc.

The knowledge I had of this “must see tourist stop” was limited to it being a palace with a wat on the grounds in which the revered Emerald Buddha is housed. It is also fairly close to my original destination, Wat Pho. Anyways, what I had wished I had known prior to coming here was:

1) The size of the complex because it is HUGE and I would have needed the whole day here (keep in mind that I linger and take lots of photos and the buildings are that that close together)
2) The ticket actually includes entrance to “Arts of the Kingdom” museum AND a performance entitled “Thai Masked Dance” ( available Mon. to Fri.)
3) Different buildings have different closing times so plan accordingly.

It was on my way out, literally at the exit, when I saw the sign for the traditional dance show. I looked at my ticket and that’s when I noticed the peel off portions for entrance to the show AND a museum. I couldn’t find any signage on where to go or wait (for a bus/shuttle) to get to the show and then I remember passing a museum while rushing around within the Grand Palace portion of the complex, so I opted to check that out, since I didn’t have time to catch the show anyways. When I made my way back to that museum (Queen Sirikit Museum of Textiles), it was closed but just as well, because that’s not the Museum for which the ticket was for.

Between the entrance to attractions and the ticket booths there are a lot of locals offering their “guide” services. I declined without asking how much their services were because as usual, I was in a rush and besides, I had a free map from the ticket booth, how hard could it be right? Well, in hindsight, if I had more time and the price was agreeable, I wouldn’t have minded a “guide” because I overheard some partial stories and details from some of the guides that sounded pretty interesting plus I didn’t notice any signage anywhere inside making it hard to get a bearing and read the map.

Just a few steps in from the ticket gantry, I found myself within the grounds of Wat Phra Kaew (Temple of the Emerald Buddha). Awesome, I love historic, religious places! The only building that you can actually enter is the ubusot in which the Emerald Buddha is displayed. The Emerald Buddha Statue is said to be centuries old and legend has it, was found covered in plaster or stucco of some sort, after a lightning strike on a Chedi in Chiang Rai. It was only after the attending abbot noticed the flaking off of the plaster that the statue was made from an entirely different substance. Although it’s called the Emerald Buddha, it’s not an emerald but green like one. It’s actually jade. The attire of the Emerald Buddha is changed by the King of Thailand (or anotther relative in his stead) when the season changes, in a special ceremony. The Emerald Buddha has quite an interesting history if you’re into this sort of stuff.

Aside from the main attraction (being the Emerald Buddha statue}, I found the murals on the outer walls on some of the buildings really spectacular as was the scale model of Angkor Wat. All the structures on the premises are, as you would expect, intricately decorated in the Thai Buddhism art style and in great condition. Despite the mobs of people, the premises is really clean, you wouldn’t think twice about the cleanliness of the floor before taking off your shoes to enter the ubusot to view the Emerald Buddha. The premises, buildings and artwork are so well taken care of and upkept (renovated, rebuilt etc), you’d probably never guess that original construction began centuries ago.

After checking out Wat Phra Kaew, I managed to find a “History of the Grand Palace” Museum which was free to enter. I found it really interesting to see some of the original pieces of architecture used throughout the years as well as photos and other objects that have been saved. If it wasn’t for the rain, I may have rushed right by, lol.

The Grand Palace and the surrounding architecture looked, well, grand! Very nice to look at even in the rain. The military guards looked professional and imposing which I think added to the ambience. I didn’t get around to exploring this area much because out of the blue, there was a loud thunder clap followed by immediate screaming because (just behind me) it started to rain, HARD! Before I could stop laughing at the hordes of people scrambling for shelter (there wasn’t any close by) to get out my umbrella, I got caught in the rain too. It was shockingly quick!

Although I was kinda bitter at the start of this excursion because the Grand Palace/Wat Phra Kaew was not where I wanted to go. Plus the $500 Baht entrance fee I felt was a bit steep compared to all the other places I’ve visited but after I was done in the complex, I didn’t feel bitter at all, only regret that I didn’t have more time to properly see it all. The live show and the museum would just be a bonus. I don’t know if the museum or show is any good but I’m willing to bet they are, but that’s just me, I love history and cultural stuff.

Some things to note, photography is allowed within the complex but not inside Wat Phra Kaew. Smoking and consumption of alcohol is not only prohibited within the complex but also on the street surrounding the complex (at least that’s how I understand it). There are signs here and there but not all over the place. So be warned if you’re a smoker. Dress code is more strictly enforced here than anywhere else I’ve been to.

 

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My accidental visit to the Grand Palace complex and the surrounding vicinity.

Although I would like to tell you the most efficient and inexpensive way to get to Wat Pho, Grand Palace etc. I can’t. Due to my time constraints as well as there being no BTS station close enough (the closest, on the same side of the river, being Sanam Chai) to walk from I chose to take a Grab taxi. As usual nothing goes exactly as planned (well for me anyways), my plan was to get a Grab taxi to and from Wat Pho, piece of cake, right? I managed to get a Grab taxi pretty easily and quickly from where I was staying (near On Nut BTS) at a cost of $271 Baht which is an acceptable fare if I had been dropped at the correct location.

The journey towards the Grand Palace was relatively quick traffic wise but that all changed when you get close, specifically around the the large oval field. The sight of things was both spectacular and scary. The streets became “managed” as in funneled and directed by gates, barriers and security check posts. Starting from the huge parking lot of tour buses and fences to herd, I mean, direct people in an orderly fashion towards the Grand Palace which is a good 15 minute, mostly uncovered, walk without any crowds.

Having gotten through the traffic choke points, my Grab driver indicated we had arrived so I paid and got out in front of the Ministry of Defense building. If you’re interested in a vast display of cannons, you’ll enjoy the view here. On the opposite side of the road was a wall and behind it I can see the roofs of wat styled buildings. I had a choice go left or right. Since I saw the majority of people going right plus the Grab driver should have dropped me at the closest entry point to my destination (Wat Pho), following the crowd was the correct choice. Well, it turned out it wasn’t (going left would have taken me to Wat Pho). After about a 15 minute walk back from the direction I came including wait time (I had to get into the line that I had passed while in the taxi) I got to the entrance gate. It was here that I realized (after seeing the guards in full military uniform) that I was about to enter the Grand Palace Complex. What else could I do? I was already there, so I went to the ticket counter and paid my entrance fee of $500 Baht and proceeded in. The details of which I’ll put in a separate post.

Oh, unlike the soldiers in front of the Ministry of Defense building, the soldiers at and around the Grand Palace don’t appreciate, like or permit their picture being taken. If you ask they will say, “NO” if you don’t ask and get caught, they will just yell, “NO PHOTOS” at you. I decided not to press my luck so I stopped.

After the Grand Palace, whilst walking around the complex, looking for Wat Pho, I was able to find 2 ferry boarding points, to take you to Wat Arun, (which is another top 5 spot to visit in Bangkok) amongst other places and a historic river side, dried seafood market. Although it was quite interesting to see, the aroma was a bit too strong for my liking and coupled with the fact that I still needed to find Wat Pho, I didn’t explore it. Eventually, I managed to find and enter Wat Pho, but I didn’t find the amulet market. I wish I had more time or had properly planned to visit this area but as luck would have it I didn’t and plus it was raining hard which limited exploration and photo taking. If I had to do it all over again, I definitely would plan a whole day in this area.

Here’s some tidbits of info. Due to the size of the complexes, it could be a long walk between destinations. I didn’t notice many taxis or tuk tuks around but there were a few here and there at the areas with shops around, like the ferry access points. Be wary of the tuk tuks as they will try to tell you of places they think you should go and will probably take you there even if you say, “no.” There aren’t many people walking around this area at night and it’s not that well lit in most places. I’m not sure why, but Grab taxi in Bangkok is not as convenient or efficient as Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai or even Singapore. It took me an hour to get into the 4th Grab Taxi I booked as the first three cancelled. Maybe it’s just my luck or lack of it but it would be less stressful for you if have an exit plan.

Consider following me for updates and to find not only my other travel bloopers, blunders and shenanigans but also photography related news/reviews and the occasional contest entry.

All the photos (unless otherwise noted in the post) were taken by me and are available for sale. If you’re interested in buying an image or three, 😃 please don’t hesitate to contact me for more details. Thanks in advance!

Comments & Critiques are always welcome, as are upvotes and resteems.

Thanks for viewing and best wishes!

PS. If you want to check out my other ‘works’, you can find them here:

Portfolio
Blog
Fine Art