In the tradition of stream of consciousness writers such as Virginia Woolf, Jack Kerouac, and Henry Miller, I am going to leap forward to recount my visit to the Grand Palace which actually took place after the SpiceRoads Bangkok to Phuket tour had ended. My plan had been to write about the Tsunami Memorial we visited at Baan Nam Kem. This area suffered a disproportionate number of deaths when the tsunami hit in 2004. The Memorial wall includes the names of some of the 3,500 Thais and foreigners who lost their lives on that December 26th morning. I am not emotionally ready for that so let’s visit the Grand Palace in Bangkok.
The Grand Palace complex started in 1782 and now includes some eight groups of buildings within the Palace walls. The buildings include the royal residence, throne halls, government offices, and the Royal Monastery of the Emerald Buddha. The Emerald Buddha is the most sacred Buddhist wat in Thailand. The Emerald Buddha, which was carved from a single block of jade, housed in the temple is the protective image of Thai society. Please keep this in mind as you walk around. Marvel at this incredible building and jade Buddha but do so in a low voice.
For Thais, I assume the Palace buildings are consistent with their mental image of a royal palace. For Westerns who are unfamiliar with Thai architecture, the complex looks like something out of an Asian fairy tale or a Hollywood film. The gold and gold finishes, the mosaics, the use of small mirrors and colored glass in mosaics which reflect the light, the heroic murals, statues of gods and beasts, and the range of architectural styles (Old Bangkok, Thai, India, and Sri Lankan among others) is a visual delight. European royal palaces will seem plain, even boring, to me now.
Rather than attempt to describe to you what really must be seen to be appreciated, I will leave you will some photos from my visit to enjoy while you book your flights. Once in Bangkok, you can reach the Grand Palace by Sky Train and bus. Last, the Palace has a dress code, which is strictly followed. Men must wear long pants, sleeved shirts and shoes; women must wear long skirts. If needed you may rent appropriate clothing items before the ticket area. Remove your shoes before entering the temple, as a sign of respect for the Buddha. If offering prayers before the Buddha image, your sitting posture should avoid any stretching of the feet towards the deity; the feet should be tucked in towards the back. Enjoy the photos.