Bangkok’s Grand Palace is the granddaddy of many attractions in Thailand’s capital. The sprawling complex is home to ornate structures that speak to the grandeur of Thai architectural tradition and history. Built in 1782, the palace was commissioned by the then King Rama I, who founded the Chakri dynasty in Thailand. It is also known as the home of the Jade Buddha – of de Smaragd-buddha.
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Over the centuries since the construction of the hotel, the palace gardens have been well maintained and great care has been taken to preserve and restore the palace’s grandeur. murals. While the entrance fee (500 baht) is a bit steeper than most tourist attractions in this country, it’s worth experiencing a piece of Thailand’s royal history firsthand.
Opening hours: daily from 08:30 to 15:30
Admission: 500 baht; additional 100 baht for audio guides (available in English, French, German, Spanish, Mandarin, Russian and Japanese)
Locatie: Na Phra Lan Road, Phra Borom Maha Ratchawang, Phra Nakhon
Official Site: https://www.palaces.thai.net/
Things to see in the Grand Palace
Wat Phra Kaeo / Temple of the Emerald Buddha
Wat Phra Kaeo / Temple of the Emerald Buddha
In stark contrast to the temple’s spiritual nature and traditionally elegant Thai architecture, this sacred site is guarded by two imposing demon figures. These statues, gifts from Chinese merchants, stand as sentinels at the gateway to the magnificent temple. Those brave enough to go past the demons are treated to a series of murals telling the story of “Ramakien” and a commentary by King Rama V written on marble slabs nearby. The gold-tiled chedi, known as Phra Si Ratana, contains a relic that (according to tradition) is a bone or hair of the enlightened Buddha.
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Inside the bot, the small but beautiful statue of the Buddha, less than a meter high, rests on a long plinth under a nine-tiered canopy. According to tradition, the nephritic figure was carved at Pataliputra in India, although other sources claim it is from Burma and the work of an unknown artist. It first came to light in 1434 in Chiang Rai, northern Thailand, arriving there via Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) and Cambodia. At the time of its discovery, the statue was encased in plaster. In transit, the casing was damaged and split open, exposing the nephritic figure. The Buddha traveled a long way to end up in Bangkok in 1778, where it has been kept ever since. Three times a year, the king changes the Buddha’s robes in a special ceremony to mark the beginning of a new season.
Behind Phra Sri Ratana is Phra Mondhop, a building spaciously decorated with small glass mosaics. This building contains the “Tripitaka” (triple basket) – the holy scriptures. The scriptures sit on a black lacquered bookcase inlaid with mother of pearl and the floor of the mondhop is made of pure silver.
Phra Viharn Yot
Phra Viharn Yot has the distinction of housing the oldest of all the treasures in the sacred precinct: a stone that served as a throne for Ramkhamhaeng, the 13th c founder of Thailand. King Mongkut (Rama IV) unveiled the throne, during his years of wandering as a monk, and it was he who brought it to Bangkok.
Prasat Phra Debidorn
The Prasat Phra Debidorn building is also known as the Pantheon. The interior contains life-sized statues of the first eight kings of the Chakri dynasty (the current monarch, King Bhumibol, is the ninth member of this dynastic line). But good luck catching a glimpse of the kings – the interior is only open to the general public one day a year, Chakri-dag (6 april).
If you can’t make it to the real Angkor Wat, you can at least see a version of it at the Grand Palace. Granted, it’s not as impressive as the real thing, but the stone model does provide an interesting history lesson and a glimpse of the landmark as planned. The model dates back to the reign of Rama IV, when what is now Cambodia was a vassal state of Siam.
Boromabiman Hall is the official name for the building that overlooks the lawns where the king’s annual garden party was held. Frescoes inside depict the four Indian gods (Indra, Yahuma, Varuna and Agni) as guardians of the universe. On the underlying plates are the ten royal virtues: generosity, propriety, willingness to make sacrifices, mildness, modesty, conscientiousness, freedom from anger, freedom from suspicion, patience and legal action.
Since the time of Rama VI, all the crown princes including King Bhumibol grew up here. Today the building is only used sporadically, usually to receive visiting heads of state or high-ranking Buddhist dignitaries.
The Great Chakri Palace
Although it is no longer the royal residence (the current king lives in the Chitralada Residence), the Great Chakri Palace is still something special to behold. It was originally designed by an English architect in the Italian Renaissance style, but King Rama V ordered it to be embellished with typical Siamese stepped roofs and mondhops. Yet the design is clearly out of place compared to the other buildings, although it harmonizes with the environment when seen through the air. In addition to the richness of their interiors, all the rooms in the palace are treasure houses with valuable paintings and portraits of every Thai king.
This is the “High Residence” – essentially a throne room where King Rama I once received tribute. The hall is still used today, often in ceremonies with heads of state or for the jubilee of the current coronation of the king. You will see a colonnade in front of the building, where royal proclamations used to be read. Note the red and gold stakes where elephants were once tied.
Smother Maha Prasat
The internal great hall of this building, which is open to visitors, was originally the Audience Chamber of Rama I. Here the king received his guests, seated, not on today’s great throne, but higher up on a niche-like throne in the south wing wall. The murals were painted in a later period when the room was used for deceased in-state monarchs. However, the richly decorated sofa and a number of other individual pieces of furniture date from the time of Rama I.
Amphorn Phimok Prasat
Exiting the Dusit Maha Prasat, the delicate wooden pavilion in front is the Amforn Phimok Prasat, which Rama I uses as a chamber for persuasion. Having “advanced” here in his nest, the king would change before entering the audience hall. Curtains intertwined with gold thread would be drawn as the king donned his ceremonial robes.
Where to stay near Bangkok’s Grand Palace
We recommend these great hotels with easy access to the magnificent Grand Palace in Bangkok:
- The Siam: 5-star luxury, private butlers, stunning riverside lap pool, cooking school, private boat transfers.
- Riva Surya Bangkok: mediocre riverside resort, comfortable beds, nice pool overlooking the river, well-equipped gym.
- Phranakorn-Nornlen Hotel: affordable guesthouse, rooftop restaurant, great breakfast, eclectic decor.
- Villa Phra Sumen Bangkok: budget prices, free Grand Palace shuttle by tuk-tuk, stylish rooms, friendly staff.
Tips and tactics:
- Getting in: Visitors can enter the palace through the Wiseedtschairi Gate (“Gate of Wonderful Victory”), behind which a broad roadway passes through the outer courtyard. On either side are modern government buildings. The ticket office is located at the beginning of the roadway leading to the palace district proper. You pass a building Museum of Royal Regalia and Coins once you are inside, but be aware that there is an additional cost to enter that museum. The standard entry ticket includes entry to Wat Phra Kaeo, the Royal Thai Decorations & Coins Pavilion and the Queen Sirikit Museum of Textile, as well as the Vimanmek Mansion Museum on Ratchawithi Road.
- Wear the right way. As is the case in any temple or palace, visitors are expected to dress modestly. For women, this means covering the shoulders and something that covers a good portion of the leg (you can get away with tank tops and short shorts on Khao San Rd, but not here). For men, a T-shirt and pants are suitable. Flip flops, see-through clothing, sweat and the baggy fisherman’s pants popular among backpackers in Thailand are not allowed. Those whose attire is deemed inappropriate will be given a sarong to wear, but you may be asked to hand over some ID (such as a passport) for security.
- Watch out for scams. Since the Grand Palace is a major tourist attraction, it also attracts scammers like bees to honey. If someone approaches you and says the palace is closed or she’s pulling you in again, politely shake your head and keep walking. No matter how sweet a package they offer, chances are you’re about to get duped, have fun. Only buy tickets from the official ticket office, not from “guides” on the street.