When it comes to tourism destinations in Thailand, few rival the magnificence of the Grand Palace in Bangkok. Established in 1782, the Palace complex covers an area of 218,000 square metres and is one of the most visited attractions in all of Thailand. The palace was constructed after King Rama I ascended to the throne, the first ruler of the Chakri Dynasty, and stands at the historical centre of Bangkok. If you’re planning a trip to Thailand, a visit to the Grand Palace should be at the top of your list of priorities, and here are three reasons why.
From the pristinely manicured gardens surrounding the main complex, to the breath-taking architecture of the many stunning structures that exist at the site, you will marvel in awe at the magnificence of the Palace and surrounding areas. The various colours that make up the buildings help the Palace appear otherworldly, and you can really appreciate the opulence of past Thai civilizations during the time you spend at the complex.
In the present day, the Palace is used for hosting royal ceremonies and welcoming important foreign dignitaries to the country. The Palace is actually split into two zones: The Royal Residence and the Temple of the Emerald Buddha. The former is now the location of several Thai state offices including the Bureau of the Royal Household, and the Office of the Royal Institute. So, as well as being an impressive tourist destination, the Palace complex is also serves a significant function to the Thai government today.
Arguably the standout attraction at the Grand Palace complex is the Emerald Buddha. The Palace serves as Thailand’s most cherished Buddhist point of interest, and the Emerald Buddha sits at the centre of the complex. The statue of the Buddha is seated in the lotus position and is made of jasper, a semi-precious green stone. It is adorned in a cloak of gold which is changed each season by the King of Thailand in a ceremony at the palace known as the changing of the seasons. Although diminutive at only 26 inches tall, the Emerald Buddha is one of the most significant religious artefacts in the whole of Thailand.
Perhaps the most important thing to consider before visiting the Grand Palace is that you should wear appropriate clothing. Afterall, the Grand Palace is a sacred Thai temple, so immodest and inappropriate dress is likely to cause offence. You should wear long sleeved tops and bottoms, or a long dress or sarong that covers your legs. You also must adhere to the rules about removing your shoes before entering particular sections of the attraction. Failing to do so will result in your ejection and possibly even a fine, so be careful and ensure you follow all the rules as they are listed.
By the same accord, you are prohibited from taking photographs inside the Palace, with or without the flash. You might think this is unfair and you may want some keepsakes of your trip to such a famous attraction, but you should respect the rules and don’t be tempted to break them. Instead, buy a souvenir from the gift shop and take a snap outside the Palace complex. That way you have a memento of your trip and you have respected the rules and customs of the Palace.
You can also make the most of your trip by arriving at the Grand Palace in time to join one of the free guided tours of the complex. They are delivered in English from 10 am in the morning and 2 pm in the afternoon. It’s best to check the website in advance in case the times have changed, but you don’t normally need to book ahead. If you’d rather tour the Palace at your own pace but would like some additional information about what you’re looking at, you can hire audio guides in various languages for a small fee. These really add to the experience and provide you with lots of information about many of the things you are likely to miss if you just walk around alone, without any specific information.
One final tip is that you can purchase your tickets in advance, if you don’t fancy waiting in long queues outside the venue. It’s also a good idea to try and plan your visit early in the morning, as you can avoid the large tour groups and also the relentless midday heat of Bangkok! If you are buying in advance, make sure you buy directly from the Palace website, and don’t use third party sites, as many of these charge additional fees and some are even fake sites just looking for your money.
As you would imagine, everyone in Bangkok knows where the Grand Palace is, so if you’re looking for directions when you’re in the city, just ask a local and they will be sure to point you in the right direction. If you’re planning to travel by pulic means, take the BTS Skytrain to Saphan Takin Station, before disembarking. You should then take an express boat across the river to Tha Chang Wang Luang Pier, from where you can walk to the entrance. For a quicker journey, hop in a licenced taxi or arrange an Uber, either of which can drop you right outside the front entrance.
Regardless of what is on your itinerary for your upcoming trip to Bangkok, make sure you include a trip to the stunning Grand Palace. By enjoying the rich history and marvelling at the beauty of the complex, you will gain a wonderful insight into Thai culture and heritage, and it’s a tourist destination not to be missed.
Directions: Pier Tha Chang
Address: Na Phra Lan Rd, Phra Borom Maha Ratchawang, Phra Nakhon, Bangkok 10200, Thailand
Opening hours: 8:30 - 15:30
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