The final full day in Bangkok was reserved for the most famous attraction – the Grand Palace. A large complex full of impressive stately buildings built with a blend of traditional and European styles, it does live up to its name.
The complex features several temples, pavilions, buildings and a museum. However, when you look at the complex from a distance on the north side, you can’t miss a massive golden dome looming over the walls.
This is the Temple of the Emerald Buddha or Wat Phra Kaew. The Emerald Buddha is a seated Buddha indeed made from green jasper and cloaked in gold. It was actually taken from the Cambodians when Thailand captured Angkor Wat in 1432. However it was made long before that, supposedly having been created in India in 43 BC!
The temple has very beautiful buildings as well, with fine towering domes and spires and exquisite figures and wall decor, as well as the massive gold stupa that can be seen from outside.
Though inside the palace complex, the Temple of the Emerald Buddha is separated from the other palace buildings so you only enter the palace proper after leaving the temple. There are a lot of traditional Thai-style buildings, pavilions and shrines, as well as a large outdoor model of Cambodia’s Angkor Wat, which was occupied by Thailand for a time in the past (this sense of ownership from the Thais over such a famous historical site that is clearly another country’s shocked me a little). The palace was built in the late 18th century but there are also some European-style buildings that were constructed during the 19th century and later.
The centerpiece of the complex is the Chakri Maha Prasat, a large stately hall that combines a European facade with Thai-style roofs. Besides the fact it looks impressive (see the photo at the top of this post), it was surprising to come upon such a large European-style structure, which kind of gives off the effect of suddenly being somewhere in Europe. The open space and landscaped garden in front of it adds to the feeling. As magnificent as it is, it’s too bad tourists cannot go inside. The place is walled off and guarded by stern sentries.
As the royal family doesn’t actually live here anymore (they moved out in 1925 to another palace in Bangkok), the Grand Palace is actually a symbolic site that may sometimes receive foreign dignitaries.
This is one touristy place that is definitely worth enduring the crowds for. The palace is located near the Chao Phraya riverbank and across from Wat Pho.
After leaving the Grand Palace, I took a river-taxi, then transferred to a subway and to a mall, my one and only mall visit in Southeast Asia. Later that evening, I went to check out one of the city’s “notorious” areas which was indeed eye-opening (though not the extreme kind).
And that was it for me in Thailand and Southeast Asia as I left the next day to go back to Taiwan.
Main hall that houses the Emerald Buddha
A kinnara, half-bird, half man figures who are lovers and musicians and are featured in both Buddhism and Hindu mythology. I’d seen this in Cambodia as well.
Large model of Angkor Wat, which is in Cambodia but was occupied by Thailand in the past
Chakri Maha Prasat
Museums, above and below
Exit of the palace