The Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew (Emerald Buddha Temple)
The Grand Palace is Bangkok’s most famous landmark, and the Temple of The Emerald Buddha (Wat Phra Kaew) is Thailand’s most important Buddhist temple.
Even the most jaded visitor will be left stunned by the sheer brilliance of these buildings. And, since both the Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew lie within the grounds of the Palace compound, it makes sense to see them together.
Consider visiting the complex early morning, when the sunlight illuminates the buildings at their dazzling best. You will need to keep aside 2-3 hours for the Grand Palace complex.
This half-day Grand Palace and temple tour is a great option if you prefer a pre-arranged trip.
The only entrance (and exit) to the complex is the Gate of Glorious Victory, in the middle of the North side. This brings you onto a driveway. The temple’s glistering spires are on your left and on your right are offices of the Royal Household. Turn left at the end of the driveway for the ticket office.
Visiting Hours for The Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew:
8:30 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.
Entry Fee for The Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew:
500 Baht ($15)
Dress Code: Dress conservatively – no vests, shorts, short skirts, or see through clothes. Remember that you are visiting a temple and a palace.
(Clothes can be rented as well, but you will have to pay a deposit and probably stand in a long queue).
Getting to The Grand Palace:
Since The Grand Palace is on the banks of the Chao Phraya River, you should consider getting there by boat.
BTS & boat: Take the Silom Line to Saphan Taksin Station (S-6 Station). Then take exit No – 2 and go to Chao Phraya Express Boat Dock. Boats take different routes so remember to get off at Ta Chang Pier 9. From there, a 5-min walk will get you to the entrance of the Grand Palace.
Longtail Boat: You can also take a private longtail boat from the River City Shopping Complex Pier or other spots along the river.
Other options: The usual options of taxi and tuk-tuk are available as well.
(Do not believe touts who say that the Grand Palace is closed (and that they can take you elsewhere). It most likely won’t be. This is a scam. More Thailand Scams).
The Grand Palace
The Grand Palace of Bangkok is grand – very, very grand! Possibly the finest example of Thai architecture, it is the former residence of Thai royals and the centre from where Thailand was ruled.
The Grand Palace in its present form is the amalgamation of architectural styles of the Far East and Europe. Though no longer the home of the King, it is still used for state ceremonies.
Not much of The Grand Palace is open to tourists, but it still well worth a visit if you have a few days in Bangkok.
The main attractions of the Palace are:
Chakri Maha Prasat (Grand Palace Hall)
The triple-winged Chakri Maha Prasat is the largest and most famous of the palace buildings. Rama V, whose portrait is at the entrance, employed a British architect to design this quaintly impressive building.
While its roof and embellishments are very Thai architectural in style, the lower portions and verandas are distinctly western. The top floor has urns containing the ashes of earlier kings and there is a weapon museum on the ground floor. The hall’s overall impression is tasteful and unique.
Built in 1903, the Boromphiman Hall served as a residence for Rama IV. While the façade and exterior are French in style, the interior is totally Thai. This elegant building currently serves as a guesthouse for VIP foreigners.
Amarin Winitchai Throne Hall
The Amarindra Hall was constructed to serve as a royal audience chamber for receiving foreign dignitaries and conducting important ceremonies. The ornate golden boat-shaped throne is the hall’s major attraction.
Dusit Maha Prasat
Built by Rama I, Dusit Maha Prasat epitomises traditional Thai architecture. Its three level – red, green and golden – roof culminates in a spire shaped like the king’s crown, symbolising the 33 Buddhist levels of perfection. The Dusit Maha Prasat housed the residences and gardens of the relatives of the royal family. It later served as a royal funerary hall.
If you are history buff you must consider visiting Ayutthaya’s ruins. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is well worth a day trip from Bangkok.
Wat Phra Kaew (Temple of The Emerald Buddha)
Built as the royal chapel of the Grand Palace, the Temple of The Emerald Buddha occupies the Northeast corner of the Grand Place complex. In it rests the famous Phra Kaew Morakot, also known as The Emerald Buddha.
The temple is a striking combination of exquisitely graceful style and colour. Its construction began in 1782 by King Rama I to be a fitting-resting place for the Emerald Buddha.
As you approach the Temple, your eyes will be drawn to the elegant, slightly curved sloping roof of orange and green tiles. Moving lower is the outer veranda that is covered with beautiful gold inlay work, brilliantly offset by a dark background.
The perfect flagstone, extravagant roof, and interior walls with depictions of stages of the Buddha’s life will leave you mesmerised. The outer wall of the temple has scenes from the Indian epic, the Ramayana.
As you approach the Bot, you are confronted by 20 feet tall Yakshas – demons from the Ramayana, who guard the Emerald Buddha.
Dating from the 15th century AD, The Emerald Buddha is a Buddha image in a meditating position. At just over two feet tall, the statue is carved from a single block of green jade (not emerald, as one would conclude from its name).
The mystique of the Emerald Buddha not only draws Buddhists from over the world and pilgrims from all over Thailand, but even politicians accused of corruption come here to publically swear their innocence.
Interestingly, the statue is clothed in dresses appropriate to the season of the year. The Thai King changes the statues clothes three times a year in an elaborate ceremony.
Please remember to act with respect. Remember to point your feet away from the Buddha.
Bangkok is known for its beautiful temples. These are the three most famous Buddhist temples in Bangkok.
Other attractions in the Grand Palace Complex
The fairy-tale like Grand Palace 250 acre complex comprises several other buildings and beautiful gardens.
The Phra Si Rattana Chedi is an elegant Sri Lankan style building. A monument of bright gold colour, it is believed to contain a fragment of The Buddha’s breastbone.
The Phra Mondop has a collection of Buddhist scriptures and the adjacent Prasat Phra Thep Bidon contains stone representations of past Thai kings. Ho Phra Nak was built to house the Phra Nak Buddha image.
Nearby is a representative model of the Angkor Wat. In the same area is the prayer hall, the Royal Mausoleum and Ho Phra Montien Tham Library.
The National Museum has a fine assemblage of items from this part of the world. The impressive Buddha Sawan Chapel has a splendid collection of murals and highly revered image of the Buddha.
More about having a great Bangkok trip.