Published On: Mon, Jul 23rd, 2018

The Grand Palace, Bangkok

Bangkok’s Wats (temples) are what the world thinks of as typically Siamese – pagoda shaped, exotic, lavishly covered in gold, and backed by the sound of ever tinkling of wind-chimes.

The Grand Palace, Bangkok

Wat Pra Kaeo and the Grand Palace

Wat Pra Kaeo and the Grand Palace are Bangkok’s most popular cultural attractions sharing some 945,000 square metres of common ground and surrounded by walls. Built as a Palace in 1783 by King Rama I, it is one of Bangkok’s most exotic complexes and consists of several gilded structures. It is no longer used as a royal residence but still functions in a variety of other ways.

The complex is very easy to negotiate and can be done with just the help of a guidebook. If you decide to go it alone, however, the nicest way to get to the Palace is by the Chao Phraya River Express Boat (about 12 Baht.) which you can pick up at various Piers on the river bank, or you can hire a long-tail boat (barter for between 200-300 Baht.) from the jetty by the Shangri-La and Oriental Hotels.

There are numerous buildings, constructed in several architectural styles to reflect the desires of the monarchs who created them. The largest of the buildings, known as Chakri Maha Prasat, was designed by British architect John Clunish in 1882, but is topped with Thai style spires below which are buried the ashes of several Thai royals.

With their green and red tiles hugging the pagoda shaped roofs and mythical beasts guarding the entrance, they present a welcoming aspect. Inside are audience halls, thrones of mother-of-pear and gold leaf, a coronation hall complete with coronation chair, and reception chambers holding the regalia of kingship. There are also some fine murals depicting the life-story of the Buddha, and on the panels of the doors exquisite inlaid work in mother-of-pearl depicts episodes from the Ramakien, the Thai version of the Indian epic Ramayana.

Foreign envoys are nowadays received in The Cakri group of buildings which houses a central throne-hall decorated with canvasses of diplomatic receptions, including one of Queen Victoria of England and one of the Emperor Napolean III.

Temple of the Emerald Buddha

The “must-see”in the Grand Palace is the Temple of the Emerald Buddha the Assembly Hall of which serves as the monarch’s private chapel. This “Emerald” Buddha is in actual fact jade, surprisingly quite small at only 75 cm., but culturally it is very significant. The origins of this much travelled piece of statuary are a mystery, but it is known that it originally came from Chiang Rai and that it was returned to Thailand from Laos in 1778 by General Chao Phraya Chakri, who later became King Rama I.

Outside, in the grounds of the Grand Palace, are larger than life-size ceramic and stone mythological beasts, dragons and other fierce guardians of the place, plus models of the “white” variety of elephants which belong to the king.

How to Dress when Visiting the Temples

Care must be taken to dress appropriately as the temples play an important part in Buddhist traditions and people are likely to be visiting to pray. Monks also live in the temple complex. Shorts, sleeveless shirts and shoes without toes and heels are not permitted. When entering the sanctuary, shoes must be removed and left at the door.

The best time to visit most temples is early in the morning when it is cooler. Open daily from 08:30-15:30, the admission fee to the compound is 200 baht.

About the Author

- Paul Linus is an eminent online journalist who has been writing news, features and editorials on different websites from across the world for about a decade. He can be contacted at knowledgeherald@gmail.com

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