Thailand · Travel Tales

The Grand Palace and the Temple of the Emerald Buddha

Day 2 of my Thailand trip took me to the three most famous sites here in the old city — Wat Phra Kaew (the Grand Palace) and the Temple of the Emerald Buddha; Wat Pho, which houses the giant Reclining Buddha; and Wat Arun, the Temple of Dawn.

How to get to Wat Phra Kaew from the Khao San area
  1. Wake up early to avoid the crowds, i.e. the tourist groups that talk really loudly in the museums — so loudly that you aren’t sure if they’re angry with you or not.
  2. Wear decent clothing — long pants or skirt, shirt with sleeves, shoes or sandals with heel straps.
  3. Take Soi Rambuttri, going northwest. (Eat breakfast somewhere along the way.) You should get to Soi Chana Songkhram that opens to Phra Athit Road. Cross the street, then turn right. You should find the Phra Athit Pier (station 13) after a bit of walking.
  4. Take the Chao Phraya Express Boat (15 baht). Let the breeze dry your now-soaked clothes. Observe the murky water. Get off at Tha Chang (station 9).
  5. Walk along the stalls till you see what looks like a blindingly white fortress. Just cross the street and go straight. This will bring you to the west (main) entrance of the Grand Palace.
The Rama VIII Bridge across Chao Phraya
The Rama VIII Bridge across Chao Phraya

The Grand Palace was…well, grand. My reaction at first was different variations of “You have GOT to be kidding me.” I’ll let the pictures do the talking in the meantime:

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This made me giddy — it’s a scale model of Angkor Wat!
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The Temple of the Emerald Buddha

The revered Buddha here isn’t exactly “emerald” but is made of jade. There’s an interesting tidbit about its history, wherein a monk discovered this Buddha image in plaster, but was actually made of green stone underneath the layer of plaster. The monk thought it was made of emerald, thus the beginning of a legend.

The King changes the clothes of the “Emerald” Buddha every season. It has clothes for the warm, rainy, and cold seasons.

No photography is allowed here — I saw a couple of foreigners escorted out by the guard. Let me just tell you that the Emerald Buddha is surrounded by a lot of golden things.

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The Grand Palace

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There are many museums here, such as the Wat Phra Kaew Museum (lest we all forget that the temples and palace here are very faithful restorations), the artifacts and coins exhibition, the weapons museum (impressive western guns here), and possibly my favorite — the Queen Sirikit Textile Museum, which houses the Queen’s dress collection which she used in state visits some 50 years ago. They are such lovely dresses! Photography isn’t allowed in the museums either.

Entrance to the Grand Palace is 500 baht, which includes the entrance fees to the museums.

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