The Grand Palace is at the top of every Bangkok tourist’s “must-see” list, as well as a place that most Thais will visit at least once in their life. More than “just” a palace, it is a sprawling complex that is brimming with the Kingdom’s history. Did you know? The Grand Palace and its related structures were among the first buildings constructed when Thailand’s capital was moved from the Thonburi side to establish the Rattanakosin Kingdom in 1782. With its location in the heart of Bangkok’s old city, the Thai war ministry, state department and even the mint used to be with the palace walls.
The Grand Palace and the current ruling Chakri Dynasty go hand in hand together. It was originally the residence of Rama I, and thus remained the residence of the ruling Thai monarch until 1925. Today, it is still used for ceremonial purposes. It covers a massive 284,000 square meters and includes both green space and many buildings that were organically added over the years. These eclectic styles come together to be a showcase of the best architectural styles of their periods. Highlights include: Chakri Mahaprasat Throne Hall, Dusit Mahaprasat Throne Hall and Audience Hall of Amarin Winitchai to name a few.
However, the most famous building within the Grand Palace Complex is Wat Phra Kaew. Also known as the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, it is Thailand’s most prestigious Buddhist temple and the perfect example of Buddhist architecture. For the history-buffs, it’s full name is Wat Phra Sri Rattana Satsadaram. Dating back to the 15th century AD, the “Phra Kaew Morakot” or Emerald Buddha is depicted in the meditating position of the Northern Thai Lanna style. Despite what the name may have you believe, it’s not made of emerald! Carved from a single block of jade, the figure comes to a height of 66 cm (26 inches). Another highlight is the Emerald Buddha’s gold clothing. To mark the changing of Thailand’s three seasons (hot, rainy and cool), HM the King of Thailand changes each outfit in a grand ceremony.
Adhering to the strict dress-code before you visit one of Thailand’s most sacred sites is a must. What does this mean? Women must be modestly dressed, this means no bare shoulders or revealing outfits. Men must be dressed on long pants and shirts with sleeves. For both sexes, no bare feet are allowed, always wear socks. If it comes to that, there is a booth near the entrance that provides cover-ups (at a cost).