When Rama I moved the capital of the kingdom, the city of Krung Thep – or Bangkok as foreigners call it – was born. So was this extensive complex of buildings and monuments of both royal and religious significance. Some are still used for ceremonies, but Wat Phra Kaew, the most sacred temple in Thailand, has no resident monks these days.
A visit here begins at Wat Phra Kaew, or the Temple of the Emerald Buddha. The fresco paintings that wrap around the courtyard depict the Ramakien, or the Thai Ramayana. The mythological landscapes and sweeping battles starring the monkey god Hanuman are depicted here in splendid detail. There is almost always a crew of artists engaged in conservation work; it’s an ongoing project.
At the entrance to the temple are shelves for shoes. As in all temples, everyone enters barefoot. Many people who come here are making a religious pilgrimage. Do not take pictures inside the temple, talk loudly, or point your feet towards the Buddha.
On the grounds there are golden chedis and statues of figures from Thai and Hindu mythology, among them the towering Yak and the bird god Garuda. The many structures are covered with intricately carved details and exquisite patterned designs.
The Grand Palace compound includes many buildings: Boromabian Hall, Amarinda Hall, the original residence of Rama I, Dusit Hall, and the Chakri Maha Prasat. Some are open to the public. At times they are closed for an event or ceremony.
Visitors to The Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew are required to wear clothing that covers their arms, most of their legs, and their feet. Those who don’t will be refused admittance. There might be wraps and shirts available on loan at the front gate. If anyone outside in front of the gates says The Grand Palace is closed, they’re trying to involve you in a scam.
Get there: Riverboat Pier Chang
Price: 500 baht entry includes entry to Vimanmek Palace and Throne Hall
Hours: 8:30am-3:30pm every day