When one thinks about Bangkok often times what comes to mind is a sprawling city filled with tuk-tuks, delicious food, and beautiful temples on almost every corner. I wanted to experience the Thai culture and learn about the history of this popular city, so I reached out to my Norwegian family members who travel to the country frequently to get their advice on places to go and things to do. Their overwhelming response was, “A visit to Bangkok would not be complete without a tour of the Grand Palace.”
So a visit to the Grand Palace was a top priority while in Bangkok and when I found out that the Viator VIP half-day tour included a tour of the Grand Palace our decision was made. We began our morning enjoying the peace and tranquility at the Marble Temple and then walked through the chaotic International Flower Market before arriving at the Grand Palace just before it opened at 8:00a.m. From my research I knew that the Grand Palace enforced a strict dress code, so we planned ahead and dressed appropriately for our tour, which meant we were rewarded with immediate access to the Palace Grounds. (If by chance you don’t meet the dress code you may rent clothing from the booth near the entrance).
Demons stand guard at the entrances of the palace in order to scare away all evil, and as we entered the main square the dramatic Pagoda with its gold leaf exterior captivated our attention. The Grand Palace is a photographers dream because of the grand statues, incredible architecture, and ornate decorations around every corner. Our tour guide, Jeerawat, did an exceptional job explaining the meaning behind each statue, every building, and each extravagant detail, and as our understanding deepened the scope of this sacred historical site became clear.
Jeerawat explained that the Grand Palace is a “Bucket List” item for many buddhists, who save for years before making the once-in-a-lifetime trek to Bangkok, and as a Bucket List enthusiast myself, I could easily see how someone who practices Buddhism would dream of seeing the palace for themselves.
The highlight of The Grand Palace is Wat Phra Kaew, also known as the Temple of the Emerald Buddha. This temple is one of the most sacred sites in all of Thailand and there is a strict policy forbidding cameras and pictures inside the temple. Jeerawat explained that the Emerald Buddha is carved from one solid piece of Jade and is ceremoniously dressed according to the different seasons.
We were sprinkled with holy water before entering the temple and as I stepped through the temple doors, I was blown away by the grandiose nature of this incredible room–simply put, I have never seen more gold in my life–delicate vases, chandeliers, and statues surround the dominant pedestal on which the Emerald Buddha is placed. And at that moment I was thankful that pictures were not allowed, as it would diminish the spiritual experience and a picture could never fully capture the essence and magic felt within this space.
As we finished our tour and walked towards the exit, Thai guards walked by in a ceremonial march which was the perfect send-off for our time at the Palace. We arrived back at our hotel around 10:30a.m. and had plenty of time for brunch and to pack our bags as we were headed to the airport that very afternoon. Our time in Thailand had come to an end, and I couldn’t have imagined a better way to end our trip.
I loved our time exploring the Grand Palace and would recommend it to anyone visiting Bangkok. Our guide did an excellent job explaining the traditions, customs, and meaning behind most of the buildings on the Palace grounds which added significant value to our experience.
I’ve included a few tips below to help you on your next visit:
- go with a guide
- wear light-colored, breezy, clothing
- bring a hat and sunglasses
- bring your camera
- wear closed toe shoes
- Arrive EARLY. As we were leaving the grounds around 10:00am, the crowds were getting quite large
Have you been to the Grand Palace? What about any other famous religious grounds?