The Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew for history and architecture buffs

Photo of The Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew for history and architecture buffs 1/4 by Neha Bajaj
Photo of The Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew for history and architecture buffs 2/4 by Neha Bajaj
Photo of The Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew for history and architecture buffs 3/4 by Neha Bajaj
Photo of The Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew for history and architecture buffs 4/4 by Neha Bajaj

Grand Palace is situated in the heart of Bangkok and is built across the bank of river Chao Phraya. The swaying reflection of this ornamented landmark in the river will leave you in an awe with its beauty and architecture. It is one of the top tourist destination in Thailand as it has been the official residence of the Kings of Siam (and later Thailand) since 1782. As you walk in from the main entrance, on your left you can see the conglomerate of perfectly aligned building adorned with crimson sloping roofs and golden spires. The biggest of all is the bell shaped stupa with a tall pointed spire, representing the Buddha and his path to enlightenment.

The largest of the palace buildings is the Grand palace hall, also known as Chakri Mahaprasat. The exterior of the building is a beautiful blend of Italian renaissance and Thai architecture as each building is mounted with layered ornamented spires. I must say this monument is an inspiration for all architects and engineers to design and create something unique.

The Borombhiman hall, located at the eastern corner of the complex building was the royal Residence of King Rama VI. Today, it is guarded by armed troopers and can only be viewed through its iron gates. Although, if you are lucky you might get the chance to see the “Changing of Guards”. It is an interesting ceremony where the old guard hand over the responsibility of protecting the palace to the new guard. Both the guards religiously follow the choreographed routine before they exchange places.

Adjoining the Grand Palace is the Temple of the Emerald Buddha or Wat Phra Kaew. It is built in Ratanakosin style (old-Bangkok style) with a fine touch of Dravidian architecture. South Indian influence on Thai art and culture was prominent during the rule of Pallavas and the Cholas in South India. This isn’t all, as you explore the temple you shall see interesting artifacts displaying the common legend between Hindu and Buddhist cultures. The giant guard at the entrance gate, also known as Yaksha resemble the mount of Lord Vishnu- Garuda and the entire compound wall of the complex is painted with Thai murals depicting scenes from the epic story of Ramayana.

It is such experiences that inspires me to travel more. I feel more connected to my roots and it helps me understand better how our worlds are connected, how political boundaries are mere lines on paper and how we all are different and yet the same.

The main temple hall is the tallest building in the complex and is decorated with golden carving and Garuda like structure sculpted over the entire periphery of the outer wall. The statue of the Buddha is carved from a single Jade stone and is ensconced at the end of the temple hall. Only the king and the crowned price can touch the statue or perform the religious ceremonies. (Photography is not allowed, if you visit please respect the same)

Being the top tourist attraction in Thailand, the temple is always flooded with tourist and yet it does not fail to tranquilize you. The chants of the tiny bells decorated in a linear fashion on the roofs, the cool breeze on a hot sunny day and the lush green landscape shall lighten your mood and help you clear your thoughts. You will want to come back because no matter how much time you spend here, your eyes will look for more.

My tips:

  • The place could turn out to be just another landmark for people who are not interested in architecture and History, but I still insist to visit here at least once.
  • Timings: Open from 8:30 to 3:30 PM.
  • Getting there: Easiest way is to catch a sky train for Thaksin Station and take the express boat ferry to Chang Pier.
  • Please read the dress code before visiting.
  • Keep half a day for this destination as there is a lot to see
  • Carry water as you do not get it inside
  • You can enquire for the specific time of change of guards
  • Entry fee is 500 Baht per person.

This trip was originally published on 'traveler455'.