Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Tips to enjoy The Grand Palace of Bangkok

While this trip to Bangkok was for relaxation purpose, there are a few places which one must visit especially when one is on their maiden trip to this metropolis city and one of them include this magnificent Grand Palace of Bangkok.
There is not many who have not heard of this famous palace nestled in the heart of the busy city,  and its sparkling presence is hard to miss in its visibility across the Chao Phraya river; which is also another prominent name in its heydays when it was the main stream for transportation and also its strategic location running across the center of the city.

The Grand Palace may be quickly dismissed as just an official residence for the monarchs who rule the country, and while the statement is not to be defied, there is much more to look forward to when you plan to visit the amazing attraction which the locals are so proud of and you are going to leave in awe and impressed with the experience.
I am not in any way associated with the operations of the palace nor the country's tourism, and I am merely writing this from a tourist cum journalist's point of view as it was also my first visit to this local attraction which is now well established as an international landmark on most travel books and websites.

There are a few things one must take note of to fully enjoy the experience in the Grand Palace, as there are many rules to observe at this place which the locals regard with high respect and of utmost importance and there are no exception in bending the rules. The Thais take their rulers very seriously, and the palace and temples in the country are all regarded as sacred places which are to be treated with respect by visiting tourists as well, and they will go to all the lengths to remind you of them.

I have listed down the following tips and reminders to help you plan your trip:-

1. As this is such a major attraction and also tops the list of the must-visit, I would recommend that you should set this as the place to visit on the first day of your trip.

2. Try to go as early as possible; the operating hours start from 8.30am and closes at 3.30pm. Therefore, it is best to go there early to fully maximize your experience there.
Also, if you are particular afraid of the hot blazing sun, going there in the morning is definitely a plus.

3. Be ready to spend a few hours; I'd recommend about an hour or two but if you are the type who loves photographing everything you see, then 2-3 hours would be more appropriate.

4. Dress Code is extremely strict here; NO shorts, mini Skirts, spaghetti straps, sleeveless tops or anything that reveals your legs or arms. Yes, even three or four quarter cropped pants are not recommended as the palace officials standing at the entrance do check each and every one of the visitors.
It is best to bring along a scarf/jacket/extra shirt/top to cover yourself if you want to wear a sleeveless top.
Do not worry if you really do not have anything as they do have the additional attires (long skirts, or sarongs for the men) prepared for the unaware tourists.
However, I strongly recommend to go prepared and dressed properly as a form of respect to the residence of the monarchs and also the local culture. While the weather is unbearable over there as Thailand can get really hot at times, it is still common sense to be mindful of what the locals practice.

5. You can bring umbrellas and water bottles, but be ready to close your umbrellas before you enter the palace, and do be very careful when balancing your umbrellas amidst the crowds trying to get into the palace.
(Yes, this can be an extremely crowded place as well)
It can be really hot walking around the grounds of the palace and it is good if you can keep yourself cool from all the heat while walking around and navigating through the crowds; which is the reason most of the people only spend 1-2 hours here.

6. There is no direct BTS to the Grand Palace, and we actually took a cab directly from our hotel to get to the palace. I am not sure of the exact fee, as we booked the cab to wait for us and take us to our next destination. However, it would not be too expensive, and it is best if you can ask for your hotel's help to communicate with the cab driver if you do not know the Thai language, or just write down the name of the Grand Palace on a piece of paper.

7. Do your research; read up on the story and also about the buildings on the grounds as the Grand Palace does not only consist of one building but rather, there are multiple buildings which were built along the years and by the different monarchs who rule the country.
There will be a pamphlet provided upon purchase of the entrance tickets, but it would be better if you are prepared upfront about what to expect before you go to the palace. It is not mandatory, you can still choose to just relax and walk around the grounds; taking in everything with a fresh perspective.

The Grand Palace of Bangkok, was a picture of magnificence and grandeur when I stepped into the grounds. While it is not extremely huge at first sight, I could see the buildings staggering behind each other; all sparkling brightly with the generous use of the gold color on each of the buildings, which are symbols of affluence, power and authority.
It is no wonder, as this is after all, the place where the rulers of Thailand, or even Siam (the name by which Thailand was known in the past) called home since its early establishment in the year 1782, and this served as the royal residence to the kings and the royal government until the year 1925.

The palace began her grand history from 6th of May 1782, during the Chakri Dynasty, when the ruler at that time, King Rama I (King Buddha Yodfa Chulaloke) and the forefather of the dynasty ordered for the palace to be built as his official residence when he moved to Bangkok from the earlier capital, Thonburi. Bangkok was then made the new capital at the same time.
More information and history of the Grand Palace can be found here

The palace can be divided in several zones; from the Outer Court, The Inner/Middle Court, the public administrative buildings, the Chakri Maha Prasat Building, the Phra Maha Prasat building and the most important of all, the Temple of the Emerald Buddha; among the other buildings within the grounds.
While the royal family and the government no longer reside in this palace starting from the year 1925 and especially after the removal of the absolute monarchy in the year 1932, the palace is still maintained for the formal functions and official events, besides being a tourist attraction today.

The outer court

Details of the architecture of the buildings in the Grand Palace

Paintings of the Grand Palace; the layout of the beautifully crafted architectural building displayed on the wall.

The Temple of the Emerald Buddha
No cameras (photography or videography is not allowed inside the temple).

There are still many ongoing constructions of new buildings taking place within the palace, but the existing architecture still did not lack in its wonder to woo and impress visiting tourists with its golden splendor on full display everywhere here.
I find that even the word magnificent could be unjust to describe my feelings and impression of this extravagant place.

Mini replica of the historical and heritage site of Angkor Wat

The Phra Thinang Chakri Maha Prasat complex of buildings is an interesting building which you will pass by on your way out of the Grand Palace and its unique blend of the Siamese design and the influence of the the European style will definitely catch your eye.

Caught glimpse of the marching guards on their way to change their shifts.

The beauty of the Grand Palace is something which is deeply embedded in my memory; and it is a place that one must visit at least once in their lifetime. I am glad I did, and take away the heat from the blazing hot sun, the place was definitely worth every second of my time here.
In fact, I am thinking of visiting it again on my next trip to Bangkok!

Operating Hours: 8.30am- 3.30pm Daily
Admission Fee: 500 THB/pax

Reminder on the Dress code as mentioned above; please observe the rules to enjoy your experience at the palace.

Just a Tip: The Palace is OPEN daily, do double check on the website as well.

I am sure you will definitely enjoy your visit; I know I did! =)

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