Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Grand Palace, Bangkok

The Grand Palace in Bangkok is a complex of crazy intricate buildings. It served as the official residence of the kings of Thailand from the 18th century until the 20th century (the present king lives in a different palace). Within the walls were the entire administrative seat of government, the country's war ministry, state departments, and even the mint. It is still somewhat in use today-- the king performs royal rituals here every year and it's the location for royal ceremonies like coronations, royal funerals, weddings, and state banquets. 

Today a visit to the Grand Palace is one of the top tourist things to do in Bangkok. 

Yuriy and I took the water taxi from our hotel to the Grand Palace. The boat was incredibly stuffed with standing room only, and almost everyone got off at the Grand Palace stop. Water taxis are more popular with locals than with tourists. The water taxi travels along the Chao Phraya River, which serves as a highway through the city-- it's a nice change from the taxis on the busy roads. 

To get into the Grand Palace, you must be dressed properly since the temple is a sacred site. No shorts, tank tops, or flip flops.  I packed a pair of pants for this very purpose and put them on under my dress. Other people who came unprepared were given clothes to borrow before they were allowed to enter. It was a very hot day to be wearing pants, but definitely worth it. 

We wandered around the palace grounds for a quite a while since there is so much to see and photograph. It's a maze of gold, glittery things, religious statues, lovely manicured lawns and plants, and tall fancy roofs.  The highlight of the Grand Palace is the Temple of the Emerald Buddha-- one of the most sacred sites in Thailand. You can spot monks in orange robes amid all the tourists and people offering sacrifices and lighting incense. 

If you're interested, you can see a pretty nifty virtual tour of the palace on this Thai website.

Oh, and that's not all... more photos of the Grand Palace on our next post.

- Julia
Taking a water taxi down the Chao Phraya River to the Grand Palace.
Standing room only on our packed boat.
We saw lots of cute school girls in uniform. Wish we had more of this in the States.
You must remove your shoes before entering a sacred temple.
Flower offerings and incense outside the temple.