The Grand Palace in the heart of Bangkok is a draw card for many tourists. It’s one of the few Grand Palaces in the world, where even though there is still a royal family, allows people to traverse through its grounds almost unimpeded. It is a complex of buildings that can dazzle first time visitors with its numerous halls, pavilions, lawns, gardens and courtyard.
The Grand Palace has been the Siam King’s official residence since it was built in 1782. It represents the spiritual heart of the city. It’s also been the home of the Thai King, Royal Court and the administrative seat of government for more than 150 years. Although the Grand Palace is partially open to the public as a museum, it remains a working palace.
To get to the Grand Palace is not easy. Before we made our journey, we couldn’t see a single train station within its vicinity. Therefore, we decided to travel via Grab, which is way more popular than Uber, in Bangkok. As we got closer, the driver refused to take us to the entry area to the Grand Palace, because he knew he would get stuck in a traffic jam. In the end, we were dropped off about 15 mins walking distance from the Grand Palace.
The crowd to get into the Grand Palace is usually huge, particularly during the holiday seasons. When you arrive, there is an entry fee of 500 baht and a requirement that attendees where respectable clothes. So for men, if you come in shorts, you will be stopped and asked to buy a pair of pants to cover your shins. It is not uncommon to see people waltzing around in jeans on a hot, humid day.
The dress code is as follows, men are required to wear shirts with sleeves and long pants. No visitor can come with bare feet, so any visitors wearing flip flops or sandals must also wear socks. Women must also dress modestly, so no bare shoulders or see-through clothing.
I have to admit that I came in shorts, since I forgot the rules when I visited back in 2012. This was after me telling my wife to dress modestly and that there were strict rules in Bangkok. To be more precise, I wore shorts that covered my knees and thought it’d be okay. On the day, the Thai guard to the entrance wasn’t playing his discretion card. I was barred from entering and forced to purchase and wear over my shorts some ‘roomy’ elephant pants. (My wife laughed at me. Thankfully, I wasn’t going to a s fashion show…)
Once you are inside, there are lots of things to gaze at. A lot of buildings and statues are painted gold, so may catch a glimmer of gold every now under the sunlight. I recommend walking in as far as you can, because tourists tend to gather around the entrance. There are better things to see when you are inside.
There are many of statues that guard important checkpoints in the palace. Most of them are elaborately dressed up and look like demons. I don’t recommend touching them, because you are likely to get told off by the guards watching you.
We meandered around the palace grounds and when we saw a crowd around his interesting feature, we had to join in. It happened to be one of the impressive sights at the palace, it was a miniature Angkor Wat. It was impressively detailed and was a recreation of the entire structure.
We were really happy to just walk around and catch the sights. There was a real mix of different people visiting from all over the world. There were so many selfie sticks and groups getting together for photos. It was a bustling, crowded atmosphere. As we mused about several of the buildings and statues, we spent some time looking at several murals on the walls depicting earlier life in the Grand Palace that caught our attention. (In my way of lightening up the mood, I made stories about what the people in the murals were doing.)
If you decide to enter any of the temples, be mindful that you need to remove your shoes. Fortunately, there are places to store your shoes, but the removal of shoes can be a inconvenience if you bring high boots. (It wasn’t me.)
Unfortunately, there is damage around the palace, which you can easily spot. There were several worn walls and ornaments. To be honest, from a distance things would look good, but on moving closer, we realized that some of the gold leafing was starting to rub off and the ‘gems’ started to fall off. See below.
There several lawns and gardens to walk by (which were less crowded), many of the trees and flowers were well maintained. Some of the trees were pruned in interesting ways.
If you are in Bangkok, you should pay a visit to the Grand Palace. You only need to visit it once in your lifetime. I thought my second visit was not needed, but my wife wanted to go (since she hadn’t visited Thailand before) so I had no option.
For first timers, it is a place you will remember, but you are unlikely to boast about it. There are way more interesting things to boast about in Thailand. Within walking distance are lots of popular restaurants and places to eat. If you are keen and feel like a walk, Khao San Road is not far and you can get yourself a cheap massage for your troubles.
The Grand Palace is located in the heart of Bangkok here: