It is no secret that I love shiny, pretty things. More than once I have written about how much I love the architecture of Laos and Thailand, but on my most recent trip to Bangkok I think we can safely say the the love for these buildings turned into an infatuation!
Yesterday I went to visit the Grand Palace in Bangkok that was built in 1782, as commissioned by the Thai King, King Rama I. In my life I have never seen such an abundance of mirrored and painted tiles in one place. The Grand Palace complex is no longer used as royal residence for the King of Thailand, but is still used for many important official events. The sprawling complex measures 218,400 square metres (2,351,000 sq ft) which takes about three hours to tour. In the oppressive Bangkok heat touring this complex over mid day is quite a feat! Fortunately there are a couple of water points at which the complex attendants hand out cups of iced water to the sweating throngs of tourists.
The most famous part of the complex is the Royal Monastery of the Emerald Buddha. The Buddha is a relatively small carving made out of jade, not emerald as believed at first, that dates back to roughly the 1400’s. The statue is so sacred that it is allowed only to be approached by the King’s attendants and the King himself. It is the King who “cleans” the statue of dust during the ritual of changing the statue’s garments. An attendant of the King changes the Buddha’s clothing three times a year according to the seasons, whilst the King chants prayers to this deity.
As impressive as the architecture of the complex is, for me the most beautiful part of this palace was the intricately painted murals that run along the walls of the Emerald Buddha complex. The murals depicts the Ramakien, a Sanskrit word meaning “long story” or epic. There are 178 individual mural scenes that date back to the 18th century. The murals have been newly restored and are more beautiful and detailed than I’d ever imagined a mural can be!
The palace complex is Bangkok’s most visited tourist attraction and tickets are sold at the gate for 500 Baht. Doors are open from 8:30 to 3:30. A strict dress code applies and if visitors are not dressed appropriately they can rent clothing to cover up from a booth at the ticket office, else they will not be allowed to enter the palace complex. This results in some rather interesting outfits for some of the tourists walking about the complex.
Taking photos inside any of the monasteries and palaces are strictly forbidden.
This post has some more photographs of this amazing complex.