Probably the most visited and remembered landmark of Thailand, the Grand Palace in Bangkok is where every visitor must pay a visit at least once in their lifetime.
The construction of the Grand Palace began in 1782 during the reign of King Rama I, the founder of Chakri Dynasty, to become a royal residence, and it has been the utmost architectural symbol of Thailand ever since. The Grand Palace served as a significant royal residence until 1925 and is now used for ceremonial purposes only.
THE GRAND PALACE COURTS
The Grand Palace is divided into three main zones: the Outer Court, home to royal offices, public buildings and the Temple of Emerald Buddha; the Middle Court, which is where the most important residential and state buildings are; and the Inner Court, which is exclusively reserved for the king, his queen and his consorts.
THE OUTER COURT
After going through the entrance door, you’ll find yourself in the Outer Court (labelled #1-#12 in map) surrounded by temples.
The major attraction of the Outer Court is the Temple of Emerald Buddha, the residence of Thailand’s most sacred Buddhist sculpture: Phra Kaeo Morakot (the Emerald Buddha), which was carved from flawless green jade, situated amid gold-gilded sculptures and ornaments, and fresco paintings of the main ordination hall. Note: No photography is allowed inside the premises of the temple.
This temple is different from common temple because there is only ceremonial area in the temple, while normal temple has both ceremonial area and monk’s living area. In short, the Emerald Buddha temple does not have monks because it is just a royal chapel of the palace. According to previous main palaces in Thailand, they are always a temple only for performing royal ceremony, but not for monk living.
THE MIDDLE COURT
Situated at the center of the Middle Court is Chakri Mahaprasat Throne Hall which was ordered by King Rama V to become his residence and a major throne hall. The construction began in 1876 and completed in 1882, revealing an outstanding architectural-style combining European structure and traditional Thai roof tiles and spires.
The interior sees sophisticated decorations inspired by European renaissance era, adorned with royal portraits of Chakri Dynasty’s monarchs. The building now only serves state functions and royal ceremonies.
At the far right of the Middle Court is Borom Phiman Mansion, which was also constructed during the reign of King Rama V in neo-renaissance style to become the residence of the crown prince. This most modern architecture within the Grand Palace compound later became the occasional residence of three succeeding kings.
The mansion is not open to public and currently served as the official accommodation for visiting heads of state. Borom Phiman Mansion is part of Sivalai Garden complex, where the office of the Royal Household Bureau is. The garden was a recreation area for the royal women and children and is now used for receptions.
Sat between Sivalai Garden and Chakri Mahaprasat Throne Hall is Maha Monthien Prasat complex, home to the Audience Hall of Amarin Winitchai where royal ceremonies usually take place. While on the far left is Dusit Mahaprasat Thone Hall, which is an ideal archetype of traditional Thai architecture.
THE INNER COURT
The Inner Court is where the King’s royal consorts and daughters lived. It remains closed to the public to this day The Inner Court was like a small city entirely populated by women and boys under the age of puberty. Even though no royalty currently reside in the inner court, it is still completely closed off to the public. Despite the proximity of the Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew, there’s a distinct contrast in style between the very Thai Temple of the Emerald Buddha and the more European inspired design of the Grand Palace (the roof being the main exception). The Grand Palace of Bangkok is a grand old dame indeed, that continues to have visitors in awe with its beautiful architecture and intricate detail, all of which is a proud salute to the creativity and craftsmanship of Thai people.
One of the easiest, and most pleasurable, ways is taking the BTS skytrain to Saphan Taksin station, located atop Sathorn “Central” Pier. From here, take a Chao Phraya River Express boat to Chang Pier, and then it’s a short walk to the Grand Palace’s main entrance. The easiest way and saving time is, of course, to take a taxi or Tuk Tuk, a motorized three-wheeled vehicle. Just a warning for taking a taxi, tourists should request the taxi drivers turn on the meter. Taking a Tuk Tuk can be an interesting choice because it can provide a sense of adventure, but remember that Tuk Tuk doesn’t have the meter fare. The driver will give the tourists an approximate price, so making sure that they won’t take advantage by quoting an unfair price, taking you to the wrong direction or even offering you to go somewhere else instead
Open daily from 8:30am to 3:30pm except during special royal ceremonies.
500 Baht, inclusive of access to Wat Phra Kaeo, The Royal Thai Decorations & Coins Pavilion and Queen Sirikit Museum of Textile, which are located within the Grand Palace compound, and to Vimanmek Mansion Museum on Ratchawithi Road.
Additional 100 Baht for a rental personal audio guide in English, French, German, Spanish, Russian, Japanese or Mandarin.
A strict dress code applies. The Grand Palace and the Temple of the Emerald Buddha are Thailand’s most sacred sites. Visitors must be properly dressed before being allowed entry to the temple. Men must wear long pants and shirts with sleeves (no tank tops). If you’re wearing sandals or flip-flops you must wear socks (in other words, no bare feet.) Women must be similarly modestly dressed. No see-through clothes, bare shoulders, etc. If you show up at the front gate improperly dressed, there is a booth near the entrance that can provide clothes to cover you up properly (a deposit is required).
Have you been to the Grand Palace? Which court was your favorite?