on May 2, 2007
The Grand Palace and the adjacent Temple of the Emerald Buddha must be on every visitor’s itinerary. This complex rivals the very best European palaces and cathedrals in interest and architectural attraction. From certain angles, this represents all that is best about Thailand and Thai culture. It is a sight guaranteed to impress the most blasé traveler.The huge white walled complex is in the center of ‘historic Bangkok’. The palace was originally built in 1782 by the first king who ruled from Bangkok. Since then almost every other king has added to it so that today the complex is an amazing mixture of architectural styles that somehow work together to create a very impressive feature. The Grand Palace is no longer used as a royal residence but it is used for state functions, the presentation of ambassador credentials and some other ceremonies.The best part of the original palace building is known as the Dusit Group and the Phra Maha Montien Group. The main building is a splendid example of classic Thai architecture with its four-tiered roof and nine-tiered spire. Near the main building is a beautiful pavilion where the king alighted before entering the main audience hall. Please take a close look – it really is exquisite. You can see the reception rooms of what was once a royal residence.The Chakri Group of halls was built by King Chulalongkorn (Rama 5) in 1882 in a style incorporating both Thai and Western architectural elements. The central throne room with its four canvases is a highlight. The Temple of the Emerald Buddha adjoins the palace and serves as the royal temple. (See a separate entry for this.)Admission to both the temple and Grand Palace is 250 Baht. Opening hours are from 8.30am to 3.30pm. There is a strict dress code which my wife, in calf-length pants, did not meet. It appeared that about 25% of foreign female visitors (and a few males) were also pulled up. You need a shirt with sleeves, fully-covered legs and covered feet. T-shirts, see-through clothing, bare shoulders, etc. are not permitted. My wife had to borrow a sarong from the booth near the entrance gate and had to leave a credit card as security. The sarong was pretty and clean but was extremely hot over other clothing as we walked the complex. There appeared to be no water for sale anywhere inside. To avoid this problem, dress conservatively and try to visit early in the morning when crowds are less.
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