The Grand Palace in Bangkok is a complex of buildings built within crenellated walls for defense and protection. The Grand Palace was built by King Rama 1 during the late 18th century to serve as the King of Thailand’s residence when the capital of Siam (Thailand) was moved from Thonburi to Bangkok.
For a span of 150 years until the turn of the 20th century the Grand Palace served as home to Thailand’s Monarchs. Today the present King of Thailand, King Bhumibol Adulyadej and his family, live in Chitralada Palace.
The Grand Palace served as the country’s seat of government housing the war ministry and several other state departments. Patterned after European Renaissance architecture of that time (except for the traditional Khmer and Thai style roofing), the Grand Palace was and still is a magnificent structure.
The Grand Palace is sectioned into four distinct areas: the outer court, the central court, the inner court and the Temple of the Emerald Buddha.
The outer court housed the different departments spearheaded by the King. The central court is the residential home of the King and numerous function halls for state affairs. The inner court is where the king’s royal family lives. The inner court is only for the wives, daughters and young sons (below 12)of the King. Though no one lives in the palace’s inner court, this section is still closed from the public.
The Temple of the Emerald Buddha (Wat Phra Kaew) is at the opposite side of the Grand Palace. The architecture of the temple is classic Khmer and Thai style and was actually patterned after the old temples at the old capital at Ayutthaya city.
The temple houses the “Phra Kaew Morakot(the Emerald Buddha)”, this is the single most highly revered Buddha image within Thailand. The history behind where the statue was originally made is incredibly cloudy some will tell you Southern India, other will say Sri Lanka. What is known is that the complete statue is carved from a single piece of jade.
One thing is for sure, the Emerald Buddha has traveled considerably since being discovered in a Chedi in Chiang Rai, it spent time in Lampang before being housed at Wat Chedi Luang in the northern capital of Chiang Mai, from there it was taken to Vientiane in Laos which is where it remained for 214 years until the Thai army of King Rama I overran Vientiane & returned the Emerald Buddha to Thailand. It was eventually installed in Wat Phra Kaew in Bangkok, and has been their ever since.
The Grand Palace ground is open from 8:30 A.M. to 3:30 P.M., everyday when not used for state functions. A dress code is followed when entering the Palace grounds. No shorts and sleeveless tees and bare feet! In case you came unprepared, a booth near the entrance would provide you with cloth or sarong to help cover you up.
Getting to the Grand Palace is fairly easy as it’s located in the old city section of Bangkok. Buses and taxis ply the route at all time. You can also take the Chao Phraya Express Boat to the Chang Pier and weave your way through the market area and see the quaint shops before crossing to the Grand Palace.
Experiencing the Grand Palace and the Temple of the Emerald Buddha is an absolute MUST for all visitors whilst in Bangkok.