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Grand Palace & Temple of the Emerald Buddha

wat phra kaew

The Grand Palace was built in the 18th century as a royal residence for the king and his court (queens, royal consorts, children and many servants), and is now used for state ceremonies. Next door to the palace, the royal temple complex Wat Phra Kaew (Wat Phra Kaeo) includes the Chapel of the Emerald Buddha, one of the most revered sites in Thailand.

Grand Palace & Wat Phra Kaew Photo Album

Tips: This is the most popular sight in the city, and both the Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew open daily. Ignore people who say it’s closed at lunchtime and want to show you something else. Go early, at opening time – this is essential, as two hours later, the palace is filled with tour groups and ticket lines are long.

Dress code. You're not allowed in the Grand Palace wearing short shorts, mini-skirts, dresses or tops with spaghetti straps. For clothing that doesn't meet the standards, you'll be provided with a sarong for legs or cloth to cover your shoulders.

    Wat Phra Kaew –
     

Guardian giants –

ravana tosakanth wat phra kaew
   

Coming through the doorway to the temple complex, kids will be impressed by two giant statues on either side. These are yaksha, guardian demons, from the Ramayana. The one on the left with the green face is the demon of demons Ravana (Tosakanth), on the right with the white face is Sahassadeja, another demonic warrior.

     

Exploring the complex, there are 5 more pairs of these yakshas kids can pick a favorite for photos. Tosagirthorn and Tosagirivan (closest to the exit to the Grand Palace) are brothers, check out their elephant trunks for noses.

     

Tip: Look for even bigger versions of the guardian giants at Suvarnabhumi Airport.

     

Chapel of the Emerald Buddha (Ubosot) –

garudas
   

Before entering the ubosot (chapel), look at the row of golden garuda birds (mythical creatures) holding serpents in each hand on the outside of the temple. Bronze guardian lions are at the bottom of the steps going into the chapel.

   

Inside the chapel, a tiny Buddha (it's made of jade) is seated on a golden throne, and surrounded by other sacred Buddhas. The Emerald Buddha wears three different elaborate golden costumes, seasonally changed in the summer, rainy season, and winter.

     

The Emerald Buddha is quite ancient, but it's not known how old exactly. Believed to come from India; it was found in Chiang Rai in 1434. The Buddha was enshrined in the northern kingdom, then taken to Laos for several hundred years. King Rama I brought the Buddha back to Thailand, and it's been here since 1779.

     

Upper Terrace –

     

Check out the model of Angkor Wat (at one time, Cambodia was under the control of Siam), and monument of bronze elephants, representing sacred white elephants of the kings.

sri rattana chedi
   

The bell-shaped Phra Sri Rattana Chedi, which houses a sacred bone of the Buddha, is covered with hundreds/thousands/millions of golden glass squares kids can try to guess how many.

   

At the eastern end of the terrace are two gold plated chedis with rows of colorful demons and monkeys from the Ramayana, (the monkeys are barefoot). Each figure costume, feet, headdresses, facial expressions is different.

   

Also around the terrace are fourteen different golden mythical creatures, half divine and half animal, e.g. Kinnorn (human and bird) Thepnorasi (angel and lion), Asurapaksi (giant and bird).

     

Ramayana (Ramakien) murals –

ramayana murals
   

Around the walls enclosing Wat Phra Kaeo are murals, illustrating the scenes of the Ramayana (Ramakien), the great battle between Rama and the demon Ravana. The story starts near the entrance, but doesn't particularly go in order (and aren't labeled in English).

   

As it's shady and cool in the galleries, stop to look at the murals at any convenient point. In the epic story, Sita (wife of Rama) is taken by Ravana to the kingdom of Lanka, Hanuman brings his monkey army to help Rama and his brother Laksmana rescue Sita, both sides use magical weapons, fight on elephants, and ride battle chariots.

    Grand Palace –
grand palace
   

King Rama I established the Grand Palace in 1782, as a sumptuous royal residence that could also be defended (from the Burmese). It was an administrative and ceremonial center, as well as home to thousands of people. Today many of the buildings aren't open to the public, but the building exteriors are examples of ornate Thai architecture tiered orange and green tiled roofs with gilded decorations.

     

Amarinda Winitchai Hall (Phra Thinang Amarin Winichai) The king holds important formal audiences here. In front of throne hall are Chinese stone statues, and guardian lions (lion on the right, lioness on the left with a baby lion). Inside the audience hall are two spectacular 18th century gilded, carved thrones from the reign of King Rama I.

     

Weapons Museum (Chakri Maha Prasat Hall) Check out historic weaponry swords, lances, pointy clubs, flagpoles used in the white elephant ceremony, very long pikes, police spears, small wooden replicas of cannons, long handled knives, antique muskets and pistols.

     

Wat Phra Kaeo Museum On exhibit are two models of the Grand Palace, one in the 18th century, the other today, royal thrones and golden palanquins, and neat piles of bones of the kings' white elephants. Also, there are many small Buddha images - blue, blue, red crystal, silver, gold or enameled, in four different positions, walking, standing, seated or reclining. (This is a good place to learn about the significance of the different positions and hand gestures of the Buddha.)

     

Queen Sirikit Museum of Textiles Thai silk is famous, and this museum is filled with elegant clothing worn by Queen Sirikit. View collections of exquisite formal wear one piece dresses for royal brides, brocade tops and matching skirts, two-piece evening ensembles, silver or gold formal evening dresses.

    Tip: Wat Phra Kaew and the Grand Palace are big, and there's only a small cafe (near the Wat Phra Kaeo Museum). Bring lots of bottled water.
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