Grand Palace, Bangkok
Na Phra Lan Rd, Bangkok
The Grand Palace in Bangkok is thought by many to be the most popular and valued tourist attraction in all of Thailand. The significance of the royal family is huge in Thailand with many shrines throughout the city dedicated to the recently deceased king Bhumibol Adulyadej on our visit all across Bangkok. The Palace of course is the residency of the Thai royal family and attracts visitors from the country and afar.
We took a river bus down from the central pier to chang pier situated just beside the palace. The journey itself cost just 40 THB (£0.91) which is the same rate for a single trip anywhere along the river on any boat other than the tourist boats. Due to it being early in the morning after visiting Silom Soi 20 Market the ticket office wasn’t open at central pier but the good news is that you can pay on the boat – you cannot miss the conductors! Aggressive Thai ladies rattling a metal cylinder filled with change.
The palace is a pleasant two minute walk from the pier passing through a small shopping arcade where you can buy drinks, snacks and souvenirs for a decent price. Along the pavement outside the palace there are security checkpoints similar to an airport with a large metal detector and soldiers checking through bags. We heard an announcement that stated you needed to show a passport which worried us as we hadn’t brought ours, no documentation was required according to the palace website so this came as a surprise. The soldiers thankfully were polite and simply asked where we were from and waved us through.
When visiting the palace there is a dress code in place. No knees or shoulders are allowed to be visible and if your shorts don’t meet the required length to cover your knees the palace provide a sort of ‘lost property’ box of trousers to wear during your visit. I wore linen trousers during our visit and I can’t recommend them highly enough on a red-hot day in Bangkok!
The entry costs 500 THB (£11.37) which is gained through a ticket office window just after the main entrance on the Na Phra Lan Rd. It’s also worth noting that a common scam operates outside the palace where tuk tuk drivers inform you that the palace is closed for the day and offer you a tour of the city instead for an extortionate rate. No evidence of this was in operation on our visit but it’s definitely worth looking out for.
We gained entry to the palace and instantly stepped out into the main courtyard with gold structures as far as the eye could see. It’s a beautiful arrangement of Thai structures and a buddhist temple in the centre at which many people came to pray and to have a look at the reclining buddha. The smell of incense is strong around the area as many people were taking the opportunity to light multiple sticks.
Just to the rear of the courtyard there’s a peaceful garden away from the hustle and bustle of the area around the temple. Here there is a rule of silence due to monk’s passing through and praying in the nearby area. We really enjoyed this area as you still had the remarkable view of the palace and it’s golden skyline yet with a tranquil setting to enjoy it from.
The main courtyard is a busy area with many people jostling for position to snap the best pictures from their visit. The buddhist temple looked very busy with a mountain of shoes outside belonging to visitors inside. We decided after about an hour that we had seen enough and headed for the exit which takes you past the official residences of Thai royalty.
Overall we were glad to have visited the Grand Palace but left feeling that it was a little one dimensional. Sure there’s amazing buddhist artifacts to check out but that’s about the extent of it. Many people weren’t happy about the sudden increase of entry price especially as it coincided with mourners travelling from all over to mourn the king’s death. It’s worth noting that a year of mourning was ordered by the Thai royal family and therefore many people arrived at the palace wearing black as a mark of respect. All in all it’s an experience that you must have at Thailand’s most famous monument – my advice would be go early before the insane queues begin.
Opening times: Daily 0830-1530
Nearest River Stop: Chang Pier