Travel Diary » Bangkok's Grand Palace
The highlight of our recent trip to Bangkok was seeing Nanna (my mother), who was on a three night stop over on her way to Tibet and China. A short visit but worth the journey to see the smiles on the kids faces when they saw Nanna for the first time since Easter.
This was Nanna and her partner's first trip to Bangkok and we only had a single day for sightseeing in the city. One day to see the highlights of a city the size of Bangkok - not an easy task! In the end we decided to visit the Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew, followed by street food snacks in the nearby markets, a river ferry ride to Phra Arthit and lunch at a restaurant near Khoa San Rd that we'd discovered on our last visit to Bangkok.
Of course we struck a ridiculously hot day and underestimated how long it would take to see the Grand Palace complex, so we ended up skipping the ferry ride as the kids were too tired. But we still had a great day out at the Palace, followed by green curries, shopping and ice creams near Khoa San Rd. I
The Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew, or Temple of the Emerald Buddha, are at the top of many tourists 'must see' lists. Within two minutes of walking inside the palace grounds we realised they were a 'must see' for a very good reason. I've seen a lot of temple complexes and palaces during our time in Asia, and this one is definitely up there with the best.
For almost 150 years, the Grand Palace was the home of the King and his court, as well as administrative seat of government. Thai Kings stopped living in the palace full time at the start of the twentieth century but the complex remains the seat of power and spiritual heart of the Thai kingdom.
We spent most of our visit exploring the temple complexes surrounding Wat Phra Kaew. The rich blues and greens, earthy reds and shining gold tiles covering every imaginable surface are stunning. The architecture is intricate and varied, since many of the buildings were gifted to Thailand and are built in the architectural styles of their home country. There's even a scale version of Angkor Wat!
The shear scale of the temple complex is so huge it borders on the ridiculous. By the end you're like 'meh enough gold gilded temple, seen ten of those already' ... but it was still worth seeing.
Noah spent most of his visit trying to calculate how much the tiles on the temple walls would be worth after I pointed out to him that they were gold. He had grand plans for what he could do with even just the tiles from a few naga. I was relieved to find out that none involved plans for world domination. Always good to know given infinite wealth your kid doesn't harbour secret desires to become an evil mastermind living in a secret volcano lair.
Eventually he gave up his calculations and discovered several ponds filled with toads. The rest of the visit was spent counting the toads and making us go back to count them again ... and again ... before the heat got too much.
On our way out we dropped into the weapons museum inside the Borom Phiman Mansion. It's a small museum but the kids loved it.
"Mummy that's a trident"
"Wow how do you know that?"
"From watching Little Mermaid"
Oh dear ....
We were really impressed by the Grand Palace and had a fantastic morning there. The buildings are stunning. There's not too much climbing involved and there were plenty of things the kids could touch - both big pluses! Our kids were also really impressed by the changing of the guards and the small stores selling ice creams.
BUT it's huge, hot and packed with tourist.
The biggest negative is the entrance fee. At 400 baht per adult (kids free) it is ridiculously expensive. The entrance does include entrance to several of the museums, including the mint, as well as several other mansions around Bangkok but whether you are likely to visit those is another question!
The Palace grounds and temples are very impressive but Bangkok has a lot of other amazingly beautiful temples that you can visit for 1/10 the entrance fee. They're also quieter! I probably wouldn't go back again now that we've seen it purely based on the entrance cost. But I think it was worth seeing once if your budget can afford it.
Dress code for visitors is strict. Men are required to wear covered shoes (or at least fashion crimes like socks with sandals!), shirts with sleeves and long pants. Women need to have their shoulders and knees covered. No singlet shirts or revealing clothing is allowed.
Appropriate clothing is a available for loan near the entrance, although you are required to leave a deposit.
The palace is open from 8.30 - 3.30 every day, unless a royal ceremony or other official function is on. The audience halls and throne rooms in the Grand Palace are closed on weekends.On the day we were there several sections were closed with signs up stating a Royal funeral was in progress.