The old royal district, Ko Ratanakosin houses the most famous and sacred sites of Thailand; Wat Phra Kaew (famous for the Emerald Buddha and the Grand Palace) and Wat Pho (famous for the reclining Buddha).
While several of the guide books and walking tours suggest covering both sites in a few hours of the day, we actually split them across two days which worked out pretty well! The scorching heat of the daytime can be quite exhausting and would have otherwise made for some cranky shots 😉
You can also read our story on the gorgeous flytographer blog here
This post is Part 1 of the royal sites and features the Wat Phra Kaew and the Grand Palace.
Bangkok was towards the end of our Thailand trip as we decided to overcome our jet-lag at the beach (Phuket -read here). The Grand Palace has an other-worldy charm and we wanted to make the most of the venue with memorable photos that capture the essence of our Thailand vacation! I reached out to flytographer as we had read about them in NYtimes (read here & other travel blogs) and this idea really resonated with us. I mean…really, who doesn’t want their pictures taken in a gorgeous location, not worrying about a tripod, or spending hours getting the right angle, finally requesting a random stranger to take your photo while struggling to not judge their photography prowess! Uh huh, exactly what I thought…:)
I got in touch with Jen (from flytographer) to pick the right photographer for us in Bangkok! She put us in touch with Tom who was nothing short of amazing. She then helped us out in planning the logistics (date, time,location), exchanging our photos with Tom (so, we both know what the other looks like! hehe)
Tom had suggested late afternoon, and we took the ferry from Pier N1 – Tha Oriental (close to our hotel, Le Meridien) and got off at Pier N9 –Tha Chang (The Grand Palace). The ferry is by far the best way to travel the major sites in Bangkok! But more on that later…
It was a sweltering hot day in Bangkok! While we were burning up in the heat, we were still excited to see the midday sun and blue skies highlighting the bright colors of the temple and the palace!
Both the temple of the Emerald Buddha (Wat Phra Kaew) and the former residence of the Thai monarch (Bangkok Grand Palace) are located within the compound and covered under the same ticket (500THB).
You must dress modestly for the visit, that means no sleeveless shirts or shorts! else you will be required to “borrow” clothes consisting of a loose shirt, and a wrap-skirt making for some unattractive photos (as I learnt ) Note my peach collared shirt in the pics below! (not a personal fashion choice)
Travel Tip: The entrance ticket also includes Wat Pho, so remember to keep the stub. Ignore the “shopping advice” from well-dressed locals outside the gates. They will be eager to take you on a local shopping trip claiming the palace is closed! (well known scam in Bangkok)
Once inside the gates, the compound was packed with throngs of Chinese tourists, (timing with the CNY) armed with selfie-sticks, and led by fierce-less mandarin-speaking guides. Not to be deterred, we marched on ahead determined to find Tom in this chaotic crowd…and voila! There he was – camera, smiles and all! 🙂 We quickly made introductions and headed through the grounds to the entrance to the temple – so much to see and so little time!
We stepped through the gilded doors into a Thai-fairy-tale like setting, an expansive compound with glittering gold temples, blue/green mosaic tiled doors and beautiful mythical creatures!
We were immediately greeted by a bronze statue of the seated hermit who was known to be a great physician. A grinding stone and mortar are placed before him so that people can pray for good health.
Moving on ahead, we passed by tall statues of demons guarding the gates. We climbed the stairs to the upper terrace in a trance-like state admiring the architecture, and mesmerized by the detail on the Phra Mondop (a library not open to public). The walls are covered in green mirrored tiles inlaid with gold, and the base has a row of gorgeous gold guardian angels.
Next, we walked towards the Royal Pantheon, the largest building on the upper platform. It is unclear what this building is really used for, and is open to the public only one day a year; Chakri Day. Inside are life size statues of each of the kings of the Chakri dynasty.
Rama IV also commissioned a model (to scale) of the Angkor Wat temple in modern day Cambodia. This was meant to be a symbol of the grandeur of the Thai kingdom (neighboring state was under Thai rule). Some day (soon) we will make the actual trip to Cambodia…
Then, we walked across the area to the Chapel of the Emerald Buddha. We took off our shoes outside the entrance and walked inside to pay our respect. The statue of the Buddha is only 2 feet tall and is made of jadeite (not emerald) and glows green under the lit-up gold canopy against beautiful murals. The sight within the room truly takes your breath away, and is humbling in a powerful way. It is believed that this statue will bring good luck to whoever possesses it, and several kingdoms have fought over this through the centuries.
You are not allowed to use a camera inside but I searched for an image from here.
Outside the chapel, the details on the walls were beautiful, and the base was lined with gold figurines…
We walked over to see the famous frescoes depicting scenes from the Ramakien (the Thai holy epic believed to be derived from the Ramayana hindu epic).
On the way, we passed statues of the monkey-demons and giant colorful characters from the Ramakien.
Onwards towards the halls and beautiful frescoes…
Before we left the middle court, there was one very important step remaining! We offered our prayers to the Buddha (with lotus buds, incense and gold foil) thankful for the incredible time we had, and praying for good luck in our years ahead!
And finally, the long trek through the royal residence and towards the exit. Sadly, we did not take any pictures of the royal residences and offices; severe dehydration and heat-exhaustion was starting to take a toll on us…
Tom was such a trooper and he followed us out as we grabbed a tuk-tuk for a couple of extra pics 🙂
[Photos: Tom Barrett for flytographer]
A serious shout-out to Flytographer (and Tom) for capturing these amazing moments, and for making it look like we were the select few there! (believe me -when I say it was a seriously difficult task with the overwhelming crowds)
Tom – The drinks are on us when you visit NYC! 🙂
To read more on the history of the temple and the Grand Palace, we recommend this blog; Travelingthruhistory. Her detailed descriptions and photographs are a very captivating read!
Hope you enjoyed reading!