More than 2 months have passed since we visited our 46th place of the 1000 Places To See Before You Die – the Grand Palace in Bangkok Thailand. But even though it’s been a while, the memories are fresh and we would like to share them with you, since the Grand Palace is such a beautiful place to see. And of course we won’t keep the funny stories of hawkers and scammers we met from you.
Actually let’s start with the stories
Since we love to read Wikitravel and other online travelling platforms, we already knew that sometimes you get screwed in Bangkok.
Taxi drivers charge you triple the fare of a metered taxi, Tuk Tuk drivers make a “quick stop” at the jewelry store or tailor (even though you didn’t want to go there) and street vendors will sell you fake stuff for prices that are way too high.
We knew all that. So we prepared ourselves and were cautious.
Another common scam is the “The palace is closed”-scam. We weren’t gonna fall for that (and we didn’t). But since it was the day after the King’s birthday, there was actually a pretty high chance that the palace would really be closed for ceremonies.
So we took a taxi to the Grand Palace and of course we didn’t get dropped of at the entry, but at the place where all the hawkers and scammers were already waiting for us – the cab driver “didn’t have any change” and we had to pay 20 baht more than what the meter read. As we got out we fully expected to hear that the palace is closed and we were prepared to ignore it.
I guess we didn’t think that the scammers are smart enough to change their lies. They told us that the palace would only be closed for the morning and that there was no entrance fee in the afternoon, because of the King’s birthday. Since we knew about the entrance fee, we almost believed them.
They were so polite and even showed us other places to go to in the morning to pass the time till the afternoon. He almost had us sold, but when he insisted we should take a Tuk Tuk instead of walking, we knew something wasn’t right. He even suggested that the Tuk Tuk might be cheaper than a taxi (which it never is) so we decided to check if the palace really was closed for the morning.
And as it turned out, it wasn’t. I guess we dodged a bullet there. If we would have taken the Tuk Tuk the scammer wanted us to take, we probably would have ended up on a 5 hour tour to Bangkok’s tailors and jewelry stores, but we made it to the Grand Palace without that and we’re happy about it.
Inside the Grand Palace
Large parts of the Grand Palace were actually closed to the public (because of the King’s birthday), but the parts that were closed were the once where most people don’t go anyways because there really isn’t anything to see but some newer buildings.
We came to see the temples, especially the Temple of the Emerald Buddha and so we were in luck to get to see it without having to pay the 400 baht entrance fee even if we didn’t get to see the other buildings in the palace.
Some say that once you’ve seen some Thai temples you don’t need to see any more of them (called temple burnout). And for most parts, that is true. The Temple of the Emerald Buddha is an exception to that. Even if you’ve seen hundreds, you still want to see that one.
The Temple of the Emerald Buddha is the holiest place for Thai buddhists and only the King is allowed to touch it. The Emerald Buddha even has clothes for different seasons and the King himself changes them when the seasons change.
Like all other Buddhist temples you are not allowed to take pictures inside the temples so I guess you will have to go there yourself to see it.
The outside of the temple has been marvelously restored with shiny materials and gold which really makes your eyes light up. The Thai people donate lots of money for the restoration of the Temple of the Emerald Buddha and you can see it.
The temple is surrounded by magnificent walls with beautiful wall paintings in a hallway full with Thai poems that have been written by the King’s themselves. It’s comparable to the paintings at the Silver Pagoda in Phnom Penh, but they are in much better shape since they have been properly restored.
The paintings tell a romantic legend of Thai culture that is really something to watch. I read somewhere that you could spend weeks looking at the paintings and still find some nuances on it that you haven’t seen before.
Like at the Silver Pagoda there is also a model of Angkor Wat, but a little nicer. Finally there are also lots of other decorations, like the typical Thai demons that really look scary. I don’t understand why they have scary demons around, but they do look a bit impressive.
Is the Grand Palace in Bangkok 1 of THE 1000 places?
You could make a case for many temples in Thailand to be on the list, but this one is the most important temple in Thai culture and the Emerald Buddha has a very, very interesting story behind it. It even was reason enough for countries to fight each other for the right to own it.
So yes, it is “just another temple”, but a very beautiful, well restored one and with it’s history and the meaning for the Thai culture, this is a place that you should see when you are in Bangkok. And believe me, you really should see Bangkok once in your life!