23 February 2012

The Grand Palace

They say that no visit to Bangkpk is complete without seeing the Grand Palace, the golden palace complex of the Thai kings. We took a half-day tour with some other tourists and the palace was worth seeing.


Established in 1782 by King Rama I when he ascended the throne, the palace complex includes government offices and the renowned Temple of the Emerald,Buddha as well as the royal residence of earlier kings. The current Thai monarch, King Bhumibol Adulyadej or Rama IX, came to the throne in 1946 and is the longest-serving head of state in the world.

The palace complex is a madhouse to visit with tourists, school groups and temple worshippers all milling around the various buildings. You have to get into the chaos of it all and not worry about capturing pristine photos. Besides, the really famous artifact -- the Emerald Buddha -- is not something you can photograph from inside the temple.

The beautiful building that houses the Buddha -- the Royal Monastery -- is one of the most venerated sites in Thailand where people come to pay their respects to Lord Buddha and his teachings. We saw people trying to pray amid the tourists and the security guards inside the noisy temple. The Emerald Buddha is, in fact, carved from a piece of green jade. It was held in Laos for 226 years before being repatriated to Thailand by the Thai army of Rama I in 1778. When the king established Bangkok as the capital, the Buddha was placed in the monastery.

Exterior of the Royal Monastery

One building that appealed to me was the reliquary in the shape of a golden chedi or stupa. The tiles on the structure are real gold. It is too big to photograph completely, so I offer part of the building at an artsy angle.

The Chakri Maha Prasat was built by Rama V in 1882. It represents a unique blend of Victorian and Thai architectural styles. It you study the building, you can see that the lower portion has the look of Buckingham Palace in London, complete with a reviewing balcony. Look up and you can see that the roof structure is Thai in design. The bonsai trees are old, much older actually than the building behind them.



I was taken with the fascinating details in the buildings and the statuary.



By the end of our tour of the palace, we felt we'd had a short introduction to Thai royal splendor. We are ready for more palaces, temples and treasures as we travel north to the Thai city of Chiang Mai and then on to Laos.




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