28 February 2015. Bangkok, Thailand.
The Grand Palace, according to light research, began construction in 1782, built entirely of wood. Imagine that. Over the years, the king replaced the structures with masonry. Today, the Grand Palace is as grand as can be, and has become the most popular tourist attraction in Bangkok. And rightly so.
At 218,400 square meters, under the scorching Bangkok sun and with hundreds of tourists, exploring the Grand Palace may seem daunting. Thanks, however, to the free map given at the entrance, we were able to tour The Grand Palace with minor complaints. Preliminaries, the entrance fee costs a whooping 500 baht but it includes entrance to the museums located within the premises and somewhere outside which you may avail within 7 days from date of ticket. Dress appropriately; you cannot whine your way inside when you come in shorts and sleeveless shirts.
The complex is divided into four: the Outer Court, Middle Court, Inner Court, and the Temple of the Emerald Buddha.
The Outer Court houses the headquarters and information center of the Grand Palace, the Bureau of the Royal Household and the Office of His Majesty's Principal Private Secretary, among others. The Primanchaisri Gate leads you directly to the Middle Court but tourists were whisked to the left side of the gate directly into the Temple of the Emerald Buddha.
The grounds housing the Temple of the Emerald Buddha is a complex in itself. The structures in this complex are all intricately designed, I was awed. Not one mosaic is the same. Even the painting in the long corridor was done with painstaking attention to detail. No cameras were allowed inside the chapel housing the Emerald Buddha so I committed the buddha's detail to memory - it IS emerald, smaller than I imagined, and wrapped in golden robes.
From the Temple, follow the long corridor until you exit towards the Middle Court.
The Middle Court is said to be the largest and most important section of the Grand Palace. The Chakri Maha Prasat is found here, a grand structure of both Thai and European architecture. There are structures surrounding the Maha Prasat which deserve equal attention except that we were burning under the heat of the sun, so we sought refuge in a gazebo after having our fill of the elaborate phras. I think we were not able to explore the Inner Court; I have no idea if it was open to the public. The Inner Court was for the exclusive use of the king and his harem of queens and consorts.
The Grand Palace may be toured in less than a day, half even. There was lots of time to visit the nearby temples. The company, however, thought they were templed out so we spent the rest of afternoon shopping.