Bangkok Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew (or Wat Pra Kaew) doesn’t need introduction anymore, it’s without a doubt the most famous landmark in Thailand and was also seen in many movies. Despite being such a touristic icon, it is still the number one place to see while in Bangkok, a marvel of delicate and intricate craft work, architecture, carving and painting. Wat Phra Kaew is described at length in so many websites, I’m not going to get too much into detail, just few facts and a lot of photos 🙂
The official name of the temple is ‘Wat Phra Si Rattana Satsadaram’ but many call it ‘The temple of the Emerald Buddha’ and is on the ground of the Grand Palace, another historical monument which used to be the Royal Residence.
The first thing you’ll see when entering the temple ground is the black stone statue of the ‘Hermit Doctor’, considered a patron of medicine, which is believed to have healing powers. Each day, relatives of the sick and infirm pay respects and make offerings of incense sticks, fruit, lotus flowers, and candles.Among the many buildings you can admire in Wat Phra Kaew, the most photographed is probably the huge and shiny golden Chedi called Phra Si Ratana, a 19th-century stupa built in Sri Lankan style enshrining ashes of the Buddha.
The second most visited is the large ‘Ubosoth’, the ordination hall, where you can admire, but not photograph, the famous emerald Buddha which official name is ‘Phra Phuttha Maha Mani Rattana Patimakon’.
The Emerald Buddha is made of Jade and not emerald and is carved in a yogic position, known as Virasana. Originating from India in 15th century AD, its history is long and troubled… after being transported to Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Laos, Ayutthaya, Chiang Mai, it was then kept in a shrine near the famous Wat Arun (The Temple of Dawn) until the capital of Thailand shifted from one side of the river to the other and the Emerald Buddha was finally enshrined in Wat Phra Kaew. The emerald Buddha in brilliant green colour is 66 centimetres (26 in) in height with a lap width of 48.3 centimetres (19.0 in).
The temple grounds cover 94.5 hectares (234 acres) and features more than one hundred buildings. Wat Phra Kaew gate is guarded by a pair of yakshis statues, mythical giants measuring 5 metres (16 ft) high. Don’t miss the beautiful mural painting gallery surrounding the entire grounds of the temple.
The temple complex also has a model of the famous Angkor Wat, started by King Mongkut and completed by King Rama III.
Open: from 8.30am to 12 noon and 1pm to 3.30pm, which is a lot earlier than any other temples.
Entrance fee: 500 baht per adult while it is free for Thai. (A guide is available from 10am to 2 pm, but you can borrow an Audio Guide.
Note that the dress code is very strict as you can see on the photo. If you forgot to wear the proper attire you can borrow a sarong for small deposit but be aware of the (very) long queue. Alternatively you can rent one outside the temple for 50 baht or less if you are good at bargaining.
The best way to reach the Grand Palace is by taxi or tuk tuk, as there are no BTS around this area. You also can try by boat with the Chao Phraya River Express (disembark at Tha Chang).