Wat Phra Kaeo

The Wat Phra Kaeo or the Temple of the Emerald Buddha is a Buddhist temple located inside the complex of the Grand Palace in Bangkok, Thailand. This temple is considered as one of the most sacred sites in Thailand, but given its location at the Grand Palace and also its quite ornate architecture, it is a popular destination for both the locals and tourists alike.

When you visit the Grand Palace complex, you would enter through the part where the Wat Phra Kaeo is located. First you would have to go through a security line that also doubles as a checkpoint for the visitors’ adherence to the strict dress code for visiting the temple. During our visit we actually saw some foreign visitors being asked to go back to get the appropriate coverings before entering the temple area.

Once you’re inside the temple area, you can see a long wall around the temple area that is decorated with murals depicting the story of Ramakien (Thai’s version of Hindu epic Ramayana). The murals are divided into 178 scenes. They are so intricate, and they are well maintained. When we visited, we saw a gentleman in the process of meticulously hand painting parts of the murals with his fine brush.

The central part of the temple complex is the Wat Phra Kaeo itself, a large building housing the Emerald Buddha statue. The building itself is quite impressive; it has rich marble floor, and the walls and pillars are inlaid in colorful mosaic. From the entrance, you have to walk to the other end of the building to see the entrance to temple. You can walk in and see a section reserved for worshippers in front of the Emerald Buddha that sits on top of a big mound. The Emerald Buddha statue itself is a pretty small statue made out of jade. Given that this is an actual worship site, you have to be reverent and watch quietly while worship session is going on. Photography is not allowed inside the temple.

Outside the temple, there is another area also where worshippers perform ceremonies. I thought it was interesting to see so many people around, mixed between locals who came to worship and tourists who came for sightseeing. I wonder how one could concentrate and focus in worshipping when you have many foreigners around observing and taking your photos.

The temple grounds also include some large pagodas to its immediate north, including the Phra Si Ratana Chedi, a large golden stupa that’s probably the most recognizable feature of the temple complex. There is also a miniature scale model of Angkor Wat, the most sacred religious site in the Khmer Empire (Cambodia). Quite curious to see this in the complex — it was started by King Mongkut and completed by King Nangklao as the memorial of Angkor Wat and Kingdom of Cambodia that have been occupied by Siam for many hundred years until the colonization of Kingdom of Cambodia by France. I couldn’t help to think of this in comparison to the name of the area where Angkor Wat is located, Siem Reap (which in Khmer it’s translated to ‘the defeat of Siam’). Both the miniature model of Angkor Wat in Wat Phra Kaeo complex and the name of the area in Cambodia give you hints about the animosity between the Thai and the Khmers, two neighboring kingdoms that were in war with each other for long period of time.

The photo below was taken outside the Wat Phra Kaeo temple building. You can see the intricate decoration of this building. It’s awesome to look at as a whole, but it’s even more impressive to look at the intricate details of the decoration.

Wat Phra Kaeo

Grand Palace

The Grand Palace in old, downtown Bangkok, Thailand, is the official residence of the King of Siam since 1782. Though the present King, King Bhumibol Adulyadej, now resides in a different palace, the Grand Palace is still used for many formal functions. The complex includes The Temple of Emerald Buddha and several buildings that are used by the royal offices. It is now open to public as a museum, and it is one of the popular tourist attractions in Bangkok.

If you like to visit the Grand Palace, there are some things to note. First, as mentioned in a blog post a couple of days ago, beware of anyone that tells you outside the complex that the Grand Palace is closed for ceremony or for any functions. Often times these were scammers who will then try to offer you alternative to go elsewhere for sightseeing. You should go to the main entrance of the palace and check it for yourself; if you can’t get in or the ticket office is closed, then it is indeed closed. In our case, we ignored a couple of people who told this to us, to find the main entrance was full of tourists visiting the Palace.

Second thing to note is that there is a strict dress code for those who want to visit the Grand Palace complex, especially the Temple of Emerald Buddha area. Men must wear long pants and shirts with sleeves — no tank tops. If you’re wearing sandals or flip-flops you must wear socks (in other words, no bare feet.) Women must be similarly modestly dressed. No see-through clothes, bare shoulders, etc. If you show up at the front gate improperly dressed, there is a booth near the entry that can provide clothes to cover you up properly. You must leave your passport or credit card as security.

Another thing to note is that the Grand Palace is not easily reachable from the Metro system in Bangkok, but it is close to one of the piers of the Chao Phraya Express Boat. So you can take the BTS SkyTrain to the Saphon Taksin station, then embark on the ferry boat at the Central Pier on the river bank not far from the SkyTrain station.

We spent some time inside the Grand Palace complex, mostly near the Temple of Emerald Buddha area. I think our ticket also included a visit to one of the halls, but we ended up skipping that part of the complex as it was already around noon, it was hot and humid, and we still needed to walk to another area in downtown Bangkok to look for lunch place.

The photo below was taken inside the complex, near some of the big halls. They’re quite elaborate and large buildings — I couldn’t capture them easily in one photo frame.

Grand Palace