Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Grand Palace in Bangkok, Thailand

If you have time to see only one tourist attraction in Bangkok, make it the Grand Palace. It's spectacular and it will blow your mind away.

We must have spent about three to four hours wandering around various buildings of the palace complex--each prettier than the other. I was deeply impressed by the perfectly harmonious blend of Thai, Indian and Chinese architecture, detailed and colorful decorations both of the insides and the outsides of the buildings, as well as hundreds of phantasmagorical statues of mythical creatures spread out throughout the complex. The palace is a photographer's dream and I just wish the weather had been better when we were there, so that my pictures could do justice to the splendor of the Grand Palace.

                                                                                                                                                                  Construction of the Grand Palace began in 1782, when King Buddha Yodfa Chulaloke (Rama I) decided to move the capital city from Thonburi to Bangkok. The palace was initially built entirely out of wood, which later was replaced with bricks brought from the ruins of the old capital city of Ayutthaya. King Rama I ordered his men to dismantle the forts, the walls, and the royal palaces of the old capital but, luckily, he asked his men not to remove any bricks from the temples, thanks to which parts of Ayutthaya's splendor can be admired till this day (but that's a subject for a separate post).

The Grand Palace shares not only building material with the former capital at Ayutthaya, but also location along the river and spatial organization of courts, forts, walls, and gates. The palace had been the official residence of the Thai kings between 1782 and 1925, and till this day it's used for many official events.

Importantly, within the palace complex there's the royal chapel, which houses the Emerald Buddha--the most revered Buddha statue in Thailand. The statue is about 45 cm tall and carved out from a single block of green jade--not emerald, as the name suggests (the monk who discovered it mistakenly thought that it was made from emerald, hence it's name). Only the King of Thailand can touch the statue, which he does three times a year: at the beginnings of the hot, rainy, and cool seasons, when he changes the Emerald Buddha's robes.

The Palace is protected by the yakshas–nature-spirits

The Grand Palace is touristy and can get crowded, but it's definitely worth seeing. If I'm back in Bangkok at some point in my life, I'll make sure to visit it again, that time hoping for more luck with the weather.

The walls of the Grand Palace are decorated with scenes from "Ramakien"–a modified version of the Hindu epic "Ramayana"

One of the scenes from the Ramakien/Ramayana: the monkey god Hanuman crosses the ocean

I amongst the Rakshasas–demons from the epic Ramakien/Ramayana