One of Bangkok’s most fascinating places is its Grand Palace (hereafter referred to as Palace). It’s located on the bank of the Chao Phraya River, an area where some people used to live before being moved to what is currently Chinatown.
Throughout 150 years, the palace was the residence of the Thai royal family and worked as the government’s administrative headquarters. After 1925, the Royal family moved to Chitralada Palace, but some government departments still operate there.
Its construction started in 1782, the same year that Bangkok assumed the role of Thailand’s capital. A role that had been previously assumed by Thonburi and Ayutthaya. To understand this a little bit better, I recommend reading my previous 2 pieces.
What is called the Great Royal Palace isn’t solely a single building, rather a complex of several ones, which in total occupy an area that extends itself throughout almost 22 hectares. As time moved on, the kings who inhabited it kept adding the array of structures we can witness today.
The Palace happens to be divided into 4 areas, separated by walls and doors. Up next, I will unveil a bit about each one of those.
The Outer Court
It’s the first area we encounter, right after entering the Great Palace complex. This was a room of scribes, lawyers and other officers of the King. Its entire population was male, so they had to be placed outside, far from the women’s area.
This is where you can rent clothes nowadays, in case a visitor is not properly dressed to attend the area. Everyone must have their arms and legs covered.
Sala Lukkhunnai, an elegant structure, must be emphasised, as well as Sala Sahathai Samakhom, which has already hosted a military club and a small Museum. Also worth mentioning is its the deeply intricate gate, which was used by the King to enter and exit the Palace on special occasions.
Temple of the Emerald Buddha
The Temple of the Emerald Buddha, Wat Phra Gaeo in Thai, is the only location in the Grand Palace to which the general audience has access. It’s one of the country’s most important places, given the statue that it hosts. One that was carved from a piece of green jadeite, being deemed sacred by the Buddhist religion.
In addition the Chapel, where we can find the Emerald Buddha, there are other structures, of which I underline the following:
- Phra Si rattana Chedi – it throws us back to the pagodas of the old city of Ayutthaya. Inside of it, there’s a piece of the Buddha’s sternum;
- Phra Mondop – built on the same spot where once was a library, which was reduced to ashes by a fire;
- Royal Pantheon – originally built with the intention of housing the Emerald Buddha, it ended up being devoted to a dynasty of. In its interior we can find statues that belonged to this same dynasty;
- Ho Phra Nak – this is the place where we can find the ashes of the youngest members of the royal family.
This area’s entrance is guarded by two enormous demons, called yakshas.
The Central Court
This is where the royal family lived, housing as well the buildings where the King held its hearings, meetings and ceremonies.
The following buildings of this area must be emphasised:
- Phra Thinang Boromphiman – this mansion was built by a foreign architect, hence its western style. It was the country’s first royal building granted with a prominent portico which allowed the carriages to be dragged inside;
- Phra Maha Monthien – these are the Palace’s oldest buildings and were built to work as a main residence, a hearing room, the King’s relaxation area, among other functions;
- Chakri Maha Prasat – it is known as the Western with a Thai hat, given the fact that building was built according to a Western style, and it underwent a change, in which the then-existing ceiling was replaced by a Thai-style one;
- Dusit Maha Prasat – a cruciform hall which was used as the King’s residence and hearing room. It’s considered one of the most elegant throne rooms;
- Aphornphimok Pavillion – a tiny pavilion which was used when the King and his guests used the palanquin, to exit or enter the Palace. Nowadays, we can still see a platform outside, located at the height of his shoulder;
- Museum of the Temple of the Emerald Buddha – The construction’s initial goal was to house the Royal Mint.
The Inner Court
This was an exclusive area for the King, his Queen, his daughters and concubines. It worked as a tiny town of boys and girls.
It cannot be visited.
As a matter of fact, the Great Royal Palace has many buildings that can be visited. They are mesmerising with its stunning architecture. In my opinion, one should at least spend a whole morning or afternoon, thoroughly visiting this complex.