The Grand Palace complex in Bangkok, Thailand was established in 1782 and it consists of not only the royal residence and throne halls, but also a number of government offices as well as the renowned Temple of the Emerald Buddha. It covers an area of 218,000 square metres and is surrounded by four walls, 1900 metres in length.
The palace was built when King Rama I ascended to the throne in 1782. Prior to this, the royal palace and centre of administration had been located in Thonburi, on the west side of Chao Phraya River. For various reasons, the new king considered the former capital to be unsuitable and decided to establish a new capital on the other side of the river. By his royal command, a new palace was built to serve not only as his residence but also the site of administrative offices. The royal compound has been known since then as the Grand Palace.
The Royal Monastery of the Emerald Buddha
This is one of the most venerated sites in Thailand. The Emerald Buddha is enshrined on a golden traditional Thai-style throne made of gilded-carved wood, known as a Busabok, in the ordination hall of the royal monastery. The sacred image is clad with one of the three seasonal costumes(summer, rainy season and winter). The costumes are changed three times a year in a ceremony presided over by his Majesty the King.
The Emerald Buddha is in fact carved from a block of green jade and was first discovered in 1434 in a stupa in Chiang Rai. At that time the image was covered with plaster and was thought to be an ordinary Buddha image. Later, however, the abbot who had found the image noticed that the plaster on the nose had flaked off, revealing the green stone underneath. The abbot initially thought that he stone was emerald and thus the legend of the Emerald Buddha image began.
The Upper Terrace
Four main monuments are found on this terrace: a reliquary in the shape of a golden chedi; the Mondop, a repository for Buddhist sacred scriptures inscribed on palm leaves, contained within a beautiful mother-of-pearl inlaid cabinet; a miniature of Angkor Wat crafted by the order of King Mongkut (Rama IV); and the Royal Pantheon in which statues of past sovereigns of the ruling Chakri dynasty are enshrined.
Scaterred around the terrace are statues of elephants and mythical beings. The models of elephants are a record of the famous white elephants acquired during the reigns of the various kings of Thailand.
To the north of the upper terrace re three more buildings of interest, namely the Scripture Library (Hor Phra Monthian Dharma), the west façade of which is said to be the finest in Bangkok; a beautifully gabled wiharn (Phra Wiharn Yod) which contains a number of Buddha images; and the mausoleum of the Royal Family (Hor Phra Naga), which contains the crematoria ashes of a number of members of the royal family.
The grounds of the Royal Monastery are encompassed by galleries, the wall of which are painted with scenes from the Ramakien, first painted during the reign of King Rama I and since then restored several times. The first scene of the story is found next to the east gate, just opposite Phra Wiharn Yod. There is a depiction of the initial stages of the war waged by Rama of Ayuthaya to rescue his wife, Sita, who had been abducted by Thotsakan (Ravana), King of Longka.
The Phra Maha Monthian Group
The area consists of three main buildings, namely the Audience Hall of Amarindra Winitchai, the Paisal Taksin Hall, and the Chakraphat Phiman Hall.
The Audience Hall was built in 1785 during the reign of King Rama I. It is used for a number of state ceremonies such as birthday anniversary of the King. The hall’s main feature is a throne which is surmounted by a nine-tiered white canopy, flanked by two seven-tiered white umbrellas and backed by a boat-shaped altar.
The Paisal Taksin Hall is where the coronation ceremony takes place. It contains the octagonal seat on which the king is seated when receiving the invitation of the representative of the people to rule the kingdom, and also the Coronation Chair on which the king receives the accoutrements of office.
The Chakraphat Phiman building was the residence of King Rama I, Rama II, Rama III. It has subsequently become customary for the sovereign to spend at least one night here after the coronation to signify the taking up of official residence.
The Chakri Group
The Chakri Maha Prasat was built by King Rama V, was completed in 1882, the same year as the centenary celebration of Bangkok. It consists of the Central Throne Hall and the two wings. The hall now serves many purposes, most notably for the reception of foreign ambassadors on the occasion of the presentation of their credentials, and for state banquets in honour of visiting Heads of State.
The Dusit Group
This group consists of the Dusit Maha Prasat Throne Hall and the Amphorn Phimok Pavilion.
The Dusit Maha Prasat Throne Hall was built by King Rama I to replace the wooden Amarintharapisek Maha Prasat which was burned down in 1790. King Rama I intended that the present building be used for his own lying-in-state ceremony as it shares the same heights and dimensions as the Suriyamarin Throne Hall in Ayuthaya, the traditional lying-in-state place for the remains of Ayuthaya kings.
The Borom Phiman Mansion
Built in western style in 1903 by King Rama V for the Heir Apparent, the future Rama VI, this mansion was also used on various occasions as a royal residence by King Rama VII (1925-1935), King Rama VIII (1935-1946), and the present King Rama IX. At present the mansion serves as the Royal Guest House for visiting Heads of State and guests of their Majesties.
Open to the public everyday, except during special Royal Ceremonies, from 8.30 a.m. to 3.30 p.m.
Baht 400, and includes admission to Wat Phra Kaew, The Royal Thai Decorations & Coins Pavilion in the same compound and to Vimanmek Mansion Museum on Ratchawithi Road.
Additional Baht 100 for rental personal audio guide in various languages.
Maharaj Pier, Chao Phraya, Bangkok
Visitors are required to dress appropriately:
1. No shorts, tights, mini & short skirts & tight fitting trousers as outer garments.
2. No see-through shirts and blouses, culottes or quarter length trousers.
3. No sleeveless shirts or vests as outer garments.
4. No sandals (without ankle or heel straps).
5. All shirt sleeves, whether long or short, can not be rolled up.
6. No sweat shirts & pants, wind-cheaters, pajamas and fisherman trousers.