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The Grand Palace

Royal Regalia Collection Outer Court Wat Po - Temple of the Reclining Buddha Phra Maha Montien Group Chakri Group Dusit Group Borom Phiman Mansion Temple of Emerald Buddha Emerald Buddha Museum

For just about 150 years, Bangkok's Grand Palace was not only the home of the King and his court, but also the entire administrative seat of government. Within the crenelated walls were the country's war ministry, state departments, and even the mint. Thai Kings stopped living in the palace full time around the turn of the twentieth century, but the complex remains the seat of power and spiritual heart of the Thai kingdom.

Map of the Grand Palace
Grand Palace
You can click on the labels to see detailed information about the buildings. Arrows show the route through the complex.

The palace complex, like the rest of Ratanakosin Island, is laid out following the general outline of Ayutthaya palaces. The Outer Court, near where you enter the complex today, housed the government departments in which the king was directly involved, such as civil administration, including the army, and the treasury. The Temple of the Emerald Buddha takes up one corner of the complex next to the outer court.

In the middle is the Central Court, where the residence of the king and the halls for conducting state business were located. You are allowed to look at the fronts of the buildings in the central court, but only two of the throne halls are open to the public, and only on weekdays.

Behind the central court was the inner court. This was where the king's royal consorts and daughters lived. The inner court was like a small city entirely populated by women and boys under the age of puberty. Even though no royalty currently reside in the inner court, it is still completely closed off to the public.

While the Temple of the Emerald Buddha and Grand Palace grounds are open every day when not being used for state functions, the audience halls in the Grand Palace are closed on weekends. You can only gain entrance to see the magnificent thrones on weekdays. The Royal Pantheon in Temple of the Emerald Buddha is only open one day a year, on 6 April.

Phra Si Rattana Chedi Emerald Buddha Ubosot Phra Mondop Royal Pantheon Model of Angkor Wat Royal Columbarium Wiharn Yod Ho Prha Monthien Tham The colored prangs (pagodas)
The temple seen from the main entry to the palaceThe temple seen from the main entry to the palace

Wat Phra Si Rattanasasadaram, generally called the Temple of the Emerald Buddha in English or Wat Phra Gaeo in Thai, is a temple purpose-built to house a Buddha image carved from a large solid piece of green jadite. Chaophraya Chakri, who went on to become King Rama I, brought the image from Vientiane when he captured the city in 1778. King Rama I built the temple and enshrined the Emerald Buddha there as a symbol of Siam's regained nationhood. The temple does not house any monks. Rather, it is more like the personal chapel of the royal family.

Plan of Wat Phra Kaeo
Wat Phra Keo
Model on display in the Rattanakosin Exhibition Hall

You enter the temple compound on the west side, facing the back of the chapel (ubosot) housing the Emerald Buddha. Most visitors climb up to the upper terrace before proceeding around to the entrance to the chapel. North of the ubosot is an elevated platform with three large buildings in a line. Originally, the temple's main library, the Ho Phra Monthien Tham, was on this spot, but it burned down in a fire caused by fireworks later in the reign of King Rama I. He decided to have the Phra Mondop built on this spot. King Rama IV added the Royal Pantheon and the huge Phra Si Rattana Chedi to the upper terrace. He also commissioned the model of Angkor Wat which sits on the north side of the upper terrace.

Colorful demons supporting a stupaColorful demons supporting a stupa

North of the elevated terrace are three smaller buildings. At the northeast corner of the courtyard is the Ho Phra Nak, used as a royal columbarium housing the ashes of minor royals. In the center of the northern court is the small Wiharn Yod, which, in a break from the colored mirror tiles of the other buildings, is finished in bits of Chinese porcelain. In the northwest corner is the Ho Phra Monthien Tham, the 'auxiliary library' where Buddhist texts are stored.

Gandharara Buddha ChapelGandharara Buddha Chapel

South of the ubosot are just a couple of buildings. At the southeast corner is the Chapel of the Gandharara Buddha, built by Rama IV. The Gandhara Buddha was used in rain-making rites. Rama IV also built the bell tower in its current form. If you walk past the exit back around to the rear of the ubosot, you'll find a couple of other interesting structures and photo opportunities.

View from exit
View from the exit

Almost facing the entrance is a bronze statue clothed in white said to represent the Hindu hermit who invented yoga. Behind the statue, inside the consecrated area of the chapel, is a small tower housing a ringed chedi that King Rama IV brought from the north.

The demonic guards at the temple entrances
The demonic guards at the temple entrances

The entire temple is enclosed by a covered gallery, the outer wall of which is painted with elaborate scenes from the Ramakien epic. Each entrance is guarded by a pair of huge demons called yakshas. Along the eastern edge of the temple are eight tall prangs.

Multicolored towers next to the temple
Multicolored towers next to the temple

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Last Updated on Wednesday, 15 February 2017 10:08