Bangkok

Grand Palace – First Impression of Bangkok

Our first Thailand trip was during the first week of October 2012. We only had one destination at that time, which was Chiang Mai. Loved this fantastic small place so much that we wanted to go back again and again! We even thought about living there for a month or two. The math we did shows that by living in Chiang Mai, we can actually save money plus have a higher quality of life compare to living in Shanghai. (Shoot me an email or leave a comment if you are interested in the numbers.)

So…2 months later, on Christmas Eve, when the temperature in Shanghai was around 0 degree Celsius, we packed our summer clothes and headed to Thailand for the second time with multiple destinations including Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Phuket and Koh Phi Phi island. Unlike our normal trips, we invited my mom to join in the first part of the 2-week trip.

Here we go. Started off from Bangkok, the capital of Thailand, Grand Palace was selected to be on top of our 2-day Bangkok itinerary with mom. “Splendid! Golden! Huge! So beautiful!” — I think that was my mom’s first impression of Bangkok!

Grand Palace

My lovely mom in Grand Palace

Mom in Grand Palace

A Little Background

The Grand Palace complex was built after King Rama I ascended to the throne in 1782. Prior to this, the royal palace and center of administration had been located on the west side of the Chao Phraya River. For some reasons, the new king didn’t consider the former capital suitable and decided to establish a new capital on the other side of the river. Therefore, by his royal command, a new palace was built, which has been known as the Grand Palace since then.

It covers an area of 218,000 square meters (approximately 2,346,000 sq feet) including 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. The Grand Palace complex is surrounded by four walls, 1900 meters (around 1.18 miles) in length. It certainly remains the spiritual heart of the Thai Kingdom!

Grand Palace

Grand Palace Location

Grand_Palace_location_Map

The Grand Palace is located at the east bank of Chao Phraya River in Central Bangkok. Between the river and downtown lies the Rattanakosin Island where is the home to Bangkok’s best-known sights such as Wat Pho, Wat Phrakaew. Grand Palace is certainly the most famous one!

Click the image on the right to see the location of Grand Palace in Google Maps. (Source: wikipedia)  ——–>

How To Get To Grand Palace

The most popular and cheapest way to go to Grand Palace is by boat. Chao Phraya Express Boat basicailly runs along side the river with stops at major attractions in Rattanakosin island including Grand Palace (at Tha Chang).

Take the BTS Skytrain Silom Line (there are two lines in BTS Skytrain system – please see the map below) to Saphan Taksin Station where connects to Sathorn (Taksin) pier. From there, switch to the boat going up north and get off at Tha Chang. We stayed at August Residence in Sukhumvit area where is not far from Asok Station on BTS Skytrain Sukhumvit line.

Click below image of Bangkok Transit Map to enlarge (Source: wikitravel)

Bangkok Transit Map

For making your trip to the Grand Palace smooth as ours, there is something you should know about the boats -

Chao Phraya Express Boat Map1) There are different boat lines which can be indicated by the flag color on top of the boats. You want to take the boat with orange flag because it covers most of the major sights along the river and it’s reasonably fast too.

2) You don’t need to buy tickets at the entrance of Sathorn pier. Usually, tickets are manually sold on the boat. There was this lady with a metal cylinder in her hand walking back and forth on the orange flag boat we took while asking passengers to buy tickets. Ticket price is 15 baht per person flat. However, not everyone on our boat bought the ticket though. No one really checked our tickets either when we got off the boat.

3) The boats run every 5-20 minutes roughly from 06:00-19:00. To return from Grand Palace (Tha Chang), wait for an orange flag boat at the same pier you get off. The boats go both directions at the same side of the river.

4) Make sure you know where you are going and please pay attention to the stops when you are on the boat as no one’s going to tell you what next stop is…That’s why taking a look at the Chao Phraya Express Boat Map above on the left or even download it into your smart phone (that’s what I did) in advance is necessary. You may enlarge the map by clicking the image.

The orange flag boat we took to go to Grand Palace

Orange flag boat

On Chao Phraya River

on Chao Phraya River

After getting off the boat at Tha Chang (Chang pier), you are pretty much immediately in a market. Walk through it and you will see the long white wall across the street on your right. Or just go with the flow. I mean you can’t really miss it. Besides, If you are lucky enough as we were, you probably can see a traffic policeman dancing while directing the traffic when you go cross the street. Han gave the policeman two big thumbs up when we passed by him. :-)

Admission Fee and Opening Hours

Admission fee for Grand Palace is 400 baht. Tickets are sold from 08:30 to 15:30. Opening hours is within the same time range.

One ticket actually includes two parts. One part is the entrance ticket to the Grand Palace and The Temple of Emerald Buddha. This part is valid for one visit on the purchased day only. The other part is valid within 7 days after purchased day which is the entrance ticket to Vimanmek Mansion Museum, Support Museum Abhisek Dusit Throne Hall, Sanam Chandra Palace and Arts of the Kingdom Exhibition at Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall.

The Entrance of the Grand Palace. Guidebooks in different languages are available there.

Entrance of Grand Palace

Strict Dress Code

There is a dress code STRICTLY enforced when visiting the Grand Palace. Here is the dress code I found online when I was doing my homework, aka trip planning -

  • Men must wear long pants (tight pants are not okay) and shirts with sleeves, no tank tops.
  • Women must be similarly modestly dressed. No see-through clothes, bare shoulders, etc.
  • If you’re wearing sandals or flip-flops you must wear socks (in other words, no bare feet.)

If you show up at the front gate improperly dressed, there is a booth near the entrance that can provide clothes to cover you up properly. 200 baht of deposit for one item is required.

The notice on the window of the clothes booth

Notice at the clothes booth

I thought I did the homework pretty well and I told my mom and Han about the dress code. On the way going into the palace, we saw a lot people being stopped and asked to go to the clothes booth. On the contrary, we dressed ourselves very properly. At least that’s what I thought. Just as I was being proud of myself for doing the research beforehand, a lady in uniform stopped me, “Madam, you need to cover your legs!” I looked down. Okay, I was wearing shorts. Maybe it’s a little too short but the dress code didn’t say women can’t wear shorts… Anyway, something to be added into the dress code -

No shorts, no daisy dukes, no mini skirts for women! If you wear skirt or dress, it must go below your knees.

Here’s how I covered my legs as requested -

Sharon in Grand Palace

I was severely over heating in this thing but it actually looked not bad, didn’t it? :-P For girls, you can buy one of these at the market in Chang pier area for 100 baht. Multiple colors are available.

Guess what’s next? Don’t go away, our story of 2 days in Bangkok with mom continues…

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