‘Okay, perfect’, said the woman at the counter to us. Accidentally, following the crowds, we had made it into the ‘Clothes Rental’ section of the admission area at the Grand Palace, Bangkok.
‘What’s a clothes rental doing there?’, you may ask. Let me give you a visual hint:
Yes, the Grand Palace’s got a dress code and they implement it pretty strictly (a lot stricter than the Vatican, I thought). That means no bare shoulders (no cover-ups with scarves allowed), no bare knees, no ripped jeans and no see-throughs. Thanks to all my research before our visit, we were appropriately dressed for the occasion (though not for the weather – hot, humid, ick!) and got the thumbs-up from the gate staff pretty quickly. I’d read online that even sandals or flip-flops aren’t allowed, but I saw plenty of them going around, so no problems there. If you want a more weather-wise alternative to pants to comply to the code, I’d suggest carrying a sarong with you. Worst case, borrow some clothes from the clothes rental desk – that’s what it’s there for.
Coming back to the Palace itself – armed with our audio guide, off we marched into the complex. The audio guide rules are quite demanding – they must have it back within 2 hours, meaning an automatic time-limit on your visit. What struck me first about the palace complex was – how really ‘grand’ it all was. The Palace was built over the centuries and by generations of the Chakri dynasty, to replace the royal palace in the old capital of Ayutthaya. I can’t begin to imagine how many people it must’ve taken to build this and how many are employed to maintain it!
Bejeweled buildings of real gold everywhere, supersized demon guard statues, unending wall frescoes and mind-boggling level of detail – the royalty here really didn’t leave any stone of opulence unturned. Being royal comes with its burdens I guess – ‘must spend enough money and keep things looking, ahem, adequately posh’!
The aforementioned audio guide will do a perfectly good job telling you in detail about the sights inside, but here’s a little photo-tour of all things grand:
The Grand Palace was our first stop on our day of temple and monument-hopping in the Thai Capital and easily the most opulent place I’ve been to, anywhere in the world. There was a lot more ‘goldenness’ and ‘grandness’ that day, but I’ll spare you the sensory overload and save it for another day!
Some tips for visiting the Grand Palace:
- You can get here by taxi; but public transport maybe more economical and efficient given the traffic in Bangkok – take the Bangkok Skytrain (BTS) Blue line towards Saphan Taksin (map) and connect to the Chao Phraya Express Boat (orange flag) at the Sathorn pier #6 (short walk of 5 minutes). Fairly simple, just keep a lookout for the boat stop you need to get off at, because they aren’t going to be making any announcements. (Tha Chang). Avoid taking the tourist boat (blue flag), tickets are almost 3 times the price of the orange flag boat (15 THB), tell the staff clearly which boat you want to be on.
- Take the audio guide – all those elaborate buildings and centuries of history can get confusing even with the guide; I’d imagine coming back quite clueless without. It costs 200 THB for 2 hours plus you must give them your credit card / passport for security. OR get a good guidebook. The only downside of the audio guide is that it may force you to rush your trip, as you need to return it at the end of two hours to avoid being overcharged for late return.
- Try getting here early in the morning (opens at 8.30 AM) to earn some respite from the crowds and the heat.