After a quick lunch at a small restaurant right across from Wat Pho, we walked over to the main attraction for the day: Wat Phra Keaw (Temple of the Emerald Buddha) and the Grand Palace. When we visited in September, it was very hot by the time we reached the Grand Palace. Initially, our plan was to go to the Grand Palace first, but since the tourist water taxi dropped us off at Wat Arun, we had changed plans. Knowing what I know now, I think I would have definitely come here first, in early morning before the crowds, because we were just too hot and tired to truly enjoy the amazing architecture of this place!
Let’s chat a minute about the dress code. We’re Mormon, so we dress modestly anyway, and EVERY OTHER PLACE we have ever visited with a dress code, we have never had a problem. What happened this time is that I decided to wear calf-length exercise tights, and I guess leggings are not allowed. So when visiting the Grand Palace, men and women should wear: shirts with sleeves and loose pants or long skirts. This dress code is incredibly strict, and since so many are not dressed in this way (in super hot and humid Bangkok), they no longer rent cover-ups, but you just buy them in a crowded little building off of the main entrance.
Understanding what was included in the ticket was a little difficult. For 500 baht, we bought a combined ticket to the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, the Grand Palace, the small Royal Thai Museum of Decorations and Coins, the Queen Sirikit Museum of Textile and Vimarnmek Mansion(which we did not have time to visit). Once we bought tickets, we eventually figured out the flow of tourist traffic first went to the Temple of the Emerald Buddha. We headed there first, admiring the amazing outer stupas and buildings of the temple complex. Technically, this “temple” is really just a chapel inside of the Grand Palace, lacking the housing for monks that is required for it to be called a temple.
Wat Phra Kaew was completed in 1784, around the same time as the Grand Palace. The halls are so ornate with every single surface decorated in bright colors and gold. The main attraction of this “chapel” is the “emerald” Buddha. In actuality, the buddha is made out of jade and is 26 inches tall! No photos are allowed inside the building, but this little buddha is up on a very tall platform and it looks so tiny for being the focal point of the whole temple! This little guy is supposed to have supernatural powers and is dressed differently depending on the season. Like many other temples, we had to take shoes off to enter and try to be reverent and not disturb the worshipers.
We didn’t really venture into any other buildings in the complex. We explored the outside of the buildings- some of them were under construction. After a time, there was a sensory overload of gold and different shapes and textures on the buildings. So many things to take pictures of! I wish we had a few more hours to just sit and take it all in, but the boys don’t really take it slow in these types of places.
The chapel was within the walls of the Grand Palace, but in the outer court. Because of events going on at the Grand Palace, we were only able to walk around the perimeter of the Grand Palace buildings. While the Temple of the Emerald Buddha’s architecture is very Thai, the Grand Palace has more European influences in the architecture, with the exception of the roof structures. I found this interesting, since these two very different parts of the Palace complex were built at around the same time!
We briefly visited the coin museum, which had a few interesting items but seemed dated and a little shabby after the look of the amazing temples and Grand Palace buildings. Our last stop was the Queen Sikrit Museum of Textiles. There could not have been more of a contrast between this museum and the little coin museum. This museum seemed recently renovated with beautiful, well-marked displays showing traditional Thai clothing, costumes from plays and dramas, as well as designer outfits from her own closet that she wore for various international meetings and galas. In a special kid’s activity room near the entrance, we tried on costumes from traditional Thai dramas and tried out some moves. Each position in Thai dance and drama has an implicit meaning, which I found interesting. There were masks to color, kid-friendly displays and I-pad activities to complete and the costumes and props to try out. We were the only ones there, and it was hard to pull Landon away!
The Grand Palace and Temple of the Emerald Buddha are must-see places in Bangkok. Visiting with children was a little harder, but totally doable. Make sure to triple check that your outfit follows the dress code and take advantage of going to the textile museum- the admission ticket is included with the main attractions. I think this place would be doable with a stroller, but there are some areas with steps and stairs up and down, though not many. We brought a baby backpack and our nearly two-year-old ended up wandering around most of the time. There is no eating and drinking in the temple areas, and no places to buy snacks within the complex. For hungry/thirsty little ones, make sure to bring water and some snacks to enjoy outside of these areas. Go early in the morning to avoid crowds and the oppressive heat (depending on the season). There are only a few areas of shade and it gets very hot in these courtyards!