If you are planning on visiting Bangkok, chances are the Grand Palace (Phra Borom Maha Ratcha Wang) is high on your list of places to see. Located in the heart of Bangkok, the palace has been the “official” residence of the Thai King (and before it was Thailand, Siam) since 1782. Although the current King Bhumibol Adulyadej (Rama IX) resides in another location (Chitralada Palace), the Grand Palace is still used for official events, ceremonies, and state functions. It is also a major tourist attraction, and because of its temples, a highly revered religious site.

The palace is actually not one building, but a large rectangular complex with many beautiful temples and buildings. Because of its immense size, expect to spend at least half a day there. Within the palace grounds is Wat Phra Kaew, which is considered to be the most sacred Buddhist temple of Thailand.  One of the main buildings which compose Wat Phra Kaew houses the Emerald Buddha, the most sacred Buddha image of Thailand. No photos are allowed of the Emerald Buddha, so unfortunately, none accompany this post.

At the risk of sounding cliche, the visit to the Emerald Buddha was life changing. I was struck by the solemn, loving demeanor of those worshiping the statue. The beauty of the building, the Buddha, and the silent followers in prayer brought tears to my eyes. It was a humbling experience and a much-needed moment of refection and peace after several days in busting, congested Bangkok.

Situated on the Chao Phraya River, the Grand Palace is fenced in with high walls and has twelve elaborate gates. A note to visitors: these side entrances can easily be mistaken for the main entrance, and locals eagerly wait to trick you into taking different tours. They will often stand next to one of the large, closed doors of the side entrances and then track down tourists as they walk around the walls, “explain” that the palace is “closed for a ceremony” and suggest that you take a tuk tuk tour to another location. Don’t be fooled . . . even if they guards stand by and let this happen.

Another note to visitors: as with all Thai temples, make sure to wear appropriate attire: shoulders and legs must be covered. Bringing a sarong like the one I am wearing in the photos will save you the embarrassment and hassle of buying one, and it also spare you from the touts trying to sell you one at every corner.

One final note: Don’t throw away the entry ticket of the Grand Palace! It is also a ticket for free entry to the Dusit Palace in Dusit. The grounds are leafy, green, and peaceful (the area was built by King Rama V to escape the heat of the Grand Palace). The grounds main structure is the Vimanmek Mansion, the largest golden teakwood house in the world. Although impressive, I was equally enamored by the many museums on the grounds: everything from a collection of butterflies to an impressive collection of seashells!

Enjoy our photos of the Grand Palace in Bangkok.