While the beach was fun, it really doesn’t show you much about the local culture in Thailand. Judit and I decided to change that one day, so our first stop was the Grand Palace in Bangkok-
It’s hard to visit Thailand for even a day without knowing that Thailand is a monarchy, and that Thais really love their king. (You would too if you remember The King and I, albeit that movie is illegal here.) His picture is everywhere, and insulting the king will land you a few years in jail.
I’ve got to say though, his palace is really nice. The only complication in visiting is it has a Wat (temple) on it with the famous Emerald Buddha in it (actually made of jade) and Buddhists are similar to Christians in that you need to be decently clothed to enter. This means something longer than knee-length for women which one usually doesn’t consider in the scorching heat, but the palace gets around this by offering you a skirt to cover up with if you show up at the gate unprepared.
View of the terrace where the Emerald Buddha lives. Unfortunately we visited on February 9th, the Buddha’s birthday, so we weren’t allowed in to see it, but it was lovely enough nonetheless to explore and see all the Thais who came to pay homage by burning incense and walking around the temple with lotus blossoms.
Another view of the temple complex in the grand palace complete with Thai flag. The architecture is so lovely I doubt I could tire of admiring it.
Having a bit of fun with some statues decorating the palace temple area.
And finally, the palace itself! It isn’t very old at all (Bangkok has only been Thailand’s capital for 150 years or so) and hence what I noticed is how much the palace looks very similar to any you could find in Europe. Mind, the king still lives here (as evidenced by how the street outside often closes because he’s coming or going) so this is the closest we got to investigating this bit. Instead we left the palace and headed to Wat Po, home of the giant reclining Buddha-
This thing is so big it’s difficult to take a good picture of it. Here’s a better one so you might get a sense of scale-
What makes me curious here is that this is apparently the second biggest Buddha in Thailand. Not the biggest there is, not the biggest in the country, just the ho-hum second. Makes you wonder what the other ones look like!
I also liked Wat Po because while you walk down the front side of the Buddha admiring it, in the back you can make a small donation for a little box of coins to distribute to the monks in the temple as alms. As it turns out Buddhists believe you get great karma points for such an act, but it’s also fun to do so there we are.
The only distasteful thing about the day is how people tried to scam us six times- three offering wrong directions, one telling us Wat Po was closed when it wasn’t, and two taxi drivers who refused to use the meter. None of these is particularly terrible if you know what they’re doing- you inquire about the meter before you go, and don’t take anyone’s word on if something’s open or not- but this sort of thing does leave a bad taste in your mouth. Ah well.