There’s a certain point when the thick heat and pollution of Bangkok make your head swim so hard and your clothes stick to you so wetly, that all you want is to collapse onto a shady doorstep and yield.
This is what I was doing as Adie fruitlessly pulled my arm to stand back up.
“I don’t wanna go in!” I whined, leaning back onto the pavement. “We’ve been walking around the city for six hours and I’m tiiiired! Plus, 350 Baht ($10) is too much to pay to go in there. We can see the palace just fine from out here.”
Adie put his hands on his hips. “We did NOT come all the way out to the Grand Palace — the PREMIER attraction of all Bangkok buildings — to give up now!” he declared. “You WILL come in there with me, if I have to carry you in or pay your entrance. GET UP!”
At last I did, and I am so very, very thankful to Adie. THE GRAND PALACE. IS. AWESOME.
Spanning across one hundred buildings, the pure gold cone of the palace you can see from the highway is just the very beginning of the wonders inside the gates.
I have never before seen a palace that is so fitting for ROYALTY.
Everywhere, gold, tiny mirrors, jewel-toned stones, and metallic paint glistens. Each building is a different gorgeous twist.
Giant statues with individual (and often hilarious) expressions guard the doorways and hold up the columns. Elated, dejected, furious, bored– they all look fantastic.
What most struck us was how amazingly well the entire Grand Palace is maintained.
Though it was built in 1782, every single day workers toil to re-polish, re-paint, and re-build another small section… meaning that not a single tiny jewel becomes dulled.
Look at the photo below of the two painters refurbishing the murals of Buddha’s life! (As a team of workers is constantly maintaining the colorful streets of Old San Juan, Puerto Rico.) There were about a hundred of these caretakers at work yesterday.
Now a word about the Emerald Buddha.
This vibrant green, 26-inch tall figure is one of the holiest sites in Thailand, and was discovered in 1434.
It sits atop a twenty-foot high, radiant gold throne, and is surrounded by worshipers from around the world.
Signs read: “Proper dress required” and “No Shoes” and “Do NOT point your feet at the Buddha.” You are also not allowed to snap photos inside.
One of Adie and my favorite details is that, according to the official palace guidebook, “The sacred image is clad with one of three seasonal costumes (summer, rainy season, and winter). The costumes are changed three times a year in a ceremony presided over by His Majesty the King.” How absolutely lovely to envision these holy men delicately swapping the miniature fashions!
I truly loved the Grand Palace of Bangkok. (Seems most things with “Grand” are worth it — as is the Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi!) So what’s the moral of the story? There are a few.
1) Don’t be a lazy bum when you’ve come all the way to the gates of a famous attraction. Go inside!
2) Being a cheapskate is sometimes dumb.
3) When something is titled “The Most Famous Attraction in All of __”, there usually is good reason.
4) Friends are important.
5) Gulp plenty of water, snap those pics, and drink in the absolute beauty of the most gorgeous buildings you’ve seen in your life!
The author, Lillie Marshall, is a 6-foot-tall National Board Certified Teacher of English, fitness fan, and mother of two who has been a public school educator since 2003. She launched Around the World “L” Travel and Life Blog in 2009, and over 4.2 million readers have now visited this site. Lillie also runs TeachingTraveling.com and DrawingsOf.com. Subscribe to her monthly newsletter, and follow @WorldLillie on social media!