Photo Essay: Exploring the Grand Palace in Bangkok

by Ekua on March 14, 2013 in captured on memory card,Thailand

On my walk to the Grand Palace, I wander through narrow neighborhood streets, enjoying the stillness and relative coolness of the early morning while it lasts. The awakening streets are lined with shops selling an array of used goods and food vendors are setting up their stands for the day. At busy intersections, I hesitate and then quickly learn the method of crossing the street when a local crosses and walking alongside them. When I see an ornate elephant statue in a roundabout and gold spires in the distance, I know I am close to the palace.

Just before I get to the entrance, a tuk tuk driver tells me that the palace is not open today. For a split second, I am disappointed. Then I remember what I’d read about drivers telling tourists the palace is closed and then luring them into jewelry scams or leading them astray in some other way. I tell him I’ll check it out anyway and keep on walking. Sure enough, it’s just about to open and there are already throngs of tourists there, waiting to get in. I join the line.

I walk around the golden and bedazzled palace as it shimmers in the haze-filtered Bangkok sun. I am surrounded by impossible details, overwhelming extravagance, and I feel pulled in all directions at once to take a closer look at the abundant ornamentation. Mythical figures stand guard with unintentionally comical menacing looks, and later, I see the ceremonial Royal Guards marching across the grounds. I make new friends. We take lots of pictures, sometimes smiling normally, sometimes with cheesy poses.

When I am ready to leave the Grand Palace, I continue walking and come across a market. I order my first Pad Thai of the trip from a street food vendor. It doesn’t look as pretty as the Pad Thais I’ve had at home, but it’s even more delicious. Later, I float down the Chao Phraya River and get one last glimpse of the Grand Palace’s glittering grandeur, then it’s time move on and explore everyday Bangkok.

Elephant near the Grand Palace in Bangkok, Thailand

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Author’s note: I am not currently in Southeast Asia and I’m not planning on traveling in the region any time soon. I visited Southeast Asia in 2008 and recorded my stories from that trip on another site before I started blogging independently. I’m rewriting and sharing my favorite stories here.

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Carina March 14, 2013 at 10:04 am

I was there in 2001 or so and exact same experience on the approach. The tuk tuk driver told us it was closed for “Happy Buddha” holiday. We didn’t know it was a ploy, but fortunately, we were determined to at least take pictures of the gate so we could go the next day. What a horrid scam, and insanely sad that it would work and some people might miss it.


Ekua March 15, 2013 at 6:46 pm

Yeah, I’m surprised about how many people this happens to. I read all the warnings to prepare myself, but it still throws me off guard when it actually happens. It makes me sad that these men rely on this kind of thing as a source of income and that there are maybe not enough ways for locals to capitalize on the insane amount of tourists that pass through that area in a legal and fruitful way.


Hannah @ Getting Stamped March 14, 2013 at 5:20 pm

We were just there in March 2012 and still is magical! FYI March in Bangkok is some crazy heat! We will be returning to Bangkok in December 2013 on our RTW trip. Hannah’s parents will be meeting us there for Christmas, and you better believe we are bringing them to the Grand Palace!


Ekua March 15, 2013 at 6:40 pm

Yeah, I was there in March that year. It was very hot and humid but it didn’t rain, which was nice. I didn’t do much research on the Grand Palace (or BKK for that matter), but took recommendations on the must-sees and I’m glad I went… haven’t seen anything like it before or after!


Sunee March 16, 2013 at 8:43 am

Ooh, this brings back some good memories. I was there in 1998 – wow, can’t believe it’s been that long! I remember being amazed at all the gold-leaf buildings while there was so much poverty right outside the palace walls. And just amazed at the fact that they could cover buildings in gold and it wouldn’t be vandalised.


Ekua March 19, 2013 at 6:02 pm

Yeah, exactly… some of the areas I walked through seemed pretty rundown and in the middle of it all was this massive ornate palace. It seems that some people in Thailand are passionate about the monarchy and I know there are pretty strong rules around insulting the king (even foreigners have gone to jail for it) so I imagine that the heavy-handedness extends to the palace.


ashleyrcummings March 19, 2013 at 3:08 pm

sweet pics!


Ekua March 19, 2013 at 6:02 pm



Mary R March 20, 2013 at 12:51 pm

I had a similar experience of almost being “tricked” in Thailand as well. In my case, the driver told me that my hotel (which I had reserved) was all booked up and he’d take me somewhere else. Glad you didn’t get roped in! Lovely photos, and I especially like the pad thai!

So, where’s your next travel destination?


Ekua March 20, 2013 at 4:45 pm

Hi, Mary! That’s another common one. It’s happened to me before and just ask them to take me there anyway, but one time in South America, a driver took me to the wrong hostel without even saying a word about it. Luckily it wasn’t a very large town so I was able to walk around and find somewhere else to stay. Portland is up next and I’m planning to do some more extensive travel this summer!


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