Bangkok, Thailand




A trip to Bangkok is not complete without a visit to Rattanakosin's prime sights. Bangkok counts hundreds of Buddhist temples, known in Thai as "wat" with the most important ones in Rattanakosin. Temples are part of daily life for many Thais and temples here are impressive with much devotion to architecture and decoration. You could spend weeks visiting temples in Bangkok but most visitors spend only a few days in the city. Therefore, Rattanakosin is highly recommended since most of the important temples are here.

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Grand Palace
It is not just a palace but also includes Wat Phra Kaew, the most sacred temple in Thailand. It is a must-see for every visitor to Bangkok and the palace grounds are so large that you have to spend at least a full morning walking through the complex. The Grand Palace was the former residence of the King and architectural designs include pure Ayutthayan styles of the temples to a blend of Thai and Western styles for later structures.
While the King no longer lives here, a large part of the complex is used for royal residences and ceremonies and therefore off-limits to visitors or tourists.

Combined entry is a steep 400 baht, plus an optional 200 baht for a two-hour audio guide (Thais get in for free). The Grand Palace opens to visitors every day from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m with the last tickets sold at 3:30 p.m. It is best to attend the Grand Palace during weekdays as some throne halls are closed during the weekends for ceremonial purposes. Visitors are corralled along a set route and therefore the palace grounds can easily be explored on your own. First walk through Wat Phra Kaew with the palace buildings coming right after. There are free English tours four times a day, just look for the sign after you pass the ticket gate.

Grand Palace by echiner1

Temples play an important role in Buddhist traditions. Monks wake up early in the morning and perform the daily alms ritual between 5:00 a.m. and 7:00 a.m. Monks line up in front of the temples accepting donations from the people, most of offer food and daily necessities such as rice, soap, candles, soda cans and even toilet paper. By giving, Buddhists believe that these good deeds will bring luck later in life or in the afterlife.

Many visitors also visit Wat Pho, which is probably has the largest reclining Buddha statue in the world. Wat Arun (technically on the Thonburi side of the river but easily visited using the ferry from Tha Tien Pier) is a large temple beautifully decorated with blue and white ceramics. These top three attractions are conveniently clustered right next to each other. Other prominent temples include Wat Saket, Golden Mount (built on an artificial hill with a nice view of the city), Wat Suthat and the Giant Swing located on the eastern side of Rattanakosin.

Appropriate Dressing
Bear in mind that you must dress appropriately when visiting the Grand Palace and temples i.e. no shorts or mini-skirts, no sandals or slippers and no sleeveless shirts. You risk being denied entry if you are inappropriately dressed. However, some places may provide rental parachute pants to "cover" yourself for a small (refundable) deposit.

Wat Pho by Deror Avi

Touts & Scams
Don't listen to anyone telling you the temples are closed for a "Buddhist holiday" or that temples only open in the afternoon because the monks are praying or anything else along these lines. While it's true that opening times of temples and palaces can vary due to ceremonies and state occasions, you should always check yourself. These seemingly "helpful pedestrians" are in fact touts trying to scam you. An example, is to take the unsuspecting tourist on a full-day tuk-tuk ride around the city and trick you into buying overpriced gems, souvenirs and other junks.
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