How Do I Get a Room in a Thai Palace?
We woke up this morning bright and early to go to see the Grand Palace. It was roughly a 45 minute drive there, but over an hour on the way back because the protestors were meeting near the Night Market, which is only a few blocks from our hotel. We hoped in the van and took off, passing boats along the river, China town, and the textile district. It was so incredibly to see so many people in one area! It is a little reminiscent of the market in Florence, but 100x more packed.
Wares of every kind were being sold, and motorcycle taxis were whipping between the stalls at breakneck speeds, their patrons calmly on the back texting or having a cigarette. We arrived before the crowds, which was extremely nice because we could really get a feel for what was unfolding before us. Gold was everywhere-- I have never seen so much of it in my life! Huge platforms, and buildings, statues, temples, altars, and shrines all covered in gold.
The Palace is no longer home to the Royal Family, who have since moved to another area so that the people could appreciate their home as much as they did. It was built when Bangkok first became the capital of Thailand in 1782, and includes the Royal Family’s private temple. It has been home to the Emerald Buddha ever since, and he sits atop a mountain of gold, gems, and silver.
When we first entered we were surrounded by elaborate buildings (I’m not sure what they are for) all toped with a gold roof, and covered in tiny decorations made of pottery. Anil, our tour guide, told us that long ago the Royal Family was sent a huge shipment of handmade plates, cups, and the like, but they all broke on the voyage and so they decided to use it as decoration for the buildings. The light reflecting off of the brilliant edifices was almost blinding. I really can’t emphasize enough how much shiny gold there was!
We spent some time walking around, soaking up the sights, and taking pictures, then we headed to the Temple of the Emerald Buddha before it got too crowded. We all took off our shoes and hats, and before we even entered could hear the chanting of the monks, whispers of prayer, and see the glimmer of the treasure inside. The Emerald Buddha is situated atop a massive structure with detailed embellishments documenting his lives, deaths, and feats. He sits atop a small throne, forever locked in meditation, and is surprisingly small. His clothes are changed three times a year to reflect the seasons, summer, winter, and rainy, and at this time he was clad in a golden shawl to ward off the winter chill. Although actually made of a single jade block, when it was first discovered it was thought to have been crafted out of emerald, and thus its name.
We were encouraged to kneel down in front of the monument out of respect, and also so that we could take a good look around us without disturbing all of the people there to pray and meditate. The ceiling seemed to stretch on forever, and it was an incredible sight. After we had exited, we walked over to the Palace. There we were able to see the Coronation Room and several smaller ceremonial spaces.
Above us housed the Royal Family’s mausoleum, although we were not able to see it first hand. We exited through the Royal Gardens, which was absolutely stunning, and headed out into the busy Bangkok street. We were again greeted by a market, and as I had gotten some glorious elephant pants the day before Julian, Natalie, and Rachel couldn’t resist getting some as well. We had the best time and then scurried back to the bus to head to the hotel.
When we arrived we were all starving, so the four of us plus three guys who had just joined the trip all headed to lunch at a tiny hole-in- the-wall restaurant called Everything Good right up the street from our hotel. I have never had such a great dining experience! The owner, a sweet older lady, immediately came out to see us, offered us free bananas and water, and recommended dozens of delicious dishes. Since there were so many of us, we decided to order a little bit of everything and share. The food came out almost instantaneously, and we ended up ordering seconds of just about everything because it was so delicious! When we had finally gorged ourselves to popping, the owner brought us out mango and sticky rice for dessert, on the house. It was all phenomenal and SO CHEAP!!! In total, it was only $1,400 Baht including tip (which is about $40).
Then it was pool time! We were staying at the Aetas Lumpni and it is beautiful, complete with an infinity pool over looking the city! We had gotten some drinks from a 7-11 up the road and decided to make some mixed drinks, sit out, and go for a swim. We ended up staying there for several hours and had the best time talking and laughing. Such a great day!