Arguably the city’s most famous landmark, the Grand Palace is one of the must-sees for any first-timer visiting Bangkok.
After around 17 hours of travelling, we landed in the capital at 6am local time, dropped off our luggage at the hotel, and headed straight out to the Grand Palace to make the most of our two days in the city.
Located along the bank of the Chao Phraya river, The Grand Palace can be reached by taking a boat from Central Pier to Tha Chang (Pier 9). Some of the hotels along the river ran a free shuttle-boat service to Central Pier and back which we found really handy, but you can also get to it by taking a BTS skytrain to Saphan Taksin station, and walking down to the pier from there. Look out for the Chao Phraya River Express Boat with an orange flag on from here, but don’t worry about buying a ticket beforehand, as you can pay the fare onboard with the ticket collector who’s shaking a money tin.
Surrounded by pristine white walls, the Grand Palace is made up of a number of buildings, gardens and courtyards inside. The entry fee costs 500 baht per person (about £10), and an audio guide is an additional 200 baht.
There’s a strict dress code you need to follow if you want to go in; no shorts or mini skirts, nothing see-through, ripped or cropped, and shoulders must also be well covered, ideally with a long-sleeve top or shawl.
All fair rules, but ones which were extremely difficult to follow during our visit in the 35°C+ heat, as my shorts and cami top combo was deemed “too sexy” for entry by a guide we spoke to outside.
Luckily for me, there’s a clothing booth located at the front gate where you can rent something more suitable. This is free, but requires a deposit of 400 baht which you’ll get back at the end.
Once inside, beautiful architecture, colourful statues and intricate details can be found at every turn:
We managed to get to the Grand Palace at around 10am, and already it was swarming with other visitors and big tour groups. Still jet-lagged and having not yet acclimatised to the tropical weather, we kept our visit here to a minimum, leaving after about an hour of walking shoulder-to-shoulder among the busy crowds.
I had actually planned on following this free walking guide of Rattanakosin Island, which looks like a great way of seeing all of the main temples on foot.
Beware of scams
We started walking in the direction of Wat Pho after leaving the Grand Palace, but were stopped by a uniformed security guard on the street who told us to keep our bags close and to be careful of pickpockets.
He asked us where we were heading to and if we knew how to get there, and as we weren’t 100% sure, we stopped to speak to him. Apparently Wat Pho was closed now to the public until 1pm, and so we should see some of the other free attractions in the area until then.
We got back at about midday after going on his advised detour, and it was clear that Wat Pho was in fact open and had been all morning. Of course by then we’d already paid for the tuk tuk he’d suggested, which had just taken us to the standing buddha, lucky buddha, and an obligatory suit shop nearby…
As it was our first time in a tuk tuk since arriving in Thailand, we actually found the detour pretty enjoyable despite being taken for a ride (if you’ll excuse the pun). Do be careful of people telling you that the attraction you’re heading to is closed, as I’ve now learnt this is a very common scam!
Also known as Temple of the Reclining Buddha, Wat Pho is located not far from The Grand Palace and is one of Bangkok’s oldest temples.
Entry to this costs just 100 baht and comes with a free bottle of water. You’ll need to stick to the same dress code as before, but there’s no clothing rental here, only a couple of vendors on the street outside who you can buy a shawl or pair of trousers from – the price of which will vary depending on how good your haggling skills are.
Wat Pho is most famously home to the reclining buddha, a huge golden statue measuring 15m tall and 46m long.
Look beyond the statue, and you’ll see beautiful mural paintings which decorate the walls from floor to ceiling.
Along the righthand side of the corridor there are also 108 bronze bowls which represent the auspicious characters of Buddha. For 20 baht, you can buy a pot of coins to drop into each one to bring you good fortune.
As part of a food tour we did the following day, we were lucky enough to be able to visit Wat Pho at night too, which was a much more enjoyable experience in the peace and quiet.
The rich history behind both of these stunning landmarks adds a lot to your visit – I won’t provide you an essay of it here, but it’s definitely worth buying an audio guide, going as part of a tour, or swotting up on the facts after your trip to fully appreciate their significance.
It’s almost hypocritical to complain about there being too many tourists at any attraction since they’re just doing the same thing you are, but the endless tour groups we ran into at The Grand Palace really made it difficult to enjoy our time there.
If you’re planning a visit, make sure to go first thing in the morning to give yourself the best chance of avoiding the inevitable crowds, and escaping a little from the scorching midday heat.
More ideas for your trip to Bangkok:
Need to know
- The Grand Palace opens from 8:30am – 3:30pm daily
- Wat Pho opens from 8:30am – 6:30pm daily