Bangkok - The Grand Palace, Wat Phra Kaew (Temple of the Emerald Buddha), and
Wat Pho, (Temple of the Reclining Buddha)
Today was a day I'd been waiting years for - a visit to the Grand Palace of Bangkok, built in 1782 and home to the royal family of Thailand for the next 150 years. The kings who reigned here included King Mongkut -Rama IV - who ruled Siam from 1851 to 1868. Like many of you, I learned about this king from the musical, "The King and I," and it was a life-long dream to see the places that Anna Leonowens had lived and taught.
|Yaksa Tavarnbal - giant demons who guard the Palace gates.|
Our tour group met after breakfast for our long bus ride through the crowded Bangkok streets, but the time passed quickly with our daily Thai language lesson. We joined the massive crowd outside the palace, walked by the prominent military presence, and stood outside the walls of the palace for photos and a bit of history.
|Sawaddee kha! Language lessons on the bus|
|The military presence outside the gates of the Grand Palace|
|The palace was swarming with visitors from all over the world.|
|A view outside the palace walls.|
|Three distinct styles of towers.|
|Just inside the entrance to the outer courtyard.|
|Looking back at the entrance to the outer courtyard|
|The outer courtyard|
Other than coping with the huge crowds that filled every corner of the palace complex, our visit exceeded my imaginings. The outer courtyard was a hodgepodge of temples, both large and small, stairways leading to ornate towers and spires, and the huge bell-shaped chedi, its gold leaf gleaming above us.
|The golden chedi|
|Small temple in the outer courtyard|
|Elephants outside administrative buildings in the outer courtyard|
|Rob and Joan enjoy the sights.|
Demons and angels stood watch over many of the buildings.
The walls of the temples also glowed painted murals and with gold and jewels set in intricate three-dimensional surfaces. Some of the buildings were heavily encrusted with floral ceramic decorations. It was hard to take it all in. My eyes - and my camera - bounced from building to building and from feature to feature.
|Mural on a courtyard wall|
|Intricate designs on the outer walls|
|Joan and a gorgeous wall|
|Ceramic dragons over an entrance|
|Floral decorations fit for a wedding cake!|
|Mythical creatures support the golden tower.|
The centerpiece of the outer courtyard is Wat Phra Kaew, the home of the famous Emerald Buddha. Yo gave us a little orientation on appropriate temple etiquette, then we removed our shoes and entered the great hall.
|Wat Phra Kaew - the Temple of the Emerald Buddha|
|Outside of Wat Phra Kaew|
|Yo provides a lesson on temple etiquette...|
|...and the umbrella reinforces the lesson.|
Unlike the huge Buddha statues we would encounter later in our travels, the Emerald Buddha is only about 16 inches high, carved from a single rock of jade. It sits high on a pedestal, and the only person allowed to approach him is the king, who changes the statues robes three times a year, for the summer, the winter, and the rainy season. No photos were allowed inside the temple, but I found some images online that were licensed for sharing.
|Cool season robes|
|Rainy season robes|
I could have stayed for hours soaking in the sights, but it was finally time to walk past the actual palace, the residence of the kings of Siam. Parts of the palace are open to the pubic, but sadly, we did not have the time to visit. (A good reason to return to Thailand!)
|The changing of the palace guard|
|The Grand Palace - the residence of the royal family|
|Planters in front of the palace|
|Palace buildings and greenery|
|Thai demons decorate the rooftops|
Our next stop was Wat Pho, the Temple of the Reclining Buddha. This temple is also a famous Thai massage school, and we stopped first to see the old murals that had been used in the past to train the school's students.
|Massage school murals used for instruction|
|Our group learns about the massage school, which still operates today.|
We also had some free time to explore the grounds. I loved the statues of the wise sages who guarded the gates of this temple.
|I had to laugh at these particular statues.|
|A rather stern angel|
|Another reminder of Temple Etiquette|
|Yo demonstrates the position of the Reclining Buddha|
|The face of the Reclining Buddha|
|A pensive Buddha|
|The feet of Buddha far in the distance|
|Floral offerings to the Reclining Buddha|
|Floral offerings to the Reclining Buddha|
|Pilgrims drop coins into the bronze bowls|
|108 bronze bowls|
|Our group cools off in the shade|
|Rob uses the time for a little meditation|
|Rob tries to escape from a persistent saleswoman.|
|Waiting for a great dinner at Naj Restaurant|