Visiting Bangkok’s Grand Palace & Wat Pho

My trip to Thailand was kind of spur of the moment, I only had a few days to book accommodations let alone plan out what I was going to do once I arrived, so I kind of hit the ground without much of an itinerary. I had done a bit of research before hand and looked at some lists of things-to-do in Bangkok but I didn’t have much by the way of a concrete plan. More than anything else on my trip to Bangkok, I wanted to see the Grand Palace, it looks awesome in pictures and, from what I saw online, it seemed like the site to see in the city. So, on my first full-day in the city I decided to get the most important site out of the way and since the Palace happens to be conveniently located across the street from the from Wat Pho I figured I’d throw that in too.

Getting to the Grand Palace wasn’t very hard. I picked a hotel that was close to both the Sky Train and the Metro line, which seemed to give me easy access to most of the city. In fact, it was pretty sweet being in a city with such useful and modern public transportation. Although it was easy to use the subway and Sky Train they weren’t without their own problems. First, you need separate cards for both systems, your three day Metro card won’t do you any good at the Sky Train platform so don’t get more than a day pass until you’re sure you’re going to use one more than the other. Second, the only place it seems the Metro or Sky Train doesn’t go is to the Grand Palace. You can go one of two ways: take a taxi or take the train to the river and catch a boat. I went with the latter. Taking the Sky Train to Saphin Traksin Station you just have to walk down the stairs and you’ll find the docks for the Chao Phraya Express boat. Be careful down here as the public dock is nestled between a bunch of private docks selling tours and more expensive trips up river in smaller boats.

There are two piers that service the Grand Palace area, numbers 12 and 13. Pier 12, on the south end of the complex is where I disembarked. If you’re going straight to the Palace I found out that this isn’t actually the best place to get off because it is a bit of a walk from the pier to the Palace’s entrance and, because I had gotten a later start than I had planned, it was getting pretty hot. But as luck should have it, Wat Pho’s entrance happened to be just around the corner so I decided to see it first. I honestly didn’t have very high expectations for Wat Pho, maybe it’s because 45 meters doesn’t seem that big on paper. Much to my surprise, I really liked Wat Pho. I mean, you know you’re going to see a big Buddha but when you finally get in to see it you’re like, ‘that’s a big Buddha!’ It is a little hard to get a good look at the full thing because it is housed behind a row of pillars but when you get to the feet and finally get a look at the whole Buddha it’s hard not to be impressed. Plus, you have to remember the whole thing is covered in gold leaf. I guess I didn’t realize being a Buddha could be so swanky. The icing on the cake is that the entrance fee came with a free bottle of water!

Once I finished my water, it was time to make the trek down the block to finally see the Grand Palace. My first impression was that the whole complex is a little confusing. The Palace’s hours are weird, it closes at 3:15, some parts of the Palace and the temple complex close at random times, and if you need to rent clothes they have to be returned by 2:00. On this particular day, the Palace grounds were closing early but I was only informed of this by the clothing rental people after I bought my ticket. Speaking of clothes rental, I knew going in that the Palace has a strict no shorts, no tank-top policy but I had read that there were places to rent clothes near the entrance. Across the street from the Palace there are some souvenir shops that rent clothing as well, but they charge about a dollar an item. Skip these guys and rent clothes from the rental house inside the Palace complex. You have to make a deposit, but you get the full deposit back, just remember the 2 o’clock thing.

Finally, after running around renting clothes and figuring out how much time I had inside, I made it inside the walls of the Grand Palace. First, you go through the grounds of Wat Pra Kaew, the home of the famous Emerald Buddha. They obviously spared no expense when they made the temples of this sacred Wat, things here are pretty grandiose. But for all of the outside splendor, when I finally got in to see the Buddha I didn’t find it that impressive. Kind of a huge build up for something so small in comparison. Maybe I should have visited it first, then gone to Wat Pho. Nevertheless, I think I got a few sweet pictures as I roamed around for the better part of an afternoon. Once you’re done with the Wat you head through a point of no return to visit the Grand Palace, a huge building with an impressive amount of small detail. By this time I was really feeling the heat, and things were closing up, so I snapped some pictures of the building and got out of there.

I retreated back to the pier, which happens to be the home a small outdoor market filled with food vendors! I used this opportunity to snag myself a few choice bits of Thai cuisine, most importantly I got a good helping of mango sticky rice. I always had a thing for mango sticky rice but eating the real thing in a Thai market took it to the next level. I was in mango sticky heaven! I took the boat back to the train and was back in town with a whole afternoon to spare! All things considered, it was worth the trip, and cash, to see the Palace and the Wats. If you have a day for sightseeing, you can make the trip without killing yourself and you will get some awesome pictures. Just do yourself a favor and try some of the  incredible Thai street food, you won’t regret it!

Go here to see more Bangkok photos.




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