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Grand Palace and Temple of the Emerald Buddha

Bangkok's most popular tourist attraction, the Grand Palace is the former residence of the King.

The Grand Palace is a complex of buildings at the heart of Bangkok. The palace has been the official residence of the Kings of Siam (later Thailand) since 1782. The king, his court and his royal government were based on the grounds of the palace until 1925. The present monarch, King Bhumibol Adulyadej (Rama IX), currently resides at Chitralada Palace, but the Grand Palace is still used for official events. Several royal ceremonies and state functions are held within the walls of the palace every year. The palace is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Thailand.

Construction of the palace began on May 6, 1782, at the order of King Buddha Yodfa Chulaloke (Rama I), the founder of the Chakri Dynasty, when he moved the capital city from Thonburi to Bangkok. Throughout successive reigns, many new buildings and structures were added, especially during the reign of King Chulalongkorn (Rama V). By the 1920s a series of new palaces were constructed elsewhere for the king's use. These included the more modern Dusit Palace, constructed in 1903, and Phaya Thai Palace in 1909.

By 1925, the king, the Royal Family and the government were no longer permanently settled at the palace, and had moved to other residences. After the abolition of absolute monarchy in 1932, all government agencies completely moved out of the palace. 

In shape, the palace complex is roughly rectangular and has a combined area of 218,400 square metres, surrounded by four walls. It is situated on the banks of the Chao Phraya River at the heart of the Rattanakosin Island.

Wat Phra Kaew

Wat Phra Kaew or Wat Phra Si Rattana Satsadaram, is the most sacred Buddhist temple of Thailand. While construction of the temple was completed in 1784, it has a sanitised appearance as if it was built only yesterday. The temple houses a diminutive jade statue, the Emerald Buddha, of uncertain but long provenance and revered as the symbol of the Thai state.

According to the legend, the Emerald Buddha was created in India in 43 BC in India.Then it was taken to Sri Lanka to save it from a civil war. In 457, King Anuruth of Burma sent a mission to Ceylon to ask for Buddhist scriptures and the Emerald Buddha, in order to support Buddhism in his country. When the Thais captured Angkor Wat in 1432, the Emerald Buddha was taken to Ayutthaya, Kamphaeng Phet in Laos and finally Chiang Rai, where the ruler of the city hid it. 

In 1434, lightning struck a pagoda at a temple called Wat Pa Yeah. The strike dislodged a plaster Buddha which broke open and revealed the precious jade Buddha which had been disguised in such a way to prevent it being taken by invaders. From Chiang Rai the Buddha image was taken to Lampang and then Chiang Mai where the statue was kept at Wat Chedi Luang until it was taken by Laos invaders and remained at Vientiane in Laos for over 200 years from 1547-1778.

In 1778, King Taksin went to war with Laos and retrieved the Emerald Buddha which he took back to his capital at Thonburi. When the new capital was established at Bangkok in 1782 under General Chakri (King Rama I) a magnificent new temple was built to house the Emerald Buddha and the statue has remained at Wat Phra Kaeo in Bangkok from that date.

Outside the main bòht (chapel) is a stone statue of the Chinese goddess of mercy, Kuan Im, and nearby are two cow figures, representing the year of Rama I’s birth. In the 2km long cloister that defines the perimeter of the complex are 178 murals depicting the Ramakien (the Thai version of the Indian Ramayana epic) in its entirety, beginning at the north gate and moving clockwise around the compound. Upon entering Wat Phra Kaew you’ll meet the yaksha , brawny guardian giants from the Ramakien .

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