There are no words. Mind-boggling is too understated. Fantastic, magnificent, stupendous, outstanding…are all too weak. We commented that the Grand Palace in Bangkok makes Liberace look modest, and plain. Everywhere you looked inside the compound, there was (genuine, 24-karat) gold and gold leaf, statues (many repeated a hundred times around the base of a building), glass tiles, roofs with ornamentation, little shrines, small showcases, spires, temples, intricate detail, frescoes, protector gods, mosaics, carved entrance doors, painted porcelain, Chinese cherry tree tiles, color color and more color, and oh, yes, people….thousands of them. What a day! It was a privilege to walk the grounds and gape at everything this site has to offer. Even the trash cans were decorative! There was a graduation class mugging for the many cameras trained on them, thousands of photos, thousands of selfies, life…life…life! It was exhilarating. Just look at the images! Beautiful! Photography was not allowed inside the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, but it contained all gold ornamentation and fixtures, and enshrined a Buddha carved from a single piece of jade that dates back to the 14th century. After all the temples and shrines, we came to the actual palace and government buildings. That’s when we started seeing more and more guards.
The palace dates to 1782, and was home to Siamese kings for 150 years. Many of the buildings were not accessible, but the war ministry, department of state, and even the mint was inside the walls of the complex. The site is the spiritual heart of the Thai people and is used today for ceremonial and religious purposes. Several spots were for “Thai people only.”
We actually tried to see the palace yesterday, but found that we were improperly dressed. Shorts, tank tops, tight jeans, and flip flops are not allowed, nor sandals without socks. They send you into a building where you can “rent” proper attire for a few dollars. Instead, we opted to return today, dressed appropriately. Entrance is steep, for Thailand: about $16 per person. This is entirely within the bounds of entrance fees for the world’s major museums and sites, of course, but everything else in Thailand is exceedingly inexpensive.
Yesterday we wound up at Wat Mahathat, wat being the local term for temple. After the photos of the Royal Residence, the first photo from yesterday is the Naga Buddha, where Buddha is being protected by a seven-headed snake (with a cool red mouth!) called Mucilanda. As you can see, we were delighted by the many, many gold Buddhas and the light fixtures…a light is not just a light, it is a work of art! The inside was very quiet, and you can see a monk praying in front of the large Buddha.
We have been experimenting with different forms of transportation. We tried a river taxi yesterday for 50 cents per ride, but it did not announce each stop, was jammed with people, and we never knew what was going on. We tried Asia’s version of Uber, called Grab, and it worked fine the first two times at a good price, but then failed yesterday when they said none were available and this morning, when we had to walk quite a few blocks to where the driver parked. When we tried taxis they didn’t want to turn on their meters, just negotiate a price, but they were on the high side. So, we have ended up with traditional tuk tuks a couple of times, although each time we had to negotiate to not be taken to other attractions and not be taken to a jewelry shop, where, according to the driver, “all you do is look around for 5 minutes and I get free coupons for gas!” In other words, the drivers get kickbacks for bringing in unsuspecting tourists to buy junk. It is said that tuk tuks are the most fun you can have on three wheels! No trip to Bangkok would be complete without trying one. The first time they were quite insistent on the shopping trip….until we walked away. Then they quit pushing the shopping and just negotiated over the direct ride to the hotel. We thought it might be too hot to ride without air conditioning, but the open-air vehicles provided a nice breeze. So today, we walked up to a tuk tuk and said, here is our offer: no shopping stops, just return to our hotel for the same price as we paid for one last night. The driver capitulated immediately. He is shown in the last photo. Of course, the forerunner to the tuk tuks was a rickshaw, then there were rickshaws attached to bicycles, and the motorized tuk tuk was introduced in the 1960s. The best thing is that they can move through heavy traffic much better than a car, as ours occasionally drove on the other side of the road to get around congestion. It didn’t work quite as well as a simple motorcycle, but it was close. If we had gotten into a head-on collision, what a way to go!….having a ball on three wheels!