The Grand Palace is, to Bangkok, what the Colosseum is to Rome: the epitome symbol of its ancient civilization. A visit is an absolute must, although it could be chaotic, tiring and quite overwhelming, Crowds here are phenomenal, especially in high season, so if you wish to survive your visit, you may take heed of some invaluable insider tips.
The following hints were researched, tried and tested by yours truly. And if I can approach a visit here with military precision, in spite of my prominent go-with-the-flow attitude, so can you!
Know What You’re Seeing
The Grand Palace was the official residence of the Siamese Royal Family for 143 years. This colossal complex is where they were born, lived, were crowned and even buried. To locals, this place is as revered as they come, especially true when you consider that the Emerald Buddha, the most worshipped religious relic in the entire country, is found here. It also helps to know that this 250-year-old statue is only 25 inches tall and sits in a protected case, on a very high pedestal. Much like the Mona Lisa in Paris, you may need binoculars to truly appreciate its contours.
Use Public Transport
Bangkok’s insane traffic is enough to turn the most well-balanced individual into the Hulk, so fight the urge to jump in a taxi or tuk-tuk, and head to the Grand Palace by public transport instead. The easiest and most enjoyable transportation option is by BTS Skytrain to Saphan Taksin Station. From the station, follow signs to the nearby pier and take the Chao Phraya Express Boat to the Grand Palace – easy, cheap, enjoyable, and migraine-free.
Visit at Lunchtime
Every guide written about the subject will urge you to get to the Grand Palace first thing in the morning, which, today, has resulted in ‘first thing in the morning’ being the busiest time of day. As most people will be on a whirlwind, organised day trip with a tour group, trust that there is another time of day which is blissfully quiet(er): lunchtime. Without fail, every guide will take his/her group to some overpriced restaurant for lunch, leaving cunning you to enjoy the Palace in peace and quiet – relatively speaking, of course.
Pick Low Season
Visiting Bangkok between May and August is usually thought to be madness, due to the oppressing heat, humidity and frequent rains. Yet it can actually be one of the best things you can do. Not only will you find great deals on central hotels in Bangkok, but you will experience the city, and all its attractions, with far fewer visitors. Besides, as long as you have a nice hotel to retreat to every afternoon, like the Woraburi Sukhumvit Hotel & Resort (hello rooftop pool!), you’ll find it easier to cope with sweltering hot days.
Now don’t go thinking you’ll have the Grand Palace all to yourself – that will never happen! But if you’re hoping for some breathing space, then this period will certainly grant you the beast chance.
Finally, don’t forget to put that camera down, every now and then. This is one of the most spectacular and awe-inspiring places you’re likely to ever visit. Don’t miss seeing it with your heart and soul, as well as through the lens of your camera.
**Full Disclosure: I’ve partnered with Hipmunk to bring you a collection of fun and informative destination guides. Yes, I’m being paid to write these blogs, but do note that all opinions, recommendations, ideas and photos are mine and mine alone — for your virtual traveling pleasure