Is the Grand Palace in Bangkok Worth Visiting?
Built in 1782, the Grand Palace is not only the royal residence of King Bhumibol Adulyadej and the administrative seat of the Thai government, it has become a spiritual place of royalty. Its beautiful architecture, temples, statues, and murals have blown many visitors away. Because of its beauty and royal history, every travel book and blog post you read about Bangkok recommends a visit to this dazzling place.
But is it worth the time and the cost?
I visited the Grand Palace on my first day in Bangkok, and to say I disliked my visit there would be an understatement. However, after spending a few hours checking out temples, gazing on the famous Buddhist chapel, and looking at the statues, I realize that the Grand Palace is not my place, and it will never be.
I am not here to advise you not to visit the Grand Palace. If you plan to visit, here are a few things you need to know:
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The Grand Palace is an expensive place to visit
Frankly, I feel a bit irritated knowing that the entrance fee was 500 Baht ($15). When I was in the USA and Canada, I hardly spent that much on attractions and museums. During my two weeks in Thailand, I hardly paid anything over 500 Baht, other than for transit to Chiang Mai and Koh Chang, accommodation, the jungle trek, and the cooking class. Moreover, if you plan to enter Grand Palace, please note that only long pants and shirts with sleeves are allowed or you must pay a minimum of $100bht to purchase it at the store across the street.
Going to a nearby restaurant to eat lunch can easily cost $120 – $200 Baht per person. I can pay the same amount for two meals at most restaurants in the city. You may say that $6 for a meal and a drink is not a terrible idea, but all your expenses in the Grand Palace can swiftly add up in just one day.
The Grand Palace can get extremely crowded
My morning at the Grand Palace was terrible, mostly because it is over-hyped. The line in front of the ticket office and the entrance is long, and the place is entirely packed with groups of tourists and travelers when I enter. I walked there for a few hours and could hardly find any temples and places that had no crowds. As there are many tour groups at the Grand Palace, it can get very loud as well. If you need some quiet time, please enter the palace around 8:30 before the tour groups come at 9 am, so at least you have a half hour to enjoy this place on your own.
It can get very hot
When I visited the Grand Palace, it was the hottest season in Thailand and I kept drinking water to stay hydrated. In addition to the crowds, I did not feel energized to spend time walking from palace to palace. If you plan to visit, please bring water – lots of water. There are shops nearby selling refreshments; but, once you are in the Grand Palace, it is difficult to find a place to purchase water.
It is easy to get “temple out”
The Grand Palace is the first temple I visited in Thailand; but, after seeing many temples in China, I did not find the Grand Palace exceptionally appealing while my travel companion kept telling me how the Grand Palace appeared surreal to him. The thing is, ultimately, you will find the temple in Thailand looks nearly the same, with a similar structure, Buddha statues, interior, and the way monks pay respect to their spiritual leader. For respect to my travel companion, I could not hurt his feelings by telling him that I was suffering from visual fatigue during my visit and wanted to leave. Lately, in Chiang Mai, I have been avoiding temples at all costs, regardless if they are free to the public or not.
I do not know what I went there for
When I picked up the brochure at the entrance, there were dozens of pages telling the history and facts about each palace. It would be fantastic to know all the histories and learn the background of the statues and the detailed structure of each temple and the royal court. However, there are too many temples and I was struggling to match the temples on the map with the temples in front of me. The only thing I remember seeing is the Emerald Buddha in Wat Phra Kaew. I wished I could sit down and read part of the brochure so at least I knew what I saw, instead of just temples, the same statutes, and the dazzling decorations.
If you are still deciding on whether you should visit Bangkok’s iconic landmark, please consider the following:
The Grand Palace is a great place for first-time visitors to Asia
To decide whether to visit the Grand Palace, consider if you have ever visited Asia and been to any temples before. If Bangkok is your first Asian city you have traveled, you will be awe-stricken by its majestic beauty and the 500 Baht worth spending. For those who have previously been to the Buddhist temples, skipping the Grand Palace is not a thing you will regret.
The Grand Palace is a photographer’s paradise
Grand Palace is an amazing place for photography, with grand statues, tall gilded spires on the roofs, a colorful exterior, and marvelous Buddhas. On the other hand, if you like landscape photography and prefer to only capture the palace without people in it, be sure to get there in the early morning or you will have a difficult time.
It takes away introverts’ energy
At the Grand Palace, people are everywhere and, in some parts, you will feel you are walking through a crowded subway in rush hour. As introverts place high value on their own space and prefer their own thoughts, they will get exhausted quickly. As for me, the more crowded the place, the faster I want to leave. I understand why everyone wants to visit Grand Palace, but it just does not appeal to me the same way it does most visitors.
Do I regret visiting Grand Palace?
I have never regretted visiting any places during my travels but the Grand Palace will never be my top recommendation to anyone who plans to visit Bangkok. There are better places in Bangkok you can spend your time and budget on. I also won’t recommend anyone to visit the Grand Palace just to tick it off their bucket list or because everyone says you should pay a visit. If you plan to check out the Grand Palace, be sure to read the history and prepare your trip accordingly, so you can appreciate this beautiful landmark in the heart of Bangkok.
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