In the grounds of the Grand Palace in Bangkok stands Wat Phra Kaew, the temple that houses the Emerald Buddha, a statue 45 cms tall depicting the sitting Buddha made of jade and clothed in gold. The image is thought to have originated in India and was moved from place to place before finally coming to Wat Phra Kaew in the 18th century. The image is said to bring prosperity to each country it resides and so is deeply revered and the protective image of Thai Society.
The buildings that house the image and surround it are exquisitely created with fine detail grandeur and the reverence that the image commands. Traditional Thai art did not distinguish between the artist and the artisan, seeking to depict the Thai sense of community and religion. These works of art were created to achieve some religious merit for the creators of the shrine and buildings.
The area is right in the heart of Bangkok near the Chao Phraya River around which Bangkok is built. It is away from the main bustle crowd and stresses of Bangkok but an important tourist site. THB500 buys you a ticket and there are endless guides to lecture you if that is your thing, otherwise just wander and absorb the magnificence.
Given that you will have experienced the pollution crowds traffic and general stresses of Bangkok, it’s hard to believe you are in the same places despite the crowds of fellow viewers. As always in Bangkok ask the price of everything specially taxis and tuk tuks before you start since this is a prime hunting ground for transport looking for willing tourists.
The tradional Buddhist colours, ubiquitous gold and terracotta create a sense of light and contrast that reflects the importance of the place and is in major contrast to the heat and greyness of most Bangkok streets. It is crowded but you can find your own space and absorb the wonderful detail and care that is taken of this place. Good to go with a local if you know someone Thai, they don’t pay to get in and can give you a great flavour for what it all means.