In this message I plan to talk a bit about the Grand Palace in Bangkok but mainly want to share some photos of this incredible place.
The government of Thailand is a constitutional monarchy, a bit like that of the England. There is a Prime Minister (at least there was a PM until recently) and two houses of parliament. The Prime Minister is the head of the government. The King is Chief of State. As I understand things, the PM and the houses of parliament perform most of the business of the government while the King undertakes projects that benefit the country and the people.
About 92% of the population are Buddhists and the people are easy going, friendly and very helpful to foreigners as well as to each other. I was told that Thailand is the land of the smiling people. You do not see on the streets throngs of people wearing smiles. But as you interact with the Thais their smiles are very apparent. And you in turn smile back which the Thai people seem to love. I found that people at hotels and in shops would graciously agree to anything reasonable if the question was asked gently with a smile. For me, of course, this required an adjustment – but it was a very pleasant adjustment.
One somewhat strange thing is the universal love of the King. Every Thai seems to love the King. Really love the King. Monday, the day of the week on which the current King (who is 80 years old) was born, you notice a sea of people wearing yellow knit shirts with the King’s emblem. Everywhere you go there are large photos of the King – almost at every corner in the large towns. This love of King is not coerced. It seems to be an innate part of the culture that gives comfort to the people. One can hardly overestimate the love of the Thai people for their King.
Bangkok is a huge city with foul air. For tourists, the most important destination is the Grand Palace which lies on 230 acres of land that was consecrated in 1782 – the third or fourth location of residences for the line of Kings of Thailand. I believe that the current King lived in the Grand Palace until about 40 years ago when a more modern residence was built not far away in Bangkok. The Grand palace is now open to visitors except on a few days a year when part or all of it is used for Royal ceremonies.
Here is the Lonely Planet Thailand’s description of the Grand Palace. "An architectural wonder of gleaming stupas seemingly buoyed above the ground with polished orange-and-green roof tiles piercing the humid sky, mosaic-encrusted pillars and rich marble pediments."
Most Thai people are cremated and their ashes may be buried, dispersed skyward, sometimes in rockets or handled in other ways. For important people like certain monks ashes are often placed in tall conical structures called stupas.
One of the most prominent sights of the temple area within the Grand Palace (Wat Phra Kaew) is this huge smooth side golden stupa:
The following facade was said to represent one of the finest facades of all Thai temples.
Here is some of the detail of the top part of the façade.
Part of the legend of earlier battles involves the use of magical monkeys to help the Thais prevail over enemies. I love the images of these monkeys. This one is called a huge temple guard.
Here is a shot of the entrance to one of the many temple buildings.
Note the detail to the right of the entrance:
Sueann at another entrance:
A real highlight of the Grand Palace for me was the tower surrounded by jeweled monkey fighters.
The last image I want to share is of a building used by the King during coronation ceremonies. This (closed in by drapes for privacy) is where the King would change his clothing during the ceremony. The building was thought to be an outstanding example of Thai architecture and was copied exactly for one of the World’s Fairs in the early 1900’s.
I hope your email hasn’t choked on all of these photos.
February 1, 2007
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