Map of Rattanakosin Island
1. Wat Phrakaew 2. Grand Royal Palace 3. Wat Pho 4. City Pillar Shrine
5. Wat Arun
The Grand Palace and the Temple of the Emerald Buddha (Wat Phrakaew) are located on Rattanakosin island, the heart of Old Bangkok city, close to the Chao Phraya River. The Temple and Grand Palace compound can be visited between 8.30 AM and 3.30 PM. When visiting with a tour group you will only get a glimpse of the whole site (usually in less than 90 minutes) We recommend you go on your own or in a small group. You will most likely need 3 to 4 hours to see the whole site. Tourists enter first into the Wat Phrakaew compound, and then (no return) the Royal Grand Palace compound. Do not neglect to visit the inside of the monuments, both at the temple and the Grand Palace. Pictures are not allowed to be taken inside the buildings. We recommend you go as early as possible, especially if you want to take pictures, since the Bangkok sun does allow for very good images at midday.
Phra Wihan Yot, Wat Phrakaew compound
When King Rama I (1782-1809) of Bangkok established the city of Bangkok as his capital in 1782 A.D., he had the temple of the Emerald Buddha constructed in the eastern section of the Royal Palace in order to install the Emerald Buddha, which he had obtained from the city of Vientiane in Laos. The construction took two years to complete and the image of the Emerald Buddha was transferred from Thonburi to the present site in 1784.
The Emerald Buddha is carved from a large piece of green jade. It has a width of 48 cm and a height of 66 cm.
It is located in the 'ubosoth', the major building at the Wat Phrakaew compound.
The inside of the ubosoth has interesting mural paintings, depicting the Buddhist cosmology, and the lifes of Lord Buddha. The galleries around the temple show paintings, depicting the whole story of the Ramakien (the Thai version of the Hindu epic, the Ramayana)
King Rama I build the Royal Palace (Phra Borom Maha Ratcha Wang) in 1782, at the same time as Bangkok (Rattanakosin) was made the capital of Siam (Thailand). Most of the buildings were erected during the first reign, but new constructions were still added up to the reign of King Rama V (King Chulalongkorn). Besided the main palace buildings, there are also multiple Phra Thinang (buildings or halls used by the king). Some of them are still used by Their Majesties at present.
You may be tired after visiting Wat Phrakaew, but do not neglect to visit the inside of the various palace building and Phra Thinang.
Royal Grand Palace
Phra Maha Chedi Sri Rajakarn, Wat Pho
Wat Pho (Wat Phra Chetuphon) is located within walking distance from the Royal Grand Palace compound and Wat Phrakaew. It is not on the itinerary of some tour operators, but visiting Wat Pho is a must!
Wat Pho consists of a large compound just a few hundred meters south of the Royal Palace. It houses a marvellous 46 meters long, gilded reclining Buddha, in its own Vihara.
Phra Maha Chedi Sri Rajakarn consists of four huge pagoda, corresponding to the reigns of the four first Thai kings of the Chakri dynasty.
Wat Pho has long been involved in health. Different statues of hermits in exercise postures can be seen. At present Wat Pho is still a center for traditional Thai massage, which can be experienced in situ.
The main chapel boundary wall is decorated with bas-reliefs from the Ramayana. You will see copies of the images on transparent pages all over Thailand.
More pictures of Wat Pho
Across the street from Wat Phrakaew is the City Pillar Shrine (Lak Muang). The (wooden)City Pillar was erected by Rama I representing the founding of Bangkok in 1782. The spirit of the City Pillar is Bangkok's guardian deity. You can watch classical Thai dancing (as part of religious ceremonies) here on most days.
City Pillar Shrine at night
Wat Arun detail
Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn) is not located on Rattanakosin Island, but on the opposite side of the Chao Phraya River. You can reach Wat Arun by river ferry from Tha Tien. The Khmer style prang was erected during the reigns of Rama II and Rama III. The structure is covered with mosaics. Going up the stairs will give you a good view of the river and surrounding, but watch out because they are rather steep.
More about and larger sized pictures of Wat Arun.
More history and historical monuments of Thailand :
Ban Chiang Culture | Dvaravati Culture and Art | The Khmer Empire in Thailand | The Kingdom of Sukhothai | The Kingdom of Ayutthaya | With Bangkok as the Capital : Rattanakosin Period 1 | Rattanakosin Period 2 | Outside Rattanakosin