The Grand Palace (พระบรมมหาราชวัง) houses not only the royal residence and throne halls, but also a number of government offices as well as the renowned Temple of the Emerald Buddha. There is no other site in Thailand more holy or more famous than Wat Phra Kaew (วัดพระแก้ว), also known as Temple of the Emerald Buddha. The Emerald Buddha sits atop an 11-meter tall gilded altar, protected by a nine-tiered umbrella. Located in the historic centre of Bangkok, within the grounds of the Grand Palace, it enshrines Phra Kaew Morakot (the Emerald Buddha), the highly revered Buddha image meticulously carved from a single block of jade. No one is allowed near the statue except the Thai king, who conducts rituals at the temple throughout the year. There is a strict dress code for visiting the Grand Palace as this temple is Thailand's most sacred site. The Grand Palace covers an area of 218,000 square metres and is surrounded by four walls, 1900 metres in length. Thai Kings stopped living in the palace around the turn of the twentieth century, but the palace complex is still used to mark all kinds of other ceremonial and auspicious happenings.

The Emerald Buddha is in fact carved from a block of green jade and was first discovered in 1434 in a stupa in Chiang Rai. At that time the image was covered with plaster and was thought to be an ordinary Buddha image. Later, however, the abbot who had found the image noticed that the plaster on the nose had flaked off, revealing the green stone underneath. The abbot initially thought that the stone was emerald and thus the legend of the Emerald Buddha image began.

The image was later taken to Lampang where it remained until King Tilok of Lannathai moved it to Chiang Mai, his capital, where it was fittingly enshrined. In 1552 an interruption occurred in the Lannathai line of succession. King Chaichettha of Luang Prabang, who was the son of a Chiang Mai princess and a Laotian king was invited to fill the gap. However, after a relatively short reign he returned to Laos to succeed his father's throne, taking with him, the Emerald Buddha. The image remained in Laos for 226 years until 1778 when a Thai army under the command of Chao Phraya Chakri, who later became King Rama I, captured Vientiane, the Laotian capital, and the image was brought back to Thailand. After King Rama I's ascension to the throne in 1782 the Grand Palace was built. When King Rama I had built the city of Bangkok, the Emerald Buddha was housed within the Royal Monastery, Wat Pra Kaew, with due pomp and ceremony. The two earliest structures erected within the complex were the Dusit Maha Prasat Throne Hal, and the Phra Maha Monthian.

   
   

LocationGrand Palace & Wat Phra Kaew
The Grand Palace, Bangkok, Thailand.
Phone: 02-623-5500 Ext. 1124, 3100
Website: www.palaces.thai.net
Open everyday: 8.30 a.m. to 3.30 p.m.
You can take the Chaophraya Express Boat to the Chang Pier (Tha Chang) and walk to the Grand Palace.
Ticket: 350 Baht and consists of 3 main parts

1) The brown-yellow part is for the Grand Palace and is valid only on the day of purchase. (A guide book will be given to each visitor at the entrance to the temple.)

2) The pink ticket is for The Royal Thai Decoration and Coin Pavilion, which is on the right hand side before the entrance to the temple, just a few steps away from the ticket booth.

3) The white part is for the Vimanmek Mansion Museum (The world's largest golden teakwood mansion). This part of the ticket is valid for 7 days from the day of purchase. The Vimanmek Mansion Museum is located at Suan Phuttan Garden on Ratchawithi Road in the Dusit District of Bangkok.

Information correct as of Dec 2010.