Thailand’s Grand Palace is full of extraordinary artistry and detail — well worth a visit if you’re in Bangkok. The walled complex was established in 1782 after King Rama I ascended to the throne. The palace includes the royal residence and several government offices. Entering the complex is a nice break from the hustle and bustle of Bangkok’s surrounding streets. It can be crowded at times, but there are lots of nooks and crannies among the buildings that provide shady respites from the heat and crowds.
The site covers more than 50 acres with more than 30 halls, pavilions and buildings. Architectural styles vary as structures have been completed over the centuries that have passed since the complex was established. Ornately tiled and gilded halls from the late 1700s exist alongside far more reserved and less colorful buildings from the 20th century. The site includes the Temple of the Emerald Buddha which houses (you guessed it!) the Emerald Buddha, carved from green jade and first discovered in Chiang Rai in 1434.
A ticket to the Grand Palace includes entry into the Queen Sirikit Museum of Textiles. Anyone interested in Thai textiles or fashion should not miss this museum. It showcases many of the exquisite gowns worn by Queen Sirikit herself, and documents her efforts to learn about and preserve the country’s incredible history of textile arts. The efforts of both Queen Sirikit and Jim Thompson (with whom I know a few of us are obsessed) have made Thailand a truly amazing place to explore the history and beauty of this craft.