Pick up any guidebooks on South-East Asia or Thailand and they will tell you that the top tourist attraction everyone should visit is The Grand Palace.
We went here on our second day in the city.
The Grand Palace is the official residence of the King of Thailand (however it is now used only for state functions). It houses the Wat Phra Kaeo which is a private royal temple and it is the holiest site in Thailand.
The best way to get to the palace is by going to the Saphan Taksin BTS station, walking down to The Central Pier and taking a boat to Pier 9 (Tha Chang). The boat ride takes 20 minutes and costs 40 Baht for a single journey on a tourist boat or 15 Baht for a non-tourist boat, which has an orange flag. The boat ride is worth the experience itself, it’s a great way to get around, has great views of the city and various temples along the river. Just make sure you are getting in a boat that is going in the right direction.
Unfortunately we only had an hour in The Grand Palace (due to being a bit silly, see further down the details of our foolishness). The entrance fee was 500 Baht each, this did not include a guided tour, but they give you a map for the site which includes a few words of description about each building.
You can only enter The Grand Palace grounds if you are dressed appropriately. You have to wear ankle length trousers or skirts and cannot show skin on the shoulders, cleavage or belly area. We knew this and took a change of clothing with us, but if you don’t have appropriate clothing with you you can borrow some inside. There is a small building immediately to your right with a coffee shop and changing rooms where in exchange of a 200 Baht deposit you can choose from some light shirts and light trousers to pull over your shorts.
The Palace was absolutely beautiful, I can recommend it to anyone. But try and go as early as possible to avoid the worst heat of the day as it is not very pleasant in your long sleeves and trousers. Unfortunately we only got there at around half past three, when the sun was beating down on us and the place was packed with last-minute tourists trying to make the most of the last of the palace’s opening hours. I wonder if they all got ‘taken for a ride’ like we did…
Here is something you MUST remember if you plan to go to Bangkok:
Tuk-tuk drivers will always pester you for your business. They are not aggressive by any means, but they will always ask and once you said no, they will leave you alone. However, there is a scam operation going on mainly in the Grand Palace area whereby a kind, friendly person, who will tell you he is a student, will stop you and tell you that the Grand Palace (or substitute here any famous tourist attraction) is closed, or closed for lunch, or closed for prayers, etc. and will then suggest you visit different sights until The Grand Palace reopens. He might even ask if you have a map and devise a route for you around the area. He will then tell you to take a tuk-tuk, because it is too far to walk. He will even advise you how much this should cost in a tuk tuk, e.g. do not pay more than 300 Baht for the whole trip. He will then catch you a tuk-tuk and even barter the price down for you from 350 Baht to 300. You get in and start going round the route he devised you, the tuk-tuk driver always waiting for you patiently to take you to your next stop. However along this route there will be an unscheduled stop, usually at a tailors or a jewellers shop. Do not fall for this scam! They want to take you to these places as they are probably working on a commission and this will cost you valuable time lost at your originally planned destination.
And please DO remember this, because Adam and I didn’t. And we even knew about this scam beforehand! Most guidebooks will tell you about it and yet we somehow still fell for a textbook scenario. I guess at the time we were just happy to speak to a helpful local and were disarmed by his charm… (slaps forehead in disbelief). We realised we were fooled pretty much as soon as we got in the tuk-tuk, but we just thought, oh well, at least we will see more things. By the time we got to the tailor shop we knew what was going on, so we went in, and turned straight back out as soon as the kindly tailor men tried to sell Adam some suits.
Our tuk-tuk driver was a perfectly lovely guy by the way and he showed us loads of stuff. The only annoying thing about the whole affair was that we could have spent all that time at The Grand Palace. We laughed at ourselves when we got back to the hotel and realised how we fell for the most well know scam in the land almost word by word.
On our little detour we were taken to the Golden Steps, which was actually well worth the time. This is a free site, so great if you are on a budget, especially as The Golden Palace is slightly on the price-y side. 🙂