Today we decided to go see the Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew, which is inside the palace grounds. To get there, we rode our Skytrain line down to the end of the line, which is right at the river. We then got on the Chao Phraya river taxi. This was extremely enjoyable. The taxis stop at the many docks along the river to load and unload passengers. They are fast, however, and you can't dawdle. In some cases where only a person or two are getting on or off, they may literally stop for 5 seconds before they are off again. A woman with a little metal tube with change in it, that she shakes a lot so you can hear her, comes around to sell tickets. The trip up the river to the pier where the Grand Palace is located costs 15 baht, or about 45 cents. An unbeatable bargin, in my view. The river along the river is very nice; it's cool and pleasant. This is pretty much the best way to travel in BKK. Here's a short video of the ride.
We get off at the North 9 dock. The docks are labeled from the Central Pier, which is where we got on, North 1, 2 3, etc. Couldn't be easier.
We leave the boat, walk through the inevitable markets surrounding the exits, and head to the entrance to the Grand Palace. Along the way, at least two people try to tell us that the Grand Palace is closed for a Buddhist holiday, which is a common scam. We know better, of course, since only a person who did absolutely no research (and was also very gullible) would fall for this one, since every single guidebook and website mentions that this scam is very common, especially around the Grand Palace.
We enter and buy our tickets, which are expensive (for Thailand) at 250 baht, or ~$8. The main thing to see in the palace grounds is Wat Phra Kaew where the Emerald Buddha is housed. This is the most sacred Buddha in Thailand, and is a very, very big deal. It is quite small, actually, at around 60 cm, but it is really beautiful nonetheless.
The Wat it is housed in is something else, too. Talk about decorated. Wow. Here are some pictures of the grounds. There are no pictures allowed of the Emerald Buddha.
A huge gold chedi.
I love these guys. They are temple guardians, and a pair of them are located at each entrance.
Every surface of the buildings is highly decorated, as can be seen here. This is the temple that houses the Emerald Buddha.
Here is a view of the compound.
I really like these things too. They are called Nok Tantima, and are very cool. They are like half bird, half human. A kind of guardian, I think.
Another view of the other guardians.
Here is what the pair looks like guarding the entrance.
You can really see the Chinese influence with this guy.
This is a statue of the hermit who is supposed to have invented yoga and herbal medicine.
These guys surrounded the entire chedi base.
The entire inside wall of the Wat is covered in a huge mural depicting scenes from the Ramakien, which is the Thai national epic, borrowed from the original Hindu. See the link for more info. Many of the statues in the Wat depict creatures from this story. Here are some samples.
After leaving the Wat, you walk through a little of the palace grounds, most of which are not open to the public.
After this we decided to head back to the hotel, since it was really, really hot that day. We walked back to the pier and took an extremely crowded river taxi back to the central pier. It was obviously rush hour, since the boat was shoulder to shoulder crowded. This was kind of an adventure in itself, really. Like I said, the boats do not linger at the pier, and you have to be at the back and ready to exit when they get to the pier. Lots of fun.
For a late lunch, we went back to MBK and went to a dim sum place called Mr. Ming. It is probably the McDonald's of China, but it was really good, and really cheap. We weren't really hungry, so we just got 6 small plates of dim sim, and these with a coke and a bottle of water was 133 baht, or about $4.25. Can't beat that.
L wasn't feeling great, so for supper we just decided to order room service at the hotel. It was actually pretty good, and wasn't too expensive.