Getting to the Grand Palace
From our hotel in Sukhumvit we walked to the Nana BTS station, a light-rail train that snakes throughout the city. We found it surprisingly easy to navigate and an efficient way to cover large distances in the city. At our final stop we made our way to the passenger ferry on the Chao Phraya River.
Read about the system ahead of time, you can easily see which stops boats are going to based on the colored flag on the boat. Also, opt for the regular ferry versus the tourist boat which costs significantly more. The standard ferry cost 15-30 baht per person (less than $1 USD).
We got off at the Tha Chang Pier and after a 5 minute walk we made it to the wall that surrounds the Grand Palace. I had read ahead of time to not trust anyone who said the Grand Palace was closed, or really anyone pretending to be helpful. There is a common scheme to convince tourists that the Grand Palace is closed or only open to Thai’s because of a religious holiday, etc. The goal is to get you in their Tuk-Tuk or taxi and to bring you to shops where they will get a commission. There are signs everywhere that warn about this. One man tried this ruse on us quickly but we just kept walking. And walking. And walking. The entrance was not very well marked and we ended up walking the long way around the walled complex under the hot sun.
Inside the Grand Palace
Construction on the Grand Place was started in the 1780’s, and it was home to the King until 1925. Now days it is more of a cultural/religious/tourist site than an important government building as it was in the past. There are multiple structures on the 2.35 million sq. foot area that is the Grand Palace, so wear comfortable shoes. The first thing we noticed when we got inside the Grand Palace was all the signs that said not to take pictures. The second thing we noticed was that we hardly saw a visitor that didn’t have a camera in their hands! To say that rule isn’t enforced would be an understatement, so we freely took GoPro video and pictures everywhere except in the Temple of the Emerald Buddha. The buildings are absolutely stunning! They all look quite different as well because they were built at different times over a 200+ year period.
Dress Code and Admission Price
The Grand Palace was beautiful. I’m not really sure that it was worth the 500 baht (~$15 USD) entrance fee though, which is quite steep for Bangkok. We should have arrived sooner in the day also. The Grand Palace was crowded and it was a hot, humid day, made worse by the dress code you have to follow. My Capri pants were considered too short so I had to roll them all the way down and my shoulders had to be covered (similar dress code for men). If you show up in shorts there is an option to “rent” pants, although the line for it was long by the time we got there so it would be best to just plan ahead.
Getting Hassled in Bangkok
After leaving the Grand Palace we tried to find our way back to the river boat ferry we had used earlier. We asked for directions and were pointed in a direction we hadn’t been before. We made our way through the riverfront market as we were told to and we were directed to a river boat…that cost 500 baht per ride! They tried convincing us that it was the only one available. We eventually found our way back to the correct ferry, and after being hassled by drivers trying to get us in their taxi/tuk tuk, merchants trying to sell us their stuff and people asking for money we found ourselves exhausted and a little disappointed in Bangkok by the time we made it back to our hotel.
Overall, I’m glad that we saw the Grand Palace but it was probably the least favorite thing we did in Bangkok because of the heat, crowds and scammers that kept bugging us. We could have been just as happy at a smaller place like Wat Arun or even leaving Bangkok to see the ancient capital of Ayutthaya. If you do go then plan on arriving when it first opens and take the river ferry, it was a great way to cool down and see some cool sites on the Chao Phraya River.