February 16, 2020. Touring the Grand Palace in Bangkok.
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This is an overview of an 19-day birding tour I participated on in Thailand in February-March 2020. This was a private group arranged through Field Guides, adhering to their typical itinerary.
Because we arrived in Bangkok a day before the official start of our Field Guide tour, we went to see several sights in the city. Our first stop was the Grand Palace.
The Grand Palace is not just one palace but a collection of palaces built by the kings of Siam (later Thailand). The first palace was started in 1782 by King Rama I when he moved the capital of Siam from Thonburi to Bangkok and has been maintained and expanded by the nine kings that follow him.
To show respect in state buildings and temples in Thailand visitors are asked to follow some general clothing rules: no shorts, short dresses, or sleeveless blouses. It was hot that day and, not knowing the rules beforehand, I wore shorts. As soon as I stepped out of the van a block away from the Grand Palace two street vendors rushed over and showed me the signs that my shorts were unacceptable! Luckily our “concierge” Wat stepped in to help out; he purchased a pair of pants from one of them for me to slip on over my shorts. You be the judge – were these pants more respectful than my shorts?
Being an official royal palace with governmental offices within some of the buildings guards were stationed on the grounds. All of them wore masks to protect them from illness (remember, this was at the very start of the Covid Pandemic; the first case outside of China occurred in Thailand 2 days AFTER we visited the Grand Palace. I think he was laughing at my pants behind the mask.
Once inside the Grand Palace we were assaulted by a riot of colors, shapes and sizes. There is no symmetrical plan to the grounds; each successive king built and rebuilt a wide variety of structures. See the picture below to get an idea of the differences and beauty of some of the buildings.
The decorations were stunning! Such intricate and colorful designs all over each building. See images below for a closeup.
Now look at the next image of roof-peak decorations. They are stylized birds!
After our tour we ate lunch overlooking the Chao Phraya River, which bisects Bangkok. River taxis zip up and down carrying commuters and tourists. Take a look at the boat and note the engine – it appears to be an automobile engine strapped on the back of the boat, with the long propeller shaft coming right out of the drive shaft!
After lunch we took a short walk down to Wat Pho, where they also enforce appropriate attire and a respectful attitude.
One highlight of Wat Pho is the Reclining Buddha statue, built in 1832. The statue is over 150 feet long and represents Buddha entering Nirvana.
Another highlight of Wat Pho is the collection of over 1,500 Buddha statues. Each of these statues is a little bit bigger than life-size and each is unique. A beautiful place to meditate and enjoy beautiful art.
Click HERE to see Day 1, of the tour; no more tourism, just birds!