Playing tourist at the Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew

Last week we had another long, long weekend because of the Queens birthday/Mothers Day holiday so with lots of people leaving town, and it being low tourist season, I thought it might be a good time to revisit one of Bangkok’s major tourist attractions, the Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew (Temple of The Emerald Buddha).

Part of the queue to see the Emerald Buddha

Part of the queue to see the Emerald Buddha

What I did not know was that there would be a big parade and 21 gun salute for Her Majesty at the park just opposite the palace, and that many of the crowd would then come and worship at Wat Phra Kaew.
The photo on the left just shows just a few of the people wanting to get inside !
As you cannot take photos of the Emerald Buddha from inside the building anyway I decided not to queue up with the worshippers and just took a photo looking through the doors from outside the temple.

The fabled Emerald Buddha

The fabled Emerald Buddha

Even with a 28-300 zoom at ISO 1600 and tweaked with Lightroom this was all I could get, so I don’t know what the people taking photos with their phones were expecting ?
It’s only about 2 feet high, dwarfed by the rest of the altar, and it’s really made of jade not emerald but the Emerald Buddha is probably the most revered Buddha image in Thailand. Only the King and Crown Prince, who ceremonially change it’s robes, and a few monks are allowed to touch it.

A well travelled Buddha ?

According to legend, the Emerald Buddha was carved in India around 2100 years ago, and then found it’s way via Sri Lanka and Cambodia’s Angkor Wat to Thailand’s ancient capital of Ayyuttaya. What is more reliably known is that in the 15th century a monk at a temple in northern Thailand noticed that a small, unimportant plaster Buddha had broken, revealing the Emerald Buddha hidden underneath the plaster. The king of Chiang Mai sent an elephant team to bring it to his palace, but the elephant would only go to the city of Lampang and after 3 attempts the king gave up and left it in Lampang. Eventually it was moved to Chiang Mai but was then taken under subterfuge to Luang Prabang in Laos, and later to Vientianne.
A couple of hundred years later the Thais, in one of their many wars with Laos, invaded Vientianne and took the Emerald Buddha back to the new capital of Thonburi where it was installed at Wat Arun.
wat phra kaew-4 The victorious general later became king and built himself a new city on the other side of the river, including a fabulous new temple for the Emerald Buddha. Whether the early parts of this tale are true or not is debateable but it certainly makes for an interesting back story !
Nowadays the Emerald Buddha is housed in a glittering gold and glass mosaic temple, wat phra kaew-6 surrounded by monkey demons, giant guardians and golden angels (and thousands of tourists every day !).
The Grand Palace is in the same grounds as Wat Phra Kaew but the buildings were all closed up that day for some reason unknown so I only took a few shots of the buildings exteriors, I guess I’ll have to go back another day to see inside.

About Mike

A recently retired "Baby Boomer" , looking forward to having more time for my photography and travel.
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