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Sunday, 8-Feb-2009 14:03 Email | Share | Bookmark
Bangkok 3/wat phra kaew / Grand palace

A mythological giant (yak)
Phra Sri Ratana chedi
Phra Mondop, the library
Entrance to Phra Mondop
Kinnorn - mythological creature, half bird, half man
Prasat Phra Debidorn
Nok Tantima (Tantima bird), guarding the Viharn Yod
The Grand Palace (Thai: พระบรมมหาราชวัง, Phra Borom Maha Ratcha Wang) is a complex of buildings in Bangkok, Thailand. It served as the official residence of the Kings of Thailand from the 18th century onwards. Construction of the Palace began in 1782, during the reign of King Rama I, when he moved the capital across the river from Thonburi to Bangkok. The Palace has been constantly expanded and many additional structures were added over time. The present King of Thailand; King Rama IX, however does not currently reside there but at the Chitralada Palace.

When King Buddha Yodfa Chulaloke (Rama I) decided to move the capital of Siam from Thonburi on the west to Bangkok on the east of the Chao Phraya River he decided to build a magnificent new palace as a place of residence as well as a centre of government. The area choosen was however occupied by Chinese merchants, who he promptly asked to relocate (to the present day Yaowarat area).

The palace began construction on 6 May 1782. At first the palace consisted of several wooden buildings surrounded on four sides with a high defensive wall of 1,900 metres in length, which encloses an area of 218,400 square metres. Soon the King ordered the building of the Temple of the Emerald Buddha; as the Monarch’s personal place of worship and royal temple. Once the palace was complete the King decided to under go a coronation ceremony to celebrate in 1785.

The plan of the Grand Palace followed closely that of the old palace in Ayutthaya. The Palace is rectangular shaped, with the western side next to a river and the royal temple situated to the east side, with all structures facing north. The palace itself is divided into three quarters: the outer quarters, the middle quarters and the inner quarters.

The palace became the centre of the Rattanakosin government and royal court for most of the early Chakri Dynasty until the reign of King Chulalongkorn (Rama V) who preferred to stay at the Dusit Palace, but still used the Grand Palace as an office and primary place of residence. This practice was followed by his sons (Rama VI and Rama VII) who preferred their own palaces. King Ananda Mahidol (Rama VIII) moved into the palace full time after his return from abroad in 1945. However after his mysterious death a year later in one of the palaces inside the complex, his brother King Bhumibol Adulyadej (Rama XIII) who succeeded him decided to move permanently to the Chitralada Palace.

The Palace is however still very much in use; as many royal rituals are performed here by the King every year. Other royal ceremonies celebrated here are coronations; royal funerals, marriages and state banquets. The Palace grounds also contain the offices and buildings of the Bureau of the Royal Household, the Office of the Private Secretary to the King and Royal Institute of Thailand.

Wat Phra Kaew

The Wat Phra Kaew (English Temple of the Emerald Buddha, Thai: วัดพระแก้ว; full official name Wat Phra Sri Rattana Satsadaram, Thai: วัดพระศรีรัตนศาสดาราม) is regarded as the most sacred Buddhist temple (wat) in Thailand. It is located in the historic center of Bangkok (district Phra Nakhon), within the grounds of the Grand Palace.[1]

The construction of the temple started when King Buddha Yodfa Chulaloke (Rama I) moved the capital from Thonburi to Bangkok in 1785. Unlike other temples it does not contain living quarters for monks; rather, it has only the highly decorated holy buildings, statues, and pagodas.

The main building is the central ubosoth, which houses the Emerald Buddha. There are three main doors used to enter the temple, however only the King and Queen are allowed to enter through the center door. Even though it is small in size it is the most important icon for Thai people. Legends hold that the statue originated in India, but it first surfaced in the vassal Kingdom of Cambodia and was given as a gift to the King of Ayuttaya in the 15th century 1434. The image disappeared when Burmese raiders sacked Ayuttaya and the image was feared lost. A century later, the 'Emerald' Buddha reappeared in Chiang Saen, after a rainstorm washed away some of its plaster covering. It was then moved to Chiang Rai, then Chiang Mai, where it was removed by prince Setatiratt to Luang Prabang, when his father died and he ascended the throne of that Siamese vassal state. In later years it was moved to the Siamese vassal state of Vientiene. During a Haw invasion from the North, Luang Prabang requested Siam's help in repelling the invaders. The King of Vietienne tratoriously attacked the Siamese army from the rear, so the 'Emerald' Buddha returned to Siam when King Taksin fought with Laos and his general Chakri (the later King Rama I) took it from Vientiane, which at that time had been brought to its knees by the Thai Army. It was first taken to Thonburi and in 1784 it was moved to its current location. Wat Preah Keo, in Phnom Penh, is considered by many modern Cambodians as its rightful resting place, whereas, Haw Phra Kaew, in Vientiane, is considered by many Lao people as the Emerald Buddha's rightful place.

The wall surrounding the temple area – from the outside only a plain white wall – is painted with scenes from the Thai version of the Ramayana mythology, the Ramakian. Several statues in the temple area resemble figures from this story, most notably the giants (yak), five-meter high statues. Also originating from the Ramayana are the monkey kings and giants which surround the golden chedis.

The Temple also contains a model of Angkor Wat, added by King Nangklao (Rama III), as the Khmer empire of Cambodia and the Thais share cultural and religious roots.

Despite the hot weather most of the year in Bangkok, long trousers are required to enter the wat. This rule is strictly enforced. The facility offers the rental of proper trouser wear.

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