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The Grand Palace adjoins Wat Phra Kaew in a common compound, and is where you will end up after exiting Wat Phra Kaew. Despite the proximity of the two, there's a distinct contrast in style between the very Thai Wat Phra Kaew and the more European inspired designs of the Grand Palace (the roof being the exception). The Grand Palace is nowadays used only for occasional ceremonial purposes and is no longer the royal residence. The present King Bhumibol (Rama IX) lives in Chitralada Palace (also closed to tourists), which is located not too far away in Bangkok's Dusit district. Though the interior of most of the buildings remain closed to the public|
Highlights of it are:
- Boromabiman Hall, built by King Rama VI and every king since has lived here at some time.
- Amarinda Hall, the original residence of King Rama I and the Hall of Justice. Nowadays it's impressive interior is used for ceremonial occasions and coronations. It contains the antique throne, used before the Western style one presently in use.
- Grand Palace Hall / Chakri Maha Prasat. Visitors are allowed inside the spacious European style reception room. This building has not been used for royal residence since the mysterious death of King Rama VIII (the older brother of the current King), found shot dead in his room in 1946. The reverence for the monarchy in Thailand means that, even today, this remains a completely taboo subject to talk publicly about in Thailand.
- The impressive Dusit Hall, rated as perhaps the finest architectural building in this style.
- The Museum, which has information on the restoration of the Grand Palace, scale models of the Wat and Palace and numerous Buddha images. Labels are in Thai only, but there are free English tours available frequently. Entrance is 50B.
The combined compound is open 8.30am to 3.30pm everyday. Cost is 200B (if you are Thai, it's free), and includes admission to Vimanmek Mansion and Abhisek Dusit Throne Hall, both in the Dusit area of the city, the Coin Museum in the compound, and so-so free guidebook. The entrance to the compound is on Na Phra Lan road, on the north side.
Don't listen to anyone on the street as you try to enter telling you it's closed for a 'Buddhist holiday', 'cleaning' etc, or asking if you want to see the 'Lucky Buddha' instead - it's all part of a sophisticated gem scam.
As Wat Phra Kaew is Thailand's most important temple, you are expected to dress appropriately or risk being turned away. Signs put up around the entrance show you are not permitted to enter wearing shorts, sleeveless shirts, singlets or any form of open ended shoes. Sarongs and long trousers are usually available for loan should you forget.
Other attractions easy to reach from here are Wat Pho, Wat Arun, the National Museum, others sights in the Ko Rattanakosin area, and the Banglamphu district.
There's plenty of options for getting to the Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew. Ordinary buses 44, 47 and 91 stop on Thaiwang road between Wat Pho and Wat Phra Kaew. Ordinary buses 1, 25, 44, 47, 82 and 91 also stop on Maharat road, on the west of Wat Phra Kaew. On nearby Sanam Luang, north of Wat Phra Kaew, ordinary buses 3, 15, 30, 32, 43, 44, 59, 64, 70, 80, 123 and 201 all stop, as well as aircon 6, 7, 12, 39 and 44. The Tha Chang river express boat stop is also very near. If you're staying in Banglamphu, it's possible to walk there via Sanam Luang. It's only about a 1 km walk, but involves crossing some large and busy roads which don't have any obvious crossing places.