The Grand Palace is a must see, I’ve avoided it on recent visits as it can be very busy – Bangkok is now the most visited city on Earth and this is on everyone’s list.
Dating from 1782 the palace complex was built as residence, administrative centre and temple complex (Wat Pra Khao); the temple contains the Royal Monastery of the Emerald Buddha – the most venerated Buddha image in Thailand.
The dress code seems to have got stricter, your shoulders must not be exposed (men: polo shirts are fine, women must not be displaying any ‘frontage’) and legs must be covered to well below the knee – ideally to the floor. Full details here – CHECK.
You will be assaulted by clothing salesmen on the way to the palace telling you if your clothing is inappropriate (whether true or not) – and of course offering you a solution: buy their stuff…
Your choices are simple: go appropriately dressed or you can loan some clothes from the palace clothes office – think Municipal Worker attire… in tacky and heat retaining man made fibre, a refundable deposit is required.
There are numerous other scams around the palace and getting in; many centre around the fact that the palace is closed, you need a special permit or some other such nonsense.
In short, the palace is open every day 8.30 until 15.30, except for special occasions – and should this be the case then no tuk-tuk driver will be able to resolve this for you! There is only one entrance for visitors, the one on Na Prah Lan, opposite the park. An old scam was for touts to whip you up to one of the other entrances where you will be refused and then they could ‘work their magic’ to get you in.
Once appropriately dressed you can go to the ticket booth and pay your 500 Bht entrance fee (Thais free), and after that you are in… There are paid for guides and they also put on free guided tours (details just after the ticket booth and the turnstiles), it’s up to you, but a good guide can enrich the experience.
The Emerald Buddha has a long and interesting history; it was discovered inside a stupa in Chiang Rai (northern Thailand, then part of the Lanna Kingdom) in 1434. The plaster covering later cracked to reveal the inner Emerald Buddha (actually it’s Jade). It was moved around northern Thailand and Laos over the centuries until being captured by Rama 1 in 1778 and brought back to Bangkok.
No photos are allowed in the temple, the below was taken from outside with a long lens.