The Grand Palace complex was established in 1782 by a King Rama I. When he assumed the throne, he declared the old palace not suitable. So a new one was designed and constructed. Kings get to do it their way.
The complex consists of his royal residence, a series of government buildings and the highly renowned temple of the Emerald Buddha.
The colors are bright and intense. The design is graceful yet strong. And the craftsmanship is evident in delicate mosaics, intricate carvings and epic paintings. I stand there mesmerized Tourists, like me, are busy snapping pictures. In every direction there is something dazzling to see.
As I walk I hear chanting in the distance.
This area is also a functioning Buddhist Temple. People go to the Emerald Buddha to honor the teachings of Buddha. As was explained to me, Buddhism is not so much a religion as it is a teaching about living in harmony and peace.. Still this place is one of the most venerated sites in all of Thailand.
The Emerald Buddha is actually green jade. When discovered in 1434, it was covered in plaster. Nobody took it to be more than an ordinary Buddha image. But some plaster on it nose flaked away and revealed a lovely stone beneath. Mistakenly, it was thought to be emerald. Hence, the legend of the Emerald Buddha began.
The Emerald Buddha is quite small. In the temple, it's overpowered by a massive and ornate altar upon which it sits. Other Buddha images flank the altar. Epic paintings adorn the walls depicting the life of Buddha including his Great Renunciation and Temptations to Enlightenment. All is ablaze with gold.
I stop and take off my shoes and enter this sacred space. The ritual is simple. Kneel. Bow three times with face to the ground and then with palms together say your prayers.
Often I am told, people pray for loved ones who have died. I pray for family and friends who have died, some recently, and imagine them in a safe and satisfying state.
Outside people pause at a cauldron of holy water and lotus blossoms. They use the blossoms to sprinkle themselves and one another.
It's a respectful ritual but done with smiles and a little playfulness. In an oppressively hot climate where it is normally 90 F or more, water is a welcomed relief. And in a world as troubled as ours, holy water should be shared gleefully.
For several hours I wander the Grand Palace complex. Here are a few more images for you to enjoy....
With the sun still blazing, I find an outdoor porch and enjoy an entire bottle of cold water.
Thailand has known warfare and lots of strife, but there seems to be an inner tranquility. Then I meet a young man from Indochina. He tells me something remarkable. Thailand means "Land of Peace." I never knew that before and now I will never forget. What a wonderful place...I think I'll have another bottle of water.