Not-so-Grand Palace

One of the hyped-up, “must see” places in Bangkok is the Royal Grand Palace, where the royal residence, many government offices, the Temple of the Grand Buddha are located. We’ve been admiring the massive, yet delicate, golden towers of the Palace and surrounding temples illuminated each night from a cab as we go downtown. But up-close and in-person? Not so glorious.

Apparently, the recent Chinese New Year attracted thousands of Chinese and Japanese tourists to Bangkok for the largest New Years celebration outside of China. On top of that, there’s an upcoming Buddhist holiday, and the anniversary of something important. Regardless, there were astronomically absurd numbers of pushy tourists on our tour day at the Grand Palace. The buildings were beautiful, but the rudeness and the smells were terrible. I’d much rather experience Bangkok by wandering around local markets, eating sticky rice and mangoes from street vendors, and being carted around the city in circles by tuk tuks. The tourist spots may be impressive spectacles, but the crowds are just frustrating. Our farang-free neighborhood is much better!

That said, the architecture was amazing, to say the least. And the Reclining Buddha in a nearby Wat Phra Chetuphon Vimolmangklararm Rajwaramahaviharn was HUGE, just like the temple’s full name. It is better known as Wat Pho, and it the birthplace of traditional Thai massage. Amen to that! Also, Wat Pho is one of the largest and oldest temples in Bangkok. Considering it is home to one of the world’s largest buddhas, it better be big! the Reclining Buddha is 46 meters long, 15 meters high, and covered in gold foil with mother of pearl on his eyes and giant feet. After a day of frustrating crowds, I enjoyed seeing this giant buddha, just hanging out with his giant head resting on his giant palm, and seemed to be trying to squeeze into a too-small golden doll-house of sorts. Ok, some tourist spots can be worthwhile. The big, shiny ones at least.

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