After surviving an evening on the Khaosan Road, I felt ready to tackle exploring further afield. A friend from home had recommended visiting the Emerald Buddha in the morning before the heat of the day and when I’d checked out its position on Google maps, it looked like it was just 14 minutes walk from my hotel. Excellent, I don’t need one of those cheeky taxi drivers to take me off route!
Before leaving I read up on the dress code in my Lonely Planet guidebook, which explained that shoulders and knees should not be shown in the temple and closed-toe shoes were preferable. So despite it being over 30 degrees outside I don my closed toed espadrilles, lightweight trousers and pashmina to cover my shoulders and just to be on the safe side, pack a long sleeved top. With my attire sorted, Google Maps and guide book in hand, I set out in search of the Emerald Buddha.
As soon as I step out the door there are swarms of tuk-tuk drivers asking me: “Where you go? Temple?” How do they know… I wondered. Then it clicks, clothing, map, camera and the direction I was walking… so obvious.
The navigating goes well until a Thai sitting by a group of Tuk Tuks stops me and asks me the familiar: “Hey misses, where you go? Temple?” whilst pointing in the opposite direction I thought I should be going. Hmmm. Doubt begins to enter my mind. “Am I going the wrong way? Is Google Maps wrong?’
I ignore the Thai and walk purposely across the road but then changed my mind and decide to walk a little way in the direction he was pointing, just to see if it’s the right way. 15 minutes later I can see I’ve been duped. Ahhhh no and it’s SO hot in all this clothing! So then I have a 15-minute walk back to where I was. When I reach my starting point again I stay on the Google Maps advised route and after 10 minutes I spot the ornate spires of The Grand Palace (aka Wat Phra Kaew) and I know I’ve made it. Lesson of the day – always trust your instincts.
Before you’re allowed into the complex the security must check your clothing and approve or disapprove. I was confident that I had it sorted but it seems my pashmina wasn’t enough. Luckily I had another top (because I’m the sort that likes to have a backup for my backup) but as a warning to anyone else planning a visit, the pashmina alone won’t get you in!
Entrance to the temple complex is £500 THB (about £9) and boy was it worth it. I hadn’t really looked at any pictures of the site before I decided to go, so when I arrived I was speechless with how spectacular it was. I’ve never seen so many ornate and opulent temples. Every inch of every building is decorated in gold leaf and gemstones. It trumps Versailles Palace in France by miles.
Unfortunately, the temple with the Emerald Buddha was closed for renovation. So after all that, I didn’t get to see it. However, I went into all the other temples, including the Phra Siratana Chedi, the most beautiful of all. It’s a sacred space, so you’re not allowed to wear shoes or take photographs when you’re inside, (so you’ll just have to take my word for how stunning it is). Inside there’s a huge golden glittering altar with a golden Buddha that you must not point your feet at. The floors, walls and ceiling are also adorned with hand-painted art. It’s tranquil in here so I enjoyed taking a little time to reflect on all I have and how lucky I am for this experience.
I’m really glad I went exploring today and even getting lost was a blessing in a way because I found a pretty spot on a river bridge to stop and take photographs on. I’m now exhausted from all the walking and the heat, so I think it’s time for another massage. Life is hard here…