What to Wear
First things first. If you want to visit the Grand Palace and with it, the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, you’ll need to wear appropriate clothing. No one can wear shorts or a tank top. Men need to wear pants and a shirt that covers shoulders. Do not wear shorts covered with a sarong — I saw a guy try this unsuccessfully. The dress code enforcer told him he looked like a girl. Women can wear dresses, but they need to be longer, without giving much exposure to the knees. Pants are okay as well. Sleeves are a must–no tank tops, exposed shoulders, cleavage, etc. This is what I wore:
A guard made me roll up my leggings above my knees for some reason before entered the temple. I wore them for modesty, but they were uncomfortably hot and for some reason, considered inappropriate. Learn from me: no leggings! I also wore my Birkenstocks, intending to change into the sparkly black flats when I arrived. I didn’t have to do this. Sandals, even grody flip-flops, appear to be acceptable.
How to Get There
Walk towards the river on Silom Road. If you are starting on Decho Road, where Lullaby Inn, Silom City Hotel, and Lub-D hostel are located, you will approach Silom and take a right. You will walk all the way down the road until it dead ends into a raised highway road thing. It’s possible that you will be solicited by overly-friendly folks who are trying to scam you. Even if you meet a nice lady who teaches you Chiang Mai dialect, you might be getting played. You may want to buy a snack from a street vendor along the way. Definitely pick up a bottle of water.
Anyway, you want to cross under this road and bear right on Charoen Krung, which is basically the first major road perpendicular to Silom. If the store fronts start looking spiffy and expensive, you’re doing it right. You will see a small sign pointing toward the Oriental. Follow this sign and take a left on Soi Burapa, across from a big gem store. It’s possible the street is not labeled, so look out for the Oriental sign first. The pier at the end of the road is your destination. You will pass fancy European buildings and the Mandarin Oriental Hotel along the way.
When you see what looks like a little hut where the road dead ends, keep going straight. This is the Oriental Pier. It’s stop 1 on the ferry route, and it’s your first destination. The people at the pier may try to sell you a private boat. Don’t take this. What you want is the 30 baht tourist boat. It will come to the leftmost pier and it should be coming from your left and traveling to your right, going north up the river. The boat is long and white, and should be filled with farang that match the boat’s exterior.
When you see the boat coming, get out of your seat in the shade quickly and board. Take a seat. There will be someone pointing out landmarks, but you probably won’t be paying attention. The ticket taker will come to you and confirm your destination, but it won’t matter if you’re reading this post, because you’ll know to get off at Pier 10. There is a star on your ticket. It’s called Maharaj Pier.
Get off the boat here, walk through a parking lot, and take a right. Do not take a left. The wall in front of you is NOT the palace wall. It’s a school or something. Take a left and walk. The really, really white wall surrounding a lot of pointy gold things is the palace. You will want to take a left when you reach the road running alongside the palace and walk towards the main entrance. There are little exits along the way that might look like entrances. Avoid these, They may be manned with people who may want to take advantage of you.
This walk will be harrowing. You’ll hear from tuk-tuk drivers and men who appear to be staff that the palace is closed. If it’s before 3:30, the palace is OPEN. Ignore these people. Do not mistake a souvenir NYPD SWAT shirt for an official guard uniform and narrowly avoid getting scammed. Avoid groups of school kids who do not understand personal space. They are probably wanting your money. Don’t give it to them–you’ll only be promoting an industry that potentially exploits kids.
Finally, you’ll see the entrance to the palace grounds opposite an Au Bon Pain. Go in! If you’re not wearing the appropriate clothing, you’ll be asked to rent garb from the grounds. Once inside the wall, you may want to hire an official guide who can explain the significance of all the monuments–there are few, if any, explanatory signs in English. You will, however see direction signs in English. Follow these to the ticket counter and sigh (internally!) at the 400 baht price before paying it. Go ogle at ornate and gilded gold architecture, kneel before a giant buddha, and giggle at ornate and fanciful images of beheadings.
When you’re done you can take a tuk-tuk for some food and fresh, young coconuts on Th Khao San for about 50 baht. Argue with your partner about whether or not the palace is superficial or just very well maintained. Another 50 baht will take you back to a pier. It might be rush hour, and the tourist boats may have stopped running. You might even end up at different pier. Pier 13 will be open and operating until 7:30 pm. Your tuk-tuk driver probably knows this.
It’s okay! You can buy a 15 baht ticket on an express boat. These ones have orange flags on the bow and there will be plenty of people boarding. If there’s not someone manning tickets at the pier, you can buy one on the boat. You want to board the boats coming from the right and traveling south on the river.
Keep in mind the express boats are NOT tourist boats. You’re expected to board and exit quickly. Be confident and hustle your tush. Grab a seat if you can find one, or chill out and grab onto something stable. Before you know it, you’ll be back at pier 1 and heading towards Silom!
Base fees: 45 for the ferry, 400 for palace access.
Optional fees: 100 total for a tuk-tuk to and from Khao San, 180 for coconut and food on Khao San, 200 for a personal guide, 25 for Milo nuggets and a bottle of water.
Hi! I'm Susan, and this is my travel journal. You can read more about me here.
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