Bangkok’s Golden Palace and the temple are otherworldly. On a graceful curve in the Chao Phraya river, on the low man-made island of Rattanakosin, stands a 200 year old tribute to the power, wealth and artistry of old Siam. Surrounded by the skyscrapers and chaos of modern Bangkok, it is a place of majesty and myth, royalty and religion, serenity and symbolism, gold and glory.

Thailand’s Spiritual Heart

The Golden Palace of Bangkok was home of the Thai King and the Royal court for over 150 years. Here, beautiful architecture impresses visitors and the details are a proud salute to the creativity and craftsmanship of Thai people. It is a link between modernity and ancient Thai tradition, with diverse architecture spanning ages and continents from East to West, all blending together. A vibrant, lively and yet harmonious energy seems to permeate everywhere. It is as if this mystical place were a ship sailing steadfastly across the ocean of time.

Today, the complex remains the center of the Thai Kingdom. Here, the visitor can experience the spiritual heart of Thailand. The Wat Phra Kaew is the magnificent Temple of the Emerald Buddha. Teeming with glorious and diverse towers and the traditional Thai pointed roofs, it draws your eyes heavenward.

Magical Temple Grounds

Sculptures adorn the gardens and grounds of the temple and Golden Palace. Many creatures appear mythical. If you have only thought of Buddhism as a religion of monks in saffron robes and serene statues of Buddha, these might come as a surprise. But yes, these mythical creatures are a central tenet and important symbols in Thai Buddhism. Buddhist mythology has them residing in the Himaphan Forest on the mythical Mount Meru. It is the center of the Buddhist and Hindu cosmos.   

The key to growth is the introduction of higher dimensions of consciousness into our awareness. – Lao Tzu

As you keep wandering, you come face to face with an intricate, golden figure that seems to meld woman and bird. Known as a Kinnari, she can fly between the human and mythical worlds. Kinnari often watch over the well-being of humans in times of trouble or danger. How appropriate that this one’s hand is captured in the mudra (hand gesture) known as the Gesture of Protection or Blessing. Therefore, her expression seems to radiate serenity and love, perhaps reflecting the everlasting love between a Kinnari and her mate, a Kinnara.  

Holy Statues, Majestic Structures

This photo portrays the chofa. The word means “bunch of air”. Moreover, people often translate it as “tassel of air.” But this ornamental projection is more. In fact, it represents the garuda. Those are bird guardians that protect boundaries of the sacred structures.

At the base of Temple of the Emerald Buddha are 112 Golden Garudas, resembling man-eagles. Known as “The King of Birds,”  their golden wings can span miles and darken the sky when they fly. Each is tearing a naga serpent, its sworn enemy, in two which symbolizes Thai monarchy.

As you leave the temple, you wend your way to a garden below the Temple of the Emerald Buddha. There, you see, as one of many, a standing guard. He is a tall stone Chinese warrior. This one seems almost pleased with his post, and perhaps even glad to see you. Above him rises the Phra Siratana Chedi. This golden, bell-shaped stupa is said to contain a relic, perhaps a bone or hair, from Gautama Buddha. Studded with smaller gold mirrored tiles, it is more ornate than the usual gilded ones. Its conical roof and spire, the tallest in the complex, seem to pierce the very heavens, and symbolize the Buddha in his fully realized state beyond the bonds of mortality.

Perhaps these words of Buddha seem appropriate:

Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared.