Ever since I was young, it has been my ultimate dream to visit Thailand, formerly named Siam. The country is called “The Land of the Free” because it’s the only country in southeast Asia that was never colonized by the West. Thus, its preserved and unique culture is one of the reasons why tourists from all around the world flock in this country. My own interest in Thailand started after watching, one of my favorite films of all time, Anna and the King. Seriously, I think I watched this movie more than ten times when I was in high school. I loved this film not only because I have a huge crush on the King (Chow Yun-Fat) but also because the costume design and location of the film were impressive. Ever since then, I have been fascinated to visit the Kingdom of Siam.
“Anna and the King” (photo from here)
If you haven’t seen the film yet, the story is about Anna Leonowens, a widow who has come to Siam to teach English to the royal children. Anna is intelligent and strong-minded, which pleases King Mongkut, the king of Siam during that time. They encounter different trials but later on fall in love in the movie. The film is also related to the famous musical, The King and I.
And finally, after many years, I was able to book a trip to Bangkok through Cebu Pacific’s promo fares. I paid Php 3,600 (83.55 USD) for a round trip fare from Manila to Bangkok. However, after researching online, I found out that the film location of Anna and the King is not in Thailand but in Malaysia. The film makers had intended to shoot in Thailand but the Thai government did not allow them to film in Thailand. They even banned the movie in Thailand because they found the movie disrespectful towards the King. Furthermore, I discovered that the romance between Anna and the King was historically inaccurate. Their love story is merely one of the romanticizations in Hollywood. In fact, Anna was 31 years old when she came to Thailand and the King was already 58, so romance between the two was kinda inappropriate. Hehe. Nonetheless, this did not spoil my excitement to visit Bangkok. At least I could visit the real residence of King Mongkut, the famous Grand Palace. I’ve heard lots of great things about this place so I was super excited to see the Grand Palace.
For anyone who is visiting Bangkok for the first time, it is said that the Grand Palace must not be missed. This 218,000 square meters structure served as the official residence of the Kings of Thailand from 18th century onwards until the present King of Thailand moved to Chitralada Palace. Admission fee to the palace is 350 baht (Php 505). But if you have plans to visit here, you must remember that Thailand has a very strict dressing code for visitors who are coming to the palace and the temples. I have proven this myself, because I was wearing a casual dress and I brought a shawl to cover my shoulders but they still disapproved of my attire. Instead they lent me a blouse from their office. Once they find your attire inappropriate they will offer you some pants, blouses and shawls to wear and would ask for a deposit in return. So to avoid the hassle refrain from wearing shorts, sleeveless shirts or anything that would expose too much skin. After putting on the blouse they asked me to wear, I was finally able to get inside the palace.
When I first saw the palace, I was struck by its magnificent structure. Its name exactly depicts what it is. The Grand Palace is indeed grand in every way. With all those golden stupas, majestic roofs and shimmering walls, I was completely amazed by how meticulous the palace had been constructed. I could imagine how wonderful it is to live here, you’ll be surrounded by glittering gold everywhere.
Built in 1782, the Grand Palace was constructed when King Rama I moved the capital of Thailand from Thonburi to Bangkok. The design of the Grand Palace is similar with the old palace in Ayutthaya. It took three years before the palace was completed. The intricate details of the palace reflect the craftsmanship of the Thai people.
Inside the palace complex is the famous temple of the Emerald Buddha (Wat Phra Kaew). The temple is considered as the most sacred Buddhist temple in Thailand. It contains the legendary emerald Buddha that dates back to the 14th century. It was discovered in Cambodia in the 15th century, transfered to Laos in 16th century and was finally moved to Thailand in the 18th century. A prophesy stated that the Emerald Buddha will bring prosperity to each county it resides. The Emerald Buddha is highly revered in Thailand and the Thai King is the only person permitted to touch the Buddha. FYI: Picture taking is not allowed inside the temple and you must remove your shoes before stepping inside.
King Bhumibol Adulyadej (Rama IX) is now the current King of Thailand. He is the great grand son of King Mongkut, the King in the movie Anna and The King. Thai people are known for having deep love and high respect toward their Kings. In fact, our tour guide said that Thai people love their current King so much because he is very kind. And although the current King has moved permanently to Chitralada palace (which is closed to public), he still uses the Grand Palace in performing royal rituals every year.
I really had a wonderful time visiting the palace. Even though I found out that the romance between Anna and the King of Siam was only fictionalized, I’m still grateful to have the chance to visit the Kingdom of Siam and have a glimpse of its enthralling beauty. Thailand will always be one of the most beautiful countries I have ever seen.