Continuing our Bangkok tourist spree, Mitch and I braved the scorching sun and humidity and headed to the official residence of Thailand kings, The Grand Palace. Technically, the current king, Rama IX, does not reside here. According to what we heard, the Grand Palace was a bit too old fashioned, and he opted for different living quarters that provided a bit more comfort in terms of temperature. Read: It’s really hot here.
On the subject of the Thai King: he and his wife Queen Sirikit are much beloved and revered in Thailand. There are photos and posters of them everywhere — on streets for public display, in homes, and in restaurants. Really, everywhere.
As I mentioned, neither the king nor queen actually live in the Grand Palace, but it is still used often for official events. The compound takes the shape of a big rectangle with a hall surrounding all of the pavilions, wats, buildings, and grounds. One of the most notable buildings is the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, which houses the Emerald Buddha, one of the most revered images of Buddha in Thailand, which is worshipped as a sort of protector of the country. There were no photos of allowed in the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, but it was very moving to see travelers from all over Thailand paying respects and worshipping this sacred image.
Part of our visit to the Grand Palace included a stop in the Queen Sirikit Museum of Textiles, which is right outside of the Grand Palace (and wonderfully, wonderfully air conditioned). Among other accomplishments, Queen Sirikit is known for reinvigorating the Thai silk industry in her efforts to provide struggling Thai farmers with a secondary source of income (during the non-farming season) while ensuring the survival of Thai culture and textile heritage. Her initiative is called SUPPORT (the Foundation of the Promotion of Supplementary Occupations and Related Techniques of Her Majesty Queen Sirikit of Thailand). The museum featured videos on how her initiative began, outfits she wore to different high profile events, how she created traditional Thai dress (a traditional “outfit” didn’t exist, and she worked with historians and craftsmen to create one), and more. Did you know that during the 60’s and 70’s, she was often considered one of the best dressed women in the world? I’m sort of geeking out about this, but I love textiles and thought this museum and initiative was so interesting. You can read more about it here.