As a mass of black cladded Thai patiently made the slow march through the cloisters of Wat Phra Kaew to pay their respects to the king, the colourful ceramic tiles and golden motifs on the outside largely contrast with the sober atmosphere on the inside.
Wat Phra Kaew — Temple of the Emerald Buddha — is the most important religiopolitical symbol of Thailand. And although Thai people don't use it for everyday religious purposes, the unfortunate passing of His Royal Highness King Bhumibol, turned it into a place of gathering.
Located inside the Grand Palace, the temple with all the architectural features of a Buddhist Monastery — apart from the monk's residential quarters — served as the monarch's private chapel. The Rattanakosin architectural style used throughout creates an elegant and rich decoration from the smallest of statues to the meters high pillars.
As I walk by the Phra Si Ratana Chedi, my black and white attire seems to heighten the building's glow. Under the midday sun, the kaleidoscopic effect of ceramic mosaics and glittering coloured glass gives the compound an outer worldly atmosphere.
Need to know
- As Thailand's most important temple, dressing modestly is expected — shoulder and knees should be covered. Near the entrance, before buying the tickets, there's a small booth to rent sarongs and long trousers.
- During the mourning ceremonies (November 2016), only the Temple of the Emerald Buddha and the Museum are open. The Grand Palace and surrounding buildings are only open for Thai people to pay their respects.