Arriving in Bangkok after a 14-hour flight can make one weary. Thailand’s oppressive heat can also slow down an excited tourist. But there is one thing that can energize even the sleepiest of travelers: The Grand Palace.
The Grand Palace, or Phra Borom Maha Ratcha Wang, is a series of buildings in the heart of Bangkok meant for both royal functions and for Buddhist worship. Built in the late 18th century, many Thai kings have lived here.
If you are non-Buddhist visiting a holy Buddhist temple there are many questions that arise and new experiences to be had. But for everyone – Buddhist and non-Buddhist – the sparkling gold domes and the reverence of those worshipping is inspiring. At The Grand Palace everyone is welcome as long as a few rules are followed.
Here are a few things you should know before visiting The Grand Palace or any other Buddhist temple.
- Men and women have equal status within the Buddhist tradition soeveryone is welcome in all areas of the temple (unless there are signsthat say you can’t, of course)Knees and shoulders must be covered.
- When entering a temple structure remove your shoes. Also, sit down onthe floor quickly and be sure there is room around you for other visitors.It is okay for a non-Buddhist to light incense, which is an offering. Only do so in designated areas and offer a small donation in exchange for the incense sticks.
- If you wish not to donate money (Thai Bhat), you can also offer food. You may notice that Buddhist monks and nuns collect food for their own eating.
- During prayer a Buddhist may touch his or her forehead to the ground one or more times. You are not required to do this if you don’t feel comfortable. However, do sit quietly and focus your energies on the positive.
- Do not take pictures of a nun or monk praying. It’s also rude to touch a monk or nun or ask to have a photo taken together.
While the rules are important, it is more important to enjoy the Buddhist experience by relaxing and observing. At The Grand Palace, it’s easy to do just that.