My first stop in Bangkok was the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, Wat Phra Kaew. Wat Phra Kaew was the Grand Palace and it is impressively ostentatious. Or, as my Thai friend described it, “This is why Thai people visit the Golden Pavilion in Kyoto and say ‘Eh, it’ s ok’,” instead of lavishing praise on it like many other people do. Don’t get me wrong, the Golden Pavilion is impressive compared to other Japanese temples, but it pales in comparison to Wat Phra Kaew. Construction began on the palace in 1782 and Thai Kings lived there (on and off, some choosing to live elsewhere) until 1946. But the palace is still used for ceremonies and other occasions.
If you visit Wat Phra Kaew, don’t forget to cover up. Bangkok may be sweltering hot, but this is a strict dress code on the temple grounds. You need close toed shoes, long pants or skirts, and a shirt with sleeves. You can rent clothes to cover up with from the office by the gate, but it would be easier and cheaper to just dress a little more conservatively than you might be tempted to in the Bangkok heat.