Bangkok Nights

Bangkok is a city that never sleeps. Its nights are long and legendary. Even in the time of erstwhile Prime Minister Takhsin’s curfews, it never really closed down. Traffic roars and blares constantly. Lights flash and glare. The streets swarm with movement and people throng to thousands, if not millions of clubs, discos and bars. Whatever your particular night-life fancy, you’ll find it in Bangkok.

A contrast, light on stone at the Grand Palace.
A contrast, light on stone at the Grand Palace.

There are fabulous, classy, world famous clubs; playgrounds for the rich, the celebrated and the royal, where watchful bodyguards follow their charges from the edge of dance-floors surging with jewels and designer gear.

You’ll find those bars, the stuff of travellers’ tales, where tourists watch with mouths agape and eyes agog while dancers perform unbelievable tricks with unmentionable parts of their bodies. And you’ll find others again where as you sip on your drink of choice, they’ll do unspeakable things to unmentionable parts of yours.

Many of Bangkok’s clubs and bars buzz with the not so secret business between beautiful Thai youth and past-their-prime, gone-to-seed, western wallets. At the tables and on the dance-floors, clumsy paunches and graceful young figures meet against a background of relentless disco hits. Outsiders look on with a mixture of pity and amusement, at this tragi-comic commerce between the desperately poor and the ridiculously needy,

And then there’s yet another Bangkok night, down, in the city’s dark and infamous underbelly. This is the Bangkok where children are enslaved in prostitution and the world’s worst human beings collect to prey on them.

The Grand Palace

Set at the heart of Bangkok, the Grand Palace is one of Thailand’s greatest and one of the world’s most memorable examples of architecture. Every surface, every corner, of every building in the sprawling complex is richly and lavishly decorated in exquisite and minute detail. Nothing, it would seem, has been spared in the process.

Temple of the Emerald Buddha
Temple of the Emerald Buddha

Construction of the Grand Palace began on May 6, 1782, when the then King, Rama I, moved Royal Court from Chonburi and established Bangkok as Thailand’s new capital city. Over the next two hundred years, successive Kings added new buildings, each shaped by the particular style of its time and each marked with the regent’s individual flourish.

The organic development of the Grand Palace has resulted in a large, rambling rectangular complex with an eclectic mix of halls, pavilions, temples and palaces grouped around courtyards, lawns and gardens. It is divided into several quarters; the Inner Court and the Siwalai Gardens, the Middle Court, which is the central part of the Grand Palace, where the most important residential and state buildings are located, the Outer Court which houses the public buildings and lastly, the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, where the Emerald Buddha, one of Thailand’s most precious icons resides.

By 1925, the Grand Palace was no longer the permanent residence of the Royal Court or the seat of the government. Then, when the Absolute Monarchy was abolished in 1932, all government agencies moved out of the palace.

Although the current Monarch no longer lives at the Grand Palace, it remains a place of work and several Royal offices are still located there. It is still used for official events and both royal ceremonies and state functions are held there every year.

The Grand Palace is currently partially open to the public as a museum and it is one of Thailand’s premier attractions.

As dress codes and protocols are strictly enforced at the Grand Palace, it is advisable to take a guided tour to avoid risking offence. Besides, as the buildings are so numerous, so steeped in history, so rich in symbolism and so lavished with intricate ornamentation, it is helpful to have someone to tell their stories and explain their significance.