New Prankhorn Hotel
30th November 1985
With M, who has joined me for her annual holiday, I have become a tourist and today we visited the Grand Palace. ‘Grand’ is not the adjective that comes readily to mind as that minimises the assault on the visual senses.
Each King of Siam since Rama I two centuries ago has added a temple (wat), stupas and court rooms, all richly decorated. A photographer’s delight, yet with so many colours, shapes and spaces catching the eye within a small radius it is impossible the grand design within a single frame, not even from across the Chao Phraya River.
A muralled corridor being lovingly restored as if by a government job creation team depicts events from the life of Buddha, Shiva and the Royal Family. The hall containing the Emerald Buddha is intricately covered in gold leaf, mirrors and ceramic mosaics in order to catch the sun’s rays from all angles. Marble floors are protected inside by carpets and outside by six metre high grimacing sentinels, griffins and gilt peacock goddesses.
The gilt stupa dominates with its clear lines. It’s quite restful when one’s eyes are torn away from the ornate surfaces of every other monument, corridor, god and altar which is in the immediate line of sight. I shot nearly a whole roll of film knowing that, for once, I lack the verbal capacity to adequately describe the immense visual stimulation.
The usual entrance fee is a hefty 60 baht (c.£1.50), but Saturday is free. Worth every baht either way.
We spent over three hours there until sensory overload overcame us, but I think we’ll return. The walk back to our travellers quarters in Khao San Rd was made in a dazed stat, almost oblivious to the traffic chaos all around. We were fatigued, yet so pleasantly enervated.
The thought persists, however, that if this were in India, we would have experienced an overwhelming sense of kitsch.
Pics from here.