The biggest tourist attraction in Bangkok was still on my to-do list. I alloted a full day to see the Grand Palace and the Wat Phra Kaew, where the so-called Emerald Buddha resided.
I again took the Skytrain to the tourist boat on the Chao Phraya, this time getting off one stop further up the river than when I had gone to Wat Pho on Saturday.
The compound was immense, encompassing more than 100 buildings (most of which are not open to the public). I passed through the entrance gates and joined the throngs of tourists. The admission price was steep: 500 baht (over US$15).
Wat Phra Kaew is surrounded by a shaded walkway with walls covered by murals depicting the Hindu epic The Ramayana. Most of the tourists (many of whom were on organized tours in big groups) were crowded around and inside the wat, taking photos of the building and each other. Therefore the area with the murals was virtually empty, except for a few stragglers like myself.
Eventually I made my way inside the wat to see the Emerald Buddha, which I learned was not made of emerald but of a greenish mineral called jasper, somewhat similar in appearance to jade. Photography of the Buddha was prohibited, and in any case, the diminutive Buddha was on such a high pedestal that it would have been difficult to get a good shot without a strong telephoto lens.
After viewing the Buddha I strolled around to see some of the other nearby buildings. The entire complex exuded opulence.