Grand Palace among world’s 50 most visited tourist attractions
The glittering Grand Palace in Bangkok, an architectural wonder that was once home to the kings of the Chakri Dynasty, was ranked among the world’s 50 most visited tourist attractions by Travel & Leisure magazine, as tourist arrivals continued to soar year on year and remain on track to set a new record of over 32 million visitors in 2016.
Worldwide, the Grand Palace finished ahead of such world-famous sites as the Eiffel Tower in France, the Pyramids of Egypt and the Colosseum in Rome and was ranked the eighth most visited attraction in the Asia-Pacific region. The rankings are based on the number of visitors each attraction received during the year, and the Grand Palace in Bangkok drew over 8 million visitors, roughly the same number as the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington D.C., and Pier 39 in San Francisco. By comparison, the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, Turkey drew the most visitors worldwide with over 91 million. Times Square in New York City finished third with about 50 million.
Travel & Leisure editors said the attractions were “defined as cultural and historical sites, national landmarks, and officially designated spaces.” They omitted beaches, bridges, and sites that draw mainly religious pilgrims.
Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) GovernorYuthasak Supasorn hailed the listing as illustrating “how Bangkok’s iconic Grand Palace continues to inspire and appeal to international visitors.”
Yuthasak added the ranking would only help increase tourist arrivals, which have already been strongly outpacing figures from last years. Arrivals in the first half of 2016 are projected to reach 16.67 million, a 13-per-cent increase over the same period in 2015. Revenue from these visits is estimated to be $23.4 billion, up by 17 percent.
A visit to the ornate and historic Grand Palace, and the adjacent Temple of the Emerald Buddha, is a highlight of any visit to the Kingdom. The palace was built in 1782 by the Rama I, the first king of the Chakri Dynasty, when he shifted the capital of what was then known as the Kingdom of Siam from Thonburi on the west bank of the Chao Phraya River to Bangkok on the east bank.
With each successive Chakri king, more buildings and pavilions were added to the palace complex. The stately white crenelated walls that enclose the grounds and the green-tiled and golden-spired rooftops the seem to catch fire in the tropical sunlight are a spectacular sight from boats passing on the Chao Phraya, also known as the River of Kings.
The Grand Palace, however, is just one of dozens of palaces that dapple the landscape of old Bangkok, and that also belonged to kings, princes or noblemen. Many are also open to the public and provide fascinating glimpses into how royalty once lived in bygone eras of the old Orient.
Thailand’s current constitutional monarch King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the ninth king of the Chakri Dynasty, began his reign living in the Grand Palace complex. But he eventually opted to live in the more secluded Chitrlada Palace in Bangkok were he has been able to build laboratories and research stations to conduct experiments for his Royal Development Projects to help farmers and the poor.
Tourists can visit the Royal Projects research stations on the grounds of Chitrlada if they request an appointment.