After checking out Wat Pho and the massive reclining Buddha, Chuck and I wandered a few blocks over to the Grand Palace. The Grand Palace is a huge walled complex built in 1782 by Thailand's King Rama I... previously it served as the royal residence, but now only hosts official ceremonies and events. A visually stunning and somewhat overwhelming place- definitely worth a visit!
The compound is huge... inside it contains the Temple of the Emerald Buddha (Wat Phraw Kaew), which we don't have photos of because taking them inside is prohibited. You can see one here, though. Contrary to what the Buddha's name suggests, it's not actually emerald, but rather nephrite, another green jade-like stone. But the Emerald Buddha does have a set of 3 golden outfits that are changed with the season (only by the Thai king, the only person allowed to touch the statue).
The Emerald Buddha has a sordid (and long! since 43 BC!!) history, changing hands frequently as a result of various wars and for other reasons, traveling from India to Sri Lanka to Cambodia to Laos, Chiang Rai, Chiang Mai, Vientianne and ultimately to Bangkok in 1782.
The Wat compound is very elaborately decorated... a never-ending painted mural depicting the epic Ramayana, beautiful pagodas, gold, tiles and mosaics on every surface, mythical beasts guarding every gate:
Real guards in front of the Phra Thinang Chakri Maha Prasat, or throne hall, a European style building with a Thai-style roof: