A Bangkok shrine for your every need
When it comes to making your dreams come true, hard work and perseverance can only take you so far. Whether it’s a job promotion or a soul mate, if things haven’t quite been working out you may want to consider invoking the help of the gods.
Thailand, with it’s unique mix of Theravada Buddhism, Hindu and local beliefs, is a society built on what many non-believers would call superstition. With temples and shrines more prevalent than 7-11s, Bangkok has a shrine devoted to almost any deity you can think of -- with each specific god and spirit attributed as a guardian over specific human needs and desires. After all Bangkok is Krungthep, the city of angels, or deities.
So, with incense, offerings and money in hand, head to whichever of these temples and shrines happens to meet your desire of the day. Who knows, it may just work.
1. Money, money, money
If it’s simply cold, hard cash you’re after, worshippers believe that by making offerings to the relevant spirit and rubbing a Ton Takien log -- the dead trunk of a hopea tree -- the upcoming lottery numbers will mystically appear. Offerings are also made to the female spirits of Ton Takien logs in the hope of other financial wishes, such as new jobs or promotions.
Offerings are usually in the form of dresses, cosmetics and other feminine bestowals to please the female spirit of the log. One of the more popular Ton Takien shrines is at Wat Sai Yai, in Nonthaburi’s Sai Noi district. Alternatively, another favored (and more central) Ton Takien log to rub for financial success at is Wat Mahabut, in Bangkok’s Pranakorn district.
Wat Sai Yai: By car, drive along Rattanathibet Road and across Phra Nang Klao Bridge until you reach Bang Kruai -- Sai Noi Road, where you turn right. Continue straight until you see Sai Noi Hospital on your right. Turn left after the hospital and continue until you see Wat Sai Yai. Alternatively, minibuses leave from PATA, Pin Klao, The Mall, Ngam Wong Wan and Victory Monument. Air-Con bus #528 from Victory Monument will also get you there.
Wat Mahabut (San Ya Nak): BTS: On Nut. The temple is at the end of a lane (Soi 7) about a kilometer down Sukhumvit Soi 77 (On Nut) on your left.
2. For those who mean business
The popular equestrian statue of Rama V (King Chulalongkorn) is honored and visited for many reasons. Among these is the belief that those who offer their prayers to the statue will receive good fortune, especially in business matters. Preferred offerings include 16 incense sticks for the first offering (only nine needed on return visits), as well as brandy and cigars, believed to be favorites of the revered former monarch. Pink roses in any combination of the number nine are also popular offerings.
King Rama V Equestrian Monument: Located in the Royal Plaza by Dusit Palace.
If it’s a beautiful baby you're after, pray to Luang Phor Sothon. Regarded as one of the most revered Buddha images in Thailand, the golden shrine is housed in a grand new hall at Wat Sothon in Chachengsao Province. A 45-minute drive from Bangkok, this is one of the country’s most popular temples for childless couples seeking help from the gods. Offerings should include 16 incense sticks and one lotus flower.
If you do not want to travel that far, then the City Pillar (Lak Muang) Shrine by the Grand Palace is also popular with aspiring mothers seeking divine intervention. Or there’s always the garden of giant phalluses at Nai Lert.
Wat Sothon: This temple is situated in Muang District of Chachoengsao province on the west bank of the Bang Pakong River about two kilometres south of the city hall. It’s about a 45-minute drive by car along highway No.304 via Min Buri or along the Bang Na–Trat highway. Alternatively, buses go throughout the day from both the Mor Chit and Ekamai bus stations. Regular trains leave from Hualamphong Station as well.
City Pillar (Lak Muang) Shrine: This impressive building erected by King Rama I in 1782 to mark the foundation of the new capital of Bangkok is situated just by the Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaoe. The main entrance is on Lakmuang Road, off Rajdamnoen Nai Road. Open to the public daily from 5:30am to 7:30pm.
4. Oh Cupid, why hast thou forsaken me?
If the Roman god of love Cupid has failed you until now, then perhaps it’s time to look to Eastern deities to help hook you up with the partner of your dreams.
In their quest for true love many young women and men turn to the Trimurti Shrine outside CentralWorld near Isetan (which surived the recent blaze unharmed).
Phar Trimurti, the Hindu trinity comprising the deities Brahma the creator, Vishnu the sustainer and Siva the destroyer, has taken on the face of the god of love in Thailand. The fact that there is little in Hinduism to back this up cannot shake the locally held belief and the shrine is crowded most evenings with worshipers praying for the man or woman of their dreams or to help save a floundering relationship. According to recent tradition Thursday evenings after 9pm is the best time to ask for true love. Ideal offerings include either nine or 16 red roses and red candles, and nine incense sticks.
Another site popular for love seekers is the shrine of Mae Nang Nak, also known as Ya (grandmother) Nak, near the above mentioned Wat Mahabut. Legend has it that Nang Nak gives birth to a child while her husband is away at war. Tragically, both mother and child die during the birth. Still deeply in love with her husband and unable to accept her death the spirit of Nang Nak remains on earth in the guise of a human, as does the child. Her husband is unaware of the tragedy and returns from battle to find his wife and new baby waiting for him and he sets about raising his new family, all the time unaware that he is living with ghosts. (Check out the director Nonzee Nimibutr’s 1999 movie "Nang Nak" for one of the best of the many renderings on film of this age-old legend).
Popular offerings include feminine gifts for Nang Nak and toys for the child. The shrine can be a little creepy, with the toys and a wig and makeup on the statue of Nang Nak, so if you freak out easy stay home. Women whose husbands have taken minor wives are also known to visit the shrine to implore Nang Nak’s help to lure their husbands back. Be warned: women who are pregnant or are trying for a baby are advised to stay away.
Phra Trimurti Shrine: BTS: Chidlom or Siam. The shrine is at the far end of the plaza outside Cental World shopping center in front of Isetan.
Nang Nak: BTS: On Nut. Head to Wat Mahabut. The Nang Nak shrine is housed just outside the main temple.
5. The shrine of shrines
Last but very far from least is the world-famous Erawan Shrine, which houses a golden statue of Phra Phrom, the Thai representation of the Hindu god of creation, Brahma. So revered is this shrine that a mentally ill man was beaten to death in 2006 by two overzealous bystanders after they witnessed him vandalizing the statue.
A haze of incense smoke and activity whirls around this busy shrine visited by thousands of worshipers each day. Praying for guidance and help in everything from good health to sporting results, the ideal offering is 12 incense sticks, and worshippers should wai (pay their respects) to each of the four faces of the statue. For extra luck worshippers pay respect and money to the shrine’s traditional Thai dancers.
Many people swear that after praying to the four-faced Brahma they have found love success, and even overcome terminal illnesses. Many whose prayers are answered return regularly to pay their respects and gratitude to this most revered of Thai shrines.
Erawan Shrine: BTS: Chidlom. On the corner of the Ratchaprasong intersection, diagonally opposite Central World and next to the Grand Hyatt Erawan Hotel.