For a fascinating slice of Thai culture, and an insight into the religious life of Bangkokers, head down to the Erawan Shrine. The shrine is right in the centre of Bangkok near Chitlom Sky Train station and Central World shopping centre. The Erawan Shrine is probably the most popular shrine in Bangkok and is buzzing with life every day.
Built in 1956, the shrine has an intriguing history. Originally built as part of the project to construct the original Erawan Hotel. The construction of the hotel had been plagued by accidents and set-backs, and superstitious builders were refusing to continue work considering the project to be doomed. After consulting astrologers, the government who were behind the hotel project, constructed the shrine. It seemed to do the trick and the hotel was eventually completed without any further hitches and the shrine became known for its legendary powers to give good fortune to worshippers. Bangkokers have come to love this shrine and it is very important to them. Something a vandal found out in 2006 when he was caught damaging the shrine – worshippers beat him to death.
The shrine itself contains a statute of Brahma, the Hindu god of creation, with four faces representing the four elements. Whilst predominately a Buddhist country, images of Hindu deities often feature in the temples and Thai art.
This is not simply a tourist attraction but an active place of worship, or more accurately, a place to come and ask for prayers to be answered, often financial. If you fancy having getting some of the good luck to rub off on you there are lots of vendors selling gifts to place at the shrine. Popular gifts are candles, incense, sugar cane and bananas all of which a must be given in lots of seven. You can also buy a bird to release which will cost you around 500 baht (approximately $17). The most auspicious times to give gifts are between 7am and 8am or 7pm and 8pm.
If you visit you are also likely to be treated to an impromptu show of Thai dancing. The custom is that if you have a prayer answered then you must return to the shrine and pay for dancers. The better your fortune the more dancers you must hire. Inevitably there are lots of enterprising young ladies waiting around at the shrine, in traditional costumes, ready to be hired to perform dancers for the fortunate.