It was with great joy that I packed my bag on Thursday morning to head out to Bangkok on an evening flight to Bangkok, Thailand, the Land of Smiles. This time, a city escape and a stay with our friend, J. We were ready to tackle pictures, food and shopping!
Offerings and prayers at Erawan Shrine
The weather, however, put a bit of a dent in our plans in doing a lot of outdoor activities. This time of the year sees Bangkok HOT (about 34 C) but luckily, not as humid as Singapore. It also tends to rain in the early evening, exactly when it’s time to go home! The heat didn’t prevent us from staying almost half an afternoon at Erawan Shrine, built just outside of the Grand Hyatt and at the intersections of Rajdamri and Ploenchit Roads. Erawan is one of the most well known shrines in Bangkok and many people, both tourists as well as locals, visit the shrine to pray and give merit.
The shrine was built at the time of construction of the Erawan Hotel (now the Grand Hyatt) in the fifties. The developer was plagued by delays and mishaps and after consultations with spiritual advisors, it was advised that a shrine be built. Soon after the erection of the shrine, many of the delays plaguing the developer dissolved and construction went on smoothly! Interesting to note that the shrine is actually a mix of Buddhist and Hindu elements, although I seemed to detect more of the Buddhist element than Hindu. People have been visiting this well-known landmark for many years and one can buy offerings of fruit, incense, flowers and birds outside the shrine.
Washing hands and face before praying
As you get nearer the temple, the air is filled with the smell of incense and the ‘ching’ of little bells and cymbals. On this particular day, not only were the usual offerings being made but there were a few visitors who bought birds from the vendors to release, signifying that prayers were answered. There is also a dance troupe where you can pay for the traditional dancers to perform dances around the ‘Four Face’ shrine. The lithe dancers are so elegant and graceful and best caught during the mornings as the light is ‘light’ and adds to the serene atmosphere. If you’re wondering what happens to all those incense, candles and offerings, well, the shrine is well attended to by attendants who keep the surroundings tidy and clean.
There are loads of ‘open’ shrines in Bangkok that you could visit but Erawan is to me, one of the most convenient and a good introduction to the main religion of Thailand. Being at the shopping gateway, it’s easily accessible by taxi, tuk-tuk and train (Ploenchit BTS Station). By the way, you can duck into anyone of the nearby shopping centres (like Amarin Plaza) and take respite from the heat. All that hard work of photo-taking can be quickly cooled off with an icy bowl of red rubies (picture below) – chunky pieces of water chestnut dyed red and coated with corn flower in a coconut milk broth topped with shaved ice 🙂