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ERAWAN SHRINE, PATHUM WAN, BANGKOK - 12 October 2015


Erawan Shrine

Photos above are from the follwing locations:
(1) Klong Saen Saeb (Bang Kapi to Prathunam)
(2) Ratchadamri Road - Central World
(3) Erawan Shrine, Pathum Wan
(4) Hua Lamphong Railway Station
(5) Bang Sue Junction
(6) Don Mueang Railway Station

Map showing Erawan Shrine

Erawan Shrine

Catagory: Religious Site
Name: Erawan Shrine
Location: Pathum Wan, Bangkok
Date Founded: ----
Type: Hindu Shrine
Photos dated: 12th October 2015

Pathum Wan........Pathum Wan or Pathumwan (Thai: ปทุมวัน) is one of the 50 districts of Bangkok. The district is bounded by seven other districts (from north clockwise): Ratchathewi (across the canal Khlong Saen Saeb), Watthana, Khlong Toei, Sathon, Bang Rak, Pom Prap Sattru Phai (across the canal Khlong Phadung Krung Kasem), and Dusit. In Thai these districts are called ‘Khet’ and are the equivalent of ‘Amphoe’, referred to more generally in the provinces. The district of Pathum Wan was established in 1914. It is named after a Buddhist temple Wat Pathum Wanaram (literally meaning lotus forest temple) and the nearby Sa Pathum Palace (means lotus pond palace). Both were built to the order of King Mongkut (Rama IV)and named so because of an abundance of lotus in Khlong Saen Saeb during his reign.
Today Pathum Wan is a vibrant modern commercial centre, accommodating some the most prestigious shopping centres and malls in Thailand, springing up since the 1970’s. It is a magnet for shoppers both local and international. In addition it has tourist attractions and important transport links. The navigable Khlong Saen Saeb is nearby as is the BTS skytrain. Hua Lamphong mainline rail terminal is also located in the district.

Erawan Shrine……..The Erawan Shrine, formally the Thao Maha Phrom Shrine (Thai: ศาลท้าวมหาพรหม), is a Hindu shrine in Pathum Wan District, that houses a statue of Phra Phrom, the Thai representation of the Hindu god of creation Lord Brahma. A popular worship attraction, it often features performances by resident Thai dance troupes, who are hired by worshippers in return for seeing their prayers at the shrine answered.
On 17 August 2015 it made international headlines when a bomb exploded near the shrine, killing 20 people and injuring 125 more.

Monday 12 October 2015

Kubon to Prathunam…….. My autumn tours in the Far East have yet to start in earnest. It looks likely I will bring the start date forward to this Friday now. It would be expected that there is nothing to report until then. However I never fail to find something that I can review and instead of another blank day, I manage to turn my 3rd full day in Bangkok into a mini tour despite my main intention not really being worthy of review.
I really need to get into the city to shed some pounds; I should have done that long ago! My normal destination would be Saphan Khwai and the money changers in Pradipat Road where these appear in abundance but this is not the only location in Bangkok to get exceptional rates of exchange. For those heading for this area I don’t mind giving Linda Exchange a plug as I have always had good service from them. But today they will miss my custom as I’ve chosen a different route into Bangkok.
From Kubon I head down Nawamin Road by ordinary service bus 156. I call it ‘air tamachat’ (natural air) as this bus does not have air conditioning. OK I can sit by the window. I’m heading for The Mall, Bang Kapi. This is a large shopping mall but I only use it to reach the pier. To insert myself deep into the heart of Bangkok I’m going to take the klong boat as far as Prathunam. The Klong (canal) Saen Saeb is unbelievably about the quickest route from here into the city due to road congestion. Klong Saen Saeb has been featured in an earlier tour but to recap, the route has 27 piers serviced by klong boats that use diesel engines so old that passengers frequently get smothered in diesel fumes. It would make Boris Johnson throw up in disgust. As I travel down the canal I feel a bit like Michael Portillo on his ‘great British railway journey’ except that I don’t have Bradshaw’s Guide to work with. Nevertheless I am reminded of the fact that Klong Saen Saeb was strategically important 150 years ago during great tension with British and French colonists. King Mongkut (Rama IV) used the canal as a route for bringing up troops and supplies to the forts on the Chao Phraya River. Apart from this his army probably spent a lot of time clearing the masses if lotus flowers that clogged the canal. No chance of that today; the canal is far too polluted. As I press on deep into the city amidst high-rise concrete, steel and glass I wonder what King Mongkut would have thought of all this. At Prathunam the service terminates and as it’s now past midday it’s time for lunch.
Shedding Pounds…….. The pier at Prathunam is lined with restaurants popular with locals who wish to dine more modestly. I just know where I’m headed. A popular dish in Thai is griteo rua, literally ‘boat noodles’. It originates from when noodles where served up from klong boats at a time when klongs were the main transport arteries in the delta. There is a choice of meats and noodle types. Beef and pork are the meat choices which include meat balls. The soup has basic flavour but it’s usually necessary to add at least three other ingredients according to taste; dried chilli, fish sauce and sugar. This combination produces some amazing flavours. To enjoy some variety, it is common to order two bowls of noodles. With a soft drink, two people can eat for less than $5. Ok it’s really time to lose some pounds.
Just five minutes’ walk away is another area occupied by money changers. I’ve used money changers now for many years as the rates are far more advantageous than at banks. They deal only with hard currency and the spread is between 0.5 and 1.0 percent. I opt for Super Rich (1965) but I’m soon in for a big disappointment. I’ve been monitoring the rate for months and it's been really good for pound sterling. Today of all days the rate has plummeted recording its biggest one-day fall that I can remember and more bad news is to come. I decide to change only a proportion of my currency trying to hedge my bets, yet as they process my order the rate continues to fall below that which I was originally quoted. This causes me to challenge the new rate I’m offered. I just don’t understand why they haven’t locked in the rate at the counter. In the ten minutes or so I waited the rate has changed. Naturally I’m disgusted with the service. Strike one off my list! Well, I have to reign in my emotions; I just can’t let it spoil my day as I head off down Ratchadamri Road towards Silom. In ten minutes I will arrive at the location which caused me to stray from my normal route into the city.
Erawan Shrine…….. Erawan Shrine is located at the junction of Ploenchit and Ratchadamri Roads. I must have passed by the site before but this is my first visit. I can’t deny that recent events have likely brought me here but I was aware of the significance of the shrine well before this so I will leave the recent tragedy aside for the moment. It is inconspicuous relative to other religious sites in Thailand. In fact the area is small, lost in one of the most built-up areas of Bangkok. It would accommodate no more than 4 snooker tables. So why is it so important? I doubt if there was anything here but marshland at the time of Rama IV and the present Brahman Image is less than 10 years old. The answer lies deep in history and tradition. Brahma is the God of creation to Hindus and Brahmanism was the dominant religion in Thailand as we know it today during the creation of city states. The time line stretches back to the Dvaravati period starting about the 4th century A.D. Brahmanism continued to dominate for a millennium through the Lopburi and Angkor periods but fell from prominence after the fall of the Khmer Empire in the 15th century. Nevertheless it never completely died and the Brahmin tradition still survives to this day in Thai society albeit in a modified form. The image that is housed in a small pagoda at the shrine is known as Phra Phrom but the four faces of Brahma are contemporary with founding beliefs. It is difficult to measure how fondly revered this shrine is, but some indication can be gleaned from an event in March 2006 when a Thai man thought to be mentally ill, vandalised the image, smashing it with a hammer. He was subsequently beaten to death by angry bystanders who were later arrested.
The event of the bombing in August caused international condemnation and the act appears to be linked to Uighur separatists but I doubt if the attack on innocent people had anything to do with religion as many communities visit the shrine. It is situated in a walled area with seating around the perimeter. It would simply be a soft target in an area crowed with visitors. The intention was simply to kill and maim as many people as possible. I offer alms (tambon), something I don’t often do, and retreat to my next destination. This requires in trip on another ‘air tamachat’ bus. The service 25 will take me to Hua Lamphong Railway Station.
Hua Lamphong to Don Meuang by train…….. Due to construction of the Blue Line MRT extension there are roadworks outside the station so the bus drops off passengers near Hua Lamphong MRT subway. I guess the next event should be cross-referenced to my SRT webpages as the next hour will see me pacing up and down the platforms in search of locomotives. It proves quite productive but at 4.30pm I depart on an ordinary service to Lopburi, my destination, Don Mueang Railway Station. It is not my intention to write chapter and verse about trains here but just to mention that Hua Lamphong will become redundant in the not too distant future. It lies far too deep in the Old City to make modern day provincial transport needs viable. Instead a new terminal is being built as Bang Sue. Bang Sue is already and important junction and part of the reason for this rail journey is to observe progress on the terminal. At last good progress can be seen with the superstructure taking shape. Eventually Bang Sue will support 4 levels; one underground, one surface and two elevated stations. It is already quite impressive. As I follow the line beyond Bang Sue, I also observe good progress on SRT’s Dark Red Line which will travel on an elevated section to Don Meuang and beyond. Today I’m on the surface, however, on a roller–coaster ride much as it’s been for decades. From Don Meuang I pick up the 554 real air-conditioned bus down the congested Ramintra Road. It’s near to 8pm before I arrive back shattered at Kubon. It never ceases to amaze me how vast Bangkok is!