The city of Bangkok is full of history, culture, and tradition. Occasionally, though, we need to step out of the box and have a little fun, taking a closer look at some of the areaâ€™s lesser known attractions â€“ some of which happen to be incredibly strange. The next time youâ€™re in Bangkok, keep your eyes peeled for these oddities as well as others. You might just be surprised at how interesting and entertaining these experiences can be, even if they are just a little bit off the wall.
7. The Shrine of Goddess Tubtim
The Shrine of Goddess Tubtim, otherwise known as the Phallic Shrine, is certainly a sight to behold. The shrine is, as the name implies, made out of hundreds of penises carved out of wood and stone. Some stand as tall as ten feet, while others are somewhat smaller. Some are decorated with ribbons and feathers, while others are painted.
Why such a strange monument? It was developed in order to honor Chao Mae Tubtim, the female fertility goddess. Women who want to conceive believe that by leaving an offering at the shrine, usually of jasmine or lotus, they will have success. If they are successful in their endeavors, most will return after the baby is born and add a new phallus to the shrine as an act of thanks.
6. Spirit Houses
Spirit Houses arenâ€™t places you can visit, per say. Scattered not only throughout Bangkok, but throughout all of Thailand, spit houses are very tiny â€“ the size of doll houses. These tiny homes are usually placed on pedestals in places that are pretty easy to locate and see.
The houses are left behind so that the spirits have a place to stop and rest as they go about their days. The houses, which are believed to date back to pre-Buddhist and pre-Hindu times, usually have doll-sized figures or Buddha statues inside as well. People tend to stop and leave offerings in the houses as they pass, hoping to appease the spirits.
5. Bangkokâ€™s Great Swing
At the Bangkok Wat Sutat Temple youâ€™ll find what is known as the Bangkok Great Swing. In ancient times, men would use the 80-foot swing to rise into the air, all the while attempting to grab a bag of silver coins with their teeth.
What remains of the swing today is the huge teak arch, located directly in front of the temple itself. Fortunately, the practice of swinging for ceremony ended back in 1932, after several deaths and injuries brought the safety of the tradition into question.
4. Corrections Museum
Take a trip down Mahachai Road and youâ€™ll run into a museum unlike most others. The Corrections Museum is dedicated to educating its visitors about the cruel, unusual, and gruesome punishments doled out to offenders throughout Thailand. Some of the punishments arenâ€™t exactly ancient, either.
The museum exists in what was once the Bangkok Remand Prison. The prison was turned into a museum in 1990, after the government turned the site into a park and moved the prisoners elsewhere. Inside, youâ€™ll see examples of corporal punishments, some complete with wax figures. Imagine being placed inside of a rattan ball with nails on the inside. Offenders would be placed in the ball and left inside while an elephant was allowed to kick it around. Ouch!
3. Wat Mahathat Market
While there are dozens of incredible shops, vendors, and markets throughout Bangkok, one of the best for purchasing gorgeous amulets is the market inside the Wat Mahathat every Sunday. The Wat mahathat temple has quickly become one of the most popular centers for studies on Buddhism and meditation.
Inside the market, which appears each Sunday, are amulets, talismans, charms, and even traditional medicines. If you believe you need something to help with your meditation or religious studies, youâ€™re likely to find it here. Make sure you know the meaning of anything you buy.
2. Mae Nak Shrine
According to legend, there once lived a young woman named Nak who married a man by the name of Maak. Maak was drafted to fight during the war, leaving Mae Nak at home. She went into labor while he was gone and died while giving birth. Her spirit constantly called for her husband to return, and stayed in the house until he came back from war. It is believed that the two lived together as if she were not dead for many years.
Years later, Maak realized he was living with a ghost and fled the house to live in the temple. Mae Nak was furious, and began terrorizing the people. She did so until a ghost doctor came and trapped her in a bottle. A shrine dedicated to Mae Nak was later constructed, with a television that runs all day long. Many visit Mae Nak when they feel they are in need of guidance. Her story has since been made into a movie as well.
1. Ko Kret
Ko Kret is a man-made island that was created 20 km north of Bangkok, in Nonthaburi, during the 18th century. Its inhabitants, the Mon people, have lived there ever since, having sought refuge there, on the island in the middle of the Chao Phraya River. Most spend their days making pottery.
Donâ€™t spend all of your time in Bangkok in traditional museums, on tours, or in your hotel room. Make sure you spend a little bit of time getting to know the city on a deeper, somewhat unusual level. Youâ€™ll enjoy the experience.