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article imageBangkok and its little known, hidden away fertility shrine Special

By R. C. Camphausen     Apr 19, 2013 in Travel
Bangkok - Every guidebook on Thailand or Bangkok features all the major sites to see in the city, Buddhist temples, floating markets and open-air restaurants, but hardly ever do you find information on the unique shrine I'm presenting here.
Bangkok is a crazy city.
It is hot and crowded, traffic is continuously congested and the air is rather filthy. But Bangkok is also delightful. The food is great, many people are friendly, many women (and men) are beautiful. There is so much to see in the city, so much to choose from; ranging from large and beautiful Buddhist temples to the floating markets on the canals, from elegant restaurants to a thousand food stalls in the streets. Thus, many a traveler stays longer here than is good for the lungs, not to mention the budget.
Wherever you go in Southeast Asia, most people are devout Buddhists, yet a large proportion of the population also clings to aspects of pre-Buddhist folk religion, with influences from both India and China. An expression of this are the so-called spirit houses one encounters everywhere, mainly meant to protect the house one lives in, or to bring luck in general.
Typical spirit houses with offerings of milk  food  incense and flowers.
Typical spirit houses with offerings of milk, food, incense and flowers.
Related yet of a rather different order is the shrine to the goddess Chao Mae Tuptim, also known by the shorter name Tap-tun. More or less daily, people bring fresh offerings to the shrine, mainly in the form of flower garlands, yet the most visible and pointed offerings come in the form of phalli (plural of phallus), since the goddess reigns over fertility.
The actual shrine to the goddess Chao Mae Tuptim can be seen in the background
The actual shrine to the goddess Chao Mae Tuptim can be seen in the background
Therefore, the small and quiet sanctuary in Bangkok features hundreds such sculptures, varying in size from about 20 centimeters to about 2.50 meters tall; most of them made from wood, some from styrofoam.
Shrine to the goddess Chao Mae Tuptim
Shrine to the goddess Chao Mae Tuptim
They all represent offerings to the goddess that have been brought here by her devotees, in some cases with much effort, considering that some large examples are not from wood but stone; sometimes even marble. It is a unique sight as they fill the garden surrounding the small center shrine where one also finds the other gifts of incense, lotus buds and jasmine flowers. Most often, such a phallic offering is made in order to be more fertile, others are made just in order to 'get lucky' or to be financially successful.
Shrine to the goddess Chao Mae Tuptim
Shrine to the goddess Chao Mae Tuptim
It is speculated that Thai phallic and fertility worship is based on influences from India, although Tap-tun's popular name, Chao Mae Tuptim, rather hints at a Chinese origin.
To provide a feeling for size ...
To provide a feeling for size ...
By a twist of history, the temple is now located in the backyard of the Swissotel Nai Lert Park Hotel (used to be the Bangkok Hilton), but you do not have to live there to visit the place. Just dress appropriately and approach the guards at the front gate. State the purpose of your visit, to see the phallic shrine, and he'll let you pass. Turn left and keep walking, which will bring you to the secluded and usually quiet shrine.
The Nai Lert Park Hotel is on Wireless Road 2. Going by taxi or tuk tuk is the most easy way to get there, but you can also reach it by Bangkok's Sky Train and a short walk.
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