Shrines, Shopping, and Soi Cowboy


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Asia » Thailand » Central Thailand » Bangkok
February 12th 2018
Published: February 13th 2018
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LakshmiLakshmiLakshmi

Outside Gaysorn Village
The BTS (Bangkok Transport System) Skytrain cuts right through the heart of downtown Bangkok, making it a very convenient and efficient way to get around. Merchants were pretty quick to figure this out, and big shopping malls sprouted up along the Skytrain path.

Early on, retailers placed a god or goddess on the premises of their buildings, believing that the presence of a deity would bring good luck and prosperity. And, they figured, when people came to the shrine they just might buy something, too.Judging by the sheer magnitude of retail exuberance found along this street, it looks like they were right.

There are six – count ‘em six – shrines along this section of Ploen Chit Road, in the shadow of the Skytrain. While I didn’t visit them all, there are some kind of interesting stories here.

Lakshmi – Gaysorn Village and Tower

Lakshmi is the goddess of luck, wealth, and fortune. The local trade association built this shrine to bestow blessings of prosperity to everyone in the neighborhood.

The Lakshmi shrine is kind of hard to find, and the small signs inside the mall all seemed to lead me in circles, but once you figure out which elevator to take, you’re on your way. Lakshmi is on the fourth floor, standing outside at a corner of the building. Other than ceremonial days, it doesn’t seem like she is visited much – there was nobody there when I finally found her.

The mall is home to some up-market international brands, as well as some interesting boutiques and restaurants. It is connected to the Skywalk, a pedestrian walkway that links the Siam and Chit Lom Skytrain stations.

Erawan Shrine – outside Grand Hyatt Erawan

If the Lakshmi shrine is hard to find the Erawan shrine is hard to miss. First of all, it’s located on a busy sidewalk in front of the Grand Hyatt Erawan. Second, this place is always crowded. Tourists, the faithful, and a resident dance troupe that worshippers can hire to add a little more power to their prayers, make this a very crowded corner.

The shrine contains a gilt figure of Brahma, the Hindu god of creation. When the Grand Hyatt hotel was being built it was plagued by all manner of problems: workers were getting injured, construction materials were being lost, and there were lots of cost overruns, to name a few. An astrologer was consulted, and he advised that the bad karma came about because the foundation was laid on an inauspicious date. He further suggested that a shrine be built to counter all the negative energy around the site. The Erawan shrine was built in 1956, and the mishaps ceased.

You can look down on the shrine from the Skytrain station at Chit Lom.

Indra Shrine – Amarin Plaza

This is another shrine that is hard to miss; it’s just down the block from the Erawan shrine, and you can see it from the Chit Lom Skytrain station. Indra is jade green, holding a thunderbolt and a trident.

Indra can be found in Both Hindu, Jain, and Buddhist texts. In Hinduism he is shown as the god of thunder, lightning, wind, and rain, and as one who brings sunshine and protects mankind. In Buddhism, he is the one who protects people and Buddhist teachings. This particular shrine holds Indra to be the god of Goodwill and Bringer of Daylight.

The Indra shrine is in front of the Amarin Plaza, one of my favorite malls in Bangkok. Yes, there is the usual contingent of clothing and jewelry stores, but there is also one whole floor of handcrafted Thai products. These aren’t the usual “I (heart) Thailand” tourist T-shirts, these are products made in Thailand, often with silk and linen.

I went into one store selling linen shirts and dresses. There I met the woman who had designed the clothes, and sewn some of them herself. She had just come back from a sales trip to Canada, and had her samples for sale on a rack in the back. Usually I can’t find things that fit me in Asia – Asian women can be tiny – but by some miracle I found this really cool shirt that actually fit. The handcrafted items here aren’t cheap, but considering their uniqueness and the quality, the prices are quite good.

Soi Cowboy

I had heard about Soi Cowboy as a place where American soldiers fighting in Viet Nam went when they were in Bangkok for R&R. And if you are a fan of John Burdett’s books about Detective Sonchai Jitpleecheep, you’ve read about it, too. A “soi” is a small street branching off a main road, and Cowboy wasn’t the original name. When an American named T.G. Edwards, nicknamed “Cowboy” for the cowboy hat he always wore, bought a bar here, the name stuck. This was a place for drinking, and carousing, and the general rambunctiousness that young soldiers are known for.

I noticed the big “Soi Cowboy” sign from the platform of the Asoke Skytrain station, so I figured I’d check it out. Now, granted, this was at 9 o’clock in the morning, and the place smelled vaguely of spilled beer and desperation. I’m sure come evening when the neon lights are on and the music is pounding it’s a lot more interesting – but not my style.

Possibly Useful Information

MBK Center – this mall boasts over 2,000 stores. I didn’t count, but they might be right. Most of these are little more than 8 foot stalls, but they exist. This is a mall for locals, no high end name brands here. This is also a good place for tourist souvenirs.

Terminal 21 – I like this place and its airport theme. Most malls in Bangkok have a doorman who will not only open the door, but make sure you pass through the metal detector. The
Erawan ShrineErawan ShrineErawan Shrine

The view from the Skytrain station
doormen here are dressed as pilots, and they salute as you walk through the doors. There is a Gourmet Market on the bottom floor.


Additional photos below
Photos: 13, Displayed: 13


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Indra Indra
Indra

outside Amarin Plaza
IndraIndra
Indra

from Skytrain station
Amarin MallAmarin Mall
Amarin Mall

Handcrafted Thai items, this is the designer's shop
KinokuniyaKinokuniya
Kinokuniya

This is a Japanese chain, and it's probably my favorite booksellers in the world.


13th February 2018

Presence of a deity
Certainly a deity can never hurt. Looks like they are on the path to prosperity. Once again enjoyed following along on your trip.
13th February 2018

Thank you for your kind words
I like how people here will pay respects at a shrine as they go about their daily business.
13th February 2018

Find Cheap Vacations & Travel Packages
Hi, Thank you for the list, it’s hard to find other travel bloggers Thanks Cheap Vacations & Travel Packages
13th February 2018

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