Flashback Friday: Erawan Museum in Bangkok, Thailand.
This time is Malaysia is sort of the opposite of a stay-cation. We’ve gone somewhere lovely but instead of traveling non-stop we are trying to be heads down, working on projects. So, where I could write about my new love for comforters or how quiet the streets are here at 2am, unlike my beloved Huai Khwang, I’ll spare you and instead present the Erawan Museum.
Located about an hour outside of Bangkok, the Erawan Museum is a beautiful oasis just outside the grit and concrete of Bangkok. It was built by the same person who created the fantastic Ancient Siam, Lek Viriyahbhun. With a similar goal of preserving history, the museum houses ancient religious artifacts, offers a temple of worship and educates on various spiritual paths in a truly beautiful setting.
Prior to arriving, we’d seen a picture of the large three-headed elephant structure, the name sake of the museum. However, approaching the museum, we were all shocked to see the bronze structure towering numerous stories above the ground. We had to take a moment to adjust our thoughts to this reality. That we came to find out that it was hollow and we could actually go up into it was just icing on the cake. It was quite the sight!
The grounds were covered with trees and it was like immediately walking into a city of quiet (once you paid your tourist tax). We walked to the museum taking in the details of the outside and then headed over to the outdoor shrine. There, visitors received a few offerings to present to the alter or could buy additional ones. We took a moment to pay our respects, lighting incense and presenting the garland, after a moment of quiet.
Around the museum circled a pool of water and we headed back to it with a flower. A sign seemed to explain that floating flowers in water brought peace of mind and symbolized fertility and life-force. We kneeled and again sat for a minute before setting our flowers gingerly in the water, to watch them float away.
We entered the museum and headed to the lower level that houses ceramics and other antiquities. No pictures were allowed and the subject matter didn’t really interest me. I tried to dutifully read about the pottery but for some reason I am not that interested in old pottery. The floor also housed a few statues and many tea sets of different colors to represent each day of the week. Any other memories have fled about this floor.
The main floor was incredible though. At least two stories tall, the room showcased a staircase that led you closer to a gorgeous stained glass ceiling. While incredible, the floor was also ornately decorated with Thai mythological creatures and the tenants of the Buddha, Jesus and Vishnu lined the walls. My eyes were overwhelmed with the level of detail put into each statues and staircase, the cracked china bringing color to everything in beautiful mosaics. I moved slowly, dutifully snapping away, not wanting to miss a detail.
As it was, I spent far too much time taking photos and soon lost sight of both my friends as they ascended the staircase. Eventually I followed, to find James smiling and excitedly telling me ‘you can go UP in the elephant!’ He lead me to a stairway I had not previously noticed, and we climbed to the next landing. There a small window allowed you to gaze out on the city below…but wait, there is more.
Another set of stairs lead us into a beautiful temple in pretty blues, golds and red portraying a constellations in bold colors. It was beautiful. The room exuded calm and the walls were lined with ancient Buddhas. I believe the oldest was from the 7th Century. Again, photos were not allowed of these statues but we spent time gazing at each. I took notes about this beautiful floor but that journal is now safely in Florida.
Researching the Erawan Museum (always after the fact), the three levels are to represent the underworld, this world, and heaven. That I found the underworld boring seemed fitting. Earth and heaven were truly amazing though.With some hesitation, I left the amazing museum (after snapping just a fewww more photos) and followed them into the gardens. They were lush and green and decorated with many Thai mythological structures. Our pace was slow as we moved through the shade from so many trees, following a path that ran parallel to a stream. Many of the statues were as big as us and ornately decorated. The stream ended with a large seven headed naga spraying water into the small pool.
While we might have stayed a bit longer, I was pushing the group to see Ancient Siam. So, with an additional delay for lunch (‘come on!’), we were on our way to be further impressed by the amazing imagination of Lek Viriyahbhun.