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At Bangkok’s Temple of the Coffin

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Only a few steps from the sinful streets of Patpong in downtown Bangkok lies Wat Hua Lamphong. It’s known as the temple of the coffin.

Visitors to Hua Lamphong temple can earn merit by giving donations to sponsor coffins for the poor and homeless. The temple mixes Thai, Chinese and Indian rites. There are Buddhist shrines, you can pray through the joss sticks at a Chinese looking altar, and there’s a shrine to Ganesha, the Indian Elephant god.

The temple is also home to about a dozen cows and a cow shrine. People visiting the shrine write down a prayer and pray in front of an ornately decorated statue of two cows right next to the cow pen. Then the faithful buy some food for the cows and feed them. But even though the cows seem to lead a very privileged and sweet life at the temple, at least one source says that they’re only there to be sacrificed some time in the future.

Written by Thorsten

June 28, 2015 at 4:18 pm

Visiting Kuala Lumpur’s Chinese and Indian districts

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I was in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, last month and strolled around the city’s Chinese and Indian quarters. Even though I’d been to KL before, I’d never been to some of the streets and temples I stumbled upon this time.

I visited the Hindu temple Sri Mahamariamman, for example. Amazingly colorful. A feast for the eye. The Chinese shrines were somewhat more serene. Strong smell of incense.

All of these places of worship, as well as the streets of Chinatown and Little India were amazing. An exotic mix of smells and sounds. Strange and wonderful to the Western eye.

Strolling through these multi-cultural streets of Kuala Lumpur, you understand the truth in Malaysia’s old tourism slogan: Malaysia, truly Asia.

Music: Last Affair & Gita Lulin Maung Ko Ko with his Studio Ensemble featuring Yadana Oou – Zega Wa (UKoKo) (Film Music 1978 “Popa Phuza”)

Written by Thorsten

October 8, 2012 at 9:56 pm

The Divine Madman’s phallus

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WARNING: If you feel offended by the folkloristic depiction of male genitalia, do not continue reading this article and do not look at the pictures.


Okay, now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s take a closer look at the significance of the phallus in Bhutanese folklore and legend.

Among the many weird and wonderful things that the visitor to Bhutan will encounter, there is one that stands out (no pun intended). It is the frequent depiction of phalluses on the walls of Bhutanese houses.

You can see very realistic depictions of male genitalia painted on the outside walls of people’s houses all over the country – even in the capital Thimphu, which is the closest thing Bhutan has to a cosmopolitan city.

It's not that kind of a place

This is just a regular restaurant

Apart from painted phalluses, you’ll often see life-sized phalluses carved of wood above the doorway of a house or hanging from the four corners of the roof.

This is supposed to ward off evil spirits.

It’s not pornographic

For the people of Bhutan, the phalluses are neither pornographic nor erotic symbols. And they aren’t painted on the houses as fertility symbols, either.

Wall decoration in downtown Thimphu

Wall decoration in Thimphu

The phalluses are a reference to one of Bhutan’s most popular saints, Lama Drukpa Kunley, who lived at the turn of the 15th into the 16th centuries.

Lama Drukpa Kunley is also known as the Divine Madman in Bhutan.

According to the Lonely Planet Travel Guide,

…he felt that the stiffness of the clergy and social convention were keeping people from learning the true teachings of Buddha. His outrageous, often obscene, actions and sexual antics were a deliberate method of provoking people to discard their preconceptions.

The Bhutanese tell countless stories about his sexual adventures, and you can’t help think that they immensely enjoy hearing these folktales again and again.

One of them recounts how the Lama once tamed a female demon in the mountains with his powerful thunderbolt of wisdom.

So the painted phalluses in Bhutan are more a reference to the antics of the Divine Madman than erotic or fertility symbols.

A temple of hope for childless women

The people of Bhutan love the Divine Madman so much that they’ve even dedicated a temple to him. It’s located in a little village near Punakha, about two and a half hours drive from the capital Thimphu.

Childless women make pilgrimages to this temple of Chimi Lhakhang to pray (as do tourists, who want to see what all the fuss is about).

Inside the shrine, there are three effigies that the infertile women have to carry around the temple: one is a small stone that strongly resembles a phallus, another is a bone in the shape of the male reproductive organ that the third is a piece of bamboo that also looks just like it, too.

Our Bhutanese guide was convinced that the blessing from the Divine Madman worked wonders. He explained about a western tourist who made the pilgrimage and promptly got pregnant in the year after her visit to Chimi Lhakhang.

Regardless of whether you believe in the power of the Divine Madman’s blessing or not, Chimi Lhakhang is definitely a serene and beautiful place to visit.

The temple sits on a small hill in the middle of rice paddies. All you can hear from here are the birds singing, the wind softly blowing and the constant chime of the prayer wheel’s bell.

As we visited, the prayer wheel was kept going by a woman who looked at least a hundred years old.

I just hope the Divine Madman will not be mad enough to bless her, but rather her granddaughter or great-granddaughter.

Written by Thorsten

October 7, 2008 at 10:12 am

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