Same same, but different goes a well-known Thai saying – you many well know about the city’s wild party scene, its magnificent temples, exotic street food and vast outdoor markets, but do you know about its quirk, alternative sights? Bangkok is enticing and hedonistic, but look beyond this and we’ll show you how to spend 2 days in Bangkok, seeing a different side to the city, from a phallic shrine, to a museum of death and even a temple dedicated to David Beckham.
Dragon Tower at Wat Samphran
Want to see a fantastical creature climb a high-rise building, it’s not just in the movies? Better known as Giant Dragon Temple, this monumental sculpture scales 16 stories, and is one of the lesser-known temples in the Thai capital. Visitors can also climb the tower for some spectacular views and amble around its pretty gardens, featuring sculptures of many animals, such as an elephants, dolphins and the less exotic – rabbits.
David Beckham Temple – Wat Pariwat
Not two things that you would usually put in the same sentence, but here we have it – the bizarre David Beckham Temple. We bet you didn’t have this in mind when searching for ‘how to spend 2 days in Bangkok’. This most famous of Western football idols has somehow found his way into an ornate Thai Buddhist temple. Inside there is even a golden statue of Beckham himself, just in case you want to take the words ‘worshipping him’ to the next level. Commissioned by a football crazy abbot, during the world cup in 1998, this odd temple will have you striking up conversations on reverence, religion and Western influence.
Erawan Museum – three headed elephant
Driving in from the airport, one structure that perhaps takes you by surprise is a colossal statue of a three-headed elephant. This monument to Erawan (from Hindu mythology) weighs in at 250 tons, is 20 metres high and nearly 40 metres long. Standing on a pink pedestal, it is a rather unique sight even for Bangkok. Within the pedestal walls, a three-storey museum holds many priceless antiques and religious artefacts related to the Hindu mythology. The exhibit focuses on the universe according to Eastern beliefs and even extends into the elephant’s underside, where you can see memorable art relating to our solar system.
Phallic Shrine, Bangkok | ©kallerna / Wikimedia Commons
Bangkok is a classic mix of old and new; ancient and ornate temples stand alongside the brand new skyscrapers and office blocks. One anomaly though, is the Robot building, neither traditional nor modern it represents a decidedly 80s looking classic computer-game robot. Designed by Sumet Jumsai in the 1980s, the building is a reminder of past as well as the future and when looking at it you can almost hear the quirky noises and mechanical movements of a blocky robot with stubby antennas.
Siriraj Medical Museum (The Museum of Death)
Not for the faint of heart, this macabre museum focuses on death and exhibits featured here leave nothing to the imagination. From a mummified serial killer, to antique instruments and victims’ body parts in jars, this is one odd place that will stay in your mind for a long time to come. Not just a site to grimace at though, the establishment is also a valuable research and medical facility.
Possibly one of the strangest sites in Bangkok, even stranger than a golden David Beckham, is the site of hundreds of hundreds of penises tied to the bottom of a tree. From small wooden carvings, to those made from stone, and even 10ft tall penises – you’ll find all shapes, colours and sizes here. The shrine honours the female fertility spirit of Chao Mae Tubtim and it is said that many women visit the shrine when they are trying to conceive, leaving gifts of jasmine flowers and lotus. If the spirit fulfils their wish and the women become pregnant they will return to place another penis on the shrine, adding yet again to this bizarre collection.
Snake Farm – Queen Saovabha Memorial Institute
You’d usually go to visit a farm to feed baby lambs, stroke ponies and cuddle guinea pigs, but this farm is only home to one type of animal and one of the most feared at that – the snake. Initiated to produce anti-venom to help snakebite victims, the Snake Farm is in fact a Red Cross institute. It features many live specimens in glass cages and holds regular events to educate visitors and explain the serum producing process, feeding habits and the dangers of snakes found in Thailand. More than just a ‘poke-your-stick-at-it’ establishment, this seeks to inform and make visitors more familiar with one of the most feared reptile species.