Erawan Shrine, Bangkok

On the corner of Rama I and Rajadamri Roads, in front of the Grand Hyatt Erawan Hotel, stands the small square compound of the Erawan shrine. The shrine's popularity stems from its unusual origins. It's really just a somewhat larger than normal spirit house, and that is in fact just what it is. It dates back to the 1950s when the current hotel's predecessor (also called the Erawan Hotel) was under construction. The project was plagued by so many accidents that, in desperation, the builders put up the shrine which depicts Brahma riding his elephant Erawan, and the problems promptly stopped. Thus the shrine became famous and is sought out by people day and night seeking the powerful spirit's intercession, or to give thanks for its help.

In mid-2006, a mentally disturbed man distraught over the death of his son took a hammer to the original gold painted plaster statue in the middles of the night, completely destroying it. Some street cleaners came on the scene as the man was finishing. They chased him down and beat him to death. As you might imagine, the whole incident was seen by some as a bad omen, especially for the then embattled Prime Minister Taksin Shinawatra. He was overthrown by the military just a few months after the incident.

The shrine has since been fully restored, and to look at it today, you wouldn't know the incident had happened. The shrine is still thronged with visitors leaving offerings of flowers and incense, and there are classical dances performed more or less hourly during the day.