Monday, May 08, 2006

Erawan Museum Tour

Its 6.00 AM and you’re wide awake. You jetted in on a red eye flight arriving in Bangkok around midnight. You can’t sleep anymore in your hotel. What to do at this hour? Nothing opens ‘til 10.00 AM and the night life doesn’t start pumping until after 10.00 PM.

Get up, get ready and get a little Thai culture under your belt. Go visit the not so well known but amazing structure called the Erawan (3 headed elephant) Museum. Located in the industrial south-east suburbs of Bangkok Lek Viriyapant ordered the construction of a monumental building in the shape of three-headed elephant. Called Airavata the icon is ridden by the Hindu god Indra. Fantastic!

This trip will take you about 45-60 minutes by bus each way depending on traffic. You will travel south-east & south along Sukumvit Road into the industrial suburbs of Bangkok towards Samut Phrakan. In heavy rush hour traffic the trip can take up to 90 minutes.

Step one. Print out this article before you leave home, or download it into your PDA, and take it with you. If you forget that’s okay you can go online in Bangkok at any of hundreds of Internet café’s, download & print it there.

Step two. Go to the concierge desk in your hotel lobby and get the following information:
• Ask how to get to Asoke station, BTS (Skytrain) Sukumvit line. Asoke is the interchange station between the BTS/MRT trains at the intersection of Sukumvit Soi 21 (Soi Asoke) and Sukumvit Road.
• A hotel business card with the return address in Thai writing on it. This is important. You may get lost and have to take a Meter Taxi back to the hotel! Hey, there’s no extra charge for getting lost!
• The nearest ATM machine location or money changer. You want some small Baht bills.

Step three. Board a BMTA bus Number 511 (Air conditioned) from any bus stop on Sukumvit Road between Nana and Soi 21 (Soi Asoke) heading South. I.e. towards the Emporium shopping complex from Soi Nana (Soi 4). The front of the bus is usually blue and cream but may be also orange and cream.

If you are coming to Sukumvit Road by MRT or BTS (Skytrain) board the BMTA bus at the bus top adjacent to MRT/BTS Sukumvit interchange (East side of Sukumvit Road). Fare 15 Baht from Asoke. Say “Erawan Museum,” at least two times to the ticket attendant when you pay your fare. They will get the message that you have no idea where it is and will assist you get off at the correct stop.

Step four. The bus heads South-east along Sukumvit until about Sukumvit Soi 109 when it takes amore southerly direction. The route continues south crossing the Bang Na-Trat expressway and elevated highway at Bang Na. Approaching Sukumvit Soi 117 move to the exit and presses the stop button immediately passing Soi 117. If the ticket attendant has forgotten to remind you where to get off ask your fellow passengers. Someone will generally speak enough English to either help you directly or remind the ticket attendant to help you. You will get off at the next stop after Sukumvit Soi 117. There is an area of road construction, part of the main expressway (Ring road) around Bangkok crossing Sukumvit adjacent to the museum site.

Step five.. Get off the bus, look back towards Sukumvit Soi 117 for the giant black 3 headed elephant statue standing back from Sukumvit Road about 50 yards. At present (May, 2006) the Ariavata stands tall besides the expressway works and roadway pillars like a giant alien being. Worth a photo as you walk towards it. Walk back about 300 yards north to the entrance of Erawan Museum. You can’t miss the entrance!

Transport: BMTA Blue/Orange Bus 511
Fare: 31 Baht each way.
Admission: 50-150 Baht Hours Open: 8.00 Am – 6.00 PM.

The Erawan Museum houses the late Khun Lek's priceless collection of ancient religious objects. The huge bronze sculpture stands on a base pedestal decorated with millions of tiny tiles enameled in the fashion of Thai Benjarong ceramics. Tours of the museum start in the lower level of the pedestal, which houses the oldest artifacts.

The upper level of the pedestal is dominated by an elaborate double staircase, also decorated in bits of Benjarong. Around the periphery are more ancient Buddha statues along with other antiquities.

On the landing at the top of the stairs, you have the choice of taking either more stairs, or a lift which travels up one of the hind legs of the statue. Either of these choices takes you up into the belly of the beast. There are two levels within the body of the elephant.

On the lower level, a small window allows you to look out over the gardens below. More stairs take you up to the second level, which is a sort of celestial chapel displaying more ancient Buddha statues. With its light blue and gold decorated walls following the contour of the elephant, the chapel has a rather ethereal feel.

The giant elephant sits in a large garden full of ponds and fountains laid out in several Asian styles. More, albeit smaller, fanciful creatures decorate the gardens and water features.

The Erawan Museum has become a popular place for local Thais to make offerings in order to receive divine "help" with certain matters. The story goes that one day a young girl prayed to the giant statue just before buying what turned out to be a winning lottery ticket. The story has spread, and now many Thais come just to make offerings at the pavilion in front of the statue.

Step six.. When you are ready to return cross Sukumvit Road (Carefully!) and catch BMTA Blue/Orange Bus No 511. Bus stop is opposite where you disembarked previously. NB Some 511 buses are expressway only. Ask attendant "Sukumvit Asoke?"

If you have a car or have friends who have a car follow Sukumvit Road south and cross the Bangna-Trat Highway (34) and continue on Sukumvit now also Highway (3).Look for the road (No street sign) just before the Erawan structure on your left after Soi 117 and amongst the ring road (9) construction debris. Here you will find parking and the side entrance to the museum and gardens.

Enjoy your time at Erawan Museum! Amazing what you can find tucked away in the industrial suburbs of south west Bangkok, if you know where to look.

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(C) Copyright Geoff Ogilvie 2006-2018