It was probably half past noon, and I had just finished window shopping at Siam Square and Platinum Fashion Mall. I started walking under the heat of the sun while secretly wishing for some clouds to pass overhead. Some good deity might have heard my wish and sent clouds my way. Problem was, they came with rain. And just like that, it poured.
The funniest thing was: I was in the middle of giant phalluses.
The place is called Chao Mae Tuptim Shrine, simply Tuptim Shrine or more colloquially P*nis Shrine. Situated at the Swissotel Nai Lert Park, it is certainly off-the-beaten-path as there isn’t any other popular attraction nearby.
I took shelter at the nearby basement carpark of Swissotel for over an hour because the rain just won’t cease being a killjoy that time. All of a sudden, another guy arrived. Now I got some company! I could just pass the time sharing a conversation with my fellow “strandee”.
Although it sits beside a modern hotel, it has a long history. No one knows about the real beginnings of the phallic offerings at the site but it all points to the belief that a certain tree goddess known as Chao Mae Tuptim resides in a towering Sai tree in the area.
Thailand’s first investor and “Beloved Millionaire” Nai Lert had a spirit house built near the tree. According to the sign by the entrance to the park, at first, people left the usual offerings at the shrine — joss sticks, lotus buds, and jasmine flowers. “Chao Mae Tuptim has received yet another, rather unconventional kind of gift, phallic in shape, both small and large, stylised and highly realistic,” the sign reads. “Over the years they have been brought by the thousands and today fill the area around the shrine. Confronted by the extraordinary display the shrine has automatically been concluded to be dedicated to fertility.”
There are many theories about how the offerings started. Legend has it that there was once a woman who had trouble getting pregnant. After exhausting all possible ways of conceiving, she finally went to the shrine to ask for Chao Mae Tuptim’s help. To cut the story short, she gave birth to a healthy baby boy eventually. As a sign of gratitude, she offered a large wooden phallus to the goddess. Others followed suit, thereby creating a tradition.
Fertility? Maybe, maybe not. Phallic objects known as palad khik are not really seen as obscene in Thailand. Many men and women wear necklaces or bracelets with a phallic pendant. Some for fertility, others for good luck. Palad khik is also believed to deliver financial prosperity.
My new friend and I have run out of topics but the skies were not yet done with creating a waterworld so we killed more time at the edge of the carpark. We waited.
And waited. But the rain just won’t stop. We were stuck with these wooden phalluses the whole time.
At around 3pm, frustration got the better of me. I gave up. I climbed to the upper ground floor (which I didn’t know was accessible from the site) and just took a cab all the way back to the BTS Station. In this weather, I would not be able to explore anyway. On my way, I found just how bad the flooding problem is in some parts of Bangkok, reminiscent of a soaked Manila. I was stranded in the cab in the streets of Bangkok for almost an hour. This time, no d*cks around.
How to get here: Chao Mae Tuptim Shrine is located at 2 Wireless Road, Pathumwan, Bangkok. To get here, take the train and alight at Chitlom Station. Walk down Wireless Road until you see Swissotel. You’ll see a short street to the basement car park. Walk across the parking area and you’ll see the Shrine tucked in a corner of the park.