Erawan Shrine: Serendipity In Bangkok’s Bustling Heart
“Life is not merely a series of accidents or coincidences, but rather it is a tapestry of acts that culminate in an exquisite, sublime plan”. The truth is, nothing happens by chance in this world. From a gust of wind to earth-shattering tragedies, everything is part of the universe’s grand masterpiece. Even getting lost in an urban maze like Bangkok has a purpose in your life. Not only can it give you plenty of wonderful lessons, but it may also lead to fascinating surprises, like Erawan Shrine.
And, as I was exploring Bangkok, I rediscovered the true meaning of serendipity and the saying “everything happens for a reason”.
I got lost, felt dizzy and even visited a park that was temporarily closed to the public.
But, there was an invisible force guiding me throughout my journey.
And, in the end, my restless and adventurous spirit led me to one of the most fascinating attractions in Bangkok – Erawan Shrine.
With an open mind, I also rediscovered a bunch of valuable lessons that made my whole Bangkok trip so memorable.
How I end up at Erawan Shrine
Walking down the streets of Bangkok, I didn’t have a clue on where to go. Although I had a few ideas on what to do in Bangkok, I wasn’t exactly sure how I’d kick-off my trip to the Thai capital.
Frenzied, congested and intensely warm, the heart of Bangkok can be a mystifying labyrinth for any traveler. And, I knew it’s a truth acknowledged universally.
From backpackers to casual tourists, I’ve heard tons of stories of people being overwhelmed by this energetic urban sprawl. With confusing street names and scarcity of English-speaking locals, Bangkok is not a place for a tourist to get lost.
Still, it didn’t stop me from hitting the city’s bustling streets alone.
Earlier, the lovely Filipina attendant at Metro Pratunam Boutique Hotel gave me a map of the area where the hotel is located.
The first thing that I saw on the map was the text “four-faced Buddha statue”.
And, I thought the map was referring to the famed Erawan Shrine.
Days before our trip to Bangkok, I’ve read a lot of positive things about Erawan Shrine.
Eager and excited, I soon followed the map, and went to the shrine.
But, it wasn’t the shrine or statue that I was looking for.
While it’s visually delightful, it wasn’t the Bangkok landmark that I was looking for.
So, I walked for a couple of blocks away from the shrine, to find something interesting in the area.
But, I didn’t find anything intriguing and appealing.
I turned to my phone to find some answers. Sadly, my old and reliable phone turned into something unreliable.
From time to time, it was hanging up. And, I couldn’t get any piece of information from it.
With no maps and an itinerary, there was only way to make this experience worthwhile.
And, that was to get purposely and wonderfully get lost in the heart of Bangkok.
Soon after, I returned to the shrine because my gut-feel was saying that it was livelier and more colorful on the other side.
And, guess what?
I found a sign saying that Lumphini Park was just 1.8 kilometers away.
And, the same sign also suggested that Thao Maha Phrom Shrine, or also Erawan Shrine, is just a short stroll away.
“Let’s check out the park”, I said to myself.
After all, we have plenty of free time available for that afternoon.
And, besides, getting lost is an effective way to get a good introduction to the city.
From there, I climbed a couple of overpasses, and got a good look for Bangkok’s infamous traffic.
Honestly, the city’s traffic isn’t as horrible as what most people say.
I know it wasn’t rush hour yet, but I’ve seen cities with busier and more congested streets.
After descending from the overpass, I followed the locals, as they cross a bridge.
As I was crossing the bridge, I noticed how locals commute through their express boat.
And, it was amazing, I must say. At least, I got a good glimpse of the way of life in Bangkok.
I didn’t spend a ton of time admiring their one-of-a-kind mode of transport.
Remember, I was planning on visiting Lumphini Park on that afternoon.
Along the way, I caught glimpse of a bunch of fabulous shrines and landmarks in Bangkok.
As for the traffic, the streets were getting busier and more congested.
Soon, I found out why they say Bangkok’s traffic is a nightmare for commuters, tourists and car owners.
The whizzing motorcycles, the ear-popping sounds of tut-tuk, and crowded lanes can be intimidating for some people.
Ironically, though, I wasn’t frightened or irritated by it all.
On the contrary, it felt like a therapeutic stroll or a walk in the park, compared to walking in Metro Cebu.
Maybe, the buzzing streets of my hometown, Cebu, have trained me fairly well.
Ultimately, I arrived at a crossroad.
And, for some reason, I was tempted to go right.
Heck, my heart told me to go right.
But, I didn’t do it.
I thought that I was just tempted to go right because it took a while for me to cross the busy road.
Shortly after, it felt like a seemingly endless walk.
Once, I stumbled upon a vendor, and asked the directions for Lumphini Park.
“Two kilometers straight”, the vendor quickly replied.
Well, that’s not far.
If I can survive a 20-kilometer day hike on the mountains, a short walk on flat urban grounds won’t be a problem.
And, I knew it wasn’t a 2-kilometer walk.
Take note, the sign I saw earlier clearly stated that it was 1.8 kilometers, and I’ve already walked far from there.
Yet, there was something telling me that I wasn’t meant to be there.
I felt dizzy and a little disoriented on my way to the park.
Not to mention, I was dripping with sweat.
Although I live in a tropical country, I was somewhat taken aback by the city’ intense heat.
It was really hot AF!
Now, I know why they call Bangkok as the world’s hottest city.
Even worse, I didn’t get any sleep the night before our flight to Bangkok.
Was this a sign that I took the wrong path?
Even so, there was no way I was backing down from this challenge.
With my years of experience in hiking, I knew it was something I could easily manage.
And, soon, I got a glimpse of the sprawling park.
Excited and optimistic, I rushed my way to the entrance of the park, climbing another overpass.
Moments later, I was at the entrance of one of top admission-free attractions in Bangkok.
“What a joy! I’m pretty sure the sunset views here are absolutely stunning”, I said to myself.
But, just when I was about to enter the park, a local policeman said we couldn’t enter the park.
“They say we have to wait for 20 minutes”, said a male Caucasian. “It’s funny and strange because there are so many people inside”.
I didn’t know what was going on. But, it wasn’t planning on waiting for 20 minutes.
It was almost sun set, and I had to get back to our hotel before dinner.
Maybe, it’s a sign or omen.
Maybe, the universe was telling me something.
So, I went back to the overpass, and asked the policemen for directions to Erawan Shrine.
They couldn’t give me a clear-cut answer, because of the language barrier.
Even worse, my phone wasn’t working.
But, it was totally fine, for me.
Rather than panicking, I saw it as an opportunity to hone forgotten and new skills.
And, here’s the thing.
Getting lost, especially in a foreign land, can be a rather empower experience.
Trust me, I’ve learned a lot of things by just getting lost in remote mountain ranges and foreign lands.
I’ve learned to stay calm, and find my way back to the right track by myself.
I’ve practiced my orientation without any electronic aid.
And best of all, I’ve learned how to interact with locals to get information.
Of course, I applied everything I learned from my escapades, just to find Erawan Shrine.
From vendors to guards, I’ve asked directions from a variety of Thais, in my search for Erawan Shrine.
And, there were only a few locals who could communicate in English at that time.
As a matter of fact, some would even refuse to answer when they found out I was speaking in English.
On the bright side, I’ve already figured it out how to communicate effectively with them, even though I don’t speak Thai.
I had to play a little charades to talk to them effectively.
And, I had to use short phrases and few words, to ensure they’d understand what I’m saying.
Finally, I had an idea on the exact location of Erawan Shrine. And, it was along the overpass I’ve passed by earlier.
On my way to Erawan Shrine, I realized that getting lost trains your awareness.
When you stick to your detailed travel itinerary, you normally just go with the flow.
You check attraction after attraction on your list, and tend to ignore your surroundings.
But, when you get lost, you immediately become aware of your environment.
You start to focus on the world around you.
You pay attention to the distinctive places and landmarks that you may have otherwise missed.
And, that’s what happened to me, while getting lost in the heart of Bangkok.
I remembered all the 711 outlets that I passed by on my way to the park.
And, I remembered all the hotels with its elaborate shrines that I saw earlier.
Of course, how could I forget the crossroad with the overpass that was telling me to go right?
Finally, I turned to the direction wherein my gut-feel was telling me to go earlier.
Even though the path to this attraction was already straight, I still got lost on my way to Erawan Shrine.
I climbed an overpass, thinking the shrine was on the other side of the road.
And, I couldn’t blame myself for making such move.
There were just so many elaborate and glistening shrines and decors on the other side.
Thankfully, an English-speaking guide gave me a clear answer to my questions.
Upon his recommendations, I went back to the other side, and saw the colorful and magnificent Indra Shrine.
From there, I kept on walking, until I saw the extraordinary Erawan Shrine.
Truth be told, the shrine, from a foreign traveler’s perspective, may not be a sight to behold.
It was totally beautiful, as far as I’m concerned, though.
The gleaming decors, the eerie wonderful voices of the singing worshipers and the beautiful Thai culture made my visit sweet and pleasurable.
Furthermore, I always believe in the old adage that “it’s not the destination that matters, but the journey”.
And, more importantly, I felt something really special about this foray.
Was Erawan Shrine a piece of a bigger metaphoric jigsaw puzzle?
Was it simply luck that had caused me to find Erawan Shrine?
All I know is that the Universe brought me to Erawan Shrine for a reason.
On the plane back to Cebu, I recalled all my experiences in Bangkok.
And guess what?
I found out that Erawan Shrine was the key to our memorable trip to Bangkok.
If I didn’t discover Erawan Shrine that day, I wouldn’t have found Neon Market.
Later that night, we went to that market, where I savored the best Thai dinner I’ve ever had.
And, I wouldn’t have discovered Pratunam Wholesale Market and Platinum Fashion Mall.
Even though these places aren’t known as must-see attractions in Bangkok, my wife and friends had a blast there, with their incredible finds and bargains.
For some, it was the highlight of their trip in Bangkok.
Obviously, it’s truly a great feeling to see everyone upbeat and happy, after a trip.
And, how can I forget the ripple effect of this adventure to my experience in checking out the temples in Bangkok?
Truthfully, without that experience, I wouldn’t have the confidence to explore the temples of Bangkok alone.
Of course, I wouldn’t have found my way back to the hotel, after my temple exploration, if I didn’t get lost in Bangkok.
Did I mention that it also gave me an idea where our rendezvous for our Ayutthaya trip would be?
Plus, Erawn Shrine also gave me an insight into the culture and way of life of Thailand.
The truth is, it was my Erawan Shrine discovery that gave an idea on how to communicate with the Thais effectively.
I guess the saying “getting lost is never waste a time” is really true.
And, here’s something even more amazing.
My experience with Erawan Shrine has inspired me to travel alone more often.
Don’t get me wrong – I extremely enjoy traveling with my family and hiking with my friends.
And, I’m going to continue share my adventures and misadventures with them.
But, traveling alone is one of my greatest joys.
I’m an introvert, and being in solitude gives me the time and space to refuel my energy.
Or, my visit to Erawan Shrine could be an omen of something big for my wife and me next year.
It may be a sign that we’re ready to move to a foreign city.
Whatever happens, I’ll leave it all to the universe by following the signs while chasing my dreams.
Like life, there are twists and turns when we travel.
There’s never a straight line!
And sometimes, we find ourselves lost and clueless on what to do.
But, getting lost is never a waste of time.
With an open mind and adventurous spirit, getting lost can often lead to epic escapades.
As long as you trust your heart and follow the signs, you’ll be fine exploring any maze or puzzle.