There are some 65 million people in Thailand who follow the Buddhist faith, making it the “most” Buddhist country in the world and many of them choose to wear amulets as they believe they have some sort of “mystical powers” Some are believed to offer protection from bad luck and ill health whilst others are said to give the wearer good luck whether in business, health or love.
They are made by monks who bless them and put special engravings on them to show their provenance and enhance their “powers” The belief in these powers is certainly very strong, the Thai army has issued protective amulets for their soldiers fighting militants in the south of the country and rare amulets or amulets with proven powers can fetch huge amounts of money, indeed the amulet industry is said to be worth some $300 million a year.
Whilst I am not a religious person I like to learn about beliefs such as this and am intrigued by the mysticism behind it. I have numerous “Hamsa” or “Hand of Fatima” and ”Evil Eye” charms from my time spent in Lebanon and travels through Syria, Morocco and Greece and of which I am very fond.
This was one of the reasons that one of the places I was most interested to visit in Bangkok was “Phra Kreuang” market or the “Amulet” market. I caught the Chao Praya express again; a single ticket from Sathorn (Central) Pier to Tha Chang (Pier 9) where the market is located is 40baht. The market itself is just a few minutes’ walk from the pier, around Ko Ratanakosin and several small soi off Th Maharat, near Wat Mahathat not far from the Grand Palace.
Hundreds of stalls line the streets selling all manner of different amulets and religious paraphernalia from as low as 20 baht or so and you can see people using gem magnifying glasses (which you can also purchase at the market should you not already have your own) to read the inscriptions on the amulets, inspecting them to check their worth and their “powers”
As it is illegal to sell the image of Buddha they speak instead of “renting” the amulet to get around this apparently minor detail! You will also see lots of protective cases for the amulets to keep them safe (I find the idea of a protective amulet needing protection a little amusing to be honest but what would I know!)
I spent a fair bit of time at one stall (I had seen several monks there on my way through the market who seemed to be inspecting the wares in great detail) and eventually picked out 3 of the amulets I most liked the look of as little souvenirs. “Rules” to remember with amulets include removing it when you have sex as well as keeping it off the floor and away from people’s feet as Thais believe the feet to be the lowliest and dirtiest part of your body.
Whether you are a believer or not, the amulet market is an interesting glimpse of Thai beliefs and culture and a fascinating place to visit, If you are going to the Grand Palace or just looking for something out of the ordinary I definitely recommend you take the time to visit it.