Fu Lo Shou Complex in Singapore for Thai (and other) amulets and repair services too!

Hey guys, and gals! If you’ve been following my Thailand shenanigans, you’ll know that I’ve purchased a few more Thai amulets whilst I was in Bangkok. I’m now back in Singapore. So interestingly enough, having been living in Singapore for 14 years, I’ve never had the urge to go in this particular building. I had an idea/thought that they had a few Buddhism/Feng Shui related stuff in there but I never went in. This day, however, while on my way to get some computer parts, I walked past this building as usual but this time the shop with the outdoor tables, right in front caught my attention, in a big way. I “had” to go and get a closer look. If I had a “mind blown” emoticon, I’d insert that right here! Not only did I find amulets but also repair services being offered in this shop. More on this further down, but first:

If you’re interested in getting here via public transport, here’s the details. The stop you’ll need to alight at Bugis Station on the green line. If you’re on the Red Line, you’ll need to change trains at City Hall Station. Here’s a map of Singapore’s MRT system (it’s very easy to navigate).

Once you alight at Bugis Station, you head up the escalators and exit the gantries. Once you’re out of the station you want to turn right. As you reach the end of the hall, turn right again and go up the escalators. Once you’re at the top of the escalators, look to straight and a bit to the right (1 o’clock position) and you’ll see a crossing to cross the road. Once you’ve crossed that road, go straight through Bugis Street Market (entrance under the “Happy Hour” sign), you’ll know when you’re through because you’ll have to cross another street. Be careful as you near the end (when you see a fresh fruit drink stall or a table selling fruits on the left) because the market literally ends at the curb, meaning you’ll walk right into traffic if you’re not paying attention. Which is easy to do because Bugis Street Market is quite an interesting visit if you’re wanting to get souvenirs and stuff. HERE’S my post on it (there’s more directional photos in there, if you need).

Once you exit Bugis Street Market and cross the street, you’ll see some street vendors on the right, the main entrance to Fu Lo Shou complex is on the right, just after the last blue tent roof in the photo below.

As you walk into the building, the first shop on the left, I think is the largest of the stores in the mall, not only that but while walking around the area, I found they had another outlet but with more statues and figures rather than amulets. What’s unique about this shop, versus the others in the mall, is that there are large statues of Buddha inside which you can offer your prayers, flowers and donations to. Also, there is a monk inside who (I think) will add “a blessing” to your amulet if you buy one (just like at Wat Arun in Bangkok). When I was there he was chanting but I didn’t see any recipient of the chant. This shop felt “legit” to me if that is any reassurance to anyone, haha. Anyways, aside from that as mentioned above, this shop also offers amulet repair services (there are other shops in the mall that has this too) but unlike in Bangkok when I inquired about changing the casing on a couple of my amulets, the general consensus was that it will take at least a week. The shops in this mall, depending on how busy they are, will change your casing on the spot. I witnessed people at two different shops waiting and watching while someone swapped cases for them. One was a glass case with metal trim and the other was the clear plastic bubble type. I can’t believe I only just now found this!

Looking around this 6 story mall there were plenty of other shops offering a variety of services and products such as Chinese Astrology, Feng Shui “fortune telling”, Chinese Massages, Daoist and Buddhist paraphernalia, Thai amulets, jewellery shops (mainly religious themed items), Feng Shui paraphernalia and some food outlets. There’s even an amulet authentication service!

If you’re even just slightly interested in Buddhist/Daoist related paraphernalia and or amulets, you’ll want to come check out this mall. Personally, I’m a bit wary of buying amulets from shops, I’d much prefer buying them from a temple, but maybe that one shop with the “resident” monk is close enough? I must say though that the amulet styles I saw in Fu Lo Shou are noticeably different than the ones I see in Bangkok, not that I’ve seen that many but enough to notice. I guess more specifically when in Thailand I never had to look and wonder what the carving of the amulet was but a lot of the amulets I saw in Fu Lo Shou I had no idea what or who the carving was of. Then again, I’m not in the slightest, versed in this subject matter, so it’s better if you visit this compex and have a look see, if you get a chance. Having said that, I didn’t see any amulet that piqued my interest nor any that I felt gravitated towards so I didn’t buy anything. I will go back to Fu Lo Shou to at least get a quote on repair services.

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Wat Saket is something special. I can’t explain it, only feel it.

Wat Saket dates back to the 1700’s and has an iconic structure named Golden Mount. This man made mountain has a winding staircase up to the prayer hall where followers can offer prayers, flowers and ask for divine guidance. Climbing up the very narrow and steep stair case to the roof is where you’ll find the golden stupa. The views and statues are really soothing to look at and when the breeze blows through, it feels refreshing and the dinging of all the wind chimes, adds to the ambiance nicely. Although it’s quite spectacular, the rest of the complex is really peaceful and serene too. If you want to see more photos of Golden Mount, you can check out my post HERE. If you need directions on how to get to Wat Saket / Golden Mount via public transport, I posted about that HERE. If you need a break on the way up, there’s a coffee shop on the way up I didn’t have time so I passed, it looks nice though!

I visited Wat Saket 2 days in a row because there was so much going on. It was Loy Krathong, the yearly week long festival (my post about it HERE). With all the festivities going on, I didn’t get any opportunities to get any pictures of the serene feeling premises. Maybe next time. Navigating was somewhat difficult as well because crowds got really big at times and not only were some entrances concealed by the crowds but once you’re in the mass, you really can’t go anywhere except with the flow of the mass. I actually had no idea where I was going and walked around the complex twice before actually getting to see any of the religious statues and things. Some buildings were closed when I got around to them and some I found totally by accident. Meaning I saw a bunch of people moving into something so I just went too. That’s how I found the starting stair case to get up to Golden Mount as well as a cave.

The man made cave houses a giant standing Buddha statue, that looks like it’s carved into the cave and smaller, free standing Terracotta like Buddha statues. Also within the cave are some pieces of really old looking paper with writing on it, but I couldn’t read it, looks important, though.

There is also cemetery that is part of the base of Golden Mount which doesn’t look creepy or anything and you’d probably pass it by not knowing it was a cemetery but look closely and you’ll see. What’s creepy, I think, is that I’m sure I took multiple pictures with my camera’s yet I can’t find any of the cemetery photos on any of them. What do you make of that? Anyways, there’s also a museum on the premises, with some more Buddha statues and history, if you’re interested in that. It was closed by the time I found it.

Then there’s the vultures. If I had not strayed off the path leading down from Golden Mount, I would have totally missed the scene commemorating those that perished from the cholera outbreak. This scene is known as the vulture scene. I took a picture of the commemorative plaque so you can have a read if you’re so inclined.

There’s also a few Buddha statues in enclaves that you can offer prayers too around this area. The main prayer hall isn’t that large but the plaza in front is quite spacious, providing plenty of space for worshipers to pray in front of the Buddha statue that is outside the hall. There’s an even bigger Buddha statue inside the hall. I didn’t get to see everything even though I went twice. I think, during non festive times, you could see it all in 3-4 hours if you’re just walking through. I’ll include a premises map so you can plan your trip 😎

I missed this whole section behind the building in the above photo, it may not even be part of Wat Saket (I think because it’s named a bit different) but it’s accessible from Wat Saket until closing time when the close the entry/exit gates. I think the people having a picnic beside red sign hopped the fence to get in because I didn’t see a way to get in there, lol.

Out of all the wats I’ve visited in Bangkok, Wat Saket is the one that resonated most with me. I “felt” something there, neither good nor bad, just something and for me that’s special. I later learned that there are Buddha relics (Buddha’s Teeth) at Golden Mount, enshrined in the golden stupa and enshrined in the 4 gold leafed statues in the circular shrine. If you need to satisfy your spiritual hunger and only have time to visit one wat in Bangkok, I would highly suggest Wat Saket over the more “touristy” wats. That’s my opinion, don’t roast me for it. πŸ˜ƒ

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Wat Arun an experience to remember

Wat Arun is easily amongst the top 3 of must visit wats in Bangkok, Thailand. Is it worth the hype? Depends on what you’re going there for, in my opinion. Let me explain in more detail in this post but first if you fancy getting here via public transport (as opposed to taking a taxi, Grab or tuk tuk) check out my post HERE.

Wat Arun has arguably one of the most iconic Thai structures and the complex dates back to the 1800’S. The cost for admission to Wat Arun was $50 Baht. Relatively inexpensive, right? Well, it’s probably because you’re only paying to get access to the Prangs, which are the spire/pyramid looking structures, the rest of the wat complex is free . At first, I thought the main spire was a chedi/stupa. I’m not entirely sure what the difference between a prang, chedi or stupa is, only that a chedi or stupa usually houses and a relic/artifact. So I was a bit disappointed that there wasn’t a relic on the premises (that I could find or was aware of). Once you pay the entrance fee, you can choose to walk around the spire platform or you can head up the 5 or 6 steps to get onto the platform that the spires are built on. I then took a walk around the platform in between the central spire and the four smaller ones before heading up onto the central spire’s platform using the really steep stairs that have no hand rails. While walking around the central spire, you’ll find more really steep stairs going even further up, but sadly they are closed to the public.

All the spires are covered in mosaic type decorations. You will also find sea shells and small sauce dish type ceramics used in the dΓ©cor. On each side of the spire, on the first platform are gated structures housing different Buddhist themed statues. For a centuries old complex, the complex is well upkept, you can some cracked sculptures and even find piles of broken off ceramic, that I’m guessing will be put back. Must be a huge challenge even for jigsaw puzzle lovers, haha. That’s about it, but having said that it was still a sight to behold for being centuries old, worth the $50 Baht entrance fee, once.

The rest of Wat Arun’s complex is free and in front of the spires is where you will find two viharns. One of which is where you can find monks to offer prayers and blessings. One of which has Thai amulets and a very knowledgeable attendant. This attendant spoke English and Cantonese better than I can. He told me he can speak Mandarin and 2 other Chinese dialects and his mother tongue is Thai. Quite impressive. What I found even more impressive was his understanding of Thai amulets, he was able to recognize the two I was wearing and offer me a variety of amulets that would complement my existing pair, in various styles, sizes, material and cost. In addition, we spoke of current affairs in various S.E. Asian countries as well as their economics. Very, very insightful chap!

The only other wat that I’ve seen amulets for sale (in Bangkok) is in Wat Pho. The selection at Wat Arun is by far larger and of higher material quality. My amulet from Wat Pho has tarnished very badly but my amulet from Wat Arun is almost as shiny as when I purchased it. Also, when I purchased my amulet from Wat Arun, they brought me and the amulet over to the monk “on duty” and he “blessed” it, performed a “renewal” chant on my existing amulets and said a prayer for me as well! An experience I’ve never had when purchasing amulets. I quite enjoyed it, I haven’t had a prayer session with a monk in ages.

Anyways, in front of the viharns and off to the right side, is the market place, all the usual souvenir shops such as food, clothes, trinkets, costume rental (for photos) etc. A few more steps forward is the river and the piers. Heading left there is the way to the ubosot where there is a larger prayer area and a large golden Buddha statue. Oh, I’m not entirely sure if what I’ve called the viharn and the ubosot is actually what they are, it’s just my best guess from seeing them and what’s inside.

Around the ubosot are other structures including more spires/chedi/stupa/prang shaped structures, not sure what exactly they are but they look interesting. As did the bells you can ring by hitting them with a stick (as opposed to the usual clanging them with the stick that dangles inside each bell. Other works of art on the premises are statues and wall murals all are really quite nice, some look dated too.

Overall, my personal feeling is that Wat Arun, as a temple, is how it should be, the religious parts are free for the people, supported by donations and having a ticket able venue (the prangs). I very much enjoyed the temple complex, not so much the prangs. Having said that, I think the prangs are best seen either at sunrise or dusk. A monk told me to come back at night when the lights are on, “it’s much more beautiful,” he said. Having seen Wat Arun close to sunset, I would tend to agree, but as usual, I didn’t have time to stay plus I think the view of the whole complex would be better from across the river.

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Crackdown on Thai amulets and Buddha themed items in Thailand?

Over the past couple years, I’ve been to Thailand multiple times, I love the culture and the relatively inexpensive yet high quality dentistry (I posted about my dental experience HERE). It is only this most recent trip (to Bangkok) that I’ve noticed the signage regarding the “respecting of Buddhism”. The various signage that I’ve seen, seem to indicate that having the Buddha image as tattoos, t-shirts designs and such are prohibited as is the export of such items. At first, I didn’t know what to expect, as in how this is actually going to be enforced because I’m still seeing t-shirts, carvings, statues, artwork etc depicting Buddha in the shops albeit not as abundantly as before. Note: I’m interpreting, “Buddha image” as anything depicting the likeliness of Buddha (in any form/medium).

Frankly, I didn’t think anything of it, even though I had my heart set on acquiring a Thai Buddhist amulet. I had asked some Thai friends where I could acquire an “authentic” amulet and was told amulets are readily available “everywhere”, there’s even a street specifically selling such items but they advised me to get one from within a temple, those should be authentic. This amulet market, I was told, is near Wat Pho and a ferry terminal, I couldn’t miss it. Well, I walked from the Grand Palace to Wat Pho and visited 2 ferry terminals, I couldn’t find this amulet market. Maybe most of the shops were close since it was raining? Or maybe the crackdown is really happening? The most probably reason why is because I’m just an idiot and couldn’t find it, lol.

Now what is the big deal with Thai Amulets? Well, supposedly they have spiritual powers (if you’re so inclined to subscribe to that notion and belief system). Authentic amulets are the ones that are hand made by monks and have been “enchanted” through prayer. The more famous the wat and monk, the higher the “power” and worth/price the amulet will be. Some amulets cost in the 100’s of thousand US dollars range! There are different amulets covering different aspects of “life issues”. For example, luck and or success in your career or school, love life charms, warding of bad spirits, omens, calamities etc. Much like the plethora of different charms sold at the Japanese temples (Shinto temples, I think they were). Unlike the Japanese charms, you don’t have to return/recycle them after a year (I’ve seen big drop boxes at these temples for you to drop your old charms into. Instead Thai amulets (again this is what I’ve been told so I don’t know exactly how accurate this info is) are given out on loan and the monetary amount you pay is the rental/donation fee. Once your “crisis” has been averted and/or you feel better, you’re supposed to return the amulet. When I acquired my pendant from Wat Pho (first image of this post), I didn’t see any signage regarding the “rental” practices and I tried to ask but the language barrier was to great I think. So I have no idea if this is true and if so where to return the amulet to. What happens if I lose the amulet etc.

This is the one I got from Wat Pho (I picked the least expensive one that I felt “comfortable” with, the charm inside is suppose to be 22k gold foil). I also bought the stainless steel necklace for the charm at $100 Baht the charm itself set me back $400 Baht. Expensive or not, in my mind, the dollar amount that I’m relinquishing goes towards something I subscribe to, at a place that’s absolutely stunning plus authentically religious with historic significance and it gives me peace of mind (it can’t get much more authentic than this, right)?

Anyways, sorry for the lack of photos in this post, I really didn’t intend to post on this topic. So why am I? Well, I’ve always had a Buddhist pendant on me since childhood, so I never thought twice about the “warning” signage and although I’m not a full fledged follower of Buddhism, I’m still a believer in most of the teachings that I’m aware of. So these signs don’t pertain to me, right? Well, apparently not.

I had forgotten I had my new amulet on (I put it on at the temple and haven’t taken it off). So at the at the airport security screening I place my bag on the xray machine and walked through the metal detector, which didn’t beep but the guard beckoned me over, so I assumed the position, legs spread and arms out to the side. The usual waving of the wand, then he waves it up and down just below my chin, I thought he wanted to see the tattoo on my chest (it’s happened before at LAX they made me take off my shirt so they can full body scan me). He shakes his wand from side to side and says, “no” (when I showed him my tattoo) and uses the wand to point at my neck. I think I gave him a funny look cuz then he starts wiggling and pointing the wand at my neck, it’s then I realize he wanted to see my necklaces/pendants. I reach into my t-shirt to pull out my necklaces/pendants for him to check out. Which he does by leaning in for a closer look and then waves me off with the wand. Much ado about nothing?

I have been wearing this one for at least 3 years.

And my new amulet’s casing is showing quite a bit of tarnish. Maybe I was let go because of the state my pendants were in? Maybe they look inexpensive/fake etc? I don’t know but I’m not complaining. Note: some amulets you can purchase without a case so you can find/purchase higher quality ones..

Having told my story to my Thai buddies, who had a big laugh, they related to me some instances in the news where some people were fined/jailed for having tattoo’s of a Buddha image, taking photos at religious places in “disrespectful” poses, standing/sitting on things that people normally wouldn’t etc. I have no idea what would have happened if the guard took offense to my amulet and pendant but it is something to think about, wouldn’t you agree?

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Visiting Wat Pho, a top ranked royal temple.

I finally made it to Wat Pho! Although I took a huge detour (which was worth it), I did make it before they closed. If you want read about my “forced” detour to the Grand Palace/Wat Phra Kaew complex it’s in THIS POST, and how I ended up there is detailed in THIS POST. Anyways, back to the subject at hand . . .

Wat Pho is one of the oldest and largest wat complexes in Bangkok (it’s actually comprised of 2 walled compounds dissected by a road). One of the buildings houses one of the largest Reclining Buddha statues in Thailand. Wat Pho is also recognized by UNESCO, has chedi’s which contain Buddha relics and some that contain the ashes of the royal family. On top of all that, Wat Pho is recognized as the first public university in Thailand where the Thai Traditional Medical and Massage School was the first school of Thai medicine approved by the Education Ministry. If that’s not enough, Wat Pho still sells amulets within the temple grounds. I’m a huge fan of UNESCO recognized places and temples with Buddha Relics. If you’re so inclined to believe, it’s said that an amulet’s “power” comes from the temple and monk who made the amulet and the amount of prayer bestowed on the amulet. The higher the “power” of the monk and temple, the better the amulet will be. I’m not a scholar of these beliefs so if I can’t explain it well, my apologies. So to ensure I got an “authentic” amulet I chose Wat Pho’s “gift shop” as opposed to the shops on the streets or even right outside the temples. You’d be hard pressed to find a “better” temple in Bangkok than Wat Pho.

I’m so glad I was able to visit. When I first arrived at the entrance, the first thing I noticed was the line of tuk tuk’s parked on the street, then I noticed the street art vendors who had their goods out even in the drizzling rain. Goods which consisted of amulets, Buddha busts, statues, painting, posters, keychains etc. I thought that was a bit out of place since I’ve seen a lot of billboards trying to prevent the sale and export of such items. Anyways, I ignored the tuk tuk drivers’ touts and went straight into the Wat Pho Complex, found the easy to see ticket booth and paid my $200 Baht entrance fee, which came with a coupon for a free bottle of water. I didn’t immediately see where to redeem the water and stopped looking because I got distracted by the “gift shop” which was right at the ticket gantry a few steps away from the ticket booth. Just thought I’d mention this as there’s more than one entrance/exit. Right outside the gift shop, I think I saw the booth to redeem the water coupon but I got distracted by the entrance to the Reclining Buddha statue which is the main tourist attraction of Wat Pho.

 

The Reclining Buddha statue is by far the biggest reclining statue I’ve seen to date, measuring 150 feet (45m) long. Recline, in this sense context, is Buddha lying on his side with his head propped on one arm. The statue is surrounded by a wooden picket fence that’s far enough away to prevent even the tallest basketball player to reach out and touch the statue (yeah, I have no idea how far away the fence is from the statue) except the feet because the building isn’t long enough. Along the front side, there are little sections for prayer and some sections for viewing/picture taking between the pillars. Along the back are some other artifacts as well as some prayer bowls (a whole row of 108 of them) that you can toss coins into while praying/chanting. You can donate $20 Baht for a plate of coins to drop into the prayer bowls. I don’t know how many coins I was given but I had more than enough coins to put 2 in each bowl. I was fortunate that it wasn’t that crowded when I was there but there was enough people around which made getting pictures a bit of a challenge (plus the pillars were in the way a lot). I can’t imagine how packed it would be if a tour group or two came through, well I can and it’s not pleasant, haha.

I didn’t expect the complex to be as big as it was. I thought it was just he usual chedi, main hall, ubusot type of complex. Yes, I was wrong, there’s a lot more to see. I exit one area only to find myself at the start of another interesting area. I wouldn’t say I got lost but it just seemed like I maze where everywhere I went was something cool to look at or a place where I felt an image to be made, I just had to stop and find it. Unfortunately for me, time was what I didn’t have that day. I’m pretty sure I didn’t get to see 1/2 of the complex, by that I mean literally see it and not “seeing” it creatively. Although I wasn’t rushed by anyone, the closing of gates and such pushed a sense of urgency to find an exit, plus I had no exit strategy to get to my dinner appointment, which I ended up being almost 2 hours late for (transportation issues posted HERE if you wanna read about it, lol). I’m really wanting to go back in the evening just before closing, on a nice day to catch the sunset light on the chedi’s, I bet that would be an amazing picture.

Consider following me for updates and to find not only my other travel bloopers, blunders and shenanigans but also photography related news/reviews and the occasional contest entry.

All the photos (unless otherwise noted in the post) were taken by me and are available for sale. If you’re interested in buying an image or three, πŸ˜ƒ please don’t hesitate to contact me for more details. Thanks in advance!

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