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A Bangkok Ghost Story

Are you afraid of ghosts? Do you have a spirit house in front of your residence? It’s okay if you do; that just makes you like millions of other Thais. In fact, every nation in the world has its own religious or cultural beliefs based on fear.  Well, except for Singapore since they don’t really have a culture or soul.

The Thailand Creative Design Center, on the sixth floor of The Emporium mall, has an excellent exhibit on display until January 9 to explain why spirits are so popular in this country and abroad.

As the exhibit says, our instincts tell us to fear what we don’t understand. We invest the night sky, the forests, and all the creatures in nature with spirits that become the reason for good luck and misfortunes in our lives. This explains why KohSpot is petrified of ghosts, goblins, Big Foot, Ronald McDonald, aliens and communists – we fear what we don’t understand.

Throughout history, fear has been the constant behind many of our religious practices, but what has changed is the rituals different cultures use to allay our fears. Whether it is a belief in exorcists and spirit mediums or fairs and festivals to appease the gods, these rites help us keep the darkness at bay.

On display are spirit houses, both old and new, and intricate costumes used in animist ceremonies, including brightly colored Phee ta khon masks and outfits that were once made from coconut husks and sticky rice baskets for Loei province’s annual parade. Chinese dragon costumes, Halloween outfits from America and a complete catalogue of all the spirits Thais believe in are also featured.

One of the main points of the exhibit is how much money people’s coping mechanisms generate. Using jasmine and lotus blossoms to make merit earns that flower industry 368 million baht a year. The exercise of merit-making trips to temples in Thailand generates 2 billion baht for the Thai economy. The fortune-telling industry makes 2.55 billion baht a year, while the amulet business, when prices get obscene, can make up to 40 billion baht a year, equal to Thailand’s top 30 exports, according to the Kasikorn Research Centre.  KohSpot will be launching our 2011 line of Amulets in January.

The installation is not a haunted house, though unfortunately some Thais treat it that way. Sure, part of the exhibit is shrouded in darkness for effect, and near the entrance there are some fake blood smears on the floor, but Thais could actually learn a lot about themselves by reading the displays. The exhibit encourages introspection, and not the kind related to “will he ever call me back?”

Location: TCDC, Emporium mall, sixth floor
BTS: Phrom Pong
Hours: 10:30 am-9 pm daily, closed Mondays
Website: www.tcdc.or.th
Phone: 02-664-8448

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