by Tracy Vanity
I was strolling around Chinatown with some friends when we happened across a Vietnamese Buddhist Temple. It looked different than the typical Thai temples so we went to take a closer look and a nice, handsome monk invited us inside.
In a hall of important relics and pictures, behind glass was a mummified monk:
The living monk explained that the mummified monk had preserved naturally and so was not cremated as is the norm when a Buddhist dies. Instead his body was dressed and kept in the temple as a sacred relic.
There was a plaque explaining his biography:
“Chao Phra Khun was born Rueng Mathura Sakul at home in Phadung Krung Krasem canal, See Yak Mahanak district, Phranakorn province, Bangkok, on August 19th, 1900.
At the age of 21 years old, he was ordained as a monk at Wat Mongkol Samakom on May 20th, 1921.
At 09:15p.m., on April 11th, 1958 hen passed away in Chulalongkorn hospital.
It was time to perform the cremation ceremony, the head of Anamm Nikai asked the disciples to open his coffin. Miraculously, his body was still remained and dried without being decayed. Monks brought his body out of the coffin and rearranged him in sitting position. His body as relic was placed in the Patriarch’s Hall in order that Annam Nikai monks ans lat people are able to worship him.”
Thai grammar is cute. It’s cool to just stumble across something like this, it’s definitely not on a tour guide. This is not the first mummified monk I’ve seen.
I came across another one, again randomly during a road trip for New Years Eve. The Buddhist temple was empty so there wasn’t anyone to explain why this monk was mummified but he was clearly mummified on purpose as he had that waxy look:
Apparently, naturally mummified monks are not a rarity here in Thailand. There’s a famous naturally mummified monk on the island of Samui who has been fitted with some cool shades. I haven’t had a chance to visit him yet.
by Tracy Vanity
What better way to celebrate All Hallows’ Eve than to see drippy mummified serial killers, deformed fetuses, putrid parasites and rotting limbs all in one location that is unwittingly set up to look like the basement of a serial killer doctor?
The Siriraj Medical Museum in Bangkok is a six-part museum that includes a parasite and forensics museum. Unlike other museums that try to tastefully display dead babies and human remains by attempting to convey some sort of moral in the form of a nice plaque, at Siriraj, human skulls and body parts are laid out on shelves with no real organization, purpose or labels. I appreciate this immensely. Who needs to read an Aesop Fable when you just want to look at a mangled foot in a glass case?
Loosely, the purpose of the museum is to provide “a valuable resource for both medical professionals and laymen” but most people just go there with the sole intent of getting really grossed out and questioning their mortality.
The most educational part is the parasite museum which shows you exactly what forms in your colon if you eat street stall pork in Thailand. For added fun, try eating spaghetti right after looking at rows of pickled tapeworms.
The museum changes every time I go, it used to be a lot better in the sense that pieces of humans preserved in blocks of plexiglass were literally scattered all over the place, a severed foot would be next to a Harlequin baby with no motive other than they happened to be next to each other when they were taken out of the box. But now there is a bit more organization.
For instance, they’ve moved most of the deformed fetuses to a new wing of the museum dedicated to showing the miracle of life or some shit. There are still fetuses above a display of limbs and bloody clothing taken from murder scenes in the 1920′s so the original magic of the place still lingers.
You aren’t allowed to take pictures anymore either so I had to sneak these shots:
Speaking of which – skulls with gunshot wounds.
Bisected head of a ginger.
I don’t know what method of mummification Thailand uses for their corpses…the typical method of disposing with bodies is cremation but sometimes monks who are believed to have reached a high enough level of spiritual enlightenment are mummified, or they mummify themselves, and are kept in temples. There are also a lot of mummified bodies at the Forensics Museum and they all look very juicy and waxy. More on that later…
Random piece of leg under glass. Most likely from a murder scene if it had anything to do with the bloody clothing next to it. There is some semblance of organization. It was under the deformed babies.
Arm and leg. No back story on the origins of these parts, none necessary.
Braaaaaains and other slices of vital organs. Most with cancer.
Strips of leathery human skin with gun shot wounds.
The “Tattoo” section was a little corner with tattooed limbs as well as tattooed strips of skin. It made me imagine what my tats would look like if they were sliced off my body and preserved on someone’s mantle.
The highlight of the Forensics Museum is definitely the drippy mummified serial killer phone booths which include the dripping body of infamous cannibal-child murderer-boogeyman, Si Quey.
These corpse booths are awesome, I want one! As mentioned earlier in this post, the mummification process is a bit shoddy. It has to be the high levels of humidity here that cause the corpses to “sweat.” All of these bodies are standing on baking tins to collect the corpse drippings which have hardened into pools of dirty lard by their toes. YUMMY!
That drippy mummy on the right fell forward against the glass so if you get close to his face you can see a streak of corpsey nose goo along the glass that shows where he fell and shifted in the booth. It’s the most incredible thing I’ve ever seen in my life.
To keep with the Halloween theme, I will leave you with the spooky back story of the Thai boogeyman, Si Quey, or “See Uey” as the site where I yanked this story from spells it:
A Chinese immigrant who moved to Thailand in 1944; See Uey suffocated and then ate the hearts and livers of over a half dozen male children. He apparently believed that the practice made him stronger, healthier, and by some accounts, immortal. He was captured and executed by hanging in the 1950s. After an autopsy, the cadaver was filled and covered with paraffin wax to preserve it. In recent years, the museum has added a film educating visitors about the story of See Uey. Over the years, See Uey has become a bogeyman for Thai children, as parents threaten misbehaving kids with a visit from his ghost. The case of See Uey Sae Ung was also adapted into the 2004 Thai thriller Zee-Oui.
So they do use wax for mummification here. That explains the baking tin. Happy Halloween Bizarro Central!
By Tracy Vanity
People here in Thailand tend to view Hitler as a Darth Vader-like symbol of rebellion. Evil; but in a fun, punk-rock way. Thais happily sport Nazi imagery alongside images of Che Guevara and Doraemon without irony. The rock band “SLUR” even dressed up in Führer-regalia for their video simply called “Hitler.”
It doesn’t hurt that most of the planet’s people — Buddhists and Hindus — consider the swastika an auspicious emblem of the elephant-headed Ganesha. And there’s little comprehension of the Holocaust or most Western sentiments toward the Third Reich.
As a result, one frequently spots Nazi-iconography-as-fashion here, mostly in the form of t-shirts and other merchandise sold at various outdoor markets around Bangkok:
8-bit Führer for sale.
Hitler with a Western pop culture twist.
A Japanese tourist sports a pink Hitler shirt.
Nazi stickers on the ferry ride home.
Pop art Hitler is bigger than Warhol.
Rubber Hitler masks are available year round.
A chimpanzee hocks some Hitler faces at the gas station.
The Hitler wax sculpture at LOUIS Tussaud’s wax museum in Pattaya, Thailand is as popular as Obama.
And my personal favorite, the Swastikar.