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.
Image: Atlas Obscura
by Tracy Vanity
A quick history of Thai execution methods:
Until the 1930s, the Thais beheaded criminals, unless the victim was royal, in which case they were beaten to death with a piece of sweet-smelling wood.
In 1932, they switched to firing squad, a system that lasted until December 2003. The execution room is still splattered with the blood of those killed by a bullet.
In 2004 Thailand started using the more “humane” lethal injection and reform was put in place to improve the treatment of prisoners that weren’t already executed. Although Bangkok prison is still pretty fucked up, what with sleeping on concrete, getting dysentery from the gruel, constant threats of getting shanked by a methed-out Russian over a cigarette…Thai prison life used to be way more fucked up than it is now. The Bangkok Corrections Museum is proof of that, depicting what prison life was life not that long ago.
Located on a serene public park in the middle of a popular Bangkok tourist area, this old prison was transformed into a museum after a newer prison was built further away from central Bangkok. It showcases some old school torture and discipline that looks like something out of a medieval torture book instead of a way of life for prisoners as early as the mid-80’s.