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Bangkok, Thailand

Giant Swing

For centuries young Thai men used this Giant Swing as a slingshot to heaven. 

At 27 meters (88 feet) tall, Bangkok’s Giant Swing dwarfs nearby Wat Suthat and other surrounding buildings. The swing was originally built in 1784, under the direction of King Rama I. Since then weather damage has required several restorations, including a recent renovation completed in 2007. For this project, workers used six massive teak tree trunks (each more than 20 meters tall and approximately 200 years old) to construct a new swing.

For centuries, the Giant Swing played a central role in annual swing ceremonies that symbolically reenacted elements of Hindu origin stories. In Hindu mythology Brahma tested the stability of the newly created world by ordering Shiva to stand on a mountain while giant snakes tried to shake him to the ground. The swing ceremony had teams of Thai men in elaborate headdresses competing to launch themselves into the air, where they would use their teeth catch a sack of coins tied to the top of a pole 25 meters (or more) above the ground. The stability of the swing and presumed success of the swingers represented the unshakable Shiva of Hindu legend.

Unfortunately, the ceremony was discontinued in 1935 after several participants fell to their deaths. In 2005 the Giant Swing and Wat Suthat were nominated as a future UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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