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Bangkok, Thailand

Amulet Market

Bangkok's men with dangerous jobs come here in search of protective talismans. 

Who’s to say what form divine protection may take?

Known as the Amulet Market, the corridors are lined with stalls whose only wares are thousand upon thousands of sacred trinkets bestowed with protections. The exact protections of each amulet vary, offering to ward off evil of all manner both spiritual and physical in nature. Filled of locals and visitors alike, everyone is here to pick through the vendors’ wares for the special medallion or figurine that will do the trick for them: protecting the harvest, bringing good health, blessing a new home.

When it comes to the amulets themselves, there aren’t a lot of hard and fast rules. Few of the articles for sale are larger than, say, a baseball, while most fit easily in the palm of one’s hand. Many are purported to contain particles from sacred temples far away, such as spent incense, blessings from monks, etc. The amulets can take the form of Buddhas bearing a range of expressions, to shards of bone, medallions, chunks of wood from sacred spaces varying expressions, brass phalluses, or even real human parts – like hair. All these elements combine to create tokens of good luck that have been protecting generations of working Thai men from all sorts of terrible fates.

At the Amulet market, there are no shamans around to help in the divination process. It’s up to each individual doing the digging to identify which treasure speaks to their need. This makes a simple people-watching excursion to the Amulet Market one of the more gratifying and mystical experiences around, even if you yourself aren’t looking to take home a small something with magical potential. Amulets can cost as little as 5 baht (the same price as a trip to some public toilets) and up to hundreds of baht. Prices are rarely displayed, implying some haggling or bargaining is necessary.

While you’re in the area, don’t forget about the nearby side alleys (heading towards the water). Some heavy rings and more amulets may catch your eyes, and there are enough cheap food stalls to feed the staff that work in the immediate area.

Know Before You Go

Serviced by ferries from Chang Pier, Maharaj Pier, and Phra Chan Tai Pier. From National Stadium BTS, take exit 2 down to street level, make a U-turn, and walk 20 meters to the bus stop. Get on bus 47 and ride for 20-30 minutes. Get off when you’re in front of the Grand Palace or Sanam Luang (the big park just past it). There’s a side street heading left between the two; head down that for about 400 meters and turn right. The beginning of the market should be across the street to your right.