Wat Traimit in Chinatown houses one of Bangkok’s most famous Buddhas.

If what tomorrow may bring is one of those things that interests you, Bangkok is the place for you. Those with a less passive nature have ample opportunity for taking fate into their own hands by making merit at any one of the city’s thousands of wats and shrines. Those who believe their fate is in the hands of the gods can just as easily discover what those gods have planned for them by visiting one of the city’s thousands of fortune tellers. Touri may rely upon the Indian standing in front of a tailor shop who tells them today is their lucky day (eight by the way is the lucky number so know that you know you can just move along), but the locals know where the best place is to get your lucky numbers, the best shrine to use when your concern is of romance not wealth, and the best mor doo to consult when it is your business affairs that matter.

Logic should tell you that if you are looking for a bit of luck, your best bet for having your fortune told would be at a lucky place. And since by anyone’s estimation finding 1.5 billion baht of gold would be considered lucky, you might want to head over to Chinatown and Wat Traimit, home to Bangkok’s Golden Buddha.

The 5 ton solid gold Buddha, until a mishap in 1955, was considered a minor Buddha statute, most likely salvaged from Ayutthaya and brought to Bangkok during the reign of Rama 1 when he established the city as Thailand’s new capital. Eventually the statue found a home at Wat Traimit, which like the image it housed was considered of minor relevance. Since the wat didn’t have a building large enough for the statue it sat under a simple tin roof for over twenty years.

. . . and sometimes all that glitters really is gold.

In 1955 the Buddha was moved to the wat’s recently built wiharn. It was during that relocation that its true worth was discovered. Accounts of the accident vary but the basics of the story is that while lifting the statue one of the ropes holding it broke, and part of its plaster covering chipped off when it fell, revealing the gold underneath. Not surprisingly the wat’s rep soared, as did its worth, and it became a Royal temple the following year. Since its discovery, locals and touri have flocked to the wat to see the world’s largest gold Buddha, and in 2010 the wat went under major renovations once again, providing their famous piece of Buddhist imagery a new, fitting home.

From being but a minor local temple to being named a Royal Wat – not to mention sitting on a few million dollars worth of gold – you’d have to agree the Temple of Good Fortune would be a more fitting name for Chinatown’s most famous wat. For touri, the gold Buddha alone is worth visiting the temple, though the museum(s) attached which cover the Buddha’s discovery as well as the history of the Chinese immigration into Thailand too are a worthy excuse for stopping by. Throw in a chance to have your own fortune told, and the wat should become a ‘must-do’ for any visitor to Bangkok.

Not that fortune-telling opportunities are that unusual at Thailand’s temples. Many offer that experience using fortune telling sticks. But Wat Traimit goes one better and offers a line of fortune telling machines just outside the Golden Buddha’s room, that would look more appropriate in Las Vegas. A mechanical, neon lit version of the fortune telling sticks, after inserting your merit (usually known as baht) the machine indicates a number which corresponds to the numbered leaflets sitting below the machines. As with most fortunes those you’ll get at Wat Traimit are generally open to interpretation, though #8, which ends in ‘No lucks’ might not be quite what you were wishing for. The trick here, however, is knowing which machine to use.

Pick the correct fortune telling machine, then cross your fingers.

Each of Wat Traimit’s fortune telling machine sports a Buddha statue enclosed in glass, and each Buddha is in one of seven traditional postures, each of which corresponds to a specific day of the week. You need to know both the day of the week you were born as well as which posture goes with that day (and covering those mudras first as a post would probably have been a nice gesture on my part, but then I guess you just ain’t that lucky!)

[Entrance to the Golden Buddha costs 40 baht for foreign visitors and the Heritage Center museum is 100 baht. The museum is open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday to Sunday, with the wat open daily. The wat is a long walk from the riverboats regardless of suggestions offered by tour books. Your best bet is to take a taxi from your hotel, or the MRT to the Hua Lamphong train station and then a tuk tuk to Wat Traimit.]

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