WARNING: THIS POST CONTAINS THREE MACABRE PHOTOS.
According to reports, the aim of the AIDS temple is to “shock people out of their complacency….” Google “AIDS temple/museum in Thailand” for more reads and photos.
A friend, my son and I went to Lopburi last week. Our main purpose for going there was to visit the AIDS temple. When I was married I always wanted to see Wat Phrabat Namphu, Thailand’s largest buddhist hospice. But everytime I broached the idea to the then husband, he always ignored it. Finally last week, my curiousity was sated.
Through prior research I was aware that this was no ordinary excursion. Photos on the net were sad and scary to put it mildly. Both the living and the dead co-exist in this place. We passed by cornfields on our way to the mountain where the temple is. This is the entrance gate.
Inside they have what they call the Life Museum. Ironically it displays corpses. Those yellow frames contain their name, address, age, sex, occupation, how they contracted AIDS and their written permission to donate their body for public viewing.
The guy (gay to be exact) who welcomed us to the museum is also an AIDS patient, hypothetically that is. He smiled and sat quietly in the corner with a look of acquiescence to his fate, while we viewed and read all that our guts could take. I observed him later timidly answering questions from a carload of homosexuals, visitors who arrived after us.
AIDS patients reside in rows of tiny cottages. Opposite is the hospital ward for those who are in the final stages of the disease. The still strong ones are visible on the temple grounds. Some attend to their children. Some occupy benches reading. They are friendly and polite. It’s nice smiling back at them and saying sawadee ka.
Here’s another ‘attraction’ – a plot of sculptures made from crushed bones of AIDS patients who died at the temple.
To my four year-old, this trip was an entirely different world from where his dad and I alternately take him to – all the fun, amusement, fantasy and children’s edutainment Bangkok has to offer. Poor kid understandably didn’t like the ghoulish show. He dragged me out the museum, “Mommy, I want to go home!”
I did wonder if it was too early for him to be subjected to such ghastliness. But it was reality. Harsh, yes, but not irrational. Besides, if he was going to have some concrete education like this, it’s better he had it with mom by his side. We have yet to moot this over when he is old enough.
Onward we walked after taking shots of the crematorium. The donation center stands in the middle of the campus. This lad could be HIV positive too. I just pictured Lady Di holding that child with AIDS, and requested this lad to carry Cj up so he can drop his little gift into the box.
In that depressing atmosphere, I fought to focus on the fact that although AIDS is a monstrous killer, it doesn’t have to crush souls if handled properly. For those patients at the hospice I muse on the comfort they must have in knowing that measures are taken so their plight becomes less terrifying, the stigma more bearable; and healthy people learn from them.
The temple adventure made me mostly contemplative on the train home. I’m so planning to take my son to Disneyland!