Everyone has something they want — love, wealth, health, you name it. And it’s true that, at the end of the day, all we can really do is rely on ourselves to get what we want. But what if there’s something more? What if we could get extra help from The Great Beyond?
Turning to the heavens and consulting the stars has often been our go-to approach when we are in need of some otherworldly guidance; just think of all the people who still casually check their horoscope advice regularly.
Thai astrology and Chinese fengshui bank on this spiritual guidance, and Fu Lu Shou Complex in Bugis is a concentrated hub of such mystical goods and services.
Walking into Fu Lu Shou Complex transports you to a different world – a world tucked away from the bustling metropolitan streets of Singapore. Specialising in Buddhist and Taoist trinkets, amulets and services, this five-storey complex appears drab and dilapidated in comparison with the trendier malls surrounding it.
But don’t be fooled by its sleepy strata mall exterior. At first glance, storefronts with cheesy names of yesteryear like House of Destiny Arts and Crafts, and Fortune Crystal greet visitors. There’s no way you can mistake it as anything other than peddling fortune-telling paraphernalia.
Look harder, and you will find stores like Wanfu Buddhist Gallery and Siam Arts with more polished and organised designs. These stores would hardly look out of place even along Orchard Road.
A simple white-lit sign bearing the store name Siam Arts hangs above the wide entryway. Glass display cases house exotic amulets and trinkets nestled on velvet trays. For the uninitiated, the wide range of Thai talismans promise a dizzying array of remedies. Bad relationships? There’s an amulet for that. Workplace problems? Nothing a talisman can’t solve.
Contrary to the scepticism surrounding fortune-telling or amulet-renting businesses, Siam Arts keeps up with the times with their website and clearly categorised online store. Visitors can even make appointments with resident astrologer, Master Tham, online.
Talking to Master Tham only reinforced this image of modern mysticism. With a dark blazer over a t-shirt, the fengshui consultant looked slightly out of place amongst the occult trinkets and symbols.
His spiel was as convincing as any salesperson, and his rapid-fire assessment of our needs was equally compelling. I couldn’t help but feel a sense of fleeting disappointment– are the mystical arts simply an ordinary sales pitch, after all?
Ever affable, his advice for me to consider salika bird amulets to improve my “people opportunity” (人缘) nevertheless carried the smarmy sheen of a sales pitch. He even suggested a cream to apply on my forehead, eyebrows and lips if I needed an extra boost – a cream which he claims helps to increase popularity. Polite refusal seemed to be the only course of action.
You know how in horror films, after a spooky encounter, the protagonist always has a lingering sense of unease that kick-starts the whole chain of events? That was me.
Picture this: 1am, me, and my glowing laptop screen. The Siam Arts website. And a slow, growing case of the creeps as I read the ingredients list for the recommended Archan Odd See Pueng Mae Namfon Cream.
Cue frantic Googling to find out what the %$@! “prai oil” is.
Followed by the instant recoil of terror upon the realisation that it is oil extracted from corpses.
If this were a horror film, this would likely be when my character dies a gruesome, supernatural death.
Fortunately, I didn’t make that monkey’s paw wish. My scepticism now mingles with a healthy dose of fear, and I am even less inclined to dabble in occult amulets and mystical arts.
Yet some things, once learned, cannot be unlearned. And I suspect my knowledge of what exactly goes into these mystical remedies will haunt my thoughts, figuratively. Hopefully, it fades as soon as I get the lingering scent of incense and ointment out of my hair – perhaps in a few days’ time.