POV: I visited the empty Golden Mile Complex & watched the 4-faced Buddha statue leave for its new home

I'm Gen Z. I'm trying to wrap my head around things.

Ruth Chai | April 20, 2023, 05:27 PM

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The statue of Phra Phrom, the four-faced Buddha at Golden Mile Complex, was officially moved on Apr. 19

About a hundred people showed up to witness the momentous occasion.

The statue had been there the past 20 or so years.

I was among the youngest in the crowd.

One last prayer

At 1pm, people clamoured around the statue to pray to it one final time.

Its new home is at Leong San See Temple along Race Course Road.

It will make its debut on May 11 at 9am.

Before that, the statue will be moved to Ananda Metyarama Thai Buddhist temple at Bukit Merah to be restored and polished.

Amidst the loud chanting of Buddhist monks, I reflected on how these little sanctuaries peppered our urban landscape.

They exist because of devotees.

And adherents of the faith will go where the statues are moved to next.

But as someone who has never grown up going to Golden Mile Complex, who is not religious, and to whom spirituality is a concept that has long eluded me, this experience was an eye-opener.

Wish for "anything you want"

When I arrived at Golden Mile Complex, I realised that the crowd gathered were mostly older people, or part of the Thai community.

I was told that most of them used to work at Golden Mile Complex before the building was put up for en bloc collective sale, effectively forcing the tenants to move out.

Before the prayers began, the Thai Buddhist monks invited the crowd to take a joss stick each and pray to the statue.

The first to offer his prayers was Loh Yuen Seng, 59, co-founder of Thai Supermarket and the custodian of the shrine.

Loh praying to the four-faced Buddha

"The four-faced Buddha is a very powerful Buddha," the monk said, urging the crowd to wish for anything they wanted.

"4D, TOTO, anything," he quipped.

Serenity and calmness

The monks then began the procession, chanting loudly.

The chants were lost on me.

But I was overcome with a sense of serenity and calmness.

It made it easier to isolate the emotions stirring within me at that moment.


I realised that I harboured a sense of inner turmoil and negative feelings, for a host of reasons -- not least, due to the stresses of daily life.

It was easy to start stewing on the negative emotions, but I caught myself diving into that black hole, and reminded myself that it was not the appropriate time to be resentful.

The priest blessed the statue with holy water, and then blessed the crowd.

Priest blessing the four faces of the statue

I was blessed.

Relic of times past

The statue was then taken out of its altar.

It was a multi-man effort.

The statue was covered with a red cloth.

Then, it was carried to the back of a van to be transported to Ananda Metyarama Thai Buddhist temple at Bukit Merah.

It will be restored, and given a new coating of gold, before being transferred to Leong San See temple.

Why people showed up

Speaking to a few of those who showed up to bid farewell, two individuals let on that they started praying to the statue around 10 years ago.

They had previously travelled to Thailand and prayed at the temples there.

When they returned, they felt an affinity towards this particular statue, and started praying to it ever since.

Some of the younger people watching the move were formerly tenants of Golden Mile Complex, and they still regularly pray to the statue even though they no longer work there.

When asked if they will visit the statue at its new location, all of them said they would.

"Not all statues answer your prayers," a devotee who did not wish to be named told me.

He said it was a matter of finding the statue which resonated with the individual the most.

End of an era

What stood out to me about the statue, as someone who has never noticed it before, was its simplicity.

And its history.

The entire building of Golden Mile Complex felt displaced in time.

No other mall in Singapore even comes close to affording this level of spirituality to patrons.

I had only visited Golden Mile Complex once before, but nonetheless harboured a strange sense of nostalgia I should not have.

There was an element of sanctuary to the statue, and I wondered how many prayers had it answered?

How many devotees have visited the statue the last two decades?

Can they experience this moment vicariously through me because they did not/ could not show up, but wished they had?

I worry that the statue will lose some of it's charm and uniqueness once it is housed in a more conventional setting.

But what would I know?

Will there be another "Little Thailand"?

Standing in the empty atrium of Golden Mile Complex, the sense of displacement was immeasurable.


It's funny how growing up too late has made me feel like I will miss a part of something that I never got to experience in the first place.

Maybe all religious experiences start this way.

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All photos via Ruth Chai