The Museum of Siam is not your average boring museum displaying tattered exhibits and boring subjects. You can actually experience an enjoyable history lesson on the origins of Thailand at this state-or-the-art interactive museum located at the back of the Wat Po Temple near the backpacker district of Khaosan and along the Chao Phraya River bank. You can book a tour to the Museum of Siam when you visit Bangkok. Do note that this museum is closed on Mondays and is actually located at the National Discovery Museum Institute on Sanam Chai Road in Phra Nakhon , Bangkok . If you take a guided tour for the Museum of Siam you will have no problems arranging for a transfer from your hotel to the museum. The Museum of Siam was originally construed to educate the Thai people in a fun and interactive way about the history of the country and the understanding of the Thainess culture. It was more interesting to go to the museum to learn rather than from a school text book! The museum is now open to visitors who are interested in discovering ancient Siam to modern Thailand. The building is an old neo-classical influenced architectural landmark constructed during the reign of King Rama VI now converted into a 3,000 sqm permanent exhibit museum. Kids will also have great fun at the museum as there are several interactive displays to amuse them.
The permanent exhibit of the museum is known as ” The Account of Thailand “. There are 17 galleries in total to this exhibit. Walk through each gallery to experience the discovery of the lands in South East Asia known as Suvarhnabhumi and making your way through to old Siam and into modern Thailand. There is an interesting display here that depicts the rise of Homosapiens in South East Asia and their lifestyle patterns. Along with this exhibit comes the legend of a murdered princess where there is a mock skeleton sitting in a glass case, if you step near there is a sensor that launches a holographic video of the the supposedly princess while still alive but the kicker in this is when the hologram pops up! The displays in the galleries are much more interesting compared to a conventional museum. Some of the galleries are very dim in light setting but displays are well highlighted.
Making your way around the many sections of the galleries will bring you from one era to another. Some of the galleries of interest are the Ayutthaya Period that shows the founding and development of the era. There is a room you walk in that has loads of miniature ships on display from different time periods and hung from the ceiling in a mobile display that gives the impression of a flow in time. A rather interesting concept and this creativity in presentation is widely noticeable throughout the entire museum. The War Room during this period even has a “working” cannon where if you press a button on the cannon, it simulates firing a live round of cannon balls! There is also a movie theatre running shows of olden Thailand explaining the history through documentaries. Just a note that all these exhibits start from the 3rd floor of the building. You can make your way up there by the large wooden staircase that creaks as you walk or there is always the convenience of a lift tucked in a corner for those who do not have the stamina or need the assistance of wheel chairs for the invalid and aged.
There is this quaint little gallery that shows the modernization of Thailand through the 40s and 70s where you can pose for pictures with cut-out boards of famous old time entertainers or personalities, sit at the mock-up of an old coffee diner where there is even a vintage car parked at the entrance to the diner. You could say that much thought has been put into the decor to make it as authentic as possible with great attention to detail of things found in this particular era. There is even a media room setup where politicians of old made speeches to the press with an old-fashioned microphone! This particular gallery is known as “Change” which shows the influences of modernization and globalization in Thailand. Western culture was introduced and caught on with the younger generation including the way they dressed, were educated and ultimately the rise of a political government with more western mindsets. There is this concept of “Thainess” that seems to resound throughout the exhibits as a means to remind the Thai population of their roots after three thousand years of evolution in civilization. The ability of the Thai people to adapt and emulate western cultures has resulted in the loss of many traditional practices and fine arts which is a source of concern among the older generation of today.
There is a section on the ground floor where periodic displays are held. At this time until the end of November is the exhibition on Preserved Food processing in Thailand . You will walk into a restaurant style environment where there are large jars on display at one whole section of a wall. Back lit along the shelves, one can’t make out what is in the jars until upon closer inspection. It contains the different stages of fermentation in the preservation process for such foods as bean curd, fish sauce, salted fish and salted veg. Aptly named the process of preserving and eating “Rotten Food” it is quite an eye-opener! One might turn-up your nose to the prospect of this exhibit but do go and have a look and you will learn one aspect of Thai culture that makes the food taste that good in Thailand! Actually eating fermented food is not just limited to Thailand but practiced by cultures all around the world.
So while you are in Thailand, especially in Bangkok city, book a tour to visit the Museum of Siam . It is the most fun and interactive way to understand Thailand and it’s culture. You can check with your travel agent in Thailand about tours to the Museum of Siam and have a fun days learning and posing for pictures in a museum with a difference!