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Bangkok National Museum
Wikipedia | Google | Google Images | FlickrThailand is a country entrenched in interesting history and boasting an enticing culture, yet if you were to ask most visitors they’d rate the nature, cuisine, and nightlife as the most worthy, if not only, aspects of the country to discover. But if you’d like to do the country justice, and get the most out of your visit, dedicating some time to exploring its diverse cultural history would certainly be very rewarding. Bangkok’s National Museum is the largest museum in Southeast Asia, and although it may not rate as one of the world’s best, it is certainly unrivaled in the region. Showcasing impressive artifacts from Thailand and its nearest and dearest neighbors (like China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Cambodia, and Vietnam, the Bangkok National Museum is a must for anyone wanting to learn more about the history of this most enigmatic part of the world. Whether your journey includes only Thailand, or any other country in its vicinity, take time to visit Bangkok’s National Museum and you’re bound to have a much more comprehensive and gratifying trip.
If you’re planning to spend a few days in Bangkok, make sure you visit the National Museum before you head to the Grand Palace. The information you’ll gain here is bound to make the Palace truly come alive.
History of the MuseumThe brainchild of King Rama V, the museum was established in the late 1800s with the primary purpose of displaying the King’s father’s extensive collection of Thai art and religious artifacts. The National Museum evolved to include similar works from surrounding countries and is, nowadays, regarded as the best place to learn all about the history of Southeast Asia, from prehistoric times right up to the present era.
Built on the site of the former Royal Palace (Wang Na Palace), the museum was renowned for years as an almost disrespectful dumping ground for all sorts of random old things, yet thanks to ever-going renovations, it is swiftly mutating into a deferential, and insightfully comprehensive gallery. You’ll find a multitude of English-language info on site, and will no doubt discover that the museum is indeed extremely interesting, both in form and content.
What you can Expect on your VisitConstant yet partial renovations may see certain sections closed off to the public at any given time, yet considering the size and enormous number of displays this should not impede too much on your visit. Considering the extent of the refurbishment, collections are often moved around, so making a logical and chronological tour of the place may be a challenge on your own. Luckily, the museum offers foreign language guided tours which are not only included in the admission price but also highly recommended. The museum employs local and foreign historians who are very enthusiastic as well as knowledgeable and do a great job of guiding visitors through what may, at times, seem like a construction site. Don’t let this deter you! Both the museum buildings and all of its priceless contents are insanely interesting, so plan to have at least 3 or 4 hours at your disposal.
Most of the buildings are so ‘authentic’ (ie. no aircon!) that a visit on a hot day can be a little stifling. Make sure you bring water with you as there is nowhere inside the grounds to purchase any.
The National Museum boasts three permanent galleries: Thai History, Archaeological History and Decorative Arts, and Ethnological History.
A Walk through the MuseumThe Gallery of Thai History is the first building you’ll come across as you pass the ticket booth and enter the complex. In the Siwamokhaphiman Hall, you’ll be guided through the ancient civilizations that first inhabited the country, past all of its eventual Kingdoms, right up to the most recent Royal era. This historic part of the museum is arguably the best kept of all the buildings.
Adjoining this gallery you’ll see the Bhuddhaisawan Chapel containing a much beloved copy of the Phra Singh Buddha statue, as well as ancient scriptures. Behind the chapel is the main museum building, with the Throne Hall being at the forefront. The old Royal living quarters are found here, and each hall exhibits relics from a particular theme, be it musical instruments, clothing, artefacts or jewels. This is where you’ll see unique artifacts from every corner of Southeast Asia.
The Red House, as it is unimaginatively known, is a gorgeous teak building which is the former abode of King Rama I’s sister, and found next to the chapel. Here, you’ll find relics from the princess’ lifetime, and can admire the stunning architectural details visible only in the oldest of Thai buildings.
The Ethnology and Art Gallery is in the main palace building, right in the heart of the complex. Here you’ll see a plethora of priceless Royal jewels and artifacts collected by various Kings, as well as regal memorabilia and ancient ceremonial chariots which are still used nowadays for Royal cremations. An interesting video retells the story of the 1996 procession in honor of the Princess Mother and shows the extremely elaborate and magnificent funerary ceremonies that the Thai bequest upon their royals, especially dearly beloved ones.
The gardens of the museum complex boasts a few striking pavilion, intricately carved and opulently decorated.
How to Reach the MuseumThe Bangkok National Museum is on the eastern banks of the river, wedged between the riverside and the northern end of Sanam Luang Park. If you want to reach it by boat, hope on a ferry to the Tha Chang Cross river Ferry Pier, which is the closet pier to the museum. After alighting, walk straight ahead for about 600 meters to the end of the street, turn left and follow the park side road for about 200 meters. The National Museum entrance will be on your left hand side
Admission infoThe National Museum is open every day except Mondays and Tuesdays, from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. Price of admission for foreign nationals is ฿200 ($6.20).
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Author: Laura Pattara. Last updated: Apr 21, 2015