The Five Best Museums in Bangkok


 

Image by crispasuk from wikimedia commons

For the majority of ‘Thailand-goers’, the idea of Bangkok is probably more likely to bring to mind images of chaotic, bustling, loud street scenes resplendent with food sellers and waiting tuk-tuks than anything resembling what might be considered a cultural pursuit in artistic terms.

The growing range of stunning, no-expense-spared luxurious shopping malls, along with the temples, markets, restaurants, bars, etc., etc., are the themes that people may usually associate with a trip to the Thai capital.

And of course all these things are indeed highly representative of the city of Bangkok and its accompanying vibe – and are the things that ring people back to Bangkok again and again for the most part.

But what about the more intellectual, artistic, and historical cultural pursuits on offer? Is there anything to see or do other than yet another tour of the temples?

Actually, any discerning art, history and culture buff will doubtless be happy to know that, aside from the fairly thriving (although hardly mainstream) art gallery scene in Bangkok, there is also a good number of museums that may be well worth a visit by anyone looking to go a bit deeper with their observations and forays into the underlying style, history and culture of the region and its people.

Image by xienyod sourced from wikimedia commons

The art galleries are one thing, and are for the most part are becoming way more contemporary than the majority of the museums. The museums in Bangkok do, however, represent bold tales both ancient and modern – but there is definitely an impending need for some proper development of this particular aspect of Bangkok. In fact, if all truth be told, the majority of folks from the Thai capital might only know one or two of the venues in this particular list.

So here we would like to present you with five of the best museums in Bangkok that will hopefully provide a good reference point. The list is not extensive by any means, and Bangkok is one of those cities whereby the more digging you do the more you will find – and in the future there are definitely likely to be a few more additions to the Bangkok museum scene, which may likely come in a more diverse or innovative form.

So there are definitely plenty more Bangkok museums not included here that you might have the pleasure of finding by yourself if that is your thang. So go ahead and explore after reading about some of the best museums in Bangkok!

1. Bangkok National Museum

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The Bangkok National Museum was founded in the year 1887 by King Rama V about 100 years after the city had been established as the new capital.

The museum is located in an area known as Phra Nakhon, and is housed in what was formerly the 18th-century ‘Wang Na’ Royal Palace in the district. Not surprisingly, the museum is a big tourist attraction, and is within easy walking distance of other tourist hot-spots of Thai history and culture such as The Grand Palace and Wat Pho.

The Bangkok National Museum is quite close to one of the city’s prestigious universities, Thammasart, and is under the management and directorship of the Department of Fine Arts there.

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All in all there are a total of 12 halls in The Bangkok National Museum, and some of the features on offer in them include multimedia displays in English. Prime examples of revered artifacts and other exhibits include relics from King Rama IV’s Sukhothai and Rattanakosin period-reigns.

The Archeological and Art History collection houses items ranging in approximate date between Thailand’s prehistoric periods (Sukhothai and Ayutthaya) to the modern Thai Kingdom as we know it today.

This Bangkok museum houses various historic artifacts, many of which are related to royalty such as those involved in the display in the Funeral Chariot Hall which features carriages used for royal cremation ceremonies.

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Free tours are available in various languages such as English, German, French and Japanese, but it is best to check the schedules first and consider booking.

Website: ualmuseum.finearts.go.th
Address: 4 Na Phra That Rd., Borom Maha Ratchawang, Phra Nakhon, Bangkok 10200
Tel: 02 224 1402 
Open: Wed-Sun 9am-4pm (closed on Mon-Tue)
 

2. The Siam Museum 

The concept of ‘Museum Touring’ is claimed to be one of the intended main focal points of the the Siam Museum, otherwise known as the Discovery Museum (as in Siam Discovery Centre).

The museum touring concept is geared toward creating a new experience of visiting a museum in Bangkok. In fact, Siam Discovery Museum was the first ‘learning museum’ in Thailand. It was opened on the 2nd of April, 2008, and Museum Siam was shooting for being established as a model of a modern learning centre.

By presenting certain elements of Thai stories from the past to the present using a combination of media and other modern technology, the museum believes that it will help enhance the normal Thai ideas and attitudes towards education.

The Siam Museum offers younger visitors the opportunity to learn about Thai history in a creative manner, through the 3 various parts of the complex which include a permanent exhibition, rotating exhibitions and creative learning activities exhibitions.

Address: 4 Sanam Chai Road, Phra Borom, Ratchawang,Phra Nakhon District, Bangkok
Opening Hours: Tuesday-Sunday (Closed on Mondays) from 10.00 – 18.00 hrs
Tel.: 02 225 2777
 

 3. The Museum of Floral Culture

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This Bangkok museum is apparently the only museum in Asia dedicated to the history and origin behind the many techniques of floral arranging.

The Museum of Floral Culture, located on Samsen Road (near the Vimanmek Mansion) was established according to the fact that flowers play an important part in Thai culture, and are usually if not always seen as both display and decor on all occasions of considered notability.

These techniques may come by way of connection to particular events such as weddings, religious ceremonies, official occasions and royal events. The museum was opened in August 2012, and founded with the help of an internationally known floral artist (who is apparently also a florist for the Thai royal court).

The Thai Museum of Floral Culture is considered as the first (or one of the first) museums dedicated solely to exhibiting the importance and complexity of floral arrangements around the turn of the twentieth century, and collections include displays of rare documents and drawings, along with a variety of artefacts and other historical documents and records with regard to the art of floral arranging.

The museum has a wonderful location inside a well-preserved century-old house, amidst 2000-square-metres of colonial-style teak architecture.

Guided tours are available in Thai or English and last about 60 minutes, and admission fees including the tour should be around 150 baht per person.

ADDRESS: 315 Samsen, Soi28, Bangkok
Tel: 02 669 3633
Open: Tue-Sun 10am-6pm
WEBSITE: www.floralmuseum.com/en
 

4. The Royal Barge Museum

A brief history of the Royal Barge Procession in Thailand may first be in order to some degree.

Due to its location across and beyond the banks of the city, the river has always played a crucial role in terms of transportation in Thailand. The Royal Barge Procession is a ceremony which began over 700 years ago, and carries both religious and royal significance.

This is an impressive showcase of the traditional, organic, Thai craftsmanship and art that often represents significant cultural and religious occasions in the country.

The history of the barges goes back to the Ayutthaya period when the royal barges were used for a wide range of activities including: major religious occasions, the receipt and transportation of visiting foreign delegations, boat races, royal ceremonies — and battles – although river warfare was more common than sea battles.

The barges apparently didn’t fare too well though – in fact most were burnt and destroyed after the fall of Ayutthaya in the late 1700s.

King Rama I, however, upon ascending the throne and establishing the new capital, decided to revive the tradition and thus ordered the construction of new barges. They eventually fell into disrepair and various other stages of abandonment, especially after the bombings of the Second World War had inflicted extensive damage.

It wasn’t until King Bhumibol Adulyadej (1946-2016) decided upon an extensive restoration of the war-damaged vessels that the Fine Arts Department took them to task in 1949 as part of the Thai cultural heritage preservation program.

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The Royal Barge Procession today is comprised of 52 barges in total, with 51 of these being historical and one being a Royal Barge, the Narai Song Suban, which was ordered by the late King Rama IX in 1994. It is the only barge built during His Majesty’s reign.

The Royal Barge Procession initially starts out along the Chao Phraya River from the Wasukri Royal Landing Place in Dusit District, passing the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, the Grand Palace, and Wat Pho before eventually arriving at the famed ‘Temple of Dawn’, Wat Arun.

The actual museum

Today, the museum is under the care of the Royal Thai Navy along with the Royal Household. The dock where the barges are kept became the National Museum of Royal Barges after extensive repairs had been completed in the early 70s.

Once inside the museum, visitors are required to pay admission fees along with any other required permit fees (like a camera permit, for instance). All the walls along the interior of the building are covered with various objects that might be of interest such as photographs and illustrations, preserved original decoration pieces, remains of previous vessels the operating techniques for the barges can also be read from these walls.

The museum houses eight principal vessels from the 52 barges used for the procession. Each vessel is exquisitely carved in that inimitable Thai style, with teak wood and engraved prows along which gilded mythical creatures rise as figureheads.

Royal Barge

A specific figurehead is assigned to each barge. The Royal Barge, the Narai Song Suban (Rama IX), has a mounted Vishnu God holding the mythical nagas as a figurehead. This particular barge requires more than 50 oarsmen. Royal

The Royal Barge Anantanagaraj, is another example of magnificence, decorated with its seven-headed, gold-lacquered, glass, ornamental nagas. It requires 54 oarsmen and 2 steersmen.

The other barges feature similar, mythical decoration and adornment by way of painted nagas and such like along with Hanuman, represented on the smaller Krabi Prab Muang Marn, as a white monkey god with a gold finish and glass as a figurehead.

Then there is the Asura Vayuphak Barge, complete with an ogre-faced bird as a figurehead requires, and the Royal Barge Supannahong, a majestic 50-metre long barge — carved from a single piece of teak wood! This barge has a golden swan as its figurehead, and is considered to be the King’s barge.

On special occasions, the barge requires more than 50 specially trained oarsmen, along with almost twenty other additional crew members to operate.

Admission Fees: 100 Baht per person. There’s an additional charge of 100 baht for a camera (which includes mobile phone cameras).
Address: 80/1 Rim Khlong Bangkok Noi, Arun Amarin Rd, Bangkok
Open daily: 9am-5pm
Tel: 02 424 0004
Note: The barges might not be in the museum during some periods during preparation for significant special ceremonies.
 

 4. Madame Tussaud’s

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 Foray into local museums in any city wouldn’t be complete entirely without at least some reference to a Madame Tussauds. And yes! It is here – Bangkok Madame Tussaud’s, which features some of the modern era’s most famous faces as well as a few classic figures from history.

This household name in museum experiences still attracts thousands of visitors each year. This is a chance to encounter a few of the more regional personalities for the first time, along with some of the main players in Hollywood, science, sports, and politics.

Tickets are around 600 baht, and the recommended duration is only between 30 minutes and an hour — so this museum in not exactly cheap by anyone’s book.

Address: 989 Rama 1 6th Floor,
Siam Discovery Shopping Center,
Bangkok 10300 Thailand
HOURS: 10 am-9 pm
Tel:+66 2 658 0060
Website:  https://www.madametussauds.com/Bangkok/en/