THAILAND  |  Bangkok, Thailand Travel Guide
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Bangkok's Museums

The National Museum, Bangkok

If you want to immerse yourself in Thai culture and history there is no better place than this. There is probably too much to see and it is easy to spend an entire day browsing and learning.With an admission fee of 40 Baht that includes a guide book and map, it is a Bangkok bargain. The place rarely gets crowded since it is not on many of the city tours. The museum ( 02224 1404) is on Naphra That Road between Thammasart University and the National Theater. It is opposite the Sanam Luang, that large oval field in front of the Grand Palace. Open every day from 9am to 4pm except Mondays, Tuesdays and national holidays (see page 33).

The collections of art and antiquities are phenomenal. The highlight is the royal family’s funeral chariots that are housed in building 17. Yes, there are a lot of buildings many of which are not air conditioned. The chariot that caught our eye is named Vejayant Rajarot and was built in 1785 on the orders of Rama I. It was used to carry the urn containinghis remains at his funeral. It was last used in 1985 for the funeral of Queen Rambhai Bharni, wife of Rama VII. The chariot weighs 40 tons, stands 13 meters high and it takes 300 men to pull it.

Vimanmek Mansion Museum

If you want to see some royal treasures without the crowds, then this largest-in-the-world teak building is the place to head for. The main three-story teak mansion and its associated buildings are in the Dusit Palace on Ratchawithi Road. The royal collection includes photography by the King and special handicrafts from around the country that have been collected by the Queen. There is a demonstration of Thai dancing twice a day, at 10:30am and 2pm.


Jim Thompson’s House

The life story of James Harrison Wilson Thompson is like a James Bond novel. His life was as colorful and exciting as the colors of the vast silk empire that he created. Born in Greenville, Delaware in 1906, he became an architect in New York. He volunteered to join the army when the Second World War began and was enrolled into the OSS (forerunner of the CIA), and his clandestine work took him to Bangkok where he ultimately turned his attention to developing the silk industry. His artistic and marketing skills created the Jim Thompson silk empire and have made Thailand a major source of quality silk today.

The home he created in Bangkok is a complex of six traditional Thai houses that were brought from different parts of Thailand and set in lavish grounds. A tour of the estate gives an insight into the man who became known as the host with the most, for he loved entertaining and his guests included people like Noel Coward and W. Somerset Maugham. The house is in the center of Bangkok, opposite the National Stadium on Rama I Road.


The Royal Barge Museum

Thailand’s royal barges have played a major role in Bangkok’s life for centuries. Today there is only a handful left and they are on display here. Originally used as ships of war, they date back as far as 1357. Back in the 1600s there were hundreds in use to ferry the nobility around but since then they have taken a battering. When the Burmese attacked the Thai capital in 1782 they burned the entire fleet, and King Rama I was only able to replace some of them. In more recent times most of the remaining fleet was damaged by bombing in World War II. The present King restored a number of those to the condition that you see them in today. Star of the fleet has to be the Suphanahong (Golden Swan), weighing fifteen tons and needing a crew of 80 to power her. She was carved out of one huge tree trunk. The royal family used to make an annual trip down the river to give robes to monks at the end of the Buddhist Lent, a time when the holy men are not allowed to travel. Easiest way to get to the museum is by boat; most of the river and canal tours stop here. Arun Amarin Road.


Kasetsart University

Exhibition of Thai textiles and traditional costumes. For those interested in learning about the history of textiles and costumes, the university has set up a permanent exhibition at its Office of Agricultural Museum & Culture, 50 Phahon Yothin Road, Chatuchak. Object of the exhibition is show how culture and traditions have been handed down through weaving and textiles.

Last updated December 5, 2007
Posted in   Thailand  |  Bangkok
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