Daily Archives: January 9, 2008

Reliving Thai History

There are literally hundreds of museums in and around Bangkok. Some are government sponsored but many are run by private citizens. The latter group can sometimes be far superior. Many of them are little known and you will hardly ever find them in the English language guidebooks. I recently visited Ban Phiphithaphan (House of Museum) which is in Thawee Watthana District, on the Western outskirts of Bangkok. Although this museum was a little out of the way in a private housing estate, the trouble it took finding it was well worth it in the end. The brainchild of one of my heroes, Anake Nawigamune, the museum details what life was like in Thailand over 50 years ago. Anake is the author of a number of pictorial books about the olden days in Thailand. It is fascinating browsing through his books. And this museum is much the same, though here he has brought it all alive.

Downstairs there are recreations of olden day shops. For example, a toy store, a barber shop, a coffee shop and a drug store. Even though this wasn’t my history, I could still understand and appreciate everything that was on display. And anyway, it wasn’t really that different to what my own parents experienced. It was interesting looking through the cabinets spotting familiar brands or trying to guess what was being sold in exotic looking containers. Upstairs I discovered literally hundreds of objects that had been donated by different people. They also had done recreations of a cinema, government office and a school room. You could easily spend several hours here browsing through everything on display.

I quickly discovered that Ban Phiphithaphan is not your normal museum. For a start, they actually encourage people to take pictures. Their argument is that they want to educate people about what life was like in days gone past. You are also allowed to touch and even play with some of the exhibits which is almost unheard of these days. I saw some people playing a few table top games and others leafing through books and magazines which were decades old. Not everything is just on display. Downstairs you will find books as well as some candy from yesteryear which are now hard to find and are for sale. I have always said that Thai people don’t appreciate their history and do nothing to save their historical past for future generations. But, the owners of this museum proved me wrong. They started saving items years ago with the clear understanding that one day they would become antiques and therefore of interest. I am so glad that they took the trouble to do this.

Admission to the museum is 30 baht for adults and 10 baht for children. I don’t think they get too many foreigners here. When I asked in Thai how much the ticket was the lady in the souvenir shop was so taken back that she shouted out that there was a farang here that was speaking Thai. There is nothing like having your arrival announced over tannoys. The museum is located at 170/17, Khlong Pho Land Village, Sala Thammasop Road. It is not far from the Boromrat Chonnanee elevated highway which people take to go to Puttha Monthon, the giant Standing Buddha. I drove here after visiting the nearby Thai Human Imagery Museum. If you are coming from Bangkok, you need to turn right when you reach Puttha Monthon 2 Road. (The giant Buddha is on number 4 road.) You actually need to overshoot and then do a u-turn. Turn left up this road to the end and follow the traffic to the left. Continue for a short while looking for the soi on the left. You will see one sign in English saying “House of Museum” but the remainder are in Thai. Either follow the arrows through the housing estate or just your nose! You will the find the nondescript house with many cars parked outside. The museum is only open at the weekends from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.