One of the latest museums to open in Thailand is the Siamese Fighting Fish Gallery in Bangkachao in Samut Prakan. It is in an area which is commonly called the “lungs of Bangkok” as it is covered in lush green foliage and is only a stone’s throw away from the busy streets of Bangkok. For Bangkokians who want to escape the pollution during the weekend, they can just catch a ferry boat from Khlong Toei Pier to the other side. These small boats run every 15 minutes and cost only 5 baht. Here you can rent a bicycle for only 100 baht for the day in order to explore what Time Magazine once called, the best “urban oasis” in Asia.
To start your tour of Bangkachao, you should visit the newly opened Siamese Fighting Fish Gallery. The museum is open every day, apart from Wednesdays, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. At present it is free of charge though this may change in the future. From the pier, you need to ride your bicycle or walk about 490 meters down the small lane to the first intersection. On your left you will see a sign advertising the museum. Walk down here for 70 meters and you will see the front entrance on your left. There are also motorcycle taxis at the pier and they will probably take you there for only 10 baht.
Siamese Fighting Fish Gallery is set in some of the most beautiful surroundings I have seen for a while. The buildings use traditional Thai architecture and if you are not in a rush to go elsewhere, then you should take your time and relax in the gardens while taking some refreshments from the snack bar. The museum was the idea of Peerapong Thanompongphan, a retired politician. He wanted to preserve the unique culture of the Siamese Sighting Fish which have been around for hundreds of years. In his opinion, the fish should be much a part of Thai culture as “tom yum kung” or “Thai silk”.
The Siamese Fighting Fish are better known around the world as “betta”. These days they are mainly found in aquariums but in the past, they were native to the paddy fields of Thailand and Cambodia. They are known for their bright colours, though really, they are only like this when they become agitated. These days, breeders have managed to produce fighter fish that are colourful all the time. The fish are carnivorous and often go to the surface to receive oxygen unlike other fish. That is why they can live in tall jar like containers with no pumps.
When you first visit the center, you should go up to the second floor to watch an educational video which explains more about the history of the fighting fish. Then afterwards, you can go downstairs to see the fish which are on the ground floor of three of the buildings. It was good to see that there were plenty of bilingual information boards here. You will soon learn why most of the males have to be kept apart in separate jars. In addition to the aquariums, there is an outdoor exhibition area along one side of the property. As you walk along the path you can learn all about the history of Samut Prakan and the local area in Phra Pradaeng.
Once you have finished here, you could get back on your bicycle and explore Bangkachao a bit more.There are plenty of elevated concrete walkways so you can easily stay off the roads. If you are here at the weekend then you could also go and explore the Bang Nampheung Floating Market. If you want to go by motorcycle taxi to the floating market, then this will cost about 30 baht from the pier. I wish to thank Marcel for inviting me to visit the fighting fish museum and for showing me around. If you are ever in the area then I would strongly recommend that you drop by here.