Tag Archives: museum

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.

Thai Human Imagery Museum

Thai Kings of the Chakri Dynasty

On the Western outskirts of Bangkok, in Nakorn Pathom Province, there are a number of big tourist attractions. These include the Rose Garden, Samphran Elephant and Crocodile Farm and the Thai Human Imagery Museum. All of these attractions are close to Don Wai Market and it is possible to do a combination of these in one day. From Bangkok, it takes about 45 minutes to reach here along Highway 4. Just follow the signs for Nakorn Pathom. After you pass the Rose Garden on your left and cross the mighty Nakhon Chaisi River, look out for Highway 338 on your right. The museum is a short way up this road on the left. Incidentally, if you continue on this road back to Bangkok, you will pass the giant standing Buddha called Puttha Monton. Unfortunately, when I was there recently, it was covered in scaffolding.

One of the Revered Monks

The Thai Human Imagery Museum is the Thai response to the famous Madame Tussauds in London. However, the sculptures featured in this museum are not made from wax for obvious reasons. Instead, the artists made them from fibre glass. The first figure was created in the early 1980’s and was of a revered Thai monk. More were to follow. In 1989 the museum was finally ready to be opened to the public. Nearly twenty years later they now have over 120 sculptures of famous people from Thailand and around the world. They also have some extraordinarily lifelike sculptures of people in every day situations such as playing chess and sleeping on a bench. The attention to detail is amazing and I had to look twice as I thought they were real people at first. Even the meditating monks look so real.

Traditional Children’s Games

The highlight of the museum, is surely the sculptures of the first eight kings of the Chakri Dynasty. The first three never had their pictures taken and so they are based on paintings. But, from King Mongkut onwards, they are very recognizable and it was an honour to be in their company. The youngest of the group was King Rama VIII who wasn’t on the throne for so long. In a nearby hall there is a sculpture of the late Princess Mother. Upstairs, there are showcases such as Children’s Games, Thai Literature and Sunthon Phu and the Abolition of Slavery. Most scenes have bilingual notices, though there is a lot more information written in the Thai language.

Abolition of Slavery

Although there is plenty to learn and to admire, I wouldn’t make a special trip all the way here just for this one tourist attraction. Make sure you see other things at the same time. Admission is 50 baht for Thai people and 200 baht for Foreigners. A sign says that if you can show your work permit then you will be offered a 100 baht discount. I didn’t notice that at first and as usual I asked politely in Thai whether I could get the Thai price as I was a teacher. Despite not having a work permit with me to show them, they let me in for 100 baht. Although I do not normally like museums that sneakily have two prices, I think 100 baht was worth the admission.