Bangkok is many things to many people; one thing it is not is a museum town. However with that said, there are still plenty of museums to keep one occupied for at least several days including some rather unique ones.
Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall, Dusit Palace is one of the true highlights of a visit to Bangkok. Seems that many have already discovered this beauty based on the incredible amount of buses in the parking lot and the scores of groups that descend to see the dazzling beauty of the interior – but then based on it’s location (somewhat outside of the core of historical central Bangkok), many may not realize this is an attraction well worth going slightly out of your way for and or may not realized the signifigance of this location to the Royal Family. The throne hall is just one part of the Royal residences on this property (includes a number of Royal Halls and Royal Villas – of which only a few are open to the public).
A number of drink and fruit vendors have located their portable ‘shops’ near the bus parking (in case you need some fluid or nourishment while walking in the often hot and humid conditions that Bangkok is noted for).
No camera’s are allowed inside (we were told by several staff that it is ok to take photos of the exterior but this contradicted with the staff who kept whistling at visitors to put away their cameras outside of the Throne Hall. The museum shop and ticketing is located within a small but nonetheless impressive and intricately designed building. After you enter this building, you must leave all camera’s and cell phones inside clear plexiglass lockers next to where you purchase your tickets. After you lock the locker, take the key with you until you return to collect your belongings.
Visitor’s must also wear proper attire inside – no shorts or sleeveless uppers. visitor’s who arrive under dressed can purchase (for a nominal fee) a Thai sarang to wear inside. At the entrance, guests must split into two lines; one for male and one for female – every one who enters is personally frisked by security guards – then you go through metal detectors and can then collect an audio device for more information about the interior.
The upper level of this throne hall is a dazzling display of gold, marble columns (Carrera marble imported from Italy), several domes, chandeliers and elaborate ceilings. Today this is also a museum – the lower level contains an impressive display of various royal regalia including numerous more golden objects. The interior design certainly has a European flair – which makes sense considering the architects and sculpture involved were Italians. The building was finished in 1915.
For more information visit: www.artsofthekingdom.com
Bangkok Art & Cultural Center is located across from the MBK shopping mall (nearest Skytrain Stop is National Stadium). This is a fairly new huge gallery is free to enter. It contains several levels of galleries which contain most eclectic modern art. Often art students from Thailand colleges will display their works of art in here.
Other media is also often on display. For more information visit: www.bacc.or.th
GIT Gem & Mineral Museum is Thailand’s first Gem & Mineral museum. It is located in the not to tall ITF-Tower Building on the second floor (simply walk up the short flight of stairs or take the lift). Within about a 5-7 walk from the nearest BTS Station, Chong Nonsi.
The museum is laid out according to several themes including some information about gem mines in Thailand, differences between real and synthetic gemstones, diamonds, how to prepare gemstones and arguably the highlight – their gold exhibit (which includes information about a gold mine located in Thailand). Several large amethyst rocks are on display.
Not a huge museum at all so doesn’t require a large time investment – although if you have a strong interest in gems and minerals, you would want to spend more time here. Fairly basic displays. Open Monday through Friday from 10-5pm. Visit: www.git.or.th/2014/museum_information_en.html
Museum of Cont emporary Art (MOCA) is located on the way to Don Muang Airport (one cannot miss its imposing presence) – one can take the BTS Skytrain to Mo Chit and then take a taxi from there – which if traffic is ok will take around 12 minutes. The BTS extension (as of early 2017) is quickly coming together and soon one can take the Skytrain almost to the museum. Address: 499 Kamphaengphet 6 Rd. Ladyao, Chatuchak.
This worth while museum is definitely worth going out of your way for – especially if you enjoy art. Houses the largest collection of this type of art in all of Thailand. Features Thai artists across a wide range of genres from paintings to sculptures spanning some 70+ years. Some pieces more eclectic, some quite dramatic, others are intriguing and need more time standing in front of them in contemplation – but regardless, the art work contained here is memorable.
Features 5 floors of sizable rooms often with sizable paintings presented. Both permanent and temporary exhibitions are on display. A small gift shop on the first floor sells various pieces of art. Make your way up floor by floor with the escalators until you reach number 5 – art here showcases both Thai and International artists. Then take the elevator down to the bottom floor.
Bags are not allowed into the museums but camera’s are – photos can be taken but without a flash. Open every day of the week – weekdays 10-6, weekends 11-5pm. For more information visit: www.mocabangkok.com
National Art Gallery – is located in a very noticeable yellow colored Colonial styled building (on site of an old coin minting factory which could produce between 80,000 and 100,000 coins daily). After the mint closed down in this location, the building was renovated and reopened as the museum in 1977.
You can easily spot the main gallery building across the many lanes of the heavily automobile populated Somdet Phra Pin Klao Road. If you are standing on the other side of the road from the museum – despite being so close, you most likely will not be able to cross straight across all these lanes of traffic but will have to walk all the way almost to the Chayo Praya River walk under the overpass and then walk all the way back to the museum. In our experience, nearby taxi, tuk tuk or motorcycle drivers often think you are asking to be taken to the National Museum, which is an entirely different museum in a different location (albeit not far from the National Art Gallery).
The main building/gallery features two stories of fairly large, somewhat gloomy open rooms that do not necessarily provide the best lighting for the pieces of art on display. A decent sized courtyard is located behind the main building (several sculptures are on display here) with access to several side rooms that display rotating exhibits. Open 9am until 4pm Wednesday through Sunday. While seemingly a large museum when you first enter – in reality visitor’s don’t need to devote huge amounts of time here.
National Museum is located near the Chao Praya River only several blocks away from Khao San Road – bordered by the following streets – Mahathat, Phra Chan Road and Na Phra That. This museum is composed of many separate buildings containing Thailand artifacts, works of art, and other treasured items. It is worth visiting if you enjoy museums, viewing historical artifacts, and you are interested in Thai history and culture. Some of the buildings are air conditioned – most are not. There is a small very inexpensive cafe in the center of this museum.
At the ticket office be sure to pick up the “Brief Guide to the National Museum Bangkok” brochure. This is very informative and contains photos, a map and other directions for The National Museum. Note backpacks need to be checked in at the main gate.
There are a lot of historical items contained within each of the buildings at this museum. Compared to other Bangkok attractions there are few tourists here. If you do visit there are a couple of highlights. Be sure to see the Royal Funeral Chariots contained in building number 17. Some of these very old chariots were used within the last 20 years for royal events. Another highlight is the golden treasure display in building number 11 – the Wayusathan Amares Hall. This used to be the private residence of a the Prince Successor to Rama II. Shoes must be taken off at the bottom of the stairs leading up to this room.
Tickets are 40 baht (general admission) and are free to students in uniform and priests. This museum is open from 9am to 4pm Wednesday through Sunday. They are closed Monday & Tuesday and also on National holidays – although visitors can usually still enter the grounds on these days of closure. For more information call: (02) 224-1370.
Royal Barge Museum is located on the small Bangkok Noi canal just off of the Suhkumvit River (not far from the Siriraj Hospital). Access can be via the canal using the Chao Praya Express Boat – get off at Wang Lang Pier (N10) or for a more private experience – hire a Tuk Tuk and request they stop at this museum. Alternatively one can acess this museum via city streets and what is one of the more unique entrances to any museum we have visited around the world – a raised narrow concrete path the leads through various slums ultimately arriving at the museum. (the museum is well signed along this path). Total walking time from the street to the museum along the path took us about 8-10 minutes during our most recent visit.
Visitor’s pay a reasonable admission fee – double the admission fee if you want to take photographs inside.
Only several of the barges are on display at any time – these are intricately designed colorful and the use of gold is extensive. They are rarely used/seen on the water – used only for special ceremonies. We visited once many years ago in November and were told the barges aren’t often here this month because of the annual Royal Barge Ceremony in December.
If you become thirsty – there is a vendor who sells cold drinks from his refrigerator almost directly across from where you pay the admission fee.
Queen Sirikit Museum of Textiles – see our mention under the Grand Palace on our Wats & Temples page
Siriraj Medical Museum. This possibly disturbing museum to some is located in Building 28 on the grounds of Siriraj Hospital (the main museum). You can reach the hospital by taking the Chao Praya River Express Boats – get off at Pier #10 (Wang Lang). Or if you are on the opposite side of the Chao Praya River you can take one of the boats that crosses the river from either Maharaj or Prachan Cross piers. Once you reach Pier #10 (Wang Lang) it is about a 10-15 minute walk to reach the museum.
No photographs are allowed inside – probably for obvious reasons. The content is graphic and involves displays of terrible injuries including stab and bullet wounds. You may become nauseated after seeing jar after jar of perfectly preserved still-borns or other children with various defects. Several rapists are on display including a serial killer – well-preserved through natural mummification.
A tsunami exhibit shows the devastation and many injuries sustained during this natural disaster. There is also a separate display on parasitology and some of their effects on humans.
Five museums make up the overall collection spread throughout several buildings on campus, they are: Ellis the Pathological Museum, Congdon Anatomical Museum, Sood Sangvichien Prehistoric Museum and Laboratory, Parasitology Museum, and the Songkran Niyomsane Forensic Medicine Museum.
The Congdon Anatomical Museum contains a wide array of preserved human organs and other parts of the body. One room is devoted to skulls and bones – another room contains two dissected humans, one a male and one a female. Also a number of small babies/children. An amazing dissection of a whole-body nervous and arterial system is on display – with the eyeballs being the most eerie and prominent part of this skilled dissection. This is a rare opportunity for the general public to see a wide range of human anatomy on display.
Guests sign in on the ground floor prior to visiting each museum.
We plan on visiting the following museums in 2017/2018 as time permits:
Counterfeit Goods Museum
King Prajadhipok Museum
Pipit Banglamphu History Museum
Siam Museum – closed for several months at the time of our last visit attempt