While I mostly spent this short trip to Bangkok running errands and tying up loose ends, I did make time to visit one special attraction that I had been meaning to visit for almost the entire year!
I’ve always been a big fan of Bangkok’s museums and galleries — and the fact that I frequently seem to have them to myself. I guess it’s no surprise given the wide variety of temptation this capital city offers, from glittering wats to exotic markets to modern interactive aquariums, that something would get a little neglected by tourists.
But that’s a shame, because Bangkok has just introduced a hip young member to its exhibition scene — the Museum of Siam. Housed in a deceivingly traditional-looking old palace, this museum is the definition of young, fun, and interactive. Inside, multi-media displays explore the origins and the identity of the Thai people.
The museum is open from 10am-6pm Monday through Thursday, and costs a hefty 300 baht to enter. Pretty pricey by Thai standards, right? Well, just schedule your visit for the afternoon — after 4pm this museum is free for everyone! Be aware that this is an attraction the practices the controversial separate pricing for Thais and foreigners; during the day Thais pay a fraction of what farangs do.
The museum is located in the Ko Ratanakosin district, within walking distance of the backpacker ghetto of Khao San Road. It could be conveniently scheduled into a day of sightseeing at unmissable The Grand Palace, the iconic Wat Pho, and the more traditional National Museum.
So what was my experience at the museum? I loved it! I knew beforehand that the museum execution was a collaboration between design firms in Thailand and New Zealand, so my expectations were pretty high. In light of that, a few things seemed a little cheesy, such as the video you watch in a small theater upon entering.
But any disappointment was quickly outweighed by admiration for the attention to detail and clever presentation of material. For example I loved the three-dimensional timeline below, which represented the year of origin of famous structures around the world, including Thailand’s most famous landmarks.
Other displays, such as the floating dioramas of different Southeast Asian vessels below, were simply appreciated for their beauty.
By far the most impressive thing about the Museum of Siam is its unconventional policy towards interacting with the exhibits. While most museums are plastered with plaques reminding visitors do not touch, this museum preaches the exact opposite — not one thing in the museum is off-limits from your curious fingers.
Some of the most impressive interactive features include an Ayutthaya-era animated battle game, a dress-up closet full of traditional Siam-style clothing, and a full retro diner from contemporary Thailand.
In case you haven’t already sussed out my opinion, I say this place is a must for museum, history and design lovers passing through Bangkok. And with a convenient location and two hours of free admission time every day, there is really no reason not to!
Have you ever been to a museum like this? Tell me where and I’ll add it to my list!