Thailand is renowned for its opulent culture and interesting history and, while the museums in Bangkok could not be rated as world-class, they certainly do a good-enough job in educating the masses of tourists who visit every year. From history and religion to culture and spirituality, there’s a museum here to suit every taste and interest.
Add a museum-hop to your temple visits and street-food gorging and your cultural enlightenment will be almost guaranteed.
BEST IN SHOW: The Grand Palace
Bangkok’s Grand Palace hardly requires elaborate introductions: it’s the city’s foremost attraction, the most visited, and by far the most prevalent of all the city’s museums.
When Bangkok was chosen over Ayutthaya to be the country’s new capital in 1872, King Rama I saw it only befitting to build himself a brand new gilded riverside palace. The estate, which includes the revered Emerald Buddha Temple, is stunning from whichever way you look at it and, aside aesthetics, also gives a comprehensive intro into the country’s culture and history. Needless to say, if you can only squeeze in one museum visit when visiting Bangkok, best make it this one!
BEST FOR HISTORY: Siam Museum-Sanam Chai Road
The extent of the multi-media display, and sheer amount of information given, makes the Siam Museum ideal if learning all about the history and culture of Thailand in a fun way is on your wish list.
Three floors of interactive exhibits organized in chronological order showcase the trials and achievements of the country, and Bangkok particularly, as it evolved from ancient times right up to the present day. The exhibit is titled ‘An Essay on Thailand’ and, although the title may not be all that inventive, the exhibits certainly are.
The Siam Museum is nearby Wat Pho, costs 300bht to visit and needs at least 3 hours to explore it thoroughly.
BEST FOR ARTEFACTS: National Museum- Na Phrothat Road
It’s a shame that Bangkok’s National Museum is not kept in better shape, considering the outstanding contents it displays. Housed in the grounds of an 18th century palace, this museum is home to the largest collection of historical Asian artefacts dating back to Neolithic times, some of which are so highly regarded they’ve been added to the UNESCO Memory of the World programme.
Luckily, the National Museum is nearby the Grand Palace, so at least you need not venture far to take a peek at all the stunning exhibits which include murals, statues, ancient royal carriages, jewels and treasures.
To be fair, the government did seem to put some effort into restructuring the museum and went as far as adding interactive info displays in English. In reality however, half of them don’t even work! Don’t let this deter you; despite the obvious neglect this is still an incredibly interesting museum and well worth a visit.
BEST FOR ROYAL MEMORABILIA: Suan Pakkad Palace Museum- Sri Ayudhya Rd
Thailand has a long and illustrious Royal history, one which is now inherently embedded in the culture. Of all the former palaces left in the city (admittedly not that many) the Suan Pakkad Palace is the best to visit, particularly as it has been turned into a museum.
Built by the grandson of King Rama V in 1952, this former regal estate comprises eight gorgeous Thai teak houses, maintained in their authenticity and displaying vast collections of personal memorabilia, most of which is incredibly beautiful and priceless.
Considering this is one of the least-know sites in Bangkok, you’ll have the chance to leisurely admire the royal collections, which include jewels, musical instruments and pottery in peace and quite. In the heart of the stunning manicured gardens you’ll find a stunning 17th century Lacquer Pavilion.
This may not be a Grand Palace, we’ll admit, but the fact that it’s one of Bangkok’s few hidden gems right in the heart of the modern city makes it an immensely relaxing and enticing place to visit.
BEST FOR THE SOUL: Erawan Museum-Samut Prakan
Bangkok’s Erawan Museum is the brainchild of a man with a dream; one which apparently had to include a 29m copper statue of the mythological three-headed elephant Erawan, and a three-floor journey though a mystical universe filled with religious relics, murals, mosaics and the most eclectic mix of artwork known to man.
This museum is an absolute feast for all the senses; the use of colors, texture and juxtapositions make it appear as a fantastical vision. Highly interactive and opulently decorated, the Erawan Museum may be a little hard to reach, yet it’s probably the most rewarding museum to visit in the whole city.
To reach the museum you could either take a taxi from Ekamai bus station or, alternatively, you could hop on any bus bound for Samut Prakan and ask the driver to drop you off outside the museum. The humongous elephant-museum is a little hard to miss!
BEST FOR SEX EDUCATION: Condom Museum-Thai Ministry of Health, Nonthabury
You’ve got to love a country that takes its renowned sexiness to extremes. In ‘the country’s first condom museums’ (perhaps they’re planning more?!) you can admire an ultra-vast collection of flavored, colored and even vibrating condoms, as well as all sorts of sex paraphernalia including penis pumps, rings and a plethora of phallic models which are used to test each item’s strength and endurance levels….right in front of you.
The museum may seem like a gag, yet it’s actually a well-thought project by the Ministry of Health, which aims to educate locals on the benefits of condom use. Being the world’s largest producer, and perhaps even consumer, of condoms Thailand takes its sex industry very seriously, and this museum gives an interesting glimpse into its historic evolution.
The museum is housed within the walls of the Ministry of health’s building. Once you get here you’ll need to ask permission to enter. No pun intended.
The Grand Palace via Wiki
Siam Museum exhibit via Wiki
National Museum via Wiki
Lacquer Pavilion at Suan Pakkhad via Wiki
Erawan Museum, Neajjean via Flickr
Condom display via Wiki