Located close to both the Chao Phraya river and Wat Pho (the Temple of the Reclining Buddha), the Museum of Siam is not your typical museum of history, replete with a host of ancient artifacts from different eras.
Its purpose is rather to tell a story about the origin of Thailand, particularly Thai people, and its evolution into the country we know now. Certainly, the museum does have an interesting collection of ancient artifacts but these are displayed in a modern way, while the museum itself presents and interprets the physical evidence with an open mind and refreshing spirit that may surprise even Thai people.
The story covers different facets of Thailand, including archeology, lifestyle, faiths, trade, traditions and politics. The museum attempts to answer questions about what shapes Thai culture, and why Thais believe and behave the way they do.
The museum’s neo-classic building was erected in the early 20th century during the reign of King Rama VI. At one time it housed the Ministry of Commerce. With its conversion into a museum, this impressive three-storey edifice was divided into 17 exhibition rooms.
Here are some of the exhibition rooms and highlights:
- Immersive Theatre – This shows a short film on “Who are Thais?”, as seen through the eyes of different characters.
- Typically Thai – What is “typically Thai”? What are the characteristics of Thailand and Thai people
- Introduction to Suvarnabhumi – Suvarnabhumi or the golden land was known among ancient traders as one of the most fertile areas of land located in the east of India. Where is the golden land really located? And how is it related to Thai history and Bangkok?
- Suvarnabhumi – Get to know this golden land through its rulers, people, agriculture, trade, technology, and animism. These are the roots and substance of Thai culture.
- Buddhism – The introduction of Buddhism into Thailand more than 2000 years ago may have instigated the development of traditional Thai characteristics, such as gentleness and hospitality.
- The Founding of the Kingdom of Ayutthaya – Ayutthaya city was once described by foreign traders as one of the biggest and wealthiest cities in the East. You can discover its origins in this room.
- Siam – Find out how Ayutthaya managed to control its rich natural resources and domestic production of goods, and how it became the hub of sea trade.
- War Room – Why war? What reasons drove the kingdoms in this region to war? Learn about the weaponry and tactics of war
- Map Room – How big was Siam? Thais have only known about the use of maps since the last century. Why is that?
- Bangkok or the new Ayutthaya – After the fall of Ayutthaya, King Rama I founded Bangkok as the new capital by replicating almost everything in Ayutthaya city, including the city plan, the palaces, and the royal temple.
- Village Life – An exhibition illustrating the astuteness of villagers, and depicting their way of life and their traditions relating to rice, bamboo and the spirit world
- Changes – When European traders and diplomats came to Bangkok in the 19th century, they brought about many changes to Thai culture through new administrative ideas, science and technology, education, architecture and fashion. The evidence is displayed in this room.
- Politics and Communications – how Siam became Thailand? What are “racially pure Thais”? You can read historical accounts here.
You can spend a good two hours in this museum. The descriptions in most rooms are in both Thai and English.
How to get to the Museum of Siam
The best way to reach this museum, avoiding the traffic, is by boat. Take the skytrain to the Saphan Taksin station. From there take the Chao Phraya Express boat from the Sathorn pier, and disembark at the Tha Tien pier. Walk to the main road (Maha Rat road) that runs parallel with the river, and turn right. Continue walking for about 180 metres, first passing Wat Pho (Chetupon Temple) and then a school. Just after that, you will see the imposing Museum with its spacious grounds. All three will be on your left-hand side.
See the Map here
Tuesday – Sunday: 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Thais – 100 Baht/person
Foreigners – 300 Baht/person
For a group of five or more persons
Thais – 50 Baht/person
Foreigners – 150 Baht/person