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Museums in Bangkok

Bangkok National Museum

The National Museum was established by King Rama V in 1887 with the collection of items previously displayed at the Grand Palace. The museum building earlier used to be the palace of a vice-ruler.

King Rama VII bestowed the administration of the museum to the Royal Institute of Literature, Archeology and Fine Arts, which later became the Fine Arts Department. In 1967, new buildings were added to the museum and other historical buildings relocated to the museum premises.

The Buddhaisawan Chapel, built in 1787, has the northern Buddha image of Phra Buddha Si Hing. The building is a good example of Rattanakosin religious architecture and the murals inside are exceptional.

Tamnak Daeng or the Red House used to be the residence of the elder sister of King Rama I. It has furniture and other household items from the late 18th century.

The National Museum has a good collection of religious and other art from all over the country. The displays belong to periods as early as pre-historic times and the Srivijaya, Dvaravati, Khmer Kingdoms and the Sukhothai, Ayutthaya and Rattanakosin periods in Thai history.

The archeological discoveries on the northeast provinces of Thailand are displayed here. They include Neolithic tools, painted pots and bronze objects. Buddhist art include images in bronze, stone and terracotta. Illustrated Buddhist scriptures, manuscripts, votive plaques and cabinets can be seen here.

The Museum has a huge collection of miscellaneous items like weapons, palanquins, costumes and ceramics. The household items used by the royal family in the past are also in display.

Volunteers give free guided tours in English and French from 9.30am on Wednesdays and Thursdays. German tours are on Thursdays and Japanese on Wednesdays of the first and third week of every month. Other language tours are also arranged on request.

Royal Barge National Museum

The Royal Barge Procession is one of the most impressive ceremonies in Thailand. During the Tod Kathin Buddhist Festival, HM the King travels down the river to Wat Arun in the decorated royal barge to deliver new robes to the monks at the temple. People gather in thousands to witness this breath-taking spectacle.

During the APEC conference held in 2003, this procession was specially staged and broadcast live to the member countries. Millions across the world viewed this on television.

The decorated boats used for the procession are maintained by the Royal Thai Navy and kept for display at the Royal Barge Museum on the Thonburi side of the Bangkok Noi canal. The most important among these is the King’s personal barge, Suphanahong. This barge built in 1911, is 46m in length and made from a single tree. It is adorned with gilt carvings and colorful glass pieces are embedded in it. The barge is built to look like a swan. This barge is manned by 54 oarsmen who paddle to the rhythm of a drum.

There are 52 boats in the Royal Barge fleet. Each is a fine example of traditional Thai artistry and maritime expertise. The bows of the boats are decorated with the figures of Garuda, Hanuman and the seven-headed Naga.

During the procession, the barges move in rows of five with the distance between the front and rear ones almost a kilometer. More than two thousand specially trained naval sailors handle these barges during the procession.

A visit to this museum will give you a peek into the colorful traditions and history of Thailand.

Jim Thompson’s House

This museum is dedicated to the man who revived Thai silk industry after WW II. James H.W. Thompson settled in Thailand after serving in the US armed forces. Here, he fulfilled his life’s mission of saving Thai silk industry from the state of oblivion. In recognition of his services, he was awarded The Order of the White Elephant.

Jim Thompson’s company, Jim Thompson Thai Silk, is renowned worldwide for its exquisite silk creations.

Jim Thompson was an ardent collector of artifacts and antiques from Asia. Jim Thompson’s House displays these collections.

In this house, he used to entertain his friends and the important visitors included Somerset Maugham. In 1967, he mysteriously disappeared in the Cameron Highland in Malaysia.

The house is located on a half-acre plot of land on Mahanak Canal. The silk weavers, he helped to regain foothold, lived just across the canal in Ban Khrua village. While building the house, he gathered six original teak structures from various parts of Thailand and got a carpenter from Ayutthaya to work on them. The house was completed in 1959.

The gardens surrounding the house remind the visitor of a tropical jungle. You tend to forget that this house is located right in the heart of the city.

This museum is a great tribute to the legend.