World-famous for many things, Bangkok isn’t known for its museums, which is actually a pity as Bangkok has many museums and some of them are world-class. Unlike many museums around the world, Bangkok’s museums have cheap entrance fees or are free. They also have some pretty amazing exhibits that you wouldn’t see anywhere else in the world. If you’re a museum fan and want to see something different, you should definitely check out Bangkok’s museums if you’re ever in Thailand’s capital city.
Royal Barge Museum – The Royal Barge Museum in Bangkok is a one-of-a-kind museum. It’s an open air museum that houses the ornate, gilded barges that are used for river processions in Bangkok for the Thai royal family. Nowadays, these barges are only brought out and shown in elaborate processions for very special occasions. One of the last royal barge river processions in Bangkok was for the King of Thailand’s 60th birthday celebrations. To see these incredible barges though, you can hire a long tail boat from Tha Chang Pier on the Chao Praya River and tell the boat owner you want to go to the Royal Barge Museum. It’s about a 20 minute journey and, as you come up to it, you’ll see the open air sheds that form the museum with all the golden barges lined up inside. Entrance is only 30 baht (less than $1) and there are at least 20 beautiful barges to see. If you want to take photos though, they will charge you another 100 baht (around $2.75) but it’s worth it, as you’re not likely to see these types of barges up close again.
Museum of Counterfeit Goods – Thailand, like all of Asia, is the home of counterfeit goods – they’re sold everywhere. A few years ago though a law firm in Bangkok decided to use some of these counterfeit goods and set up a museum, which is used for law students who are studying counterfeit law, law enforcement officers from countries all over the world, or anyone who simply has an interest in learning more about counterfeit items. The museum has counterfeit designer bags, cigarettes, DVDs, t shirts – you name it, they have it – and it’s very interesting to see. If you want to visit the museum, you do have to make an appointment as it’s only open to visitors who book in advance. It’s located in the Supalai Grand Tower building, which is near the Surasak sky train station. Call 02-653-5555.
Museum of Siam – Another Bangkok museum, The Museum of Siam is one incredible museum, which tells the story of the history of Thailand (formerly known as Siam). It’s a large museum on three floors, and includes displays on anthropology, ethnology and history – as well as many interactive displays that are especially fun for kid. There’s an ‘Immersive Theatre’, map rooms, exhibits about Thai politics and culture, an excellent exhibit on Suvarnabhumi Airport, Bangkok’s new state of the art airport, displays about war and about Thai Buddhism. The building itself is gorgeous and the exhibits are world-class. It’s closed on Mondays, but open every other day until 6pm. Best way to get there is by taxi boat to Tha Tien Pier, as the museum is only a 2 minute walk from the landing.
Forensic Museum at Siriraj Hospital – One of the strangest museums you’ll ever see, Bangkok’s Forensic Museum has exhibits on pathology, anatomy, and forensics as well as on the history of medicine in Thailand. Here you’ll see the preserved body of a famous Thai serial killer who actually ate children, Siamese babies preserved in jars, decapitated heads and hands from car accidents, and even an enormous deformed testicle. Certainly not for the squeamish, if you’re fascinated with the weird (which I am!), this museum is a must see. To get there, go to Saphan Taksin sky train station and walk to the river. Take the Express Boat south and get off at Siriraj Hospital Pier.
There are at least 25 more museums in Bangkok so make sure you check out some of those too. These four though are unique and interesting enough that they warrant a first visit, I think, before you look at any other Bangkok museum.