The Chantharakasem National Museum would be more accurately described as a palace thanks to the old royal pavilions, which are the main draws.
It’s worth the stop if you’re also hitting Hua Ro Market or otherwise find yourself in the northeast corner of the island.
Also spelt “Chandrakasem” and sometimes shortened to “Chan Kasem”, the original palace was built in 1577 as the crown prince’s palace. The Burmese destroyed the original but a second series of structures, still in good shape today, were rebuilt by order of King Rama IV in the mid 19th century. Rama IV got some good use out of the site, apparently as a weekend resort type of place, for nearly a century. In 1936 it was proclaimed a national museum, not long after Thailand became a constitutional monarchy and the new military government repurposed a bunch of royal palaces for public use.
Three pavilions with white-plaster walls and traditional Thai pointed roofs are more interesting than anything found inside them. There’s also a multi-storey lookout tower tucked behind the pavilions, where visitors can climb steep stairwells and pretend to be soldiers keeping watch.
The first building, Chaturamuk Pavilion, contains a memorial to King Rama IV and a variety of items used by him and his family, such as beds, chairs and tables. Next up, Phimanrathaya Pavilion features a display of Buddha images and votive tablets. Displays in the Deputy Government Building include old cannons, Chinese ceramics and centuries-old wardrobes.
The odd thing is that virtually all of the items displayed in the museum didn't come from Ayutthaya (many of the Buddha images are of Khmer design) and the museum has no clear focus. If you're heading back west on Uthong Road, make a stop first at Hua Ro Market and second at the minor ruins at Wat Khun San.
How to get there
Chantharakasem National Museum is located on Uthong Road in the northeast of the island, just west of the immigration office.
By David Luekens
Last updated on 28th February, 2016.