A must for Thailand history buffs
Set in a handsome heritage building in the old town, the King Prajadhipok Museum has an excellent display of photographs, antiques and info on the life of one of Siam’s most misunderstood kings.
As the last absolute monarch to rule Siam/Thailand, you might guess that Prajadhipok (Rama VII) was a tyrant who deserved to be overthrown. In fact, he was a gentle and intelligent leader who tried to recover the country from financial difficulties caused by the Great Depression and huge expenditures from the previous two reigns. He was well educated, and his writings show that he probably would have granted Siam a constitution along with some form of democracy had he retained power.
But before that could happen—as recounted in newspaper articles and other writings displayed at the museum—a group of civilian and military leaders usurped power in a coup while Prajadhipok was on holiday in Hua Hin in December 1932. One of the most poignant exhibits shows the king’s written thoughts as he decided whether to flee or return to Bangkok after the coup, when he “decided to gamble by turning to the women and let them decide.”
Following the wishes of Queen Rambhai Barni, Prajadhipok returned and was allowed to remain king, albeit with greatly diminished power, as a new era of government dawned in Siam. Some years later the king abdicated on his own terms after watching the new constitutional monarchy devolve into a military dictatorship. He and the queen exiled to England, where he died in 1941 as the first and only Chakri king to have abdicated. The queen eventually returned to Thailand and was given a funeral with full royal honours after her death in 1984.
While the many paintings, old uniforms and photographs are interesting, it’s the generally accurate telling of how the tumultuous 1932 coup unfolded, and how it affected the king and queen personally, that really make the museum worthwhile. Built in 1912 and first serving as an English-owned department store, the heritage building containing the museum is an attraction in its own right.
Throw in free admission, clean toilets and air-con, and there’s no reason not to pop in here while on a stroll down Ratchamnoen Avenue. You could then continue west to Mahakkan Fort, Wat Ratchanatdaram, Democracy Monument and Rattanakosin Exhibition Hall; or head east to Baan Bat, Wat Saket and Wat Suthat.
King Prajadhipok Museum is located at the corner of Ratchadamnoen Ave and Lan Luang Rd. It’s a 20-minute walk east to here from Khao San Road, and the museum is right next to Phanfah Leelard Bridge Pier on the San Saeb Canal boat line.
Address: 2 Lan Luang Rd
T: (02) 280 3413; (02) 280 3414;
Coordinates (for GPS): 100º30'22" E, 13º45'22.06" N
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David Luekens first came to Thailand in 2005 when Thai friends from his former home of Burlington, Vermont led him on a life-changing trip. Based in Thailand since 2011, he spends much of his time eating in Bangkok street markets and island hopping the Andaman Sea.
These tours are provided by Travelfish partner GetYourGuide.
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