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Museum of Siam

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Ever hear the word "Thainess"? The vague but in-vogue concept is often mulled by Thai citizens trying to clarify their cultural identity, and cited by nationalists bent on an “us and them” approach to outsiders. The Museum of Siam demystifies Thainess by way of interactive exhibits and straightforward historical facts.

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The experience begins with a five-minute film that blurs images of modern Thailand together with portrayals of its ancestors. In one scene, a snobby woman yells into her phone, "No, we won’t accept anything that detracts from our culture and traditions!" Next instant, the same actress appears in an ancient village performing a bizarre ritual of spitting up some kind of liquid on a baby’s head.

Making good use of a heritage building. Photo taken in or around Museum of Siam, Bangkok, Thailand by David Luekens.

Making good use of a heritage building. Photo: David Luekens

While this scene pokes fun at the convoluted perceptions that some modern Thais apply to their "traditional" culture, the museum gets serious when it comes to the facts. "Always asking questions, challenging perceptions, seeking answers," as the museum’s literature puts it, the insightful and at times entertaining exhibits display how "Thainess has a multitude of roots."

Each beginning with a sensor-controlled video narrated in Thai and English, the museum is partitioned into several spacious rooms that each focus on a certain aspect of Thai history or culture. Descriptions are written in clear English (as well as Thai), going far deeper than the dull and often historically questionable info found in places like Ayutthaya Historical Park.

You’ll learn more about Ayutthaya here than you will in Ayutthaya. Photo taken in or around Museum of Siam, Bangkok, Thailand by David Luekens.

You’ll learn more about Ayutthaya here than you will in Ayutthaya. Photo: David Luekens

After outlining what's known of the region's earliest hunter-gatherers, the museum takes on Suvarnabhumi, the "Golden Land" that many Thais insist was centred in what’s now Central Thailand some two to three thousand years ago. The exhibit mentions how the Thai, Burmese, Khmer and Vietnamese all claim to be the true inheritors of ... Travelfish members only (Around 500 more words) ... please log in to read the rest of this story.

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How to get there
Also known as Siam Discovery Museum, the Museum of Siam is located in a triangle between Maharat Road, Sanamchai Road and Soi Setthakan, with entrances from any of these. From Tha Tien Pier (accessible by a cross-river ferry from War Arun Pier), walk straight out of the pier and take the first right (south) on Maharat, passing Wat Pho on the left. Continue for another couple of hundred metres and you'll see an entrance on the left (north) side of the street, across from the entrance to Chakrabongse Villas. The museum is also a short walk north from Pak Khlong Talad flower market.

Museum of Siam
South end of Sanamchai and Maharat Roads, Bangkok
Tues-Sun 10:00-18:00; closed Mon
T: (02) 225 2777
Admission: 300 baht

Location map for Museum of Siam

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