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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 ... Travelfish members only (Full text is around 500 words.)

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