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At the heart of historic Siriraj Hospital you’ll find deformed foetuses, mummified corpses, long tapeworms and human organs, all on display in the two-part Siriraj Medical Museum—you may want to skip breakfast for this one.
Set on the second floor of the Adulyadejvikrom Building, the museum’s largest section hosts forensic and pathological exhibits including hearts and skulls with bullet holes and organs destroyed by tumours. A bunch of foetuses have been preserved to document split heads, “mermaid” tails and other malformations. In the back stands the preserved body of a “notorious murderer who ate the hearts and livers of his child victims”.
Those with weak stomachs will not find much relief in the connected parasitology room, displaying all sorts of worms, flukes, disease-carrying insects and snakes. Some info boards are only posted in Thai, but a large and well-done English exhibit in the forensics room details how thousands of bodies were identified after the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami.
Over in the Anatomy Building, the Congdon Anatomical Museum keeps the party going with human organs, bones, muscles and other tissues painstakingly organised like pieces to a puzzle called the human body. An accompanying room focuses on evolution and the physical development of prehistoric humans.
While some Westerners will be shocked by the bluntness of many exhibits, Thailand’s Buddhist tradition emphasises contemplating the physical body—and all that goes with it—down to the base elements as a way to relinquish attachment. It’s fitting that such an elaborate collection is displayed at Siriraj, the kingdom’s first and still largest public hospital, where the late King Bhumibol spent most of his final years.
If you can’t handle the aforementioned displays, head to the Bimuksthan Museum by the river for exhibits on traditional Eastern medicine and ways of life in old Bangkok. Fronted by an ornate pavilion, this newer museum also features antique pottery, weapons and the remains of an ancient 24-metre-long boat, the largest ever-excavated in Thailand.
Now that you’ve worked up an appetite, why not pop over to Wang Lang Market for some pig intestine salad?
How to get there
To reach Siriraj Hospital you can take the orange flag express boat to Wang Lang Pier, or the blue flag tourist boat to Bangkok Noi Railway Pier. There are also cross-river ferries from both Phra Chan Pier and Tha Chang Pier, near the Grand Palace, to Wang Lang Pier.
From there, walk straight away from the river and take the first right into the hospital complex, then the first left (west), and you’ll see the Anatomy Museum on the right marked by a green sign. Keep walking west and take the next right followed by a left to reach the rest of the museum, marked by yellow signs on the left.
The Bimuksthan Museum is located at the northeast corner of the hospital complex in front of Bangkok Noi Railway Pier. Open Wed-Mon 10:00-16:00 ; closed Tue. Admission for foreigners is 200 baht for the Medical Museum and the same for the Bimuksthan Museum if visiting them separately, or 300 baht for a combined ticket to both. Photography is prohibited and visitors must deposit bags in provided lockers.
By David Luekens.
Last updated on 18th January, 2017.