A walk through history
Published/Last edited or updated: 6th May, 2018
An extensive set of info boards join old photos and artefacts to make Trat Museum worth a visit if you’re interested in the province’s history, including its confrontations with the French in the early and mid 20th century.
The museum occupies an attractive wooden replica of the old provincial hall, originally built in 1922. After the original burned down in the mid 2000s, a new structure was rebuilt with the same design and dimensions a few years later. The gingerbread woodcarvings, ceramic shingles and slender pillars led us to initially think it was an actual heritage building that had undergone restoration.
A series of exhibition rooms begins with a primer on the province’s 52 islands and the groups of people that have settled in Trat over the centuries, including Chinese, Vietnamese and Khmer of both the Muslim and Buddhist faiths.
Historical exhibits start with 6,000-year-old stone axe heads and a 2,000-year-old bronze drum found in the area. A section covering the Siam-Burma War of the late 1760s explains how Trat served as a resupply and recruitment zone for the armies of General (later king) Taksin while he regrouped in neighbouring Chanthaburi before successfully retaking the Chao Phraya basin.
The highlight for us was a wide range of info on the 1904-06 French occupation of Trat, and the naval battle that took place near Ko Chang during the brief Franco-Thai War of 1941. Some of the writing has a ring of Thai nationalism, or perhaps just local pride, depending on your viewpoint. But the many photos, maps and timelines deepened our understanding of actual events.
In a section covering visits by Thai kings we enjoyed the photos of King Rama V looking like a regular traveller during one of his 12 visits to Ko Chang in the late 19th century. There’s also some background info on historical sites like Wat Buppharam and Resident Kampot, a colonial-period house that once served as French headquarters and still stands on Rhak Muang Road.
In discussing the hundreds of thousands of Cambodian refugees who spilled into Trat in the late 1970s and ‘80s, an info board mentions only “armed conflicts between factions” in Cambodia, failing to acknowledge the Khmer Rouge’s campaign of mass murder that took millions of lives. Otherwise it only discusses how the Thai queen assisted with humanitarian aid at the time.
A handful of artefacts include some ancient pottery and Buddha images, for example, but the main purpose of the museum is to explain Trat’s history in comprehensible English. There’s a lot of detail—in certain areas, at least—and history buffs could easily lose an hour here.
Trat Museum is located on Santisuk Rd, just east of the old town. From Rhak Muang Rd, walk to the east end of the street and turn left, and you’ll find it on the left after 300 metres.
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.