November 16, 2006
The Suan Pakkad Palace Museum is a collection of six traditional Thai houses full of different sets of objects: musical instruments, finds from an archaeological dig, serving plates, Thai dance masks, and puppets. One house - the loveliest - contains only its own beautiful, intricately lacquered walls: gold on black, scenes of bullock carts fording rivers on one panel, battles between gods and demons on the next: spectacular intricate gold work. The houses are set in lovely, peaceful gardens, and it's very pleasant to stroll through them; for many, you must put your shoes in a little bag to carry them with you through the teak rooms.
We spent a particularly long, happy time in the archaeological section, the only part of the museum housed in a modern hall. The archaeological finds include some particularly beautiful bronze work: ladles with carefully wrought decorative handles adorned with little model animals, for example, dated, frustratingly, "2000-300 BC." This was particularly useful since the museum was one of the few places we found in Thailand which dealt with archeology more than about 800 years old, and certainly the only place that contained information from before the era of the Buddha. Also delightful in this section was a little diorama of the finding of the site: an American sociology student discovered the first ceramic pots by tripping over a log and landing face-down in some potsherds. In the diorama, he's shown in mid-fall, looking very amusingly alarmed.
The puppetry exhibit was contained a large display of fighting puppets clearly intended to move and mechanically reenact a seven-minute section of the Ramayana, but the stage was fitted with a big and permanent-looking OUT OF ORDER sign. Upstairs from the puppets were the dance costumes, complete with thorough explanations of how the masks are constructed. The museum is open daily from 9am to 4pm. Admission includes a souvenir fan made of brightly dyed woven bamboo.
We were almost alone in the museum when we visited. The Suan Pakkad Palace Museum seems to be less visited than the Jim Thompson House, which is a pity: it's a much more thorough picture of Thai history, and every bit as polished and well-presented.
From journal Five Days in Bangkok