on October 25, 2004
As one of the world’s prime museums, the Thai National Museum in Bangkok was started at the Grand Palace in order to include the private collection of antiquities of the local monarch – in this case, King Mongkut (King Rama IV, 1851-1868). It was also the first museum ever in Thailand. It was made public by King Mongkut’s son, King Chulalongkorn (King Rama V, 1868-1910).
The museum’s goal is to preserve Thai history and heritage through sizeable collections of art, archaeological and cultural objects. You should start by exploring some of the country’s history with a black-stone inscription from Sukhothai, which is the oldest-known record of the wonderfully crafted Thai alphabet. Although the majority of the museum’s pieces are from Thailand, there are some wonderful antiques from other Asian countries, including India. Funeral chariots, stuffed animals purchased in Europe and the United States, skeletons, rocks, and minerals make this museum an well-rounded experience.
The museum compound also contains many interesting buildings, including Sala Longsong Pavilion, Bhuddhasawan Chapel, Tamnak Daeng, and theMungkhalaphisek Pavilion.
If you prefer something more personal than a guidebook, you should take one of the free English-language tours of the museum, offered by local volunteers on Wednesday and Thursday and starting rather early, at half past nine in the morning. On Wednesday, you can learn about Buddhism, and on Thursday, about Thai history, arts, and culture. The guides are extremely knowledgeable and have answered all the questions I had – try to get that out of a guidebook! If English is not your first language, you can take one of the French and Japanese tours on Wednesday or a German-language tour offered each Thursday.
The museum is open from Wednesday to Sunday from 9am to 4pm, and the admission fee for foreigners is just under $1, or 40 Thai Baht. Keep in mind that you are not allowed to take photographs inside the museum’s gallery and the building.
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