Museums Walking Tour in Bangkok (Self Guided), Bangkok

Bangkok's numerous museums each contribute to a magnificent, weird and wonderful tapestry that offers visitors a keen insight into Thailand's varied traditions. Some of the museums, like the Royal Barge Museum, the National Museum and the Human Imagery Museum are housed in buildings that are as noteworthy in themselves as the exhibits they contain. Take this tour to catch the city's best museums.
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Museums Walking Tour in Bangkok Map

Guide Name: Museums Walking Tour in Bangkok
Guide Location: Thailand » Bangkok (See other walking tours in Bangkok)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 6
Tour Duration: 3 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 6.4 km
Author: valery
Forensic Museum

1) Forensic Museum

Siriraj Medical Museum, located in Siriraj Hospital, consists of several medical museums including the Forensic Medicine Museum. The museum is open to the public and is a valuable source of information both for medical professionals and laymen. It has a large collection of important specimens related to the modern history of medicine in Thailand. The museum contains six permanent exhibits and a temporary exhibit. The six sections with permanent exhibits address the following fields: anatomy, pathology, congenital disorders, toxicology, Thai traditional medicine and forensic pathology.

In the 1950s, Si Ouey Sae Urng was a cannibal serial killer who preyed on children. He was convicted and executed. Mummified remains of this first serial killer in the modern history of Thailand are on display in the forensic medicine section of the Siriraj Medical Museum. There are also displays of skulls and other body parts in glass cases, many of them victims of murder by various means.

There are also instances of births gone wrong. Conjoined twins are preserved and kept here, providing you the opportunity to look at them closely. You will become intimately acquainted with embalmed bodies of murderers, exhibits of ghastly deaths, and the pictures gathered from murder scenes. A crowd-pleaser is the standing, wax-filled remains of noted 1950's cannibal, Si Quey. The cannibal's body has been filled with paraffin and put on display. The neatly hand-lettered sign notes that he killed "because he loves to eat human's organ not because of starving."

Siriraj hospital is also the first medical college of Thailand that has been training doctors and nurses for more than a century. Several significant contributions in nearly every aspect of medical care and public health with support from large number of Siriraj illuminists, have brought trust and respect to this hospital at national and international levels.

Also on display is the head of a victim of a gunshot on head. Wound to the head is neatly sawed in half lengthwise to illustrate the path of the bullet-hole. The whole head is neatly encased in sealed glass filled with formaldehyde. You can also see photos about train wrecks, fatal car accidents, and motorcycle decapitations that newspapers worldwide refuse to print. "Crush injury by machine" is particularly illustrative as is "blast force injury (hand grenade)." If you have a brave heart and have a flair for medical cases, you must visit this museum.
Royal Barge National Museum

2) Royal Barge National Museum

Originated in the capital of Sukhothai Kingdom probably in the 13th century, Royal barges formerly served as war vessels and were used on royal occasions. During Ayutthaya period, the magnificent processions of spectacular royal barges aligned on the rivers and canals at the island capital of Ayatthaya.

The Royal Barge Procession is one of the most spectacular events in the world. At this event the King delivers new robes to the monks at Wat Arun. Lavishly and ornamentally decorated boats maintained by the Royal Thai Navy and docked at The Royal Barge National Museum participate in this gala.

The Royal Barge Procession continued on to the last reign of the Ayutthaya period after which the barges deteriorated gradually. During the war which brought about the fall of Ayutthaya in 1767, the royal barges were lost along with other treasures and the records of the Kingdom. After King Rama I became the first king in 1782, he considered the renewal of national arts and craft and maintenance of early traditions and ordered the construction of new royal barges to revive the tradition.

On April 1932 King Rama VII travelled by barge procession to the Grand Palace to mark the 150th Anniversary Celebration of the Chakri Dynasty and Bangkok as the capital city. This proved to be the last Royal Barge Procession of an absolute Monarch of Siam because a coup changed the government from an absolute to a constitutional monarchy in the next June. From then onwards, the barges are kept at the dry dock under the care of Royal Household and Royal Navy. During World War II bombing on Bangkok, the barges were severely damaged. H.M.King Bhumibol Adylvadej of that time ordered their restoration and decided to revive the ancient tradition of the Royal Barge Procession for auspicious occasions. In 1972 this dock was then renovated and established by the Fine Arts Department as the National Museum of Royal Barges.

The Royal Barge fleet consists of 52 vessels. Each is a masterpiece of marine and traditional craftsmanship. They display a variety of figureheads on their bows, including a sacred Garuda, Hanuman, fierce beast with open mouth breathing fire, protruding fangs and long tongue supporting a crystal orb and the seven heads of Naga. 

Built in 1911, the most impressive and important boat is the King’s personal barge known as Suphanahong. It is 46 meters in length and made from a single tree. Covered with intricate gilt carvings and colorful pieces of glass, its design is representative of a mythical swan. Its crew consists of 54 oarsmen who paddle in time to the rhythmic beat of a drummer.

The unique design and decorative details of each barge is of great interest to all visitors. You must visit The Royal Barge National Museum to get an insight into the colorful culture of Thailand. The Museum is open daily between 9:00 am and 5:00 pm
National Museum Bangkok

3) National Museum Bangkok (must see)

The National Museum Bangkok features exhibits of Thai art and history. Opened in 1874 by His Majesty King Rama V, it is the first public venue to display the royal collection of King Rama IV and other objects of general interest. The museum occupies the 18th Century Wang Na Palace which had previously been the residence of the Prince Successor.

Named the Bangkok Museum in 1926 it had subsequently transformed into the National Museum Bangkok under the direction of the Department of Fine Arts by 1934. King Rama VII presided over the opening ceremony of the National Museum Bangkok in 1926.

The museum was originally intended to exhibit the antiques and gifts bestowed to Rama V by his father. Initially a non-organized gathering of dusty relics, it now features exhibits arranged into three areas consistent with Thai history. A good English-language description of all the masterpieces is also available.

Thai History Gallery covering the periods from Sukothai to the Rattanakosin is placed at the front of the Sivamokhaphiman Hall. The Archaeological and Art History Collection exhibits items from Thailand's prehistory to the modern Thai Kingdom, including many ancient sculptures. Decorative Arts and Ethnological Collection showcases Chinese weapons, gold treasures, precious stones, masks and many items of historical importance from all over Southeast Asia. Other exhibits include a funeral chariot hall featuring carriages used for royal cremations along with many excellent examples of Thai architecture.

Today the galleries contain exhibits covering Thai History back to Neolithic times. It houses the largest collection of Thai art and artifacts in the country and is definitely worth a visit.

There are excellent tour guides offering free services in English, French (Wed, Thu), Japanese (Wed) and German (Thu) at 9:30am.

Opening Hours:
Wed-Sun: 9am-4pm
Silpa Bhirasri Memorial National Museum

4) Silpa Bhirasri Memorial National Museum

Professor Silpa Bhirasri is an Italian sculptor who was honored as “Father of Thai modern art and contemporary art”. Born in Italy on September 15, 1892, he belonged to a merchant family whose parents did not care much of art. He had, however, special personal interest in art. He completed his graduation from the leading art institute in Florence where he was promoted as an art professor at the age of 23.

In 1923, King Rama VI hired a talented artisan Professor Corrodo Feroci through an agreement between the Royal Thai Government and Italian Government. He came to Thailand along with his wife and daughter and took the position as a sculptor of the Fine Arts Department. Soon he proved his talent and was trusted to work as a designer and sculptor of important monuments in Thailand. He designed many monuments for various cities in rural areas. In 1933, he founded the first art school by the name of Silpakorn School in Thailand which later upgraded as Silpakorn University in 1943 with Professor Corrodo Feroci as the first dean of the Sculpture Faculty. Later his name was changed to a Thai name Professor Silpa Bhirasri.

Professor Silpa Bhirasri was a devotee for art in Thailand. He started the first National Exhibition of Art in 1949 to distribute contemporary art in Thailand and to spread contemporary Thai art overseas by participating in national and international art exhibitions. He created prominent sculptures and monuments of the royal family members. He initiated art exchanges between Thai and international artists. Professor Silpa Bhirasri is rightly known as the pioneer in the creation of modern art and contemporary art in Thailand.

Silpa Bhirasri Memorial National Museum was opened on September 15, 1984 at the 92nd birthday of Professor Silpa Bhirasri. It is a historic building which used to be the studio of Professor Silpa Bhirasri. Inside the museum permanent exhibition is divided into two sections. The first section near the entrance exhibited paintings, sculpture and print of his students. The second section displayed belongings of Professor Silpa Bhirasri including his working table, chair, typewriter, record-player, sculpt tools, etc. set in the same way as they used to be before his death. Silpa’s efforts brought Thai art a step further in the modern world and visiting his museum is a way of paying homage to his great contributions.

Operation hours: Monday to Friday: 8:00 am to 5:00 pm
King Prajadhipok Museum

5) King Prajadhipok Museum

King Prajadhipok Museum presents the life and history of the King Prajadhipok’s reign. The museum has nine permanent exhibition halls covering various subjects. King Prajadhipok’s personal effects are displayed including items on films, music, sports and writings that reveal his personal tastes. The exhibition shows his life before he was crowned, his life after abdication and his final years in England. On display are photos of the coronation ceremony, the celebrations of Bangkok's 150th anniversary and the revolution.

Prajadhipok was not destined to be king and planned to serve in the military. However, when King Rama VI died without heirs, he became Rama VII. King Prajadhipok rule marked the end of the absolute monarchy and changed it into constitutional monarchy.

The neoclassic building of the museum was built in 1906 towards the end of King Rama V's reign. Designed by a Western architect, the three-storey concrete edifice is decorated with Greco-Roman motifs and reliefs with a dome-shaped tower topping its front hall. 

M. Charles Beguelin, a French-Swiss architect, designed the museum building. Concrete is mostly used for its construction. In 1995, the building was recognized as a national heritage site by the Fine Arts Department. Conservation and renovation project was completed in 1999 and the building was converted into Museum in 2001. The museum has three floors. Temporary exhibits, the museum shop and café are on the ground floor and permanent exhibits are on the second and third floors.

The museum building was completed in 1908 after six years of construction work. It originally housed the John Sampson Store which sold Western high fashions and tailor made suits. But the building changed hands and sold construction materials bearing the name the Suthadilok Store. In 1933, the Public Works Department acquired the building and started using it as its headquarters. In 2001, King Prajadhipok Institute received the sanction of the Public Works Department for use of the building as the museum.

Do not forget to visit this museum as it is an enlightening source of information on Thailand during the significant period of King Prajadhipok. The museum is open Tuesday to Sunday from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm
Damrong Rachanupab Museum and Library

6) Damrong Rachanupab Museum and Library

This museum and library is situated in a peaceful tree-lined haven located within the chaotically busy Ratchadamnoen Avenue area. Built as the Varadis Palace, entering this building is like taking a walk back in time. It was the dwelling of King Mongkut (Rama IV)'s son - Prince Damrong. The prince played an important role for the Thai people, especially during the period of Rama V's rule, when he helped the king and the country in a wide range of areas. A man of diverse capacities, Prince Damrong spearheaded the building of Siriraj Hospital and many other edifices of Bangkok.

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