Generally speaking, Thais aren’t very big fans of museums. A Thai friend of mine who worked as a tour escort to France once lamented to me that his fellow countrymen would suffer a stop at the Louvre only for as long as it took to get their picture in front of the Mona Lisa, then they insisted on going shopping. Back home in Bangkok, it’s the same story. You will rarely see anyone over high-school age at a Thai museum. Of course, it’s not like most Thai museums have gone out of their way to attract people. Glass display cases and dusty dioramas were about as "high tech." as they could manage.
That situation began to change a few years ago when a new generation of museums started to open, with the aim of attracting more that just those who had to be there for a school assignment. Many of these places were specifically design to attract Thais, but some are still of interest to visiting foreigners. Here’s a run-down of three of the latest new places trying to wow you:
Museum of Siam Discovery
Families explore the Siam Discovery Museum
One of the first entries in the new generation tackles the somewhat sensitive issue of "What does it mean to be Thai?" The museum is housed in a beautiful cream-and-white confection of a building that used to house the Commerce Ministry. Although the exterior has been restored to the way it must have appeared the day it was completed 100 or so years ago, the interior is thoroughly modern. Aimed primarily at Thai children, the displays use bright colors and every technological gadget imaginable to get their interest.
The Siam Discovery Museum is very interactive and "fun for kids of all ages", to use an old expression. It’s right next to Wat Po and so can be combined with a visit to the temple. See my full profile of the Siam Discovery Museum at Bangkok For Visitors for more information and details on getting there.
Chinatown Heritage Center
Walk through old Chinatown at this Wat Traimit museum.
When the giant solid gold Buddha at Wat Traimit got a roomy new home early in 2010, it came with the added bonus of an all new museum recounting not only the history of the Golden Buddha, but an interpretive center about the development of Bangkok’s Chinatown. With holographic presentations and life-size walk-through reconstructions, this ain’t your grandpa’s museum.
Rattanakosin Exhibition Hall
Khon Masks on display at the Rattanakosin Exhibition Hall
The latest addition to the Bangkok museum scene is the Rattanakosin Exhibition Hall, located near the Golden Mount and Loha Prasat. The museum covers the history of "Rattanakosin Island" – the royal city of Bangkok. The new space really pushes the technology, with several multi-media presentations and even one room that moves. Fortunately, the whiz-bang theatrics don’t overshadow the content (well, not too much), which it must be said is very wide ranging.