It seems like there’s a new museum opening in Bangkok every few months, joining the hundred or so other museum the city already sports. Some add to the rich cultural fabric of the city, while others seem destined become forgotten dust collectors. The new Museum of Floral Culture is definitely a welcome addition, which will hopefully meet with success.
The museum was opened in August of this year and was conceived by Sakul Intakul, an internationally known floral designer and florist for the Thai royal family. Khun Sakul serves as the museum’s director, and I visited the museum after receiving an invitation from him.
The museum occupies a house that is over 100 years old in Bangkok’s Dusit district, not far from Vimanmek Mansion. Like most of the old houses in the area, there is a strong western influence in the design, although there are also many Thai elements reflected in the layout and details.
Guided tours are provided for all visitors, in either English or Thai. Tours start inside the house, where photographs and artifacts document the history of Thai floral art, as well as the other civilizations that influenced it, such as India, Cambodia, Japan and Bali. The house is surrounded by gardens, which are also taken in on the tour. Don’t expect a riot of flowers. The plantings include many trees and shrubs selected for their meaning in Thai culture rather than for their flowers. The gardens are nonetheless quite beautiful, with different scenes in each direction. There is a small Thai pavilion in the garden, where monthly classes are taught to children for free.
The museum includes a small tea shop, which occupies the wide veranda along the south side of the house. On offer are some specially blended teas created, at least in part, by the director as well as some traditional sweets from Thailand and a few other Asian countries. I sampled a pot of tea and the sweets while having a talk with Khun Sakul.
Although educated as an engineer, Sakul discovered a love of flowers and the traditions of floral art. In addition to his work for the Queen of Thailand, he has undertaken notable projects such as the Bvlgari Resort in Bali and the Rome International Film Festival. His books include Tropical Colors: The Art of Living with Tropical Flowers and Dok Mai Thai: The Flower Culture of Thailand. In fact, it was research for another up-coming book that led to the idea for the museum. Flowers, and plants in general, have always played an integral part of everyday Thai life, and he wanted to have a place to preserve that role, as well as pass it on. In addition to the exhibits, the museum holds a monthly workshop for children who want to learn about Thai flower art.
The tea and sweets, by the way, were very good and I would highly recommend a stop in the tea shop as part of your visit. The Museum is open Tuesdays to Sundays from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm. Admission is 150 Baht and includes a guided tour. See the Museum of Floral Culture web site for map and directions.