Tag Archives: Museum

Jesada Technik Museum in Nakhon Pathom

Literally in the middle of no-where, in Nakhon Chaisi District of Nakhon Pathom Province, there is a sprawling private transport museum for lovers of any vehicles, both on land and in the air. This large collection of vehicles can be found at Jesada Technik Museum and is the brainchild of Mr. Jesada Deshsakulrith, a Thai businessman. The museum first opened to the public in 2004 though Jesada bought his first vehicle back in 1997.

I was completely lost when I stumbled upon this red double decker bus from London and the yellow school bus from America. Beyond no doubt, I had arrived. Jesada Technik Museum is ironically not served by any public transport. You will have to find your own way there from Nakhon Chaisi (see map). It is open every day from Tuesday to Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. It is closed on Mondays. Surprisingly there is no entrance fee to the well kept museum though donations are welcome.

The inspiration for the museum came after Jesada visited automobile museums in the USA and in Europe. He decided to collect antique and hard-to-find cars for his own collection. He started with a 1958 Bubble Car bought in Switzerland. His collection has now grown to 500 pieces which includes Airplanes, Helicopters, Tanks, Buses, Sedans, Bubble Cars, Motorcycles, Tricycles and Bicycles from around the world. There would have been a Russian made submarine as well but it apparently sunk while on the way to Thailand.

It is a credit to Jesada that all of the vehicles have been kept in excellent condition as you can see from these pictures. Not only on the outside but the inside as well. The upholstery is in very good condition. Also don’t be fooled into thinking that this is a “dead” museum as many of these vehicles are in good working order and have taken part in car rallies. I have also seen one of the red double decker buses out and about too at charity events. They actually have three London buses, one of which is open-topped.

The transport museum is probably not worth visiting on its own. Best to do it in conjunction with something else in the area. Visit our Thailand Photo Map website to see what else there is to see in Nakhon Pathom Province. Nearby is the riverside Thana Market which is a great place to have lunch.

Siam Cultural Park

Although Siam Cultural Park in Ratchaburi Province has been around since 1997, it strangely doesn’t make an appearance in any of the English language guidebooks such as Lonely Planet. In fact, they only seem to mention Damnoen Saduak Floating Market as the sole attraction for the entire province. There is a course a lot more to see and I will be sharing with you my day trips to that province soon. I visited this park on the same day as I went to the floating market. You just head north on Highway 325 and head towards Amphoe Bang Phae. The park is on the left before you get to the main intersection. You cannot miss it.

In some ways Siam Cultural Park is a bit like the Ancient City in Samut Prakan. It gives a slice of our cultural heritage with samples of Buddha monuments and Thai architecture. However, they do it in a slightly more controlled and on a smaller scale. It also reminded me of the nearby Thai Human Imagery Museum as there were many fiberglass wax works. The first place you visit is the Hall of Fame Building. Here you will learn about prominent people in Thai society. Each fiberglass model is placed in the context of their work environment. For example, in the above picture you can see the late wildlife conservationist Sueb Nakasatian studying a map in his office at the Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary. Other prominent Thai figures include: Montri Tramot (musician), M.L. Pin Malakul (educator) and Prof. Sanya Thammasak (Past President of Privy Council). There are also regional figures such as Mother Theresa and Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh, and Chinese leader President Mao Zedong. As you enter each room, you will be able to listen to commentary about each figure which rotates between Thai and English in a continuous loop.

The next area you visit is the Buddha Images of the Three Eras. These Buddha images, which are 129 inches high and made of smoked brass, show the sculptural styles of the Buddha images from three different historical periods. For example: Chiang Saen (11th-18th Century), Sukhothai (13th-14th Century) and Ayutthaya (15th-18th Century). I will write in more detail about this later.

The next area is the Jujaka Light and Sound Cave. This tells the story of Vessantara, the last human reincarnation of the Lord Buddha. Vessantara had intense passion for charity. The selected part of the epic on show is “greedy Jukaka begging for Vessantara’s two beloved children”. The story teaches about the Buddhist precept that we should be self sufficient and should not cling to worldly attachments.

The next area are the Monk’s Quarters. Here you will find a collection of Thai style houses called “kuti” which accommodates monks at their temples. Each kuti has a lifesized fiberglass monk who has been active in preserving and upholding Buddhism in Thailand. Not only are the images realistic and recognizable, they have also replicated their “kuti” in fine detail. Some of these monks look so real that several times I witnessed Thai people bowing down in respect in front of them.

The final area is the Four Regional Thai Style Houses. At the Ancient City, the Thai houses are spread around, so it is nice to see them all here in one group. This makes it easier to differentiate between different architectural styles. Another interesting innovation is that each house has fiberglass people showing every day life for that region. Some are cooking while others are going about their every day business.

I spent a couple of enjoyable hours at the park. There was not only a lot to learn but it was also a pleasantly relaxing place to just sit and contemplate our heritage. Though, to be honest, it wasn’t always that quiet. Although there were no other foreign tourists here, there were coach loads of high school students who were being taken on tours of the park. Obviously this shows that the park is a very educational place. If you get time, then I would suggest you come and visit. Do it in combination with the floating market or other nearby tourist attractions. Entry is 200 baht for foreigners which seems reasonable. I politely asked in Thai if I could have local price as I am a teacher. She asked me which school and which coach I came on. I told her that I drove here by myself. She was sympathetic and so she gave me the rather cheaper admission price of only 50 baht. It never hurts to ask. Though always be polite if they decline.

Ban Phiphithaphan

There are literally hundreds of museums in and around Bangkok. Some are government sponsored but many are run by private citizens. The latter group can sometimes be far superior. Many of them are little known and you will hardly ever find them in the English language guidebooks. I recently visited Ban Phiphithaphan (House of Museums) which is in Thawee Watthana District, on the Western outskirts of Bangkok. Although this museum was a little out of the way in a private housing estate, the trouble it took finding it was well worth it in the end. The brainchild of one of my heroes, Anake Nawigamune, the museum details what life was like in Thailand over 50 years ago. Anake is the author of a number of pictorial books about the olden days in Thailand. It is fascinating browsing through his books. And this museum is much the same, though here he has brought it all alive.

Downstairs there are recreations of olden day shops. For example, a toy store, a barber shop, a coffee shop and a drug store. Even though this wasn’t my history, I could still understand and appreciate everything that was on display. And anyway, it wasn’t really that different to what my own parents experienced. It was interesting looking through the cabinets spotting familiar brands or trying to guess what was being sold in exotic looking containers. Upstairs I discovered literally hundreds of objects that had been donated by different people. They also had done recreations of a cinema, government office and a school room. You could easily spend several hours here browsing through everything on display.

I quickly discovered that Ban Phiphithaphan is not your normal museum. For a start, they actually encourage people to take pictures. Their argument is that they want to educate people about what life was like in days gone past. You are also allowed to touch and even play with some of the exhibits which is almost unheard of these days. I saw some people playing a few table top games and others leafing through books and magazines which were decades old. Not everything is just on display. Downstairs you will find books as well as some candy from yesteryear which are now hard to find and are for sale. I have always said that Thai people don’t appreciate their history and do nothing to save their historical past for future generations. But, the owners of this museum proved me wrong. They started saving items years ago with the clear understanding that one day they would become antiques and therefore of interest. I am so glad that they took the trouble to do this.

Admission to the museum is 30 baht for adults and 10 baht for children. I don’t think they get too many foreigners here. When I asked in Thai how much the ticket was the lady in the souvenir shop was so taken back that she shouted out that there was a farang here that was speaking Thai. There is nothing like having your arrival announced over tannoys. The museum is located at 170/17, Khlong Pho Land Village, Sala Thammasop Road. It is not far from the Boromrat Chonnanee elevated highway which people take to go to Puttha Monthon, the giant Standing Buddha. I drove here after visiting the nearby Thai Human Imagery Museum . If you are coming from Bangkok, you need to turn right when you reach Puttha Monthon 2 Road. (The giant Buddha is on number 4 road.) You actually need to overshoot and then do a u-turn. Turn left up this road to the end and follow the traffic to the left. Continue for a short while looking for the soi on the left. You will see one sign in English saying “House of Museum” but the remainder are in Thai. Either follow the arrows through the housing estate or just your nose! You will the find the nondescript house with many cars parked outside. The museum is only open at the weekends from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Thai Human Imagery Museum

On the Western outskirts of Bangkok, in Nakhon Pathom Province, there are a number of big tourist attractions. These include the Rose Garden, Samphran Elephant and Crocodile Farm and the Thai Human Imagery Museum. All of these attractions are close to Don Wai Market and it is possible to do a combination of these in one day. From Bangkok, it takes about 45 minutes to reach here along Highway 4. Just follow the signs for Nakorn Pathom. After you pass the Rose Garden on your left and cross the mighty Nakhon Chaisi River, look out for Highway 338 on your right. The museum is a short way up this road on the left. Incidentally, if you continue on this road back to Bangkok, you will pass the giant standing Buddha called Puttha Monton. Unfortunately, when I was there recently, it was covered in scaffolding.

One of the Revered Monks

The Thai Human Imagery Museum is the Thai response to the famous Madame Tussauds in London. However, the sculptures featured in this museum are not made from wax for obvious reasons. Instead, the artists made them from fibre glass. The first figure was created in the early 1980’s and was of a revered Thai monk. More were to follow. In 1989 the museum was finally ready to be opened to the public. Nearly twenty years later they now have over 120 sculptures of famous people from Thailand and around the world. They also have some extraordinarily lifelike sculptures of people in every day situations such as playing chess and sleeping on a bench. The attention to detail is amazing and I had to look twice as I thought they were real people at first. Even the meditating monks look so real.

Traditional Children’s Games

The highlight of the museum, is surely the sculptures of the first eight kings of the Chakri Dynasty. The first three never had their pictures taken and so they are based on paintings. But, from King Mongkut onwards, they are very recognizable and it was an honour to be in their company. The youngest of the group was King Rama VIII who wasn’t on the throne for so long. In a nearby hall there is a sculpture of the late Princess Mother. Upstairs, there are showcases such as Children’s Games, Thai Literature and Sunthon Phu and the Abolition of Slavery. Most scenes have bilingual notices, though there is a lot more information written in the Thai language.

Abolition of Slavery

Although there is plenty to learn and to admire, I wouldn’t make a special trip all the way here just for this one tourist attraction. Make sure you see other things at the same time. Admission is 50 baht for Thai people and 200 baht for Foreigners. A sign says that if you can show your work permit then you will be offered a 100 baht discount. I didn’t notice that at first and as usual I asked politely in Thai whether I could get the Thai price as I was a teacher. Despite not having a work permit with me to show them, they let me in for 100 baht. Although I do not normally like museums that sneakily have two prices, I think 100 baht was worth the admission.

Ancient Siam in Samut Prakan

Ancient City

Rent a golf cart or bicycle to tour the Ancient City

A tourist attraction that is not featured in every guidebook, but is only a stone’s throw from Bangkok, is the Ancient Siam in Samut Prakan. As many of you know, this is my home province and one of my tasks is to help promote tourism in my area. I think this has become even more important now because the new airport at Suvarnabhumi is in our province. So, many of our tourist attractions are only 45 minutes or so away and quite possible to be done by people who are in transit and have four or five hours to spare. The Ancient City is not that far from the new airport and you can easily spend an enjoyable two or three hours exploring this open air museum.

Thailand guidebooks like the Lonely Planet say that this park is full of important monuments and buildings that have been “scaled down”. This gives the misconception that everything is in miniature. That is far from the truth. Everything is big. When they say scaled down, they mean a third or quarter of the original size. However, a number of the buildings are not only full sized but some of them are the real building that have been rescued from demolition. And that is one of the best features of the Ancient City. The park was the dream of Khun Lek who owned the Mercedez Benz dealership in Thailand. With so much money he could have chosen to squander it on luxuries of life. However, he chose a different path of preserving the national heritage for future generations. That is how the Ancient City came about.

Ancient City

Sanphet Prasat Palace from Ayutthaya

For people who don’t have time to visit the whole of Thailand then this open air museum is an excellent introduction to the wealth of architectural styles, important figures in Thai literature and the shops in an 100 year old market. If you are feeling fit, you can even try out some of the 80 or so yoga positions that are on display. I love going to the Ancient City to take pictures as it is a photographer’s paradise. I have been there literally a hundred times. But, it is also fascinating from a historical viewpoint. Take the Sanphet Prasat Palace from Ayutthaya as an example. This building was burned to the ground in 1767 when the Burmese ransacked the ancient capital of Thailand. Khun Lek then reconstructed this building based on contemporary records made by foreigners living in Ayutthaya at the time.

Another charming story I have heard is that there was another building that Khun Lek painstakenly copied and then built at the Ancient City. Then a few years later, the original building was badly damaged by a fire. Local government officials then sent their restoration team to the Ancient City in order to make detailed notes of the copy! This then helped them restore the original building. Khun Lek was also instrumental in preserving many of the ancient crafts and methods of building. If you look closely at the buildings, you will see that many of them weren’t built with nails or any modern tools at all. I think one of the most amazing engineering success stories is the temple that is on top of the artificial mountain (see top picture). During my first few visits I thought this was a real mountain as you could climb to the top and it seemed very solid. However, one day when I was exploring the base of the mountain, I discovered a little door that revealed that in fact the mountain was hollow!

Ancient City

Wat Mahathat in Sukhothai

My last trip to the park was on Sunday. I had a couple of visitors that I was showing around some of  the tourist attractions in Samut Prakan. This park is always on the top of the list of places to visit. I took them around the park in air-conditioned comfort in my car. You can also do this in a taxi if you like. However, you could get a taxi to drop you off here and then hire a bicycle or golf cart for a few hours. There are even tram tours you can join if you are short of time. When I take people on car tours I call them highlight tours. This is because you cannot keep stopping and getting out to see all of the hundred or so exhibits. Going on bicycle you will see a lot more though of course you will get very hot and sweaty! The minimum amount of time I take people on the tour is two hours. At the weekend we were there for nearly four hours and we really only scraped the surface.

We had our lunch at the floating market area. There are a number of places to eat here. You can order noodles from someone on a boat, try some som tam if you like it spicey, or choose from pre-cooked meals on rice. There is something for everyone and the prices are reasonable. Talking of prices, the souvenirs and handicrafts on sale in the shops are also a good price and they will nearly always knock the price down for you. The park is open every day from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. If you are feeling energetic you can easily spend all day here. The cost is 300 baht for adults and 200 baht for children. The Ancient City is one of those places that have a two price system. Unfortunately, Khun Lek passed away and his family are more business minded. However, having said that, I have been impressed that they used the extra income (it is 100 baht for Thais) to renovate and build new exhibits. They even paved the red dirt roads which now saves me a trip to the car wash after every visit. I think 300 baht is not a bad price for what you are getting. However, if you have a work permit you can get in for Thai price.

To reach the Ancient City from Bangkok, catch bus number 511 or 145 to Samut Prakan. Then change to the local 36 songtaew. If you visit my website at www.paknam.com you will find complete instructions, maps and satellite pictures of the region. Click here to locate the park on Paknam Google Earth.

Getting there: by car, take the Samrong – Samut Prakan Road to Samut Prakan T-junction and turn left going along the old Sukhumvit road (road to Bang Pu), then at approximately Km. 33 you will see the Ancient City on your left. To get there by bus, take the air-conditioned bus Line No. 511 (Pin Klao – Pak Nam) to the end of the Line and take the local Songtaew No. 36 to Ancient City (8 baht).

The museum is open daily from 8.00 a.m.-5.00 p.m. Admission: Adult 300 baht, Child 200 baht. Fees for taking a car or van in is 100 Baht. Thai adults are 100 baht. If you can show a work permit you can then get in for this price. For more information call 0-2323-9253 or 0-2224-1058-7, 0-2226-1936-7

Three-Headed Elephant

The biggest tourist attraction in Samut Prakan now is undoubtedly the Erawan Museum (Chang Erawan). This giant three-headed elephant is an incredible 29 metres high and 39 metres long. If you count the building it stands on, then the height is 43.6 metres. A small window in the belly of the elephant gives you some fine views of the surrounding area. They started work on the structure back in 1994 and it has only recently been completed. You can’t fail to notice this elephant as you drive along Sukhumwit Road on your way to Samut Prakan. It is truly an amazing structure. In fact, I think it is probably the only museum in the world where the building itself is far more interesting than the artifacts that it houses.

The inspiration behind the Erawan Museum came from the late Khun Lek. This successful businessman became rich as the owner of a dealership for Mercedes Benz. Instead of squandering his money, he decided to take an active part in preserving past cultures and handicrafts for future generations. Khun Lek was the man behind two other inspiring projects which are the Ancient City and the Sanctuary of Truth. More about these later. The three-headed elephant is the mount for the Hindu God Indra. Actually, the elephant is supposed to have thirty-three heads but as this isn’t easy for artists to duplicate it is often abbreviated to only three heads. One of the original clay models, that they made before building the elephant, showed the God Indra mounted up on top. But, I believe this proved to be too impractical. So, they just built the elephant.

During the construction, about 3 years ago, a rumour started spreading about a woman that had made a wish to the elephant that if he helped her win the lottery then she would have his baby. Well, a short while later she did in fact win over a million baht in the lottery. She also became pregnant. By the time the national newspapers came to hear of it she was already in hiding. Not sure if it is true or not. Probably just an urban legend. But, enough Thai people did believe and a shrine outside the walls of the park soon became packed with worshippers. Lottery sellers do good business here on the 1st and 16th of every month when the winning numbers are announced.

There is another story that Khun Lek built the elephant in this location on purpose to block the way for a proposed outer ring road. While it was still being built, I heard from one of the family members that they were planning on donating the elephant to the King. A bit like the villagers that ordained trees to stop the loggers cutting them down. However, the outer ring road is now being built just north of the elephant. The ironical fact is that the family home was pulled down instead to make room for the road!

The museum is open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily. The price is 150 baht for adults and 50 baht for children. If you just want to walk around the garden and not go inside the elephant then it will cost you only 50 baht. There is no two priced system here. However, if you wish to have an English speaking tour guide you need to pay an extra 300 baht. The guide we had actually decided to speak English with us though he didn’t really want to say too much. It didn’t really matter as I have been coming here since the early days of construction. I used to teach the grandchildren of Khun Lek and they used to let me in with my visitors. I took Joe Cummings here once when he came to stay with us. He has a new edition of Lonely planet Thailand coming out soon so hopefully he will update the Samut Prakan section.

The tours leave every half hour. If you are a little early then explore the grounds first. Make a wish at the shrine. Don’t forget to offer something if your wish comes true. Popular offerings include sugar cane and bananas. Just don’t forget to come back if your wish comes true as there might be consequences! The tour takes you first into the basement where many of the antiquities are stored. All of the information signs are bilingual so it doesn’t really matter too much if you didn’t pay extra for the English speaking guide. In this area you are not allowed to take pictures.

You next go upstairs which is truly amazing. This is the stairway to heaven with a beautiful stained glass window in the ceiling. The attention to details is astounding. Much of the walls and art work is covered with broken pieces of Benjarong pottery. These create a colourful mosaic effect. Some of these broken bowls are quite expensive ranging from 150 baht to 1000 baht. The whole place must have cost them millions. As you walk around the ground floor you will see four pillars with tin plated designs. Each pillar represents one of the four major religions of the world: Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity and Islam. The latter is not finished yet.

After completing the circle you are then taken up the stairs to the first landing. From here you have a better view of the stained glass window. Now you have a choice of walking up the stairs which go up the back right-hand leg of the elephant. Or the lift that goes up the back left-hand leg of the elephant. I suggest you go up in the lift and walk down the stairs. As you come out of the lift you are in a small chamber which has a small window which you can use to look at the view. Mind your head! From here you go up some more stairs to the final room. This is like entering a temple with the celestial stars painted on the ceiling. You are now in the upper body of the elephant.

I strongly recommend you visit the Erawan Museum. Maybe do it as part of a trip to the Ancient City too. You won’t be disappointed.