Cynical expats are quick to bemoan the supposed lack of culture in Bangkok.
While it’s easy to lose heart as pockets of Thai identity, like the amulet market and Soi 38’s street food stalls, disappear, we contend that culture is alive and well in Bangkok – if you know where to find it.
We’re not talking about on the 5th floor of EmQuartier.
We’ll be highlighting some of the best of the city’s cultural offerings in the coming weeks in a series of photo diaries. Make sure to let us know of your recommendations in the comments!
First stop, Asok…
131 Sukhumvit Soi 21, Bangkok 10110
Open: 09:00 to 17:00; Tuesday to Sunday
A short dawdle from Terminal 21 and the Asok intersection, Kamthieng House is an easy first foray into Bangkok’s cultural scene.
It’s very quiet, allowing you to move through the museum at your own pace, is sheltered from the sun, and only requires around an hour to explore.
Originally built on the Ping River in Chiang Mai in the mid-19th century, Kamthieng House is the perfect encapsulation of Lanna culture, architecture and lifestyle.
The Lanna Kingdom (or, Kingdom Of A Million Rice Fields) covered the Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai provinces of present-day northern Thailand from the 13th to the 18th centuries before being conquered by the Thonburi Kingdom in 1775.
Despite defeat in power, the unique culture and ethnology of Lanna still pervades Northern Thailand today by way of language, food, dress and even religious customs.
Kamthieng House was relocated to Bangkok after being given to the Siam Society under royal patronage in 1963 and was inaugurated as an ethnological museum by His Majesty King Bhumibol in 1966.
The museum provides written and video commentary on the various idiosyncrasies of a Lanna household’s daily routine as well as showcasing a number of exhibits and replicas. Weaving looms, baskets, beds and even a kitchen are on show in this fascinating insight into daily life.
Perhaps most interesting is the detail provided on how the Lanna people made merit to and respected their various spirits, including the khwan, phi pu ya and naga – some of which are still observed today.
Recommended for: History buffs and ethnology nerds; those who can’t bear the crowds, noise and heat of the more popular tourist attractions; and those with just an hour to spare.