In a hidden alley in the shadow of an expressway, a museum showcases the passion of a lady who manufactured collectible Thai dolls.
At the end of Ratchataphan (Mor Leng) Alley on Ratchaprarop Road, a small house is home to an unusual toy collection imbued in nostalgia.
The Bangkok Dolls Museum was previously home to the late Khunying Tongkorn Chandavimol, a lady born in Phitsanulok who became Thailand’s most famous doll maker.
Chandavimol’s passion started after discovering Japanese dolls in 1945. Returning home, she created her own manufacturing house in 1957, her skills turning her into a reference in the world of collectable dolls. She was later recognised by the late HM King Bhumibol who conferred her? the title of Khunying, making her a Companion of the Most Illustrious Order of Chula Chom Klao—an order rewarding craftsmanship.
The first doll manufactured by Chandavimol was offered to HM Queen Sirikit back to 1958 and a model of the doll is indeed on display in the museum, surrounded by hundreds of other figures. Most of the dolls tell a story of an ancient Thai culture, history and way of life. There are also dolls collected by Chandavimol from her many trips around the world—dolls representing Queen Elizabeth of England and Napoleon.
The Thai-inspired dolls show popular dances of various provinces but also display dolls dressed in uniforms or outfits typical of the 1970s and 1980s. The most beautiful ones are dancers performing the Ramayana epic poem, Ramakien in Thailand. Each handmade doll beautifully depicts various characters of the Ramakien. They are all dressed with exquisite detail—each shiny costume being manufactured in the factory with the same attention to detail as the real, lifesize performers. In the workshop next to the museum, visitors will see ladies fixing minuscule jewels or Khon masks on the dolls, carefully assembling the small figures.
The museum was partially renovated a couple of years ago with new displays added, such as a giant diorama of hundreds of dolls reproducing the Battle of Maiyarap, Hanuman, Monkey King, helped Lord Rama fight The Demon King Tosakanth.
With Christmas around the corner, there are also dolls representing Santa Claus as well as a diorama showing the birth of Jesus. You’ll also find an onsite shop selling dolls, which 30 years ago, were perhaps a more popular gift than today. Still, their exquisite sense of detail makes them a unique piece of collectable art. Buy them before Bangkok Dolls turns into Thailand history.
The Bangkok Dolls Museum and Shop is located in Ratchataphan Alley 85 on Ratchaprarop Road, a couple of minutes away by tuk tuk or taxi from Phaya Thai and Victory Monument BTS stations. The museum is free of charge and open to public from Tuesday to Saturday from 8am to 5pm.