It’s not the easiest place to find but the Bangkokian Museum, also known as the Bangkok Folk Museum, is well worth a visit for a behind-the-scenes at Thai style in the middle years of the 20th century. This post-war period is, in the story of Thailand, often overlooked but here, spread between two gorgeously preserved wooden houses, it is recreated in all its understated glory.
You can pick your way along the river and then turn down one of the smaller sois off Thonan Charoen Krung before entering through the museum’s neatly kept gardens, which, even in the stifling Bangkok heat, seem to be permanently cooled by a welcome breeze.
The two houses used to belong to the Suravadee family and were built in 1937, and much of the first house hosts heirlooms from the Suravadee’s in the upstairs ancestors quarters. Indeed, most of the museum is filled with furniture and homewares and there is a timeless quality to much of the furniture. It’s not sleek or overworked but elegantly simple.
It was built by a crew of Chinese carpenters – they brought the project in on time and under the B2,400 budget – which is impressive when you consider the difficulties surrounding the Bangkok Futsal Stadium.
Despite being only a stone’s throw from the hustle and bustle of downtown Bangkok, there is a soothing air throughout the museum – it must have been a particularly pleasant place to live when a domestic home.
The second house has a slightly more disjointed history – it was originally built in the countryside before being taken appart, transported to Bangkok and reassembled, which does seem like hard work but isn’t so far out of the ordinary in Thailand.
It’s smaller than the main house but its appeal is undiminished – it was built to serve as the home and office for a visiting doctor who died before he was able to move in. Still, he left behind an impressive collection of cigars.
Elsewhere, across both houses, the minutiae of domestic life is further illuminated; the bathrooms are surprisingly well-appointed – certainly, there several bars along sukhumvit that suffer by comparison. The Thai style may be decidedly rustic, by the Suravadees seem to have known how to live in style.
The museum is small enough that it’s not going to take you all day to explore – instead, it’s maybe a couple of hours and you’ll leave with one less hole in your experience of Thai history. And, when you’re done, you’re close enough to the river, to take a boat ride or find some first-rate street food.
273 Charoen Krung Soi 43, Si Phraya Pier | 02-233-7027 | Open Wed-Sun 10am-4pm