Hidden in Old Bangkok’s Dusit district lies the world’s first Museum of Floral Culture, the passionate life’s work of Khun Sakul Intakul
The word “museum” suggests a showcase of antiques of yesteryear, and this building boasts many unique trophy pieces, but the Museum of Floral Culture is so much more. It’s a truly visionary celebration of life, combining the beauty and history of floral culture—the passionate life’s work of the world-renowned floral designer Sakul Intakul. This enchanting home to all-things-floral was inspired by Her Majesty Queen Sirikit, with her promotion, preservation, and contribution to Thai floral art. The result is housed in a building, built in the reign of King Rama VI, that captures the spiritual beauty of life. I imagine that the August 12th, 2012, opening date—Mother’s Day in Thailand, and Queen’s Sirikit’s birthday—was an auspicious affair.
We arrive at the charming gated entrance and are greeted at the open air reception by its creator, Khun Sakul Intakul himself. The alfresco reception and museum shop is a preview of what’s to come; with its rich heritage, tradition, and artisan qualities all beautifully blended. A selection of the owner’s best-selling books is displayed in the museum shop, and offer an insight into his global success and influence. We’re then invited to choose afternoon tea from the carefully curated selection of glass bottled teas, with their fragrant aromatic leaves curiously displayed on the countertop. The afternoon tea menu offers exquisite choices, I order ahead the Love Pekoe Rose Tea, and begin imagining Sakul’s epic journeys, in search of the finest empires and tea estates.
In front of the house, guests are sat on wicker loom chairs and gaze in wonder at the hauntingly beautiful mobiles and otherworldly sculptures, with their organic trailing pink orchids. All around us, passion, love and admiration of flora, nature, Thai art and culture is celebrated. For a cost of B4,500 per person, with a minimum of two guests, you can specially request the director’s tour, hosted by the delightful owner, which includes a set of tea for two. The proceeds of the Directors’ tour supports the museum’s CSR programme, so by opting for the premium tour you’ll be supporting floral workshops for children, held on the first Saturday of the month.
Tours are available in English, Thai, or Japanese, and are run by volunteers. We choose from a colourful stack of hand-held fans, as we joined our English-speaking guide on the Colonial veranda. We’re captivated for over an hour, beginning in a room influenced by Siam, then venturing through references of India, China, Japan, Laos, Tibet, and Indonesia. And Balinese culture clearly influences Sakul the most. We learn about the flower temples, generations of secrets, and heritage beliefs of the banana leaf.
We’re invited upstairs to the exhibit called ‘Pen, Paper, and Possibility’, that proudly displays artwork that graced the Grand Palace state banquet. The facing walls are adorned with images documenting red-carpet sculpture from Rome’s International Film Festival, and hand-written thank you notes filled with gratitude, from famous fashion names. There’s even a nod to Sakul’s engineering background echoed in bronze sculptures.
We glide through the rooms and passage of time, history, and geography, with cultural references sparking inspiration at every step. Each corner of the museum is steeped in past, present, and future flora. When we have completed the interior tour we continue outside in the Thai-Zen botanical garden, where we learn insights of flora, with its medicinal and healing qualities. Our guide shares ancient wisdom like significant flowers used for dyes, and their historical and spiritual connection.
The bamboo framed pathway takes us past purple parasols, gigantic sculptures, and wooden garden furniture—where one can sit and soak-in the enchanting landscape. After a brief rest-bite we make our way to the shade of the pagoda, to watch a gentle flower workshop, and the garden tour is complete.
We are beckoned back to the stylish Dom Mai Tai Salon Du The where the ‘Inspired’ Japanese tea and Asian petit fours (B240 each for the set) are served on grand gold platters. The ever-evolving thread of design detail continues throughout and makes me marvel. As I sip from a sizable Japanese tea cup I am told that the museum will soon be debuting the launch of a very special afternoon ‘Raj tea’, and Sakul’s passion captivates us as he describes the Taj Mahal of teas. Its design is the ultimate decadence—truly opulent, and adorned in colourful flora, and dazzling jewels—and will be an afternoon tea fit for royalty.
Between 6pm and 7pm guests can book the ultimate dining experience called Midnight Moon. This à la carte group set menu caters exclusively for 20, and is priced at B1,450++ per person. It consists of seven courses, with a night time tour intermission under the stars. Dinner begins with Japanese inspired Takayama Miso Grilled Tofu, paired with the perfumed aroma of the white champaka leaf, served up with homemade preserved white turmeric. We then sample the secret recipe of Mumbai Masala Mango and a spicy fruit salad served on a bed of Marigold blossoms (it’s deemed to be an lucky combination).
The third course is Southern Lemongrass Soup with shrimp, mushroom, and blossoms of ‘moon flower’, the divine floral vine that magically opens up to gain energy from the moonlight. Then follows a traditional dish from the capital of Laos; the tropical Muang Luang salad, with blossoms of sesbania pea and blue butterfly pea. The auspicious number five course is Kolkata Pan-Grilled Chicken with homemade mango mustard sauce, inspired by Sakul’s journey to Kolkata (formerly Calcutta). This dish is served up with deep blue butterfly-pea infused jasmine rice.
The intermission is a delightful pause, and a tealight tour of the perfumed garden in the moonlight. As for the finale, the desert is Indian Rose Tea Sorbet decorated with rose petals, with tea grown in the desert city of Pushkar and Rajasthan, where rose blossoms yield the highest intensity of essential oil. This is complemented with a blend of ten-thousand miles scented tea, and osmanthus flowers. Khun Sakul hand-carried this unique tea-of-choice home from his favoured tea merchant in India. The character of the pink rose petals are blended to perfection, proving Sakul is a true tea connoisseur.
On any given afternoon in Bangkok, nowhere else offers a more genuinely charming experience—richly referencing the Song Dynasty, the Taj Mahal, and more. Like the tea served up, you will be transported “ten-thousand miles”, through a journey of the senses.
The Museum of Floral Culture has been an ongoing life’s work for Khun Sakul, as he enchants royalty, fashion designers, friends and guests alike. And his passion and work will no doubt continue to bloom, blossom, and captivate us, under the Midnight Moon. The lingering romance and charm of both the museum and its owner will leave you nothing less than mesmerized.
By Sara Honeybell
The Museum of Floral Culture
315 Samsen Road, Soi 28, Yaek Ongkarak 13
Tel: 02 669 3633
Open: Tue-Sunday, 10am-6pm
Tours: 10am and 1pm.
Admission: Adults B150, children B75