A perfectly preserved slice of life from days gone by
Amidst a patch of lush greenery, where chirping birds mask the noise of the outside world, is where you’ll find the Bangkokian Museum—a time machine to the late 1940s or early 1950s, and a labour of love for one curious local lady.
She stands discreetly in the background of the information counter, flipping through magazines, looking at her laptop, or just glancing at the visitors entering into the compound of the house. Mrs. Varaporn Suravadee, now in her 80s, grew up on the plot of land where three houses stand today, surrounded by wild gardens and ponds. Visitors might not realize it but in the shadow of an expressway bridge along Charoen Krung Soi 43 there exists this piece of small paradise—a green oasis serving as a backdrop to the museum (also called the Bangkok Folk Museum).
The owner spent her childhood here among these three houses, where she developed a curious habit, preserving and keeping all the objects of her daily life—from her school days to her adulthood. In the early 2000, she transferred her collection to the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration which opened it as a museum.
The first house of the three, built in the 1930s, was the main structure where the family used to live. It reflects the typical way of life of a Chinese Thai middle-class family. All the elements of the family’s discreet opulence are visible in each room: the lounge with a piano standing in a corner; a majestic radio dominating the room; the leather sofa; a large sculpted wooden standing clock; family portraits; and the table covered with precious chinaware and a phonogram. The family was indeed living a comfortable life.
In the adjacent house, which was obviously the kitchen, visitors can admire a curious collection of objects, from matchboxes and candy tins, to advertising for cigarettes, postcards, old calendars, guide books, maps, plastic dolls, gadgets, cutlery, cooking utensils, and vintage magazines. It’s like entering a second-hand shop—a rather huge one—where almost anyone could find something of interest. The third house was the home of a doctor, and has paintings and artworks on display.
It’s all a bit messy, but that is definitely part of its charm. It’s like a trip down memory lane, back to a time where innocence and the curiosity towards anything bearing the sign of modernity filled up the life of Bangkok boys and girls.
This incredible collection is normally open to the public free of charge, but currently the owner asks a donation of B100 in a bid to preserve the environment of the house. The museum is currently under threat from a nearby real estate development which proposes the construction of an eight-story building (which would see the surrounding gardens threatened). The owner is fighting to find B30 million to preserve this piece of land, and although some 700 visitors come each month on average to discover the Bangkokian Museum, who knows how long this living remnant of old Bangkok can survive.
73 Charoen Krung Rd, Tel: 02 234 6741,
Open: Wed-Sun, 9am-4pm | Admission: B100 donation