This week’s destination of choice is the coolest museum I’ve seen in a long time, Museum Siam. Museums are an unavoidable fixture of any thorough travel experience, but so many of these places are not a whole lot more than tragic warehouses full of dusty odds and ends of assorted esoterica with little placards giving you some scrap of historical context to chew on while you stare at these things. Not particularly exciting for most people, especially kids. And if ever there was a mercury to detect funnest it would have to be a child’s degree of engagement with it, and most museums fail miserably.
Museum Siam is a bit different though, creating a completely interactive and engaging environment that does everything short of bend space time to put you in a Thai dining room in the 60s, or in the mindset of a Buddhist monk, or perhaps some marauding warlord, and let you feel the times and places as though they fit as closely as the shirt on your back. What’s more, and this is always big with the kids, you can touch, sit on, climb into, or generally monkey around with almost every exhibit in the place. This is by no means your typical museum under glass where you can stare at object forever just beyond your grasp, and instead gives you an experience, an understanding, and even a palpable feeling that you will be able to carry away from the place with you.
It has a lot of the stuff other museums seem to overlook, curatorial shortsightedness. But there are only so many pieces of jewelry or ceremonial weaponry you can look at without starting to wonder what sort of picture all that stuff is really painting for you. Thailand’s history is as if not more poignantly illustrated with cereal box designs, old movie posters, and any other bits of subcultural jetsam as it is by significant documents adorned with the signatures of people who used to be important.
So, like I say, it’s more fun to really get under the skin of a place and the Museum Siam really does a good job of showing what sorts of perspectives, what sorts of scenery, what sorts worlds regular Thai people saw in the past, not just the world of generals and statesmen. This one gets two thumbs up from me as a lonely childless adult and a raucous round of applause for any and all that would dare to turn their children loose in the place. It’s likely to induce giddiness.