A cultural, historical & architectural museum of Thailand
After we finished our lunch at the Sailom Bangpu Seafood Restaurant yesterday, we drove a kilometre down the road and entered one of Thailand’s most fascinating cultural sites – the Ancient City – or Muang Boran – in Thai. This place is quite amazing. It was apparently built in the Sixties by Lek Viriyaphant, a philanthropist, who wanted to keep Thailand’s culture and history alive. The Ancient City sits on 320 acres of land, roughly in the shape of Thailand. You can see a map of the site HERE. There are over 100 monuments collected or reproduced. Some of them are reconstructions of buildings that no longer exist. Other buildings are examples of traditional vernacular architecture that were scheduled to be demolished and instead were purchased by the Ancient City, dismantled and reconstructed in the park. Many of the buildings represent religious and royal sites from around Thailand as well as from the past. There are also many examples of typical Thai houses from the past. There are replicas of the most famous architectural monuments, temples, public spaces, boats, gardens and villages from each of the provinces in the country. Each replica, most often scaled, but still big, is properly located on the site to represent where it was or is actually situated. In many cases, the actual buildings still exist, but in others, the replicas in the Ancient City are the only proper record of their existence.
Each replica has been lovingly built or reconstructed and is an exact copy of the original. We did not have too much time, as we were supposed to be working, so we slowly drove through the site looking and admiring the buildings, the forests, the villages and the incredible care that has gone into making this place. It is literally a cultural, historical and architectural museum of Thailand, where one can see the Buddhist, Khmer and Hindu influences that have formed the basis of the culture.
The best way to see the Ancient City is to rent a bike and slowly work your way, almost literally through the country, looking at the monuments, all of which are carefully explained. (There is also an audio device you can get that explains, in great detail, each of the buildings, sites and treasures.) If you’re not a bicycle rider, you can rent a golf cart to do the trip. Or you can a tour bus. I would say that one would need at least two full days to go through this museum of Thailand, as there is so much to see and learn.
I found a video, made in 2009, on YouTube done by a travel company called Asiatravel.com. I have embedded it below. It runs just over 5 minutes and gives a reasonable overview of the site. (Unfortunately, you’ll have to put up with an advertising banner at the bottom of the video.)
For those of you with time on your hands, there is another much longer YouTube video below, at over 14 minutes, made by a company called 4You Auto Manija, which I think is an Internet car dealer. (Go figure.) You can get rid of the advertisements by clicking in the top right boxes. This video will take you on a pretty complete tour of the site. You won’t even need a bike.
In all my years of coming to Thailand, I had never heard of this place. The Ancient City is constantly expanding and improving. For example, we saw a building under construction that will become a massive temple which, when finished, will contain over 1,000 Buddha images, one of every kind and style.
I am hoping to get back in the not so distant future to start to explore this miniature Thailand. I’ll even be able to take the Skytrain to get there in the not so distant future. Or maybe I’ll just take my bike.