The Folk Art Museum at Kamthieng House in Bangkok is a lovely one hundred and sixty-year-old traditional Thai-style teak house located at the Siam Society grounds on Sukhumvit Road. Siam Society was founded by a group of young Thai and foreign residents in the early 20th century under the patronage of Rama VI to research, rediscover and preserve Thai Lanna Culture for future generations. at
While the beauty of this delightful complex with all its immaculately polished teak buildings is beneath towering glass skyscrapers that dominate most of Sukhumvit, it makes for a wonderful oasis in which to roam at a leisurely pace. It's a far cry from the relentless toxic traffic fumes from the inner city streets.
What makes this place even more interesting as well as somewhat refreshingly different from similar teak houses in Bangkok such as the Jim Thompson House and Suan Pakkad Palace, is that Kamthieng House depicts rural family habitats. Kamthieng House is open from Tuesday to Saturday from 9:00 am until 5:00 pm.
Traditional Rural Thai Residence
Within the lush grounds, you'll encounter several traditional wooden teak houses, including a reference library. Two of the houses here were brought in from as far afield as northern Thailand and another came from Thailand's inner central plains.
The house is set up as the country's only genuine ethnological museum while the reference library contains a journal of one of Asia's most respected publications on Thai art history and the Lanna culture for which the society is based solely.
Inside the Lanna Household
Kamthieng House was the first building of its kind to be established on the property grounds. The style of the house is typical of farm dwellings found in the northern parts of the county. This particular house was transported piece by piece in the 1960's to Bangkok from the banks of the Ping River near Chiang Mai.
Sangaroon House is the second dwelling on the premises having arrived from the central plains. The project was a later addition, donated by the architect Sangaroon Ratagasikorn who was so inspired by the utilitarian beauty of rural utensils that he ended up amassing quite a sizable collection.
Since you've come this far, why not pop down to the popular and award-winning Gallery 55. It's only a short walk from Siam Society. The gallery displays a good few original contemporary paintings and sculptures by many well respected local and international artists in a spacious New York style setting. It's worth a visit.
Exhibition at the Museum
The objects on exhibit here give you a fair insight into what life would have been like for the well-heeled in northern Thailand during the mid-nineteenth century.
The ground level displays various farming tools and fish traps that could only have evoked the kind of practice once used for fishing in flooded rice paddies. This was done so as to supplement supplies from the rivers of the area.
Once you enter the upper level you'll find objects on display that focus on the rural life of a typical Lanna household. Isn't it sometimes so incredibly interesting to cease the chance to get to see and feel just how inhabitants from so far a cultural divide live, work and play.
Then walk along the open veranda to the authentically equipped kitchen to view a video on how to make spicy frog soup. You can try this recipe at home when next making Tom Yam Soup. Only this time substitute the shrimps with frogs.
In the ground's granary, you'll find an extremely interesting exhibition detailing the ritual practices associated with rice farming in the northern provinces.
Magical Mysticism in the Spirit World
These Lanna homes seem steeped in all sorts of magical mysticism with the spirits playing enormous fundamental roles. This becomes evident while trying to grasp onto and into all the fascinating aspects concerning this type of household.
The practice of making offerings to the spirit world, the belief in the talisman, the male tattoos and the "magic shirts" are most unfamiliar to westerners. I fully appreciate the male tattoo bit, but what's with the magic shirts. I must get one.
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