As oddball museums go, the Museum of World Insects and Natural Wonders offers a diverse variety of both. The owner, a quirky and extremely well-educated lady in her own right, adds a little religion to an otherwise scientifically focused museum.
Meet Dr. Rampa Rattanarithkul — Ph.D. in Entemology. She started working as a technician with the United States Operations Mission in 1959. Today, she’s the publisher of 44 academic papers, and discoverer of 13 new species (she’s found 23 more species that have yet to be described). She has two species named after her, and has received a number of awards to top it all off. This museum holds nearly 5,000 species of inserts is perhaps the culmination of their career. Several pages of reading on the first floor give you a fuller understanding of her accomplishments — well worth the read.
Start by taking in the first main exhibition, a garden-like room with plenty of insects, information, and cabinets. In some cases the cabinets have plenty of information (a sheet in English offers you some more information on numbered exhibits), while others have none.
This first room also displays some… quirks… The ‘wishing bell’ stone symbolizes good luck. Knock the bell to make a wish. Not pictured is another sign encouraging you not to squish God’s creations, and several other religious signs.
A number of signs help to give you a fuller view of the owner’s background. Another story tells the tale of her first collection and photos in 1936, when she was 3 years old. When you’ve spent the majority of your life around insects, naturally, you have plenty of stories to tell. Several newspaper clippings have been framed and saved, and are worth taking in as well.
Head up to the second floor for a more scientific looking collection:
Order Lepidoptera — also called moths in the vernacular. Plenty of examples are offered in each case, and it’s pretty interesting to take in the variety. There’s over 450 species of Thai mosquitoes around to go with the larger collection of over 315 genera.
Nearby, and for no reason, is a collection of rare or error coins. Go ahead and take a look, but you’ll really want for a magnifying glass.
Now that’s a crustacean! It’s a Map Cowrie (Cypraea mappa), discovered by Carl Linnaeus, 1758. There’s enough exhibits around to crowd the floor — no wasted space.
I would love to see the insect that signed this consent form… or even be able to read these letters that are larger than they here.
In any case, it’s a weird little place that’s easy enough to reach on foot or bicycle. It’s not in the Old Square, but it’s close enough to make it easy.
Name: The Museum of World Insects and Natural Wonders
Address: 72 Sri Mangkalajarn (AKA Nimmanhaemin soi 13), off of Huay Kaew Road, Chiang Mai, 50200 (GPS: 18.796125,98.970656)
Directions: Take Huay Kaew road away from the moat, and take a left onto Sri Mangkalajarn road. Go 350 meters and look just past soi 3 on the right.
Admission: 200 baht (an additional 100 baht donation is suggested to take photographs)