Along with the Erawan Museum-slash-tourist trap, the Thailand Naval Museum might easily be missed as you ride the bus. That is, if you’re more focused on your smartphone or book than the full-sized plane resting in the front yard.
It was 1942 when the History Division of Thailand began keeping ‘priceless historical objects of the Royal Thai Navy’, but it wasn’t until 1955 that the collections were opened to the public for the first time. The collection moved to its current location in Samut Prakan in 1972, across the street from the Royal Thai Naval Academy.
Unfortunately, the building and the exhibits don’t look like they’ve seen much change since 1972. The outdoor exhibits have aged fairly gracefully, if only because they were built for the weather.
Entirely in Thai, the indoor exhibits are either black-and-white pictures or descriptions in Thai. Thankfully, one of the museum staff met us at the door with an English brochure — this is the King of Thonburi room, showing off some pictures of combat and some pictures of a shrine dedicated to his Majesty Ing Taksin.
Look at all them medals…
The swords, naturally, make up part of the exhibits.
It’s in-between the first building and the second building where there’s a welcome intermission — but seriously, why are monkeys and bears alongside the saluting figures?
Steampunk lovers rejoice! Some of the old-school torpedoes are out there, but there’s plenty of other exhibits in this middlespace.
Building #2, built in 1987, has a slightly more modern feel to it. While the first floor holds the main exhibits, you’ll have to walk up to the second floor to see them:
Models of royal barges, anyone? These were used during the reign of King Rama VI (r. 1910–1925), though it wasn’t possible to get any closer to them. The second floor had some navigation instruments around — some old-school diving helmets and compasses — along with plenty more information in Thai.
Photo op! The ‘bullets’ are both heavy and awkward, and you’re probably not supposed to stand on the sand anyway. Also around is a brief, medium-sized display on the aircraft that were probably cutting-edge back in 1987. That the chronological display cuts off in 2000 is revealing, but not overly surprising.
It’s interesting and quaint, but neither informative nor up-to-date. That’s the biggest complaint, really, but you’ll get enough help from the English brochure. Stop by if you’re on your way to Erawan’s famous three-headed elephant, but don’t feel too bad if you skip it or are running short on time.
Name: Thailand Naval Museum (พิพิธภัณฑ์ทหารเรือ)
Address: Sukhumvit road, Tambon Pak Nam, Thesaban Nakhon Samut Prakan, Chang Wat Samut Prakan 10270 (GPS: 13.609681,100.596008)
Directions: From Bangkok, take the sky train to the end of the line, Bearing. Take exit 3 down to street level, and jump on bus 25, 102, 511, or 525. You’ll pass the Erawan three-headed elephant; if you’re coming from that, get on the next bus heading in the same southernly direction. When you see the full-size plane to your left, get off at the next stop and double back.
Admission: free, but exchange your ID for a guest pass.
Phone: 0–2394–1997, 0–2475–3808