Although Siam Cultural Park in Ratchaburi Province has been around since 1997, it strangely doesn’t make an appearance in any of the English language guidebooks such as Lonely Planet. In fact, they only seem to mention Damnoen Saduak Floating Market as the sole attraction for the entire province. There is a course a lot more to see and I will be sharing with you my day trips to that province soon. I visited this park on the same day as I went to the floating market. You just head north on Highway 325 and head towards Amphoe Bang Phae. The park is on the left before you get to the main intersection. You cannot miss it.
In some ways Siam Cultural Park is a bit like the Ancient City in Samut Prakan. It gives a slice of our cultural heritage with samples of Buddha monuments and Thai architecture. However, they do it in a slightly more controlled and on a smaller scale. It also reminded me of the nearby Thai Human Imagery Museum as there were many fiberglass wax works. The first place you visit is the Hall of Fame Building. Here you will learn about prominent people in Thai society. Each fiberglass model is placed in the context of their work environment. For example, in the above picture you can see the late wildlife conservationist Sueb Nakasatian studying a map in his office at the Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary. Other prominent Thai figures include: Montri Tramot (musician), M.L. Pin Malakul (educator) and Prof. Sanya Thammasak (Past President of Privy Council). There are also regional figures such as Mother Theresa and Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh, and Chinese leader President Mao Zedong. As you enter each room, you will be able to listen to commentary about each figure which rotates between Thai and English in a continuous loop.
The next area you visit is the Buddha Images of the Three Eras. These Buddha images, which are 129 inches high and made of smoked brass, show the sculptural styles of the Buddha images from three different historical periods. For example: Chiang Saen (11th-18th Century), Sukhothai (13th-14th Century) and Ayutthaya (15th-18th Century). I will write in more detail about this later.
The next area is the Jujaka Light and Sound Cave. This tells the story of Vessantara, the last human reincarnation of the Lord Buddha. Vessantara had intense passion for charity. The selected part of the epic on show is “greedy Jukaka begging for Vessantara’s two beloved children”. The story teaches about the Buddhist precept that we should be self sufficient and should not cling to worldly attachments.
The next area are the Monk’s Quarters. Here you will find a collection of Thai style houses called “kuti” which accommodates monks at their temples. Each kuti has a lifesized fiberglass monk who has been active in preserving and upholding Buddhism in Thailand. Not only are the images realistic and recognizable, they have also replicated their “kuti” in fine detail. Some of these monks look so real that several times I witnessed Thai people bowing down in respect in front of them.
The final area is the Four Regional Thai Style Houses. At the Ancient City, the Thai houses are spread around, so it is nice to see them all here in one group. This makes it easier to differentiate between different architectural styles. Another interesting innovation is that each house has fiberglass people showing every day life for that region. Some are cooking while others are going about their every day business.
I spent a couple of enjoyable hours at the park. There was not only a lot to learn but it was also a pleasantly relaxing place to just sit and contemplate our heritage. Though, to be honest, it wasn’t always that quiet. Although there were no other foreign tourists here, there were coach loads of high school students who were being taken on tours of the park. Obviously this shows that the park is a very educational place. If you get time, then I would suggest you come and visit. Do it in combination with the floating market or other nearby tourist attractions. Entry is 200 baht for foreigners which seems reasonable. I politely asked in Thai if I could have local price as I am a teacher. She asked me which school and which coach I came on. I told her that I drove here by myself. She was sympathetic and so she gave me the rather cheaper admission price of only 50 baht. It never hurts to ask. Though always be polite if they decline.