The National Museum is the largest museum in Southeast Asia and an excellent place to learn something about Thai Art.
The Museum was initially established by King Rama V to exhibit the private collection of antiquities of his father King Rama IV. It was converted from ‘Wang Na’, a royal residence of a crown prince. In 1926, the museum was named the “Bangkok Museum” and subsequently developed into the National Museum Bangkok when it came under the direction of the Department of Fine Arts in 1934.
A useful introduction of Thai history starts from Sukhothai (the acclaimed first kingdom of Thailand), Ayutthaya, Thonburi to Rattanakosin period which presented by means of new technology. Two large modern buildings feature the main collection of pre-Thailand, Thai sculpture, as well as pieces from elsewhere in Asia.
The History of Art collection is displayed in the north wings of the Sivamokhapiman Hall, this includes perhaps the museum’s star exhibit, the Inscription No.1 from the Sukhothai era, supposedly written by the great King Ramkhamhaeng himself. Interestingly, the museum’s southern wing displays one of the earliest images of the Buddha from Gandhara in India, clearly influenced classical Greek sculpture. The Minor arts, such as Royal Cremation Chariots and Ceremonial Objects are exhibited nearby in other buildings within the palace compound.
Opposite here is Buddhaisawan Chapel (sometimes known as Wat Buddhaisawan). This contains a very revered Buddha image, the Phra Buddha Sihing. The legend is tells of it floating to Thailand from Ceylon (Sri Lanka).
Other highlights of the museum include recovered jewelry and gems, giant shadow puppets, weapons, ivory, royal possessions, musical instruments, Asian arts and antiques through the centuries.