One thing about Thailand is that there is a museum for almost every kind of historical or even non-historical moment. It is no different in Ratchaburi, however this particular museum in Ratchaburi which is dedicated to the Thai Yuan community is a little different from the others. You can actually see and walk through a distinct timeline of exhibits that are not only interesting but also borders a little on the bizarre and eerie aspects from the realistic depiction and figurines of those still living and the deceased.
The Ban Khu Bua Museum in Ratchaburi, a province that is about an hour drive out of western Bangkok is one of the five top must visit places in the province aside from the famous Dragon Jar factories and largest Fancy Fish Market in ASEAN. This two storey, 10 roomed museum situated in the grounds of the Wat Khlong Suwankhiri in the sub-district of Khu Bua tells the story of the migration of a large group of the Thai Yuan ethnic community which used to reside in Chiang Saen district in Chiang Mai during the reign of King Rama 1 of the Lanna Kingdom in 1804.
The museum tells the story of the culture and traditions of the Thai Yuan community as well as their way of life and about the specialty of their skill at the woven patterns and textiles which is comprised of very intricate and fine patterns unique to the community. Some of these patterns and ancient woven textiles are now preserved and maintained at the first floor of the museum.
The museum was initiated by Dr Udom Somporn, who is a son of the Thai Yuan community and is the Director of the Khu Bua Museum. Painstaking collections and reconstruction of replicas, gathering of old historical textile patterns and various other items has made this museum one of the must see places when you visit Ratchaburi. You can observe historical moments as well as how it was like to live during those times as you visit each room in the museum which has a different theme. According to Dr Udom, this museum was created so that the generations would remember their heritage and other people can learn from the wisdom and culture of the Thai Yuan community from the past.
The reception hall on the first floor has an interesting exhibit of wax figures seated at a table which depicts what the elderly used to do for recreation in those days. These life-like wax figures were created in exact likeness of the once living people in the community enjoying a game similar to the Chinese Mahjong in the modern days over cups of tea. This is exactly what you would have seen if you visited a Thai Yuan house in those days during their leisure!
The entrance way to the room where the weaving works are displayed is greeted by a very lifelike lady dressed in the clothes from materials woven by the community. This form of dressing shows the intricate weaving patterns and the uses for the various types of material. The coiffured hair and demure looks were the exact image of the living person from which this figure was created in the olden days.
In the weaving room are numerous displays of paraphernalia normally used in the weaving process such as silk threads, weaving machine parts and more smaller items displayed in showcases. However, the highlight of this room is in the very real looking wax figures of the people who used to operate these weaving machines which were the elderly women folk of the Thai Yuan community over the years. You get a really good idea of how the weaving process was done from these models and displays.
The staircase leading to the ground floor displays some interesting shadow puppet craft. These shadow puppets were normally crafted from buffalo skin depicting the characters from the Ramayana or local folklore. In the olden days, shadow puppet plays were a form of entertainment and stories were derived from the myths and folklore. A light was placed at the back of a cloth screen where the puppeteer sits and the light throws an image or silhouette of the puppet onto the screen.
On the lower floor, you are greeted by one of the wax personalities of an elder that used to live here. In his hand is a sheet of paper with the lottery results draw. Playing the lottery was another favorite pastime much as it still is today.
Another elderly gentleman is seated on a tricycle which was a mode of transport those days in the small town. He is dressed in the period between the late 50s and early 70s. Along the walls are displays of tools used in the farming and agriculture works as well as all manner of handmade bamboo baskets used for catching fish, keeping livestock like chickens and also for storage.
The much respected community elder who had the task of administration over the Thai Yuan community shown here at his work desk and awards of position. Each of these waxworks were created in the true image of the living person and is a record in history for the Thai Yuan community here in the Ban Khu Bua district in Ratchaburi.
The record of a historic moment in the history of the community when a gathering of the community leaders and elder is required to settle a major decision m-making moment in the presence of the monks and other community personalities. Some of the images of these wax figures are from the community elders and leaders who are still very much living today.
Close up of some of the village leaders during the signing ceremony in the main hallway of the lower floor in the museum house. Out of curiosity, did you know that each wax figure cost THB30,000 to make and can you spot the real people from the wax works?
The kitchen area has a little room where the women folk used as a childcare area and also home-delivery. Most child birth happens at home where the mid-wife was usually a village elder woman and in this case was the grandmother of the family that used to live in the house. She can be seen helping the younger woman to deliver her baby. The child is a boy and he is one of the people (the one wearing sunglasses at the conference table) seen at the signing ceremony in the main hall. Both he and his mother are still living in the village community to this day.
Another life-like display showing the things that the people used to do in those days and the types of vehicles that were used. There are many cars and bikes which are kept in good condition and very much collectors items these days which you can see at the garage area of the house.
So if you are looking to learn and experience more of the unique Thai culture that is not found in the big cities, Ratchaburi is a great place to visit over a weekend where you can participate not only in visits to museums such as this but also to the many interesting sights along the way including the floating market just another short drive away.