NB: Please excuse the photo quality of the post, technically its not allowed to take photos in the Museum, so these were taken incognito while hiding from rent-a-cops
Looking for something to do in Bangkok that doesn’t revolve around the normal tourist cliches of Khao San Road, Tuk Tuks, Suits, Temples and Ping Pong shows? How about a visit to a hospital to see stuffed foetuses, rapists and siamese twins. It sounded weird enough for us, so off we went for a visit to 3 of the exhibits at Siriraj Museum.
What are the Siriraj Medical Museums?
Sirijaj Museum is actually 6 different Museum exhibits spread around Siriraj Hospital on the Banks of the Chao Praya River. It consists of two main Museums, The Siriraj Medical Museum and the Siriraj Bimuksthan Museum. The Medical Museum is located in two of the hospital buildings and contains 5 Exhibits/Museums: The Ellis Pathological Museum, The Sonkran Niyomsane Forensic Medicine Museum, The Parasitology Museum, The Congdon Anatomical Museum and the Sood Sangvichien Prehistoric Museum & Laboratory. Whereas the Sirijaj Bimuksthan Museum is on the riverside and is more of a museum dedicated to the history of the hospital, Thailand, Bangkok Noi and the Chaopraya River area.
We wanted the “freakier” side of things rather than a traditional museum so settled on trying to find the medical museum and its famed collection of preserved human specimens. As it turns out one of the buildings is unfortunately closed on weekends (Housing the Congdon Anatomical Museum and Prehistoric Museum and Laboratory) so we only ended up visiting the Pathological Museum, Forensic Museum and Parasitology Museum.
How to get to Siriraj Medical Museum:
Ellis Pathological Museum:
The first museum we checked out was the Pathological Museum, which was, in one word – strange. Upon entry you find a load of glass jars with formaldehyde preserved foetuses and corpses of children with various deformities, usually conjoined foetuses aka Siamese twins. Obviously some have had autopsies at some stage and have been sewn back together, for some reason I found the stiching creepier than the fact I was in a room of preserved dead babies. Next up was a room on various cancers, with some form of rubber mannequin to demonstrate the correct way to perform a self examination for breast cancer (I think). At this stage you are in two rooms, and you start to wonder – where the heck is the rest of the museum, and whether you got your money worth, but don’t worry – the other museums are back out the front door and around the side.
Songkran Niyomsane Forensic Medicine Museum:
The next museum is the Forensic Museum, and upon entering you have a wall dedicated to the 2006 Tsunami, its victims and the identification effort. This exhibit is really interesting, and did make me wonder why every country except Thailand takes fingerprints upon entry, especially after a disaster like this where fingerprinting of tourists would have been very handy in victim identification. It explains how with any death that isn’t natural causes is required to be treated like a crime scene, even in a natural disaster – and the massive international effort to ID people using various methods of forensics.
The other wall was dedicated to crime, and all the bat shit crazy ways that local Thais manage to off each other. There are very graphic, actual crime scene photos of people who have suffered grenade and explosion wounds, gunshots, stabbings, motorbike crashes and even decapitation by train, as well as skull and bone specimens with bullet holes, blunt object trauma and more.
Walking further into the museum you are greeted with two (real) skeletons which you are told clearly not to touch, judging by the behaviour of the Thai teenagers visiting I wonder how many people pay attention to this. Exhibits include murder weapons, evidence, bullets removed from bodies, snakes etc but the real gems in the collection are the mummified serial killer-rapist (including the famous Si Ouey Sae Urng who was also apparently a child cannibal during the 1950’s) corpses which appear to be attached to their displays with something similar to a wire coat hanger around their waste and the doors held together with sellotape. Other interesting exhibits include tattooed flesh cut off bodies and other interesting body parts. This one definitely isn’t for the squeamish, but did give me an unnatural hunger for beef jerky.
The final museum in this building, it appears to be where Thais first perfected the art of making plasticised food to display in malls. Potentially should be titled, the “Everything you eat, sleep on, walk past or that eats you can and will deform or kill you” Museum. Starts off with displays of all the fun little killers that live in your raw fish sushi, then explanations of why you shouldn’t eat raw meat, served in blood sauce with a side of moonshine in an underground Bangkok restaurant. Highlights include some nasty photos of intestinal worms coming out of some poor Thai dudes ass, and quite possibly the largest preserved testicles I’ve seen in my life (and I haven’t seen many).
Summing it Up:
If you aren’t squeamish and want to do something interesting during the day, I definitely recommend a visit to the museum. I’d try to visit it during the weekend to see the museums that were closed during our visit, for 200 baht per person its definitely worth it. And apologies for the quality of photos, technically cameras are banned in the museums.