Ancient Siam: the world’s largest outdoor museum

Aerial view of Muang Boran, the world’s largest outdoor museum

Ancient Siam, also known as Ancient City ( เมืองโบราณ) or Muang Boran, the transliteration of Ancient City in Thai, is a tourist park, and also, the world’s largest outdoor museum expanded over two hundred acres. ⁣

⁣The park is a recreation of ancient life and times in Siam, the former name of Thailand. It comprises over 120 replicas of famous buildings, monuments, and other beautiful patterns of Thai architecture from all over the country. The replicas were built with the support of experts from the National Museum to guarantee historical precision.⁣

Founded by Lek Viriyaphan, the creator of the Erawan Museum in Samut Prakan and the Sanctuary of Truth in Pattaya. As for his own words, Lek Viriyaphan, built Muang Boran to preserve the Thai national heritage.

The number of historical sites spread across Thailand is enormous, and the distances considerable. A visit to Ancient Siam is comparable to a trip around Thailand in one day.

Pavilion of the enlightened at Muang Boran

Some of the most relevant works include the former Grand Palace of Ayutthaya, destroyed in the Burmese invasion of 1767, the Phimai Historical Park one of the largest Khmer temples of Thailand, located in the province of Nakhon Ratchasima, and Preah Vihear Temple an ancient Hindu temple built during the period of the Khmer Empire, situated on the Cambodian border.

Location

⁣The park is located in the province of Samut Prakan ( สมุทรปราการ), around 30 km south of Bangkok. This is the same province that is home to the Erawan Museum ( พิพิธภัณฑ์ช้างเอราวัณ), the Crocodile Farm ( ฟาร์มจระเข้), and Suvarnabhumi Airport ( สนามบินสุวรรณภูมิ).⁣

Ancient Siam Muang Boran
Entrance to Ancien Siam. By Mr.Sivakrit Saravit / CC BY-SA

In and around

The park grounds closely resemble the shape of the kingdom, with the monuments geographically located in their correct places. However, some of the buildings are actual size replicas of existing or old sites, while others are reduced in size, usually to about one-third of the original.⁣ Nevertheless, some buildings are the original ones that were demolished and rebuilt in Muang Boran.

⁣⁣In the vast park located in Samut Prakan, you can follow Thai history and culture from the different empires and Kingdoms that existed through time, like Lanna, Sukhothai, Ayutthaya, and Rattanakosin.

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The park contains five locations that replicate the regions in which Thailand is divided: South, Central, West, North, and Northeast. In each area, you’ll find reproductions of well-known palaces, structures, and also monuments. You can admire outstanding gardens, sculptures, and also waterfalls portraying various periods in Thai history that are all over you.

You can walk around the old market town area and see old stores and furnishings, then check out the floating market to obtain a glance of the commercial past in Siam. You’ll likewise be able to see faithful recreations of Thai villages full of whatever included in everyday town life. You can stroll right into re-creations of temples full of beaming designs and sculptures.

South region

Beginning in the Southern part of the park not too much afar from the entrance you will locate the old market town. In this area, you can see a reproduction of a small rural village and get a perception of the traditional life of old times. The typical townhouses you can see right here are real, as they were extracted from Yan Nawa, one of the older areas in Bangkok.

Ancient Siam Muang Boran
Thai Village at Muang Boran. By fnn.ru / CC BY

One of the most remarkable spots in this region is Phra Maha That, a monastery whose stupa houses Buddha relics, and it is a notable example of Southern Thai architecture. The stupa at Muang Boran is one-third smaller than the original.

Ancient Siam Muang Boran
The stupa of Phra Maha That in Muang Boran. One third smaller than the original one at Nakhon Si Thammarat.

Central region

In the central section of the park, you will locate many buildings belonging to the Rattanakosin era, just like the Dusit Maha Prasat Palace ( พระราชวังดุสิตมหาปราสาท), one of the many relevant constructions currently located inside the grounds of the Grand Palace in Bangkok.

Ancient Siam Muang Boran
Sanphet Prasat Palace, 3/4 size model of the royal palace at Ayutthaya in Muang Boran. By Mr.Sivakrit Saravit / CC BY-SA

A little North of that you will discover the Wiharn of Wat Phra Si Sanphet ( วัดพระศรีสรรเพชญ์) and also the Sanphet Prasat Palace ( พระราชวังสรรเพชรปราสาท), both from Ayutthaya. Sadly, the original building of the palace was ruined during the Burmese intrusion of Ayutthaya in 1767. In Muang Boran, the palace was restored based on old records and documents.

Ancient Siam Muang Boran
Prang Sam Yot in Muang Boran.

Another important monument that can be found in the central section is Phra Prang Sam Yot ( พระปรางค์สามยอด), the three Khmer prangs 800-year-old located in Lopburi. It was built when Lopburi was under the control of the Khmer empire from Angkor, and it’s Lopburi’s best-known landmark and one of its oldest.

West region

The West section is named in Muang Boran as Suvarnabhumi ( สุวรรณภูมิ), which that means Golden Land and plenty of historical texts citing it as a land of fortune, richness and abundance. At the Ancient City, this region contains some of the most splendid architectures like the Pavilion of the Enlightened or the Sumeru Mountain Palace.

Ancient Siam Muang Boran
Entrance to the Pavilion of the Englightened in Muang Boran.

There are two most important branches of Buddhism: Mahayana and Theravada. The Pavilion of the Enlightened ( ศาลาของผู้รู้แจ้ง), regarding Mahayana Buddhism, tells the story of 500 enlightened monks and how they teach people of different backgrounds to become enlightened and reach Nirvana.

Sumeru Mountain at Muang Boran

According to Thai cosmology, Sumeru Mountain ( ภูเขาสุเมรุ) is considered the center of the universe. The mountain stands above the surface of the water. On the top of the mountain is placed the heaven referred to as Tavatimsa.

North region

In the Northern section, you can find different constructions from the Sukhothai era. The most important is Noen Prasat ( เนินปราสาท) or Palace Hill, a part of the Sukhothai Historical Park which is the remains of the Royal palace from the Sukhothai Kingdom. It is located few meters east of the other relevant monument, the Grand Wall of Wat Mahathat ( วัดมหาธาตุ), the main temple of the Sukhothai Old City.

Ancient Siam Muang Boran
Monthop element in Muang Boran. By ผู้สร้างสรรค์ผลงาน/ส่งข้อมูลเก็บในคลังข้อมูลเสรีวิกิมีเดียคอมมอนส์ – เทวประภาส มากคล้าย / CC BY

Some other good instances of representative Northern architecture are Wat Chong Kham and Wat Chong Klang. These twin temples dated from the early 19th century, are the most famous in the city of Mae Hong Son and they face Nong Chong Kham Lake, a public park situated in the center of the city.

Ancient Siam Muang Boran
Floating market in Muang Boran. By Thaweesak Churasri / CC BY

This Northern part also features a floating market, where you can get a good impression of day-to-day life how it used to be around the canals in the waterways, which were the major ways of transport. People tend to live around the canals as well. In Muang Boran, these markets are the place where you can order Thai noodles or buy fruit from a boat, besides having lunch in one of the restaurants.

North East region

In the North-Eastern section of Ancient Siam you will discover constructions and monuments that come from the Khmer empire.

Ancient Siam Muang Boran
Statue in Muang Boran representing The Great Battle of Yuthahathi where King Naresuan fights the Burmese. By Fotograf / Photographer: Heinrich Damm (User:Hdamm, Hdamm at de.wikipedia.org) / CC BY

The most relevant is the Phimai Historical Park, dating from the 11th to the 12th century, located in Nakhon Ratchasima. It is a well-conserved Khmer temple. With dimensions of around 1,000 meters long by 600 meters wide, it is currently the biggest of all Khmer temples located in Thailand.

Ancient Siam Muang Boran
Khmer style Buddha Shrine at Muang Boran. By Alexey Komarov / CC BY

Another impressive and significant of the Khmer temples in Thailand is Phanom Rung in Buriram. Built between the 10th and 13th centuries was a Hindu temple dedicated to Shiva. As well as Phimai its architectural style is reminiscent of the famous Angkor Wat in Cambodia.

Getting around

There are many ways to get around Muang Boran. The area is too extensive to explore on foot, so you have to choose some other alternatives.

  • Tram. Riding the tram is probably the most convenient way to visit Muang Boran. The open tram follows an established route through the park starting at 10 am, 1 pm, 3 pm, and 5 pm.
  • Golf cart. You can rent a golf car if you want to explore the site on your own and for small groups. There is a choice of a four-seater or a six-seater.
  • Bicycle. Bicycles are available for free at the entrance and let you explore the park at your own pace.

Lunch & dinner

Considering that there is a large selection of Thai food, along with desserts and also fruits, having lunch or dinner at Ancient Siam is extremely easy.

Ancient Siam Muang Boran
Floating Market at Muang Boran

Food and drink are offered all over the park, but most of the vendors are situated on the floating market. There you’ll find some market vendors selling either fruits or vegetables from their small boats as they drift by the waterways.

Usual times for lunch is from 10:30 until 14:00, while dinner is served from 17:00 until 20:00.

How to get there

The direct way to get there from Bangkok city center is by taking a taxi. Taking into account the distance (Ancient City is 30 km far from Bangkok) and the traffic could be heavy as it is usual in Bangkok, the ride will be at least one hour and cost around 900-1000 Thai Baht.

Ancient Siam Muang Boran
Typical Songthaew as could be seen in many cities in Thailand.

Using the BTS is perhaps the most convenient and cheaper way to get there. Take the BTS to Kheka station ( สถานีเคหะ) , that its 4 km from the entrance of the park. Then get on the songthaew ( รถสองแถว) number 36, a kind of pick-up truck with benches. The songthaew could be found right at the foot of the stairs of the subway exit. It takes less than 15 minutes to reach the park.

Ancient Siam Muang Boran
Kheha BTS Station. By 暇・カキコ / CC BY-SA

On Saturdays and Sundays there is also a free shuttle service between Kheha BTS station and Ancient City.

Muang Boran is open daily from 9 am to 7 pm.

Visit Ancient Siam so that you can get an overview of Thai history, its architecture, and culture in only one day.⁣⁣