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Bangkok Travelbug January 2019 Ratchaburi National Museum, Ratchaburi
January 11, 2019

Ratchaburi National Museum, Ratchaburi

Happy New Year!!! Welcome to the Bangkok Travelbug in 2019. We trust you had a wonderful time during Christmas and in ushering in the New Year. May you have a happy and successful year ahead in 2019.

In this issue, we bring you the Ratchaburi National Museum. Ratchaburi, the "City of the King", is a very old province in Thailand; it's history dates back to the prehistoric period and its displays are housed in a building that has its place in history too!!

Ratchaburi National Museum – in the former Ratchaburi City Hall which
was awarded the Architecture Conservation Award 2005 by the Siamese Association of Architects

Organisation of the museum

Plan view of the museum and the layout of the display rooms

The organisation of the museum gives an indication of the depth of history in Ratchaburi. There are 12 display rooms in the Ratchaburi National Museum which cover:

  1. Geology and Natural History

  2. Prehistoric History – from 12,000 years ago

  3. Dvaravati Culture – 6th - 9th C AD

  4. Khmer Influence – 11th – 13th C AD

  5. Sukhothai (13th – 15th C AD) and Ayutthaya (1350 – 1767) Periods

  6. Thonburi Period (1767 – 1782)

  7. Rattanakosin Period (1782 – present)

  8. Ethnic Groups

  9. Cultural Heritage

  10. Natural Heritage

  11. Famous People in Ratchaburi

  12. Ratchaburi today
We will just touch on the salient points in these periods to give the reader a broad overview of the museum and Ratchaburi.

Geology and Natural History

Rock and soil structure

There are large areas in Ratchaburi with limestone deposits resulting in beautiful limestone caves and a good source of construction material. Similarly, dolomite in the soil also provides good construction material.

Feldspar in the granite and laterite soil are Nature's contribution to the ceramic industry in the province and also bricks for construction. Sand in the river bed and wells is another source of construction material.

Samples of limestone rock found in Ratchaburi


Ratchaburi has a land area of 5,196 sq. km of which 2,606 sq. km or 50 % consists of forest populated with wildlife like tigers, deer and elephants. This feature has resulted in the rich, luxuriant rainforests in the national parks and reserved forest areas.


The terrain in Ratchaburi is divided into three zones:
  • The mountains region of the Tanaosi Range that runs along the Thai-Myanmar border covered by thick forests

  • The fertile Mae Klong River Valley for cultivation

  • Low alluvial plains to the south-west.
The Mae Klong River is a continuation of the Khwae¹ Yai River in Kanchanaburi to the north, home of the infamous Bridge over the River Khwae and the Death Railway. The river continues its flow through Ratchaburi and Samut Songkhram before draining out the Gulf of Thailand.


¹Khwae, meaning tributary, is frequently misspelt and mispronounced in English as kwai or water buffalo.

The Mae Klong flowing past Ratchaburi City

Pre-historic Period

There is evidence of life in Ratchaburi about 12,000 years ago when people mostly hunted for a living. Later from 3,000 to 4,000 years ago, they cultivated the land and reared animals.

Early man in Ratchaburi

The first discovery was made in 1932 by Swiss archaeologist Professor Fritz Sarasin when he found blades used for hunting by prehistoric man.

Tools and other items of the prehistoric period

In 1966, Danish archaeologist, Per Sorenson discovered the Ban Nong Chae Sao Archaeological Site which provided the first evidence of ancient dwellings in the agricultural period.

Model of prehistoric dwelling in the Ban
Nong Chae Sao Archaeological Site

Remains of early man

Dvaravati Period

During the 6th – 9th C AD, or the Dvaravati Period, a Buddhist civilisation was developed in various parts of old Thailand e.g. Lampang, Lopburi, Nakhon Pathom and Ratchaburi.

Evidence of this civilisation is in the Buddha statues, tablets, decorative lintels placed over doorways and temple architecture.

The Khu Bua Ancient Town was once a large town in the Dvaravati Period. These are some of the relics found in the old temples and sites in Ratchaburi.

Head of Buddha

Statue of Siva

Lintels and other relics from the Dvaravati Period

Khmer Period

From the 11th – 13th C, the Khmer Empire based in Angkor Wat extended its influence to large parts of north, north-eastern and western Thailand. Evidence of the Khmer Period in Ratchaburi can be found at the site of Kosinarai, an ancient town in Ban Pong District, Ratchaburi.

Torso of Bodhisavatta Avalokitesvara² head,arms
and feet were missing at the time of discovery

²An enlightened one who postpones enlightenment to help humanity

13th C Buddha image found in niche of a wall in Wat Mahathat, Ratchaburi

Sukhothai and Ayutthaya Periods

During the Sukhothai Period (13th – 15th C) and the Ayutthaya Period (14th – 18th C), the influence and power of these two cities extended to Ratchaburi.

Buddha images, sema (boundary stones) and ceramics found in Ratchaburi made in the style during these eras provide the evidence of the extend of this influence.

Ceramics from the Sukhothai and Si Satchanalai kilns

Crowned Buddha image in the Ayutthaya
style 17th – 18th C

Ratchaburi was also a trading centre with the Mae Klong providing access to the Gulf of Thailand. Chinese ceramics and Sangkalok ceramics from Sukhothai have been found in the river bed in the Mae Klong in Ratchaburi Province.

Underwater treasures

Thonburi and Rattanakosin Periods

Ratchaburi played an important role in the Burmese-Siamese Wars during these two periods. The province is in the path of a major north-westerly approach from Burma to Siam through the Three Pagoda Pass down the Khwae Noi Valley in Kanchanaburi.

Furthermore, an approach from the south through Petchaburi passes through Ratchaburi as well. This made Ratchaburi a tactically critical area during these conflicts, fierce battles were fought here to block the Burmese advance to the Central Region.

Fighting in the Chao Kwao Barricade in Suan Phueng, Ratchaburi against the Burmese advance during the Thonburi Period (1767 – 1782)

Battle to block the Burmese advance during the Nine-Army Burmese invasion in 1785 in the Rattanakosin Period

Ethnic Groups and Cultural Heritage

Owing to trade, refugees fleeing war and forced migration after conquests, there are a wide variety of ethnic groups in Ratchaburi; Central Thai, Thai Chinese, Thai Song Dam, Thai Yuan, Thai Mon, Thai Karen, Thai Lao Vieng, Thai Khmer – Lao.

The Karen who migrated from Dawei, Burma

Lao Song or Thai Song Dam migrated in 1779 after the war
with Luang Prabang, Laos during the reign of King Taksin

Trade with China in the early days brought many Chinese immigrants to Ratchaburi. Their descendants continue as traders and shopkeepers.

Chinese grocer

This wide variety of ethnic groups naturally resulted in a rich cultural heritage reflected colourfully in the handicraft.

Central Thai custom of Khong Asa, a man preparing his wedding gift for
his bride in the form of basketry

Traditional dress of the Lao Song (top - male),
(bottom - female)

Traditional dress of the Karen

Here are some of the handicraft for which Ratchaburi is famous for. Nang Yai or the giant puppet drama is a traditional that is more than 150 years old. The old pieces are preserved in the Nang Yai Museum in Wat Khanon, Photharam, Ratchaburi where there are displays of this drama as well

Nang Yai

The Thai Yuan are famous for their basketry and woven Yok fabrics

Thai Yuan basketry (top), Yok cloth (bottom)

Blessed with suitable soil, Ratchaburi is able to produce beautiful dragon water jars, her signature handicraft product as well as other attractive ceramics.

Dragon water jars

Natural Heritage

The geology of Ratchaburi has endowed the province with a rich natural heritage; the limestone caves with their stalactites and stalagmites, luxuriant rain forests, hot springs and waterfalls.

Stalactites in Khao Bin Cave, Ratchaburi

The lush mountains of the Tanaosi Range, Suan Phueng

Famous people in Ratchaburi

From the list of famous personalities in Ratchaburi, I could only recognise one of them. This is Manas Boonjamnong, a Thai boxer who won a gold medal in the light welterweight division (60 – 64 kg) at the 2004 Athens Summer Olympics.

Manas Boonjamnong

In the Beijing Summer Olympics in 2008, he took the silver medal for the same weight division.

Ratchaburi today

Here's something about Ratchaburi that is not mentioned in the museum and not widely known. It's in this humble village railway station of Nong Pladuk, Ban Pong, Ratchaburi. Back then, it was the terminal station for the southern line from Petchaburi and linked to the Thonburi station in Bangkok as well.

Up till 1942, the railway from Bangkok going westwards ended here. During World War II, the Japanese launched the Malayan Campaign that ended with the fall of Singapore on 31 January 1942. Following this, the Burma Campaign was launched.

From May 1942, prisoners-of-war (POW's) from Singapore were transported by train to Nong Pladuk station. Some remained in Nong Pladuk, others were trucked to various points along the line and to Kanchanaburi.

On 16 September 1942, the Japanese Army started the construction of the infamous Death Railway from Nong Pladuk to Kanchanaburi and the Three Pagoda Pass and through to Burma to support the Burma Campaign.

Nong Pladuk Station, Ban Pong, Ratchaburi

When the railway was completed, the Allies bombed the railway bridges along the way. They not only bombed the railway bridge at Kanchanaburi, the railway bridge in Ratchaburi City was bombed too.

Recently when the Ratchaburi City authorities tried to dredge the Mae Klong Rive near the railway bridge when the water was low, they came across several unexploded Allied bombs in the sandy river bed.

The Thai military are still in the process of trying to defuse these bombs without damaging the bridge. The dark shadow of World War II still hangs over some parts of Thailand.

Ratchaburi Attractions

Here is a list of the places of interest in Ratchaburi, some of which have been mentioned in the museum.

Caves in Ratchaburi

Nang Yai Museum, Wat Khanon

Suan Phueng

Map to the Ratchaburi National Museum

If the map doesn’t appear, click on this link

The major cultural attractions are on the Mae Klong River bank, so we have included some hotels in the vicinity for the convenience of visitors.


Ratchaburi National Museum
325/1 Woradet Road
Tambon Na Muang
Amphur Muang Ratchaburi
Ratchaburi 70000

Tel: 66 32 321 513

Opening times

Open on Wednesdays – Sundays, 0900 – 1600 hours

Closed on Mondays and Tuesdays and public holidays


Adults: Thai 20 baht, foreigner 100 baht

Free admission for monks, novices, students in uniform, members of the civil service.

How to get there

By car

From Bangkok,

Phet Kasem Road (highway 4) past Nakhon Pathom and all the way along highway 4 to Ratchaburi. Once you have crossed the mae Klong, turn into Phetkasem Road – Kaow Ngu – Woradet Road.


Next month

Sgt-Maj Thawee Folk Museum, Phitsanulok

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Till next month then.

Eric Lim
Tour Bangkok Legacies
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This is my second e-book and the first in the series of travel journals on my trips to explore the various provinces in Thailand. This edition, which covers my travels from late 2009 to mid-2013, will guide you to historical sites, cultural monuments and exquisite Thai handicraft, across a vast spectrum of cultural and ethnic diversity.

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