Siam Society, located on Asoke Road, Bangkok
Note : We decided not to renew our membership at Siam Society for two reasons :
1) the number of lectures is small, in such a way that one stops checking about them, and then misses the few that are organized
2) Trips (both one day and weekend trips) are way overpriced. Some day trips nowadays costs close to 3,000 baht, while a few years ago they were priced at half that amount.
We are not talking about Siam society in general, but about a century old organization that is located on Asoke road.
The website of Siam Society (see below) carries the following message, which accurately summarizes its activities :
"The Siam Society Under Royal Patronage was originally established in 1904 by Thai and foreign residents of Bangkok for those interested in the study of artistic, scientific and other cultural affairs of Thailand and the ways in which they relate to those of neighbouring countries. Today, The Siam Society continues to operate as a non-profit organization dedicated to its founding cause. "
If you are a long-term tourist or resident in Thailand and/or you are interested in the cultural, social and art-related aspects of Thailand, you can consider getting acquainted with the Society and eventually become a member.
Siam Society is located at Asoke road, and nowadays is easily accessible, both with the BTS skytrain (Asoke station) and with the newly established underground (Sukhumvit station).
Kamthieng House is an open air museum. Admission for non-members of the Society is 100 baht. Here you will find many household items displayed, as well as art covering daily life a century or more ago. There are also modern audiovisual displays. It usually is not too busy and it is very pleasant to walk around in the compound. It easily makes you forget you are just 50 meters away from a busy Bangkok road.
Kamthieng House is a teakwood house, built on wooden stilts. It actually was dismantled in the north of Thailand, moved and reconstructed on its present location.
A book shop with contemporary books related to Thai Society, Culture and Art is located on the ground of Siam Society.
The Siam Society just recently increased its yearly fee to 3,500 baht (which unfortunately is a bit steep, in our opinion, and will deter potential members). You will get information on all the activities of the Society and have free access to the lectures. There are also discounts for members for some items (books) on sale.
Being a member also allows you to access the library of Siam Society, which is located on the second floor of the main building. The library contains thousands of works related to Thai history and culture and (though used only by a few visitors each day) is a necessity for people who want to dig deeper into a subject.
The 'mom', a mythical animal resembling a miniature Chinese lion, was believed to have the power to bring rain. In a ritual procession accompanied by gongs and drums, the mom would be carried on a bamboo tray with incense and candles offerings, while onlookers splashed water on it. In recent years, some localities have replaced the mom with a (live) cat.
Siam Society organizes regular lectures, as well as cultural tours around Thailand.
Lectures are usually on thursday evenings at 7:30 P.M. There is however no regular weekly schedule, and you need to access their website to see what's on. Non-members can attend the lectures, for a fee of 200 baht. Some lecture are quite interesting, some rather poor even if the subject sounds interesting. So, if as a non-member you pay per individual lecture, you may be disappointed at times. We remember going to a lecture about Constantine Phaulkon, a famous Greek personality from the Ayutthaya period. Only the lecturer stated when starting his talk, that he would not want to reveal too much, otherwise the audience might not be interested anymore in buying his books about the subject. Indeed, lecturers often seem to use their lecture as a promotion for their books, on sale when entering or leaving the lecture room.
The tours inside Thailand are sometimes interesting. They are often well organized, both the day tours (best value) and the weekend tours. Very often places are included that an individual traveller will not be able to access easily on his own. Besides the knowledgeable staff of Siam Society itself, local top level guides of the places visited will also join the tours. You do not need to be an aspiring scholar of all things related to Thai culture and history. The tours can be enjoyed by the 'average' visitor or resident. Besides, if you are a long-term resident of Bangkok, it is a great way to get out of the city for a day or two. Prices for the tours, especially the overnight tours, can be a bit hefty. On top of that, non-members wanting to participate must pay a substantial surcharge.
The Siam Society also regularly organizes visits to Asian countries. However, they are not competitively priced.
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