Muang Boran, Samut Prakan
Muang Boran (Thai for "Ancient City"), one of the largest open-air museums in the world, was financed by a rich citizen from Bangkok and cost more than 200 million $US. Over the ten years it took to develop the 80-ha (197-acre) site, designed in the shape of Thailand, some exhibits of original size were built together with 65 copies of the most beautiful and culturally significant buildings on a scale of 1:3, some of which are based only on ruins such as the Si Sanphet Prasat, the royal audience chamber of the old Ayutthaya.
Opening hours: 8:30am-6pm
Useful tips: Admission charge.
The Anthropological Museum in the north of this extensive site contains exhibits covering over 1000 years of history and almost all regions of Thailand. It is housed in a group of farmsteads typical of central Thailand. The museum offers an insight into everyday life (e.g. musical instruments, pottery, implements for fishing, and rice cultivation).
There are seven gardens located throughout the site; areas of relaxation - surrounded by waterfalls, rocks and tropical flowers - representing the mythological world of Thailand. The "Garden of Gods", for example, has a bronze team of ten horses belonging to the Indian moon goddess Chandra, apparently flying over the waterfall. There is also the "Manohra Garden" depicting the beautiful girl with a bird's legs among her sisters.Near the entrance is a Brahma shrine, the "Royal Stand", from which Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain attended the consecration ceremony in February 1972. There is also an interesting elephant kraal and a small zoo in an attractively laid-out park for children. Here elephants, game, gibbons and many species of exotic birds roam freely. The Floating Market in Ancient City has Thai wooden houses (partly reconstructed) built in the traditional style.
In the north-east of the grounds ("No man's land" between Thailand and Cambodia) a 54-m (177-ft) hill has been formed, on which the Khao Phra Wiharn stands, the original temple of which was the holy destination for kings and pilgrims alike for some 1000 years, and, following the peace agreement with Cambodia, is so once again. From a small river the visitor can scale four terraces - it is less strenuous in the morning when it is cooler - where there are stone ruins which used to be crowned by artistic gabled roofs in the Angkor-Wat style. Khao Phra Wiharn has an authentic reconstruction of such a roof. From the top of the "hill" there are good views of the whole site.
The upper floor of the Ho Kham (Golden Hall) houses a collection of stone and bronze sculptures, and ceramic, wood and mother-of-pearl works of art from Thailand's advanced civilization. The prize exhibit is the most recent, a representation of about 70 episodes in the life of Buddha, hand carved from a single piece. The artist was 80 when he completed this work after ten years. The Ho Kham building is itself an original replica of the earlier governor's palace in Lampang, an example of Thailand's exceptional craftwork; the entire wooden building was constructed without a single nail.