Hidden away amongst the traffic infested roadways, pavements crowded with hawkers and pedestrians and in the vicinity of a busy metro station down Sukhumvit Road in Bangkok, is a gem of Thai history and tradition, Kamthieng House Museum, a 164 year old traditional all teak house transplanted in this unlikely urban location from Chiang Mai in northern Thailand. Although the hum of traffic is a constant reminder of the Museum’s urban location, the green, tranquil grounds of the Siam Society where the house is now located, is the perfect setting for this traditional La Na house.
The 13th century architectural style of the house harks back to the distinctive traditions of the La Na people. It was built in 1848 on the banks of the Ping River in Chiang Mai by the matriarch of a family that had a La Na heritage. The descendents of the family lived in the house till 1963 and donated it to the Siam Society who had it transported to Bangkok in 1966.
The all timber house with a “V” shaped carving on its gable is the best available authentic example of a La Na era house. Preserved inside are examples of a bygone lifestyle such as the altar at which the family’s ancestors were worshipped, wooden lintels above the doors with traditional motifs, hand woven fabrics, pieces of furniture, ritualistic and domestic utensils used in a traditional home. Examples of traditional ceremonies, house building, textile looms, irrigation weirs, rattan and bamboo traps among others are found in the surrounding garden. An outstanding feature is the audio visual portrayal of La Na life, cultural activities, music and dance throughout the house. Visitors looking for further information on the La Na can find it on the monitors installed throughout the museum, in a continuously run 3D movie on La Na village life, a film on the lineage of the house owners and in spirit music, courtship music and in other edutainment features found throughout the house. Those hurrying to the mega malls nearby would do well to step into this urban oasis to learn about a once vibrant culture and lifestyle of an ancient civilization.
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Thanuja Silva is a travel writer who writes under the pen name Auburn Silver. She has a passion for fashion and a deep interest in admiring new and exotic attractions around the world.