The Chao Sam Phraya National Museum on the historical island of Ayutthaya exhibits artifacts discovered during excavation works and restorations of ancient temples in Ayutthaya.
The museum is named after Chao Sam Phraya, King of Ayutthaya in the 15th century. Exhibited are several thousand items including Buddha images, votive tablets, gold artifacts and other treasures recovered from the crypts of several temples.
Ayutthaya architecture and art style
Founded in 1351 Ayutthaya developed into a powerful and wealthy Kingdom doing trade with Asian and European countries. Large and impressive temples dedicated to the Buddha as well as Royal palaces were built.
The Kingdom developed its own distinct architecture and art. Stucco reliefs, murals, wood carvings and gold ornaments show the craftsmanship of Ayutthaya artisans.
The museum collection
The museum collection is exhibited in three buildings. Building 1, the two storey main building exhibits the most interesting part of the collection. Items are labelled in Thai and English.
Ancient Buddha images
Among the exhibited items is a large number of Buddha images from the various eras in Thai history including Dvaravati, Khmer, Sukhothai and Ayutthaya.
Among them are a large 800 years old bronze head of a Buddha image found at Wat Thammikarat in Ayutthaya, a sand stone 12th century Khmer style image in meditation covered by the hoods of the seven headed Naga snake and a sand stone Dvaravati style Buddha image in meditation.
One of the oldest pieces is a very large sandstone image of a seated Buddha from the Dvaravati era (7th - 11th century), the right hand in Vitarka mudra, the teaching gesture.
Scripture cabinets, wood carvings & votive tablets
The ground floor displays several lacquered cabinets used to store copies of the Buddhist teachings written on dried palm leafs. Also on the ground floor some beautifully carved gables and carved wooden door panels recovered from Ayutthaya temples including Wat Phra Si Sanphet.
Upstairs is a beautiful collection of votive tablets displaying one or multiple images of the Buddha. These tables were interred with the ashes of deceased Kings and other Royals in Ayutthaya stupas.
Highlights of the museum
The highlights of the Chao Sam Phraya museum are exhibited in three air conditioned rooms. They contain mainly items recovered from the crypts of the Wat Ratchaburana and Wat Mahathat.
Among them are gold artifacts studded with precious gems, Royal insignia, bracelets, headgear, necklaces, braces, rings and golden votive tablets that show great craftsmanship.
One of the most stunning items is a golden Royal elephant studded with gems dated to 1424 that was discovered in the crypt of the Wat Ratchaburana. Another extraordinary item is a golden sword and its golden heath inlaid with precious gem stones. The sword called the sword of Victory (Phra Saeng Khan Chai Sri) belonged to an Ayutthaya King.
One of the rooms is dedicated to the Buddha relics discovered in the crypt of the Wat Mahathat, “the temple of the Great Relic”.
Photography is not allowed in any of these three rooms.
The second and third building
The second building exhibits mainly pottery and ceramics from various countries and eras including Dvaravati, Lopburi, Sukhothai and Ayutthaya. Labels are only in Thai.
Building 3 consists of a number of Thai traditional wooden houses on stilts. The houses contain an exhibition of various items including pottery and Buddha images.
Location & how to get there
The Chao Sam Phraya National Museum is located in the center of the historical island. It is found on the West end of Rochana road just past the Ayutthaya History Study Center.
The museum opens daily from 9 am until 4 pm. Please remove your shoes at the entrance. Plastic bags are supplied to carry them with you.
Making movies and videos is prohibited inside the museum. Photography is not allowed in any of the three vaulted rooms. In the rest of the museum taking photographs without using flash is allowed.
Souvenirs and books on the history and temples of Ayutthaya are for sale at the ticket counter.
Entrance fee is 150 Thai Baht per person. Visitors receive an illustrated booklet in English containing information about Ayutthaya and the exhibited items.
Next to the parking lot is a shop selling drinks, coffee and ice cream.