Just outside Bangkok in Samut Prakan province is the Erawan museum, that houses one of the most exquisite art collections in Thailand.
Housed in the area’s most noticeable landmark, a giant three headed bronze elephant, the Erawan museum was named after the elephant Airavata, the elephant from Hindu mythology which is called Erawan in Thai.
The museum is the creation of Thai business man Khun Lek Viriyaphant, who also created the Sanctuary of Truth in Pattaya and the Ancient City Muang Boran, a large open air museum in Samut Prakan province, South of Bangkok.
Khun Lek built the museum to conserve a large number of priceless antiques, items of arts and religious objects that are part of the Thai heritage for future generations.
The massive three headed elephant that is made of bronze and weighs some 250 tons, stands on a 15 meter high pink colored pedestal dominating the area with its 39 meters length and 29 meters height. It took almost a decade to build the elephant and the museum that it contains.
The inside of the museum is modeled after the Hindu representation of the universe, which consists of the underworld (1st floor), earth (2nd floor) and Heaven (top floor). The lower two floors are located inside the pedestal while the top floor is located in the belly of the elephant.
The first floor of the Erawan museum represents the underworld in Hindu mythology, the area under the world where snake like creatures called Nagas live.
This floor houses a collection of fine antiques from different periods and several countries, including Chinese Ming dynasty vases, Vietnamese vases, the famous Thai Benjarong ceramics, Sukhothai era pottery and furniture dating back to the start of the Rattanakosin era, the end of the 18th century. Guides are available to tour you around and explain about the items on display.
The second floor representing the earth or human world houses more precious antiques and arts including ceramics and European pottery. The hall features a statue of Guanyin, the Chinese Goddess with a thousand arms.
On either side of the hall is a beautifully porcelain decorated stairway. The upper part of the floor represents Mount Meru, the center of the universe in Hindu mythology. The magnificent stained glass ceiling with bright yellow, blue and orange colors is very impressive and shows the world, the stars and zodiac symbols.
The top floor of the Erawan museum represents the Tavatimsa Heaven, which is located on top of Mount Meru in Buddhist cosmology. A winding staircase in one of the elephants legs will take you upstairs to this floor.
The top floor houses relics of the Buddha and some very old Buddha statues from several eras including Lopburi, Ayutthaya, Lanna and Rattanakosin. The oldest ones date from the Dvaravati era, which started in the 6th century and lasted until the 13th century. The walls are decorated with paintings depicting the cosmos.
Outside you will find a well maintained tropical garden surrounding the elephant. Besides many species of plants and palm trees you will find several statues as well as a pond with huge carps that you can feed.
How to get to the Erawan Museum
The Erawan Museum is located on Sukhumvit road, at the intersection with the Southern ring road in Samut Prakan province, directly South of Bangkok. There is not BTS Skytrain or MRT subway station in the area. The best way to get there is by metered taxi, which takes around 30 to 45 minutes from downtown Bangkok depending on traffic.
Admission & opening hours
The Erawan Museum opens daily from 9 am until 6 pm. Admission is 300 Thai Baht per person.