The National Museum in Bangkok is actually a really interesting place to visit if you have any interest whatsoever in Thai history and culture. It is located where previously the palace of the Prince Successor was.
It is divided into different compartments. You can learn about the ancient history of the region, early settlers and archaeology. Especially the old ceramic works here are quite interesting.
When you go there, you can “walk through Thai history” – different rooms display information from different periods. It’s good to have a personal tour guide who can make sense of the different bits and pieces of information and string it all into one coherent story, otherwise you might be feeling a bit on your own and overwhelmed by detail.
The Buddha images from the Dvaravati period are particularly interesting in the National Musem Bangkok, and you can learn a lot about Brahmanistic rituals and the mixture of Hinduism and Buddhism that has been (and still is) very important in the Thai royalty. The Buddha images from the Sukhotai period are generally considered the most beautiful ones, because of their fine shapes and formations.
My personal favorite is the section that focuses on ethnological arts. Here you can see intricate mother of pearl inlays, textiles, ceramics, carved ivory, royal emblems, gold treasures, musical instruments, weapons and more – it’s brimming with religious and mythological symbolism.
You can also see the huge door panel that was brought here from Wat Suthat, a temple in Bangkok. It is kind of sad that this door panel isn’t at the temple anymore but instead in this museum – but if you look at it, you will understand why it’s stored in a museum (and will probably marvel at how much work and effort went into building this gigantic “door”, which is really more a piece of art than a door).
The ceramics display nice Benjarong pieces, which is a certain kind of ceramic typical of Thailand made out of five different colors.
When Thai kings got buried in the past, there were often precious stones and metals and scriptures buried together with them – many of them later got stolen, but some made it into the National Museum Bangkok where you can see them now.
And of course, the ancient Ban Chiang pottery can also be seen – it’s some of the world’s oldest pottery, and in many ways the patterns on this pottery are similar to patterns that archaeologists know from the ancient Mesopotamia.
The museum also hosts special events about which you can inquire here.
There is also a small book shop in front which has lots of special interest books on Thai and Southeast Asian history, art and culture.
You should at least plan 3 hours if you want to visit the National Museum Bangkok, but you can easily spend several days here learning about thousands of years of history and culture, with many thousands of stories that reside within this compound.