Just outside of Bangkok in Samut Prakan province is the Ancient City, a spacious historical theme park that provides a good option for a day’s getaway from Bangkok.
Featuring replicas of many of Thailand’s most important historic sites, The Ancient City is quite large, covering some 320 acres of land, and is commonly billed as ‘the world’s largest outdoor museum’. It offers an excellent cultural introduction to the Kingdom if you’re unlikely to get to the real thing.
The Ancient City features 109 replicas of famous monuments and architectural attractions in Thailand. The considerable expanse of the Ancient City, with ponds and roaming deer, is roughly shaped like Thailand and its attractions are laid out according to their geographic location. It’s best explored on rented bikes, though there is an option of private tram tours. It’s worth noting the Ancient City’s proximity to the airport, making it ideal to kill a layover of several hours.
The reproductions in the Ancient City are accurate, with their construction having been overseen by experts from the National Museum. In some cases the originals no longer exist and were reconstructed from antique plans. One of the more impressive works in this regard is the recreation of the former Royal Hall of Ayutthaya, which was destroyed by the Burmese in 1767. In fact, it was such an achievement that the present King Bhumibhol formally received Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II here during a state visit in the 1970s.
While there is quite an impressive showing of Thailand’s royal history on display at the Ancient City, there are also several examples of different styles of Thai architecture from the past and distinct to different regions of the country. In some cases, whole teak houses have been acquired from upcountry locations and reassembled and, even more remarkably, some of the stone temples have also be relocated and preserved in this manner.
The Ancient City contains numerous small food shops offering basic Thai fare; however, for a bit of a more traditional Thai experience, the park also offers lunch in a restaurant set on a recreation of a Thai floating village. A small model Thai village in the Ancient City has ceramics, paper umbrellas and lacquer items produced by craftsmen for sale.
The Ancient City benefits from being so spacious and it is rare to find the park crowded. A very pleasant day can be spent here taking in the sites at your own pace. Walking the entire park in a day would be quite a chore, but bicycles can be rented for 50 baht, and pricey personal guides are available, or trams for a group.
The best way to get to the Ancient City – known as ‘Muang Boran‘ in Thai – is to arrange a private taxi trip through your hotel concierge, where 500 baht for a return trip and waiting time is a fair price.
On the way there, along Sukhumvit Road, ask the taxi driver to stop briefly at the remarkable giant Three Headed Elephant statue.
Open: 09:00-19:00. Entry: foreigners 700 baht, Thais 350 baht. 296/1 Moo 7, Sukhumvit Road, Samut Prakan. Tel: (02) 323 4094-9, Fax: (02) 323 4055, Email.