Bangkok’s Forensic Pathology Museum
A behind the scene look at crime scene investigation
Disclaimer: There are some graphic photographs in this post and may not be suitable for all audiences.
Forensic Pathology is the side of pathology which helps determine the cause of death by examining the corpse. The Siriraj Medical Museum (coined the “Museum of Death”), is found within the Siriraj Hospital. Located in Bangkok, Thailand, this mega-museum home to several smaller medical museums – two of which focuses primarily on the science of forensic pathology!
This was not something that would have been on my radar at all. Although some are magnificent, I often find many museums to be a little dry for my tastes, and even the word museum might send me walking in the other direction. I’d much rather explore the sites in which their artifacts originate! This museum, of course, is a little more challenging in that respect. I don’t think there’s ever been a scenario where I’d rather jump the police line of a crime scene to get a closer look at what’s going on. It’s just not my cup of tea (and all the power to you if it’s yours!). The science of forensic pathology I find fascinating mind you, and I used to spend countless hours watching CSI Las Vegas when it was at it’s pinnacle on the air waves. That helped formulate my primary spark of interest in this particular museum.
Upon entering this wing of the first section (Ellis Pathological Museum), you are welcomed by some fairly tame displays, illustrating the history of forensic pathology in Thailand. I must forewarn you that almost everything written in this area is in Thai. Just through the displays alone, you can see just how far the technology has advanced, and the long standing history that has existed here in Thailand.
The next room is one that is not for the squeamish. It is a room filled with pre-natal cadavers. Most of them had varying defects which caused them to die before birth. They have all been preserved in plastic encasings and are on display on podiums around the room. One might think this is morbid, but it is through the research done on these corpses, that forensic pathology is able to help understand these complications, and help in preventing similar situations in the future. The most interesting, in my own opinion, was the genetic mutation of one of them which caused the fetus to develop with two heads.
Following this, there are several more rooms of various themes. One of the rooms focuses on heart complications. Another corridor focuses on head traumas, with display cases of the skulls in which the forensic pathology research was performed (with photographs of the heads prior to the research above them). There was also a room dedicated to the victims of the 2004 Tsunami which devastated much of South East Asia! It is a darkly lit room, with a mannequin reenactment of the chaos that ensued during the forensic pathology investigations which were taking place around the clock during the aftermath.
The following section (now entering the Songkran Niyomsane Forensic Medicine Museum) is said to contain one of the highlights of the whole medical museum. It is curiously placed nonchalantly amidst the endless shelves of past evidence, skulls, mummified cadavers and other pieces from the forensic pathology investigations. The highlight is the remains of Thailand’s first serial killer of modern history, Si Ouey Sae Urng, known also as “Si Quey”. He was a cannibal who preyed on children in the 1950s. Though execution is not common place in modern Thailand, this particular beast was sentenced to death, and then put on display to deter future violent crimes of this nature.
This can be a bit tricky. Located on the river’s edge, the Siriraj Hospital is not on the BTS (sky train) or MRT (subway) routes. You could hire a taxi, or tuk tuk, though it may cost you a pretty penny. If you’re looking for a bit of an adventure, and are on a backpacker’s budget, you can take the Chao Phraya ferry to the Tha Rot Fai pier (also called Tha Bangkok Noi pier) on the western side of the river. Exit and walk due west, then after only 50 meters or so, walk left into the hospital grounds, and follow the signs to the Adulyadej building. This was a bit confusing, as most of the signs are written in Thai. If you ask anyone there, mind you, they should be able to point you in the right direction. It took a couple wrong turns for us to find it, but it didn’t seem like rocket science in the end.
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Hours of Operation
At the time of this publication, the museums are open Monday – Friday, between the hours of 9 am – 3 pm.
At the time of this publication, the cost of admittance is free for Thai nationals. Visitors carrying a foreign passport must pay a fee of 40 Thai Baht (roughly $1.35).
As mentioned earlier, this museum is not for the faint of heart. There are some very graphic displays found within the museum. Personally, I found it to be quite fascinating. I went with an open mind (and an empty stomach). It definitely brings to light a very different, and very real, side to investigations regarding our last chapter in life. It may not be for, you, but if you are looking for something very different, and quite educational, give your iron-stomach a test and head out to the forensic pathology museum in Bangkok. (I know I’m not alone in this, as I recently saw it on Travel Blogger Pam’s Bangkok Bucket List as well).
*Please Note: This is not recommended for a “first date” – though a “4 month dating” celebration (as we were doing) seems to be ok… as long as you clear it with your partner first.
Do you have any interest in Forensic Pathology? Have you ever been to a museum like this before? What’s the most interesting museum you’ve been to, and what made it so great?
Please feel free to share your stories in the comment section below!