October 12, 2007

Dead Babies on Display
Bangkok, Thailand

Recommended to me by my friend Aaron, a trip to Bangkok's Museum of Forensic Science is not for the faint of heart, or the weak of stomach.

Web sites I've found on the museum, and the Siriraj Hospital complex it's located within, refer to this as one of the "hidden" attractions of Bangkok. Located on the second floor of the Adulaydejvigrom building—good luck trying to pronounce that one—the museum is within easy striking distance from Khaosan Road (by foot and five-minute ferry ride across the Mae Nam Chao Phraya).

Rumored to be a popular attraction for medical students in the city, an admission price of 40 baht reveals a floor of exhibits dedicated to the study of premature death. Murder weapons, photos of gruesome events (including the 2004 tsunami), loads of human skulls illustrating what happens when you get shot or bludgeoned to death, dozens of stillborn children pickled in formaldehyde, a cross-section displaying the result of a bullet to the brain, stab wounds through different organs, and the preserved corpses of convicted killers (like Thailand's most famous mass-murderer and cannibal, See-Uey, who not only killed his victims, but also ate their bodies—or at least their several of their organs).

Tatiana thought the little candies and toys left for the dead babies were the saddest part. I had my fill of the scene not too long after entering—thank God my brother's the one in med school, and not me.

For those on a shoestring budget, you need not pay to test your stomach or learn a thing or two about the human body. The Siriraj Hospital complex actually contains several other museums that are free of charge, including the Museums of Anatomy, Parasitology, Medical History, and Anthropology.

Many of the buildings where built back in the 1930's, and still have much of the original woodwork used their construction. This only adds to the creepy ambiance, as the smells of the non-air-conditioned rooms flood the brain with a perplexing overload of strange aromas, unknown chemicals, and vintage wood. In the rooms displaying the preserved bodies, organs, and cross-sections of countless adults, children, and fetuses, it wasn't hard to picture the place as it was, pre-WWII.

It should be noted that photography is forbidden, and the policy is actually enforced. I got caught snapping photos, and the staff member demanded that I delete the images off my digital camera. I pretended by fiddling with the menus, and lied repeatedly while pocketing the camera (as she was expecting me to let her review the inventory of saved images to her satisfaction). I told Tatiana about the incident, and she said she'd seen the same woman stand next to another pair of tourists and watched them delete the photos, one by one. Ha—I'd sooner swallow the memory stick than let that happen.

All these museums are open Monday–Friday, 09:00–16:00.

Note: Comments are open to everyone. To reduce spam and reward regular contributors, only submissions from first-time commenters and/or those containing hyperlinks are moderated, and will appear after approval. Hateful or off-topic remarks are subject to pruning. Your e-mail address will never be publicly disclosed or abused.