Living Dead: a Trip to the Outrageous, Sobering, Mystifying Forensic Museum at Siriraj Hospital
It's been said that Vienna, with its Bestattungs funeral museum, and Guanajuato, Mexico, with its mummified former residents, are cities that have a closer-than-normal relationship with the trappings of death.
Nothing in those cities, however, comes close to what fans of the macabre will enjoy upon entering the friendly confines of the Siriraj Medical Museum, on the west bank of Bangkok's Chao Phraya River.
Here, you will find six museums within a one-block area dedicated to death and illness, with all manner of preserved bodies, body parts, and ephemera.
On August 20, 2004, the museums were formally joined together, a new entrance was established, and ticket fees (40 baht) were implemented.
Much of the signage remains in Thai, though all but the densest will be able to connect the dots.
The most compelling exhibits are in the Pathological, Forensic, and Parasitology museums.
One big reason to visit Bangkok: See the Elephantiasis-infected human scrotum
Most of us remember childhood admonitions to avoid going barefoot in barnyards, and to ensure that meat was well cooked before eaten.
Now we know why. This museum's exhibits focus on hookworms, pinworms, roundworms, and you-name-it.
Perhaps the most notable exhibit concerns a scrotum, 75 cm in diameter, dissected from a victim of elephantiasis, a disease resulting from contact with the mansonia mosquito.
Upon entering, the visitor is lulled by the machinery in the front room: typewriters, measuring devices, gadgets galore.
Turn the corner, though, and you'll witness a cornucopia of births gone wrong, the tiny bodies encased forever in sarcophaguses of glass and formaldehyde.
If you've only read about hydrocephalus, cyclopia, gastroschisis, and conjoined twins, here's your opportunity to get up close and personal.
Along the way, you'll find individual organs sporting flowering carcinomas and mortifying fungi.
Here, you'll become intimately acquainted with embalmed bodies of murderers, exhibits of ghastly deaths, and the ephemera gathered from murder scenes.
A crowd-pleaser is the standing, wax-filled remains of noted 1950's cannibal, Si Quey.
The ecannibal's body has been filled with paraffin, and the autopsy scar is visible on his forehead (his brain was removed to determine if a cannibal's mind is different than anyone else's: it wasn't).
The neatly hand-lettered sign notes that he killed "because he loves to eat human's organ not because of starving."
There is a strangely avant-garde artistic aspect to many of the exhibits: the head of a victim of a gunshot wound to the head is neatly sawed in half lengthwise, to illustrate the path of the bullet-hole, the whole package neatly encased in sealed glass filled with formaldehyde, perhaps the world’s grimmest aquarium.
You've read about train wrecks, fatal car accidents, and motorcycle decapitations, and here, you can see photos that newspapers worldwide refuse to print.
"Crush injury by machine" was particularly illustrative, as was "blast force injury (hand grenade)."
There are three other museums onsite.
The Thai Medicine Museum occupies the second floor of the Adulyadej Building, along with the three museums listed above.
The Congdon Anatomical Museum, and the Prehistoric Museum & Laboratory are in the Anatomy Building, just around the corner.
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 walk left into the hospital grounds, and follow the signs to the Adulyadej building.