The Chan Kasem Museum is located in the ground of the former "Front Palace". In the Siamese royal tradition, there was a post of "Second King" that acted as a sort of Prime Minister, and was usually the designated successor. The Second King may have been a son of the current king, but was just as often a brother or uncle (Thailand has no tradition of succession as in Europe). The Second King always occupied the Front Palace.
The palace buildings were all destroyed when the Burmese sacked the city in the eighteenth century. The complex was abandoned until late in the nineteenth century, when King Rama IV build new buildings to use as his residence and the provincial offices. It was, in fact, one of the province's first governors Lord Boranrachathanin, who began collecting the historical artifacts that came to his attention, eventually putting them on display in the stable building. Later, in 1904, the displays were moved to the Chaturamuk Pavilion, which had been Rama IV's throne hall. In 1936, four years after the revolution ending the absolute monarchy, the palace and its collections were designated a National Museum under the management of the Fine Arts Department.
There are four buildings you can visit:
- Chaturamuk Pavilion
- This finely detailed wooden building has been restored to how it would have looked in King Rama IV's time, when it was used as his thrown hall and residence. On display are many personal items once belonging to the late king.
- Pimanrataya Pavilion
- This solid looking masonry building displays a large collection of Buddha images and votive tablets.
- Pisai-sanlalak Pavilion
- This four story building may be based on a structure that existed in the same spot in ancient times. King Nareusan was a renowned astronomer, as was King Rama IV, who had the tower reconstructed. From the roof you can get a good view of the surrounding city, and you can even see the towers of Wat Ratchaburana and Wat Phra Ram, as well as the Golden Mount.
- Government Office Building
- The long low wooden building once housed provincial government offices. Now it mostly has a series of displays about river life, ceramics and other topics.
There is a fee of 100 Baht (2.60 USD) to enter the Chan Kasem Museum. The Museum is open from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm Wednesdays to Sundays. The museum is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. Visit the offical Chan Kasem National Museum web site for additional information.