We went on a friends’ road trip in Kanchanaburi recently and this was one of the interesting places we enjoyed exploring.
Mallika Village is an ancient village that’s been restored and maintained to its former glory – giving both locals and travellers the opportunity to experience what it was like living in ancient Siam.
It’s a living museum where you get to walk around and interact with villagers (staff dressed in ancient costumes), and even play the role of villager yourself. Visitors can rent the ancient costumes and most Thai visitors do, so as you walk around and encounter these ‘villagers’, you’ll really feel as if you’ve travelled back in time.
We won’t spoil the rest of the story, read on for more details/reasons to visit this ancient living museum!
1. Experience shopping with ancient money (changing Baht to Satang) – Ticket Office
The first thing you’ll need to do before proceeding to explore the village, is to change your Thai Baht to Satang at the Ticket Office. In Mallika Village, only Satang is accepted, and there are definitely things to buy here from food and drinks to handmade products like ancient cosmetics and perfumes, candles and more.
(When you’re in Mallika Village, you’ll get to see Thailand’s first bank, now known as Siam Commercial Bank!)
2. Enter the village through King Rama V’s favourite bridge – Saphan Han Bridge
Built to be a turnable bridge so it could be moved/turned to allow boats to pass through originally… King Rama V changed it into the current style (wide arch bridge with small shops on both sides) during his reign between years 1868-1910.
Trivia: His Majesty loved visiting this bridge specially to buy imported dried fruits such as dried plum.
3. Put your satang to good use and learn ancient skills – Ancient Market Zone (Prange, Yaowarah, Bang Rak Neighbourhood)
Once past Saphan Han Bridge, stop at the Ancient Market Zone to get some food and drinks, as well as check out ancient products.
One interesting thing to note, is that whichever shop you’re at, you’re encouraged to join the staff in making the products – such as ancient dessert to be cooked, or ancient products like perfumes or candles.
We saw locals and travellers alike stopping to try their hand at some of these trades, and it was an eye-opener seeing how things were done/made in the past.
If you’re not up for these ‘classes’, then make sure to try the many types of ancient treats from colourful sweet flower-like desserts to savoury snacks.
4. See the traditional Thai houses commoners used to live in – Makhawan Rangsan Bridge, Narit Courtyard, Reuan Dieow
Once you’re done at the Ancient Market Zone, walk your way over Makhawan Rangsan Bridge to get to Narit Courtyard that will take you to a cluster of Thai Traditional Houses.
Also known as Reuan Dieow, these homes were for the commoner social class who worked in occupations such as farming and weaving. Comprising of only one main room that the entire family shares, it was interesting to imagine how people used to live here.
PS: Along the way, you might stumble on buffaloes soaking in their own little pool, and chickens running around.
5. Next, check out how the wealthy used to live! – City Tower, Phan Phiphop Lila Bridge, Mali Courtyard, Reuan Khaha Bodi
Follow the map from Reuan Dieow to get to Reuan Khaha Bodi, the traditional Thai house for the wealthy of the past.
You’ll have to pass City Tower (originally a prison tower built to supervise and preventing prisoner escapes, and now used as a scenery point), Phan Phiphop Lila Bridge and Mali Courtyard.
Once you’re at Reuan Khaha Bodi, you’ll see the huge contrast between the way commoners and the wealthy classes used to live. Wealthy families had different rooms for different functions similar to what we have today, from a sitting room, to bedrooms, kitchen, dining room and more.
There are more ‘classes’ available to join here that showcases activities the wealthy used to enjoy from fruit and vegetable carving to flower and banana leaf decor and more. (All products made are used and sold in Mallika Village!)
6. Peek at what’s on the menu and be a farmer for 10 minutes – Cooking Kitchen, Rice Production House
Adjacent to Reuan Khaha Bodi, you’ll find the Cooking Kitchen (also known as Reuan Krua) and Rice Production House.
First we simply had to sneak a peek at what was cooking, since we sniffed out a delicious aroma that was kinda making our mouths water! Stepping into Reuan Krua reminded me a little of the kitchens in those Korean period dramas. #DaeJangGeum #flashback
Then we moved on to the Rice Production House. One of the ‘villagers’ cracked a joke that back then, this used to be the local gym. We found out why – it was an arduous task trying to mill the rice for 3 minutes straight. X.X
We hopped over to different stations trying our hands at each rice production process, and true enough, it was almost like a complete body workout. (You’ll work out your upper body with the traditional rice mill, and your lower half with the rice pound.)
PS: The rice that’s processed and produced here is sold at the Ancient Market Zone!
7. Take a break, eat and check out the – Floating Market
Head to the Floating Market from the Reuan Khaha Bodi area, and this is where you’ll find a floating restaurant and market. The food sold here is the exact same food seen being cooked at Reuan Krua! (Looks humble but smelled intoxicating.)
Also, similar to the floating markets you’ll find in Thailand, boats bob up and down the river selling ancient wares such as terracotta mugs – one of which is currently on my desk back home.
If you’re done at the Floating Market, consider heading back to the Ancient Market Zone. There’s a traditional Thai massage place here that’ll perfectly soothe your feet/body after all that exploration!
8. Before you leave, experience the entertainment of high-ranking noblemen – Reuan Hmoo
Opposite of Reuan Kaha Bodi is Reuan Hmoo, a house that the wealthy used to entertain high-ranking officials or rich merchants. Owning a traditional Thai dance troupe to perform for their VIPs was extremely popular among noblemen then.
Every night, you can experience how it’s like to be a VIP being entertained in Reuan Hmoo! A specially curated dinner menu and different traditional dance performances are available daily from 6 to 8pm.
It’s at least half a day’s worth of adventure and time travel – Mallika Village is one hidden gem that’s both peaceful, eye-opening and unforgettable.