A hospital isn’t an obvious tourist attraction, but when it’s got royal connections and is at the forefront of promoting traditional Thai medicine, it’s easy to understand why hundreds of Thai tourists visit Chao Phraya Abhaibhubejhr Hospital every week.
Entering the car park area provides a stark contrast. In front of you is the plain, modern hospital, but to the right is an elegant two-storey Renaissance-style building framed by immaculately kept ornamental gardens. The gardens once extended all the way down to the nearby river, but the construction of a road, the modern hospital and car park has meant that a limited area of the original gardens remain to the front and back of the building.
The residence, located approximately 150km east of Bangkok, was built in 1909 for King Rama V to stay during his next royal visit to Prachinburi, but the king died in 1910 and never got to stay here. However, his son King Rama VI became a frequent visitor. The building was named after the man who funded the construction, Chao Phraya Abhaibhubejhr who was the governor of Prachinburi at the time.
In the 1990s, Thailand’s Department of Fine Arts listed the Chao Phraya Abhaibhubejhr Building as an historic monument. The building was restored and opened as the Abhaibhubejhr Thai Traditional Medicine Museum. Inside are exhibits relating to King Rama V with furniture from the period and various artefacts on show.
However, it is the medicinal displays which are perhaps the most intriguing. Inside the museum is an old-style pharmacy with dispensing counters and collections of herbs, potions, books and medicine. Amongst the pots of natural herbs there are glass jars containing scorpions and snakes which were once used in Thai medicine.
The museum and hospital are famous within Thailand for promoting traditional Thai medicine and attracts many Thai tourists, but staff told me very few foreigners visit. A shop attached to the modern hospital building sells natural soaps, shampoos and cosmetics and was doing a roaring trade with Thai tourists when I visited recently. Visitors seeking a health-boost can book a number of treatments including traditional Thai massage, acupuncture sessions, herbal compresses and steam therapies.
If you’re in the Prachinburi area, this is certainly an interesting place to visit. The hospital is located on Prachin Anuson Road (Highway 3069)