A while back, my partner and I went to the Thai city of Ayutthaya with the purpose of seeing its World Heritage-status assortment of historic temples, monasteries and palaces. However, on the day we were due to journey back to Bangkok, we found ourselves with a free morning to fill. And as our hotel was located only a few minutes away from something called ‘the Million Toy Museum’, we decided to investigate.
When we entered the Million Toy Museum, we thought: Wow! The laws of physics dictated that the place couldn’t possibly do what it said on the tin – there couldn’t be a million toys inside it. But the building certainly contained a lot of them. If not a million, then thousands and thousands, surely.
The presence of a life-sized model of Captain America by the entrance indicated that the museum wasn’t going to be restricted to locally themed exhibits. Indeed, the collection was diverse and international, with perhaps a slight majority of the toys on show coming from American and Japanese culture. And while every nook and cranny in the building seemed to have been commandeered as display space, most toys had been put inside large glass cases that lined the walls and aisles on its two floors or had been arranged on top of those cases.
Often, they were grouped according to themes: superhero action figures, model monsters from Japanese kaiju movies, toy Disney characters, tin robots, clockwork vehicles, clockwork aircraft, Meccano constructions, dolls of every size, shape, ethnicity and vintage. Some of the cases were so crowded I almost felt sorry for their occupants. A case packed with Japanese kokeshi dolls had the look of a brutally run prison camp. A case of white Miffy toys resembled a scene from a nightmarishly intensive farm that specialised in breeding rabbits.
Actually, the Million Toy Museum didn’t just limit itself to toys. It also displayed… well, everything. I got the impression that the proprietors were happy to put on show anything that was donated to them so long as it was venerable, compact and interesting. Hence, we also saw Chinese teapots, Buddha figurines, fancy pieces of glasswork, old alarm clocks, antique vases and ornate bottles and jars, plus one-off oddities like a bust of Napoleon and a framed photo-portrait of a very young-looking Queen Elizabeth II.
The fact that so many toys and other flotsam and jetsam had to be displayed in close proximity meant there were some surreal juxtapositions. Such as… A life-sized Astro-boy stretching himself next to a vintage Coca Cola vending machine…
Or a doll of Little My from the Moomins scowling from the end of what looked like a replica model of the Titanic, while several Pippi Longstocking mugs were lined up in front…
Or Charlie Brown perched atop an elderly grandfather clock…
Or a gold-coloured statue of Ganesha, the Hindu elephant god, reposing in a prime spot in the lobby, while a life-sized model of Jar-Jar Binks from Star Wars I: The Phantom Menace could be seen skulking furtively in the background – which to be honest was the best place for Jar-Jar Binks.
My favourite sights in the museum, though, were the charmingly antiquated science-fictional toys of yesteryear: block-shaped tin robots with round eyes, grilled mouths, knobs, switches and fuel gauges; and slightly dented-looking tin space rockets and flying saucers (that’d obviously been thrown around a few times by their original juvenile owners). I was surprised at how many models I saw of Robby the Robot from the 1956 sci-fi movie Forbidden Planet – but then again, old Robby had been the cinema’s most famous robot until the advent of Star Wars (1977) and C3PO and R2D2.
All in all, the Million Toy Museum presented a glorious collection of bric-a-brac. It may not have been the grandest place we visited during this trip to Thailand, but it was surely the most delightful one.
Oh, and elsewhere on the premises was a café building that was festooned inside with old Coca Cola signs and had a life-sized representation of Spiderman suspended upside-down above its entrance door. So the Million Toy Museum experience began with Captain America and ended with Spiderman. Stan Lee would have approved.