Since we have a lot of time in Chiang Mai, we have a chance to take in some of the more quirky sights in the area. The Museum of World Insects and Natural Wonders definitely qualifies as such.
The museum is located in a private residence, so you must ring the bell at the gate and someone will come let you in.
There is a dizzying array of things to see right from the start. The first floor is full of unusual specimens from around the world: wood beautifully carved by termites, unusual rocks, and an interesting array of dangerous insects and butterflies artfully arranged in dioramas with colorful flowers.
The second floor is row after row of perfectly mounted specimens from around the world: beetles, butterflies, moths, stick insects, sea shells, fossils. There is even an assortment of Thai antiquities and unusual rocks.
But when you get to the side room on the first floor, you find the real meat of this museum:
The museum houses the private collection of a woman named Rampa Rattanarithikul who, at age 20 in 1959, got a job as a lab technician, collecting and mounting mosquito specimens for the United States Operations Mission malaria control program. She had no higher education at that time, but her work sparked a lifetime of interest in mosquitos and mosquito-borne illnesses. Her decades of painstaking research led to the identification of more than 400 species of mosquito, including dozens of previously undescribed varieties. She eventually went on to get a doctorate in medical entomology in 1996.
After retirement, she her husband put their private collection on display in this museum. Dr. Rattanarithikul made some major contributions to public health through her detailed research of mosquito taxonomy. You can read more about her work on the museum website (linked above), or check out this article from the New York Times.
If you’re interested in entomology or public health, or you just want to get a glimpse of the vastness of the insect world, you will not be disappointed.
I’ll also add that this is a great place to bring curious children. Everything that is out is okay to touch, and the things you’re not supposed to touch are safely behind glass. There are also lots of things displayed at a low level, so even the smallest future scientists can get a good look.