FEATURES
HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Chakri Dynasty commemorated on April 6

A journey through Pha Thai Cave

BMW opens showroom for the North

Jazz night was one to remember

Chakri Dynasty commemorated on April 6

Businesses to observe holiday, close Monday April 7

Chakri Day (April 6) was first instituted by H.M. King Vajiravudh (Rama VI) in the year 1919 to commemorate all the Kings in the Chakri Dynasty, which started with Rama I and continues to this day with Rama IX, H.M. King Bhumibol Adulyadej the Great.

The reigning Kings in the House of Chakri brought peace and tranquility to the people within Thailand’s borders and successfully protected the Kingdom, maintaining sovereignty and integrity through crucial periods threatened by European colonization and two World Wars.

In commemorating “Chakri Day” the national flag is proudly displayed by the people of Thailand and both government officials and members of the community participate in traditional ceremonies, making offerings of flowers and garlands at the many statues of Kings in the House of Chakri.

The Chakri Dynasty, or the “House of Chakri” followed the reign of King Taksin the Great, when He abdicated due to poor health. The Chakri Dynasty was ushered in on 6 April 1782 when a close aid of King Taksin, General Chakri, marched back into Thonburi and assumed the throne as H.M. King Buddhayodfa the Great. Each Monarch thereafter has had “Rama” as part of their title.

Since this year the holiday falls on a Sunday, most offices will close on Monday, April 7 in observance of the special day.

Chakri Dynasty - Chronology of the present-day Dynasty of Thailand

1 King Buddhayodfa the Great

(Rama I) 1782-1809

Rama I

The first King of the Chakri Dynasty moved the capital city from Thonburi to Bangkok and built the Grand Palace that houses the Emerald Buddha. Helped release Thailand from Burmese control, after Ayuthaya succumbed 14 years earlier.

2 King Buddhaloetla

(Rama II) 1809-1824

Rama II

The first great poet king of the Chakri Dynasty, renowned for his literature.

3 King Nangklao

(Rama III) 1824-1851

Rama III

Extensively encouraged international trading and education, enhanced promotion of Buddhism and built many temples.

4 King Mongkut

(Rama IV) 1851-1868

Rama IV

Modernized Thailand in both commerce and education. Known as the “Father of Thai Scientists” and famous for his astrology.

5 King Chulalongkorn the Great

(Rama V) 1868-1910

Rama V

One of the most beloved and revered kings, He abolished slavery, extensively contacted the Western world, modernized the government, education, transportation, and communication. His diplomacy skills saved Thailand from being colonized during colonial period.

6 King Vajiravudh

(Rama VI) 1910-1925

Rama VI

A great poet king. Continued the work of Rama V in modernizing Thailand. Promoted education and established the Boy Scouts in Thailand.

7 King Prajadhipok

(Rama VII) 1925-1935

Rama VII

Granted the Constitution to Thailand in 1932. Thailand changed from Absolute Monarchy to Constitutional Monarchy.

8 King Ananda Mahidol

(Rama VIII), 1935-1946

Rama VIII

A direct grandson of King Rama V. Known as the father of modern Thai medicine.

9 King Bhumibol Adulyadej the Great

(Rama IX) 1946 to the present

Rama IX

A true monarch of the people and guiding light for the whole Thai nation. Saved Thailand from many crises, dedicated to raising the living standards of the poor, especially in remote regions.

Early monarchs of the Chakri Dynasty shaped the Thailand of today

The absolute monarchs of the early Chakri Dynasty had a huge role in the development of Thailand.

The influence of colonialism on Southeast Asia was a major factor in the development of each country. Thailand’s escape from Western colonization was due to two farsighted kings who were well educated and who understood Western thought.

However, foreigners did substantially influence the economic and social growth of the country. The trade that grew as a result of the many treaties with Western nations pushed over the first domino of modernization.

The absolute monarchs, Rama IV and Rama V in particular, displayed incredible foresight in their decisions. Colonialism was a huge threat in Southeast Asia during those early years, and Thailand is the only country in the region never to have been colonized. It was kept as a buffer state between French Indochina and the British controlled Burma. The country managed to maintain its independence because the kings realized that their country could only escape Western control by developing and westernizing the country. This led to major redevelopment of the country, reorganization of the government and increased primacy of Bangkok.

The Chakri Dynasty began in 1782 when the capital of Bangkok, or Krung Thep, was set up in a loop of the Chao Phraya River, after the golden capital of Ayutthaya was burned by the Khmer. Absolute monarchs reigned the country until 1932 when a democratic uprising changed the monarchy into a constitutional monarchy. Two of these absolute monarchs in particular had a vital role in planning ahead for their country. King Mongkut (Rama IV) who reigned from 1850-1868 and King Chulalongkorn the Great (Rama V) who reigned from 1868-1910 were the two kings that played the most important roles in Thailand’s escape from colonization. Rama IV and Rama V were experts in diplomacy as they strengthened Siam and prevented colonial powers from taking over their country. In doing so they built an infrastructure, modernized the economy and westernized Bangkok, creating the city as it is known today.

King Mongkut

King Mongkut was the first monarch receptive to Western influence, although still wary of Western dominance. He was crowned at age 48 after having been in the monkhood for 27 years. This was a huge advantage for King Mongkut as the education he received in the Wat helped him understand the West and therefore he knew how to deal with them tactfully. He realized that if Siam was to be able to meet the Western world on equal terms, then they must have the modern technology to do so.

Education

The education King Mongkut received as a monk was invaluable. He learned English which enabled him to read books on modern science, geography, history and mathematics. His English skills also earned him respect from visiting foreign diplomats. As a monk, King Mongkut was able to travel around in Siam and meet people on equal terms. This gave him an open, humane attitude toward his subjects because he saw himself as an ordinary human being, and thoroughly understood the problems of his people.

Foreign Policy

King Mongkut’s foreign policy consisted of two ideas. He wanted to avoid confrontation by making concessions, and he wanted to give all Western countries equal treatment to avoid domination by one. He was responsible for the Bowring Treaty of 1855, which was a treaty of commerce and friendship with Britain. The treaty imposed concessions on Thailand that limited tariffs on trade and granted extra-territorial rights to the British. King Mongkut also established other Bowring-type treaties with the United States, France, Denmark, Holland, Portugal, Belgium, Norway, Prussia, Sweden and Italy.

The effects of these treaties on the capital and government systems were substantial. Although the treaties helped avert colonialism, problem areas arose within Thailand’s traditional economic and legal system. The country needed to modernize fast to accommodate the increase in trade, production and services. Canal digging and road construction began. Ships were built both to modernize the navy and to catch the overflow of trade. The army was reorganized. Many Europeans were employed to reorganize the government. These foreign ministers were all from different countries. The British advised on financing, the French helped reorganize the law system and the Americans were trusted to help advise on foreign affairs. With their help, the King modernized the country and centralized the government.

Domestic Policy

Thailand’s first mint was established around this time, along with new programs in schools that encouraged the study of foreign languages. Rice was beginning to be exported so new canals needed to be dug and new markets opened. The allowance of farangs, or foreigners, into Bangkok for trade was an impetus for the construction of new buildings and roads. The New Road on the east side of the river was built at this time and new buildings were built along it to accommodate the growing businesses. Other roads were constructed soon afterwards, as the King was ashamed of the condition of the streets and wanted to change their appearance. At this time roads existed only in the center of the city and near markets, but the entire nature of the city changed. Bangkok was changed from its traditional small-scale economy to one focused on manufactured goods and exports.

King Chulalongkorn the Great

King Chulalongkorn the Great (Rama V) reigned for 42 years, from 1868-1910. He continued the far-sighted reforms of modernization that Mongkut had begun. King Chulalongkorn had prided himself on the methods with which he westernized Siam without subjecting it to foreign control, but King Chulalongkorn was very pragmatic in his reforms. He was critically selective of which reforms to implicate because he did not want to erase any traditional values. The most famous of his reforms was the abolition of slavery. He pronounced every person born during his reign free, and took steps to liberate the present slaves by creating incentives for their owners.

Domestic Policy

King Chulalongkorn made other important internal reforms as well. He expanded the communication and transportation system by building the first railroad, post and telegraph services. These new networks had two great effects on the growth of Thailand. First of all, every system originated in Bangkok and radiated out to the provinces, re-strengthening Bangkok’s primacy. Railroad lines were a good example of this. Not only were the provinces accessible to the city, the city became more accessible to the rural community and as a result, rapid urbanization took place. Second of all, these developments gave the Thai government much more control over the provinces. The government was able to send officials to the provinces and replace the old ruling families with those more favorable to the Chakri throne. Schools were promoted in the provinces where the Thai language was taught to give the country a common language. All of these reforms and more resulted in the national integration of the entire country. With the government in control of its outer provinces, there was less of a chance of colonial takeover. Thailand was united and the national identity that had formed made it harder for colonists to take over parts of the country.

Rama V also sent many students to study abroad for their education. He wanted them to return and be capable of replacing the foreign advisors that King Mongkut had used. King Chulalongkorn also created more government ministers using the West as a model, and thereby centralized the government even more.

King Chulalongkorn also established a variety of public utilities. Health and educational standards for the public were improved. He developed criminal and civil courts, a police force, hospitals, universities and a teacher’s college. Chulalongkorn often traveled through Thailand to personally investigate and share his subject’s conditions. These trips not only made him more aware of what was going on in his country, it also made him more popular with the people.

Result of domestic policy

Chulalongkorn’s domestic policy was very successful. The colonists’ White Man’s Burden excuse was no longer applicable. Thailand had gained the respect of the foreigners who saw it as stable, modern, able to protect treaty rights and promote trade, all of which were ideal for the westerner’s needs.

Foreign Policy

King Chulalongkorn’s foreign policy was also very successful. He had traveled extensively in Europe in 1897 and met the European royalty on equal terms. He was the first Thai monarch to travel to the West. He knew English well and therefore had read books on Western history and was determined to resist their domination. He knew their strength and tactics and knew that Thailand could never use force against them and still be successful. Instead, Chulalongkorn based his foreign policy on establishing equal rights for all European powers. He did not want any confrontations and therefore managed to continue friendly relations with each country.

King Chulalongkorn made several land concessions to the French and British. To the French he granted Laos in 1893, which had been kept as a sort of buffer state between Siam and French Indochina. Parts of Cambodia, including Angkor Wat, had been ceded to the French in 1867. The southern Malay states were taken by the British in 1909 and thus the borders of present day Thailand were established.

In order for the country to be accepted as independent and a buffer state, the country needed to reform. Both Rama IV and Rama V foresaw this potential problem, and although it appears that they ceded many rights away, they managed to maintain their country’s independence and dignity.


A journey through Pha Thai Cave

Story by Marion Vogt
Photos by Michael Vogt

Living in Thailand, the word Pha Thai is related to noodles. But the Pha Thai I am talking about today has nothing at all to do with noodles or ‘eating’. I am talking about the Pha Thai Caves which are more than worthy for a Sunday afternoon visit. To get there, you leave Chiang Mai and drive through the mountain area towards Lampang, which is the sole Thai town still using colorful horse-drawn carriages as a means of everyday urban transport.

Looking into a wide-open mouth; that’s the impression we got when we had our first glimpse of the Pha Thai Cave.

The illuminated Buddha statue invites you to pay respect.

In case you are interested in ceramics, do not miss a chance to visit at least one of the ceramic factories that are spread all over the city of Lampang. The bargains you get there and the variety of beautiful ceramics is unbelievable. I’ve been twice now, and believe it or not, even I found some things, although I always thought ‘I’ve got it all’. I didn’t know I needed that special item until I saw it there. When you drive away, most probably you have a happy husband sitting next to you, happy to get away from it again.

From Lampang it is another 67 km (42 mi) northeast off the Lampang - Ngao Road until you reach Ranger Station No. 2 in the Tham Pha Thai National Park.

When you get out of your car, the air you breathe there is 100% clearer and cooler than in Chiang Mai and Lampang. Here are no cars, no tuk tuks, no pollution, just a massive forest, a huge variety of trees, including pines, dipterocarp and hill evergreens. All are spread throughout the park with exact location depending on climate, elevation and soil type. Then you come across some stairs, natural, wild wide stone stairs, leading up a hill. 279 steps, some small, some high, some wide, some broken ... you get the point? 279 steps up a hill through a beautiful forest. It’s easy to take the first 100, no problem, and you wonder why you, from time to time, see benches next to the stairs. After another 50 you start breathing more heavily, and after you got over the 200 mark, you really start appreciating the benches, and the guide who is patiently walking behind you, secretly wondering if he carries an oxygen tent in case of emergency.

They come in all shapes and colors, some golden, some white, some brown. Mother Nature worked off all her fantasies in the Pha Thai Cave.

Bizarre stalactites and stalagmites, created by Mother Nature over the past hundreds of years, occurred from limestone, inside the 1,150 m deep main cave.

While ‘crawling’ up the top steps, a small Jedi materializes through the trees, and, depending on the position of the sun, it is covered in golden light.

But nothing prepares you for the view from the top. On one side you see at least 50 steps going down over the hill, and on the other side the entrance to the cave, like a wide-open mouth. A huge Buddha statue, positioned in front of the first of many stalactites you will come across, invites you to pay respect, while the guide plugs in the lights to illuminate the pathways leading further into the canyon. Natural ventilation holes in the roof of the cave allows the sunlight to enter and sheds light on the grotesque stalagmites that are covered with bats of all sizes in many corners.

While our group silently walked through the 1,150 m deep cave where one can get more than 450 m inside, we saw a large snake slithering around one of the stalagmites, and the guide told us that the Pha Thai Cave is not only the habitat of bats, but that also the ‘father of all snakes’ lives inside, with all his wives, mistresses, children and grandchildren. We should please watch our steps since there are snakes behind every corner.

But not even that can scare us, since the views and sights we discover are so awesome and spectacular, a snake or two would not really matter.

So, if there is another Sunday coming up where you might end up in front of the TV, think about a trip to the surroundings of Chiang Mai instead. The sights and nature you can explore just in front of your doorstep will stay in your memory for a long time to come.


BMW opens showroom for the North

Supatatt Dangkrueng

Viriya Viengping Automobiles (VVP) has been appointed as an authorized BMW agent in Chiang Mai, Lamphun and Mae Hong Son areas. In part to celebrate this, BMW Thailand organized a mini-motor show at the VVP showroom March 29 to April 9, presenting the latest model BMW 530iA for the first time in the north of Thailand.

The caravan, led by BMW motorcycles, cruised all through Chiang Mai.

BMW 530iA, launched at V.V.P. Automobile.

The new BMWs truly turned heads as they passed through town.

The showroom also houses the BMW X5, 523iA Sport, 523iA Comfort, 330iA, 320 Touring, 323iASE and 318iASE (2003).

On the first day, March 29, the caravan of cars truly grabbed people’s attention when rallying through the streets after leaving the showroom at Chiang Mai-Lampang Superhighway. Test drives could be arranged from the showroom, and in the evenings there were cocktail parties, serving clients with a variety of foods, beverages and classical music.

The new showroom is on the Chiang Mai-Lampang Superhighway, 160 meters from Chiang Mai Juvenile Court junction (heading to Doi Suthep). Further details can be obtained from 053 306 472-6 and fax 053 306 477.


Jazz night was one to remember

By Chaiyot Yongcharoenchai

The Chivas Music Tour “When You Know” concert brought Koh, a.k.a. Mr. Saxman, and Pom Perspective to Chiang Mai’s cozy ‘Fine Thanks’ Pub last Thursday.

The crowd especially enjoyed Koh’s interpretation of one of H.M. The King’s compositions, “HM Blues”. (Photo by Michael Vogt)

Mr. Saxman performed a number of songs from his current album. (Photo by Michael Vogt)

A sold-out restaurant, packed with jazz-lovers, anxiously awaited the arrival of the two musicians, and gave them a serious round of applause when they finally arrived.

After setting-up the stage and checking the sound, the performance started with one of Pom Perspective’s famous songs, “This is the word love” (Rak Kue Kham Kham Nee). Pom’s romantic, yet jazzy piano playing literally enchanted the audience.

The audience enjoyed a great treat when Mr. Saxman performed a number of songs from his current album, constantly changing between saxophone and clarinet, with both instruments mastered perfectly. Alternating in performance, Koh and Pom got along very well, and it was great to see, and hear, both at ease while giving of their very best.

While the beats and rhythms changed frequently from Funk to Pop, from traditional to modern Jazz, from R&B to Blues, this gave a glimpse of the variety of which both artists are capable. The crowd especially enjoyed Koh’s interpretation of one of H.M. The King’s compositions, “HM Blues”.

After 75 minutes and a stunning rendition of George Benson’s ‘Masquerade’ and one of Koh’s own songs, ‘Prosperity’ (Pow Wa Na), both artists stayed on to chat with the guests, sign autographs, and have their photographs taken.

Very ‘down to earth’ and humble, Koh and Pom informed Chiangmai Mail that they will be back on the 1st of May - your local newspaper will keep you informed in advance.