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Book Review

Book Review: by Lang Reid

Thai Heritage World Heritage

Thai Heritage World Heritage was produced last year as part of the homage to His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej on the occasion of his 80th birthday. The book, which is a wonderfully large hard cover publication (ISBN 978-974-7706-33-8 PTT Exploration and Production, supported by the National Park, Wildlife and Plant Conservation Department and the Fine Arts Department) features the sites chosen by UNESCO as World Heritage.
This book was also published to be used in Thai schools, and I applaud all attempts at educating Thai children about their own heritage, as many of the young adults have no idea of the rich heritage of this land.
UNESCO has 181 listed sites throughout the world, and Thailand has five of these. Two are catalogued as “Natural” heritage and three as “Cultural” heritage, and the book is divided following that classification.
Natural heritage sites are Thung Yai - Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuaries and the Dong Phyayen - Khao Yai Forest Complex. In looking at these sites in detail, the book explores the rich fauna and flora that is found, including tigers, gaurs, leopards, hornbills, peafowl, wild water buffaloes, elephants and gibbons. These are illustrated with beautiful color pictures, some full-bleed on the pages.
The three Cultural heritage sites are dealt with in the same fine detail as the Natural sites. These are Ban Chiang Archeological site, Sukhothai, Si Satchanalai and Kamphaeng Phet Historical Parks, and finally the Historic City of Ayutthaya.
Ban Chiang is certainly of interest to the historians, as this site has shown that the ancient inhabitants (around 5,600 years ago) were proficient at working with bronze, making it one of the first villages in the world to have this level of technology. Using this knowledge, the Ban Chiang villagers were adept at smelting and made bronze axes, arrow heads and fish hooks. The distinctive Ban Chiang pottery is also prized amongst collectors.
The ancient capital of Sukhothai is also explained in detail, including the fact that the original structures were built as part of the Brahmin religion and was later converted to Buddhism by the building of other structures to fit that religion.
The history of Ayutthaya is given with a wealth of detail, going back long before the sieges by Burma. The facts around the foreign traders are given, including the digging of canals to shorten the distance by boat between the coast and the capital. The photography is magnificent, and there are also some old photographs which show how well the areas have been preserved. Maps of the regions are included in this reference book, plus an index at the back.
At B. 1450 for a full color hardback makes it a bargain. Obviously PTT were not looking to make a profit on this publication at such a price. If you have even the slightest interest in Thailand and its heritage, this book deserves to be on your bookshelves.