HM King Chulalongkorn the Great
Fond memories of a Great King
His Majesty King Chulalongkorn the Great
This Thursday, October 23,
the Kingdom of Thailand observes Chulalongkorn Day. It is a national
holiday, and as such, all banks and most offices will be closed.
His Majesty King Chulalongkorn the Great (Rama V) was born in 1853, the son
of His Majesty King Mongkut and Her Majesty Queen Thep Sirinthorn. In 1868,
He was given the title Duke ‘Meun Phikhartnaresueansurasangkas,’ and
ascended the throne in 1868, with the title ‘Phrabat Somdej Phra Paraminthra
Maha Chulalongkorn Bodinthorn Thep Phaya Maha Mongkut Burutsaya Ratanaraj
Rawiwong Warut-tapong Saboripatara Wora Khatiyaraj Nikarodom Jaturatana
Borom Maha Chakarapaddiraj Sangart Boromtammika Maha Raja Thiraj Boromanat
Bopitara Phra Chulachomklao Chao Yoo Hua.’
His Majesty King Chulalongkorn lived with one purpose in his mind and heart:
the happiness and well-being of the Siamese people. His Majesty would often
dress as a commoner and move among his people with only two or three
advisors. Thus, he was able to discover his subjects’ real feelings, and see
what was happening in his Kingdom.
One famous story relates how, after a hard day’s travel, His Majesty and two
advisors stopped at a farmer’s house to ask for a drink of water. Rural
hospitality being a hallmark of Thai people, the family asked the three
strangers to stay and eat with them. Speaking freely, the farmer and his
wife told the strangers how their life was progressing and what they would
like to see done for their village by the ‘Great King who lives in the
Palace in Bangkok.’ The farmer’s son, noticing that one of the strangers
looked familiar, found and looked at a daguerreotype of the King belonging
to the family. Running back to the group, the family learned that they were
serving food to the ‘Lord of Life’ in Siam! HM King Chulalongkorn the Great
did this often and thus became ‘in touch’ with the needs of his people.
Another story demonstrates the great love and respect the Siamese people
felt for their King. In 1893, the territory-hungry French had formulated a
plan to take the Siamese territory of Laos and certain valuable territories
on the Eastern Seaboard which produced precious rubies and sapphires.
Initially, a French warship entered the Chao Phraya River, deliberately
ignoring international law stating that all foreign ships fly their colours
when entering the waters of a sovereign country. When hailed by river guards
and instructed to fly their colours, the French ship ignored the request,
causing the guard to fire a warning shot over its bow. Subsequently, the
French Embassy in Bangkok produced a letter, prepared months in advance,
which stated that Siam was guilty of an act of aggression and must therefore
make reparation by paying a huge fine.
The French, however, were not prepared for what happened next. Hearing of
the huge demands, Siamese, both wealthy and poor, brought cartloads of
jewels, precious metals and every valuable possible to the Royal Palace and
offered it to His Majesty to keep the French out of Siam. The instigators of
the plot could never have imagined that Siam was so wealthy and the people
so devoted to their King that the fine could be easily be paid.
Still determined to acquire Siam, the French, aided by the British, took all
the lands belonging to Siam east of the Mekong River. His Majesty King
Chulalongkorn, in his wisdom, knowing that Siam could not resist the armies
of both nations, determined to “give up some so as not to lose all.” Over
160,000 square kilometers of territory were lost to the French and the
British, but the independence of the nation was saved for the Siamese
His Majesty King Chulalongkorn was the first Siamese monarch to visit the
West. He believed in adopting all things good from the West whilst keeping
the traditional culture of Siam. Wisely, King Chulalongkorn made Russia a
strong ally of Siam in order to counteract British and French influence in
SE Asia, thus following the Chinese concept of ‘have strong allies but make
sure their borders are far away.’ Many of the Royal Princes were sent to
study in Russia. In His letters to His sons, the King wisely warned them.
‘Do not feel that you are important because you are a prince. In Siam, there
are many princes, whereas in Russia there are few. Do the best you can at
your studies and that is enough.’
HM King Chulalongkorn’s most noteworthy achievement was the abolition of
slavery in Siam. Unlike the haphazard way this had been done in the West,
his method was complex, and involved ‘freeing’ slaves so that older ones
would not be left homeless and in poverty. Younger slaves were to be
released by ‘stages’, responsibility falling to the owner to see that they
had means of support.
His Majesty King Chulalongkorn the Great is beloved of Thai people, and
considered amongst historians to be a truly ‘enlightened’ ruler. His Majesty
died on October 23, 1910, after the second longest reign in the history of
the Thai nation. He is remembered and loved by the Thai people and the date
of his death is commemorated every year. Ceremonies are held, offerings are
made to his memory and the entire student body from the university that
bears his name perform obeisance before his statue. Would that all countries
were so lucky to as to have one such enlightened ruler in their collective
SilapaThai Lounge and Bar
The new place to see and be seen!
Last Thursday saw the opening of a new venue in town, the
SilapaThai Lounge and Bar at the Shangri La Hotel – and what an amazing
and memorable night it was! Over 200 selected guests, Thai and
foreigners, the “Night Owls” of Chiang Mai, enjoyed the lavish occasion
with great music and delicious drinks, dancing well into the night to
some great, and extremely loud, sounds.
Luang Preeyapun (3rd right) opens the Shangri-La’s new SilapaThai Bar.
The emphasis was on fun – both for the guests and the staff.
Luckily, the rain stopped half an hour before the opening, just as
guests were encouraged to mingle in the gardens whilst sipping some very
colourful cocktails. At 8 p.m., Mom Luang Preeyapun officially declared
the SilapaThai open, everyone was allowed in to admire the stylish
décor, and the party began in earnest. Wine and more cocktails flowed
freely, “Thaipas” (the SilapaThai’s version of Tapas), were served and
the cabaret began with dancers, followed by the famous chanteuse,
Wiyaada, who gave an amazing performance of songs old and new, including
“YMCA” and a stunning rendering of Edith Piaf ‘s classic theme song, “La
Vie en Rose,” to the delight of her fans!
SilapaThai is open Mondays through Saturdays from 6 p.m. until 1 a.m.
and offers a place to lounge in style both indoors and outdoors,
enjoying creative drinks and ‘Thaipas’ along with daily DJ performances
– all the makings of a fun-filled evening. Every four tables will have
their own host or hostess looking after them personally; the hosts’
uniforms will change from more conservative attire in the earlier part
of the evening to casual dress after 10 p.m., reflecting the mood of the
A wide selection of ‘Thaipas’ is available, with signature dishes and a
variety of cocktails and other drinks. Prices are reasonable, with, for
example, a basic Chang beer costing less than in many old city and night
market venues. The Shangri-La seems to have found a niche in the market
and filled it with the SilapaThai – stylish, affordable and fun.
Elaine Yue, GM Shangri La, welcomes guests
to the opening of the SilapaThai.
The ‘Care for Dogs’ crowd with their
but minus their four legged friends.
Prince Malhotra (right) GM of the Chiang Mai
networking at the SilapaThai Restaurant & Bar.
Ladies from around town enjoying the
Wiyaada (centre) brings the house down at
JoJo (right), who certainly knows how to
throw a wonderful party,
with Anges from the Shangri La Hotel.
Elena Edwards (Chiang Mai Mail) with friends
John and Lois Richard,
at the opening of the Silapa Thai Restaurant & Bar.
Girls just wanna have fun!