The introduction of Western style art to Thailand is often attributed to the Italian Corrado Feroci who established Silphakorn University in 1932. But in fact nearly 100 years earlier a Thai monk named Khrua In Khong was painting large temple murals using Western themes and techniques. His murals are quite unlike those seen in other temples. He paints scenes of people in European dress, grand buildings and modern technology. So who was this monk painting scenes of the modern world and how were such murals appropriate in a Buddhist temple? This is the story of Khrua In Khong, a Thai Buddhist artist who painted futuristic riddles.
The Bangkok Mandala – The City’s Original Urban Plan
For many visitors to Bangkok the city appears to be wild, chaotic and totally unplanned. Many might be surprised to learn that there even is a City Planning Department. In fact the latest plan to tackle the city's many issues was released in 2020. But the city's first urban plan dates back to the founding of Bangkok in 1782. The founders of Bangkok had a plan that they believed would bring order and harmony to the new capital. Unfortunately this plan was unable to cope with the pressures of the nineteenth century, let alone provide guidance in the twenty-first. This is the story of the Mandala of Bangkok.
Land of the White Elephant
Thailand has often been called The Land of the White Elephant by European travellers who marvelled at the high status bestowed upon these animals. But what is a white elephant and why are they so revered that wars have been fought over them ? Today we take a look at the facts and myths surrounding these magnificent and rare pachyderms.
The Origins of Football in Thailand
As in many other countries around the world Thai's love their football. Much time and energy is expended in both playing the game and in passionately following their favourite team whether that be their local league team, the Thai national team or even a team from the English Premier League. But when and how was the English game of football introduced to Thailand?
Wat Phou – Birth Place of the Angkor Empire
Wat Phou, a small Angkorian era temple, is the chief tourist attraction of Southern Laos. Most visitors to Wat Phou consider it as a remote outpost of the great Khmer empire centred on Cambodia's Angkor Wat. But in fact this small mountain temple is the birth place of that once mighty empire. It's history is shrouded in much mystery so here we shall delve in to what is known about Wat Phou, ranging from serene Buddhist sanctuary to site of bloody human sacrifice.
Trouble in Phrae – The Shan Rebellion of 1902
Few tourists visit Phrae in Northern Thailand but those who do are well rewarded with exquisite old temples in the northern Lanna Thai style as well as beautiful teak houses dating from the nineteenth century. Phrae is a small quiet town where life moves slowly, a world away from Bangkok or even Chiang Mai which is just 140km away. So it is hard to imagine that this was once the location of one of the most serious insurrections that has ever occurred in Northern Thailand. This insurrection is today remembered as the Shan Rebellion and it began on 25th July 1902.
A Short Tour of Corrado Feroci’s Bangkok
Thailand owes many of its most famous monuments to an Italian who arrived in Siam in 1923. This man's name was Corrado Feroci and he would dedicate the rest of his life to the arts in Thailand, even adopting a Thai name Silpa Bhirasri. Today we will take a tour around Bangkok to learn about Corrado Feroci and his most famous works, a tour which will also take us through some of Thailand's most momentous history.
The History of Bangkok’s Canals – How “Venice of the East” turned into “World’s Worst Traffic”
Bangkok is famous for its canals or khlongs with tourist brochures promoting the city as having once been "The Venice of the East". In fact the history of Thailand's canals is older than Bangkok itself. The "Venice of the East" description was originally from the Portuguese explorer Fernão Mendes Pinto writing about Ayutthaya in the 1540's. But why were there so many canals, when were they built and why are they to blame for Bangkok's terrible traffic-jams today?
Khao Wang – King Mongkut’s Mountain Retreat
Located in Petchaburi province some 120km south of Bangkok, spread across three mountain peaks, is the southern palace retreat of King Mongkut (Rama IV). Officially called Phra Nakhorn Khiri, the "Celestial Mountain-top City" it is more commonly called Wang Khao or "Hill-top Palace".
What Killed King Chulalongkorn ?
On 23rd October 1910 King Chulalongkorn (Rama V) at the age of 57 died. He had reigned over Siam for 42 remarkable years. His death was mourned throughout the nation and was reported around the world. The day is still remembered as an annual holiday in Thailand. But what exactly did he die of ?
Wang Derm – Bangkok’s Original Palace
Bangkok's Grand Palace is one of the world's most visited tourist attractions with millions of visitors each year. But just across the Chao Phraya River is an older palace which attracts very little attention. Wang Derm or The Original Palace was the palace built in 1767 by King Taksin when he decided to establish Thonburi as the new capital of Siam.
Champasak – The Tragic Kingdom of Southern Laos
The town of Champasak in southern Laos is small and neglected. But within the grounds of an unremarkable looking Buddhist temple in the town centre are the funeral stupas of two kings. For this was once the capital of an important kingdom that held sway over central and southern Laos parts of Vietnam and Cambodia as well as Ubon Ratchathani, Sisaket and Roi Et in modern Thailand. The story of Champasak is one of tragic downfall which some believe was caused by powerful curses upon the ruling families.
Sala Chalermkrung and the History of Early Thai Cinema
The iconic Art Deco style Sala Chalermkrung Royal Theatre in Bangkok, is a well known landmark built by King Prajadhipok (Rama VII). But the story of early cinema in Thailand and how it was that Thailand's king came to build a popular theatre is now largely forgotten.
The Day King Chulalongkorn Met Queen Victoria
In 1897 King Chulalongkorn (Rama V) embarked upon his first grand tour of Europe to meet with the ruling families and heads of state of Europe, meetings which are still widely remembered through popular articles and photographs to this day. But one of the most important meetings seems also to be one of the least remembered, that being his meeting with Queen Victoria.
The Little Lost Train of Laos
Hidden away in the very far south of Laos is a small railway engine that survives from one hundred years ago to tell the story of colonialist dreams of connecting Laos with the rest of the world.
Beautiful Temples and Forgotten Power Struggles in Ubon Ratchathani
Ubon Ratchathani located 600km from Bangkok historically marks the boundary between Bangkok's power and that of the ancient kingdoms of Laos. It is home to some beautiful temples of national significance which also hold some subtle messages relating to power struggles now long forgotten.
Borobudur – the World’s Largest Buddhist Temple
If asked to locate the world's largest Buddhist temple many people might suggest Angkor Wat in Cambodia. Relatively few people would point to the world's largest Muslim country and the Temple of Borobudur.
Madness and Mayhem – Bangkok’s Fast & Furious Number 8 Bus
Buses are the most heavily used public transport in Bangkok but often they are badly neglected and services are often poor. One route in particular has become so notorious for not just poor service but the cause of death, destruction and mayhem on Bangkok's streets that it has become an icon in popular culture. That is the infamous "Fast and Furious" Bus Route 8.
Thais and Telescopes – The Remarkable History of Astronomy in Thailand
In late 1608 a small news pamphlet described the arrival at The Hague of the first ever Ambassadors from Siam. This same pamphlet also described a peculiar demonstration at The Hague of a device whereby "one could see far-off things as if they were nearby". By chance the Siamese ambassadors had arrived to witness the invention of the telescope and start a long lasting connection with Siam and telescopes.
Memorial Bridge – A Witness to Bangkok’s History
Opened with great pomp and ceremony in 1932 Memorial Bridge was the first road bridge built across the Chao Phraya river in Bangkok. Nearly ninety years later it is just one of many much larger bridges now crossing the river but no others have stood through the immense changes and historic events that Memorial Bridge has seen in those years.
Discovering Old Lanna at Wat Phra That Lampang Luang
Located just 15km from the northern city of Lampang is one of Thailand's oldest living temple complexes with some of the best preserved examples of early Lanna architecture in the country and many fascinating cultural artifacts.
Hidden Treasures on Phra Pradaeng Island
Phra Pradaeng is a great place to escape from the city and for Siamrat one of the hidden treasures there is the pair of old temple buildings at Wat Bang Nam Phueng Nok.
Thailand’s Gingerbread Houses
In the mid-nineteenth century growing European influence in Siam resulted in a new style of architecture for wealthy families called "gingerbread". One hundred years later many of these old homes are being restored to their former glory.
The Remarkable History of the Portuguese in Thailand
These days the community of Westerners resident in Thailand is dominated by British, Americans, Germans, French or Scandinavians. But in fact the western community with by far the longest history in Thailand is the Portuguese who first arrived in 1511 some one hundred years before any other European nation.
Siam or Thailand ?
On 11th May 1949 Radio Bangkok announced to the world that from that day on Siam would be known as Thailand. But in fact this was the second time this name change had occurred within ten years and the change was not particularly popular. So why the change?
The Many Fathers of Thailand’s Development
Anybody who takes an interest in Thai history will soon hear the phrase "He is today considered the Father of Thai........" where the blank might be anything from "Navy" or "Postal System" to "Art" or even "History". After a while one realises that there are many of these "fathers" some of whom are mentioned in... Continue Reading →
Thailand’s Greatest Heroines
As any visitor to Thailand quickly discovers, this country has a deep culture and history replete with miraculous tales of heroic deeds. Quite a few of these tales involve strong women who through bravery and sometimes a bit of powerful magic overcome adversaries and save the people from certain destruction.
Tracking The Teak That Transformed Thailand
One hundred years ago the second largest export of then Siam was teak and this industry helped shape modern Thailand. It also left behind some beautiful architecture.
Following the Journey of the Emerald Buddha
The Emerald Buddha is the most venerated Buddha image in all of Thailand and is the highlight for many of the 8 Million visitors to the Grand Palace each year. But few of these visitors consider where this sacred image originated from or are aware of the journey travelled by the Emerald Buddha prior to being installed within the Grand Palace
The Italians Who Built Bangkok
Western tourists flock to Bangkok every year drawn by the spectacle of glittering exotic temples. But some might notice that many of the other grand old buildings appear to be of European style, betraying the influence once held by Italians in early Bangkok.