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Bangkok (Topographics) by William Warren

By William Warren

William Warren’s Bangkok is a casual portrait of this such a lot shiny and puzzling of contemporary towns. Divided into components, the 1st is a selective historical past, exhibiting how Bangkok has built during the last two hundred years, whereas the second one explores the modern face of town via a sequence of private impressions.The writer explains how the charms of Bangkok and its humans outweigh the negative aspects of pollutants, site visitors and stifling warmth. He additionally introduces celebrities, reminiscent of the early kings of Thailand’s current dynasty and Anna Leonowens, heroine of The King and that i, in addition to Jim Thompson, the US-born silk entrepreneur and artwork collector who mysteriously vanished within the jungles of Malaysia.Bangkok presents a far wanted historical past of the town, yet is usually imbued with the heat of Warren’s love affair with its frenetic lifestyle.

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Though he spent his youth in the palace and received the early training of a typical prince, he entered the Buddhist priesthood at the age of 21 and remained a monk for 27 years. During this time, he travelled extensively throughout the country, visiting such ancient capi42 tals as Sukhothai and Ayutthaya and meeting a wide variety of ordinary Thais who talked to him frankly and openly about their life. He also met foreign residents of Bangkok, people like Bishop Pallegoix, Dr Bradley and other missionaries, from whom he learned Latin, French and English, becoming the first royal Thai to speak these languages with any fluency.

It was a town of women, controlled by women. Men on special work of construction or repair were admitted, and the doctors when they came to visit the sick. The King’s sons could live there until they reached the age of puberty; after that they were sent to stay with relations, or with governors in the provinces. But the only man who lived within its walls was the King. The population was huge, consisting not only of the present King’s wives but also of those of previous reigns, numerous attendants, shopkeepers, speciality cooks, dressmakers and a much-feared female police force known as the Krom Klone, who dressed in blue, pantaloon-like garments and white jackets with a cream-coloured scarf across the breast.

As we shall see, they would have immense influence not only on the city’s physical appearance but on its tastes and social life. Smaller groups came from Burma, Laos, Malaya, Cambodia, Vietnam and India, often forming closely knit communities that retained their ethnic identity over many years. One of these, along the banks of Klong Mahanag near the present National Stadium, was called Ban Krua and was composed of Muslim Chams from Cambodia. Their traditional skills included silk weaving, and, clustered around their neighbourhood mosque, isolated by both race and religion, they continued working at their primitive looms long after weaving had become a vanished art elsewhere in the city.

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