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 recent towns. Divided into components, the 1st is a selective historical past, displaying how Bangkok has constructed over the past two hundred years, whereas the second one explores the modern face of town via a sequence of non-public impressions.The writer explains how the charms of Bangkok and its humans outweigh the dangers of toxins, site visitors and stifling warmth. He additionally introduces celebrities, akin to 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 paintings collector who mysteriously vanished within the jungles of Malaysia.Bangkok offers a miles 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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His Thai wife, who was half-Portuguese, remained in Bangkok, as did their eldest son Robert, who became an official interpreter during the next reign. ‘I regret to say, however,’ Dr Bradley commented, ‘that like his father he imbibed too frequently and freely of alcoholic spirits. He died suddenly one night in 1865, after a drunken spree of many days duration. ’ Like all of the early Chakri kings, Rama III was a devout Buddhist and a prodigious builder of temples. He was responsible for several of Bangkok’s most celebrated present-day landmarks, among them the spectacular prang, or Khmer-style tower, at Wat Arun, the Temple of Dawn.

51 The most dramatic changes came as a direct result of the Bowring Treaty. ’ Only two years later, some two hundred foreign ships called at Bangkok, and the number increased rapidly thereafter. Rice became a major export for the first time, especially to British India, along with other commodities, such as teak from the north and sugarcane. Embassies and trading companies followed, and soon the city had a sizeable population of Europeans, most of whom lived and worked on or near the river. Western-style buildings became more common.

Two other British emissaries had come to Bangkok after Crawfurd. The first, Henry Burney, had been moderately successful, but the second, Sir James Brooke, the famous ‘White Rajah of Sarawak’, had been a resounding failure. Clearly, a new initiative was called for, and it came in 1855 with the appointment of Sir John Bowring as Minister Plenipotentiary to China, accredited to Japan, Siam, Cochin China and Korea. Bowring, who was governor of Hong Kong, was the right man for the job: perceptive, diplomatic and, while not unwilling to exert a little pressure when he felt it was called for, singularly free of most of the prejudices common to Westerners of his time.

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