BANGKOK by Alec Waugh


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A very agreeable monograph about personalities and curious evolutions in Thailand's city neither scholarly nor particularly searching but these are not high priority qualities for night plane reading. Mr. Waugh settles in immediately and rewardingly to follow the late dynasty of Siam/Thai kings from the first Rama, nee General Chaki, who ascended the throne after regretfully executing King Taksin in 1782. He had become dotty and dangerous. The magnificent Rama rulers were a lively collection of enterprising stalwarts who successfully held off incursions from the great powers of the 19th century. They also introduced Western gadgets and some social conventions in shrewd or capricious bursts of enthusiasm but never seemed to disturb the ceremony-bound, Buddhist-cum-Brahmin, careful observance of ritual amenities. As for Anna, she was of course just a governess whom King Mongkut mentioned only once in his writings and she exerted not a shred of influence. Waugh writes of 20th century tribulations: the endemic Thai struggle for power by the vaguely liberal Pridi and the resilient Pibol; a spectacular case of regicide; the present military dictatorship, all with the same airy calm with which he tours the happy harems of the Ramas. In the epilogue he regrets changes but keeps the faith with what has remained unspoiled.

Pub Date: June 15th, 1971
Publisher: Little, Brown