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  • i'm in southeast asia with my 1913 bradshaw's  handbook published at the height of european  

  • imperialism my 100 year old guy book  will leave me on a railway adventure  

  • through archipelagos and peninsulas dotted  with hills forests and paddy fields i'll tour  

  • towering mega cities and magnificent mosques i'll  encounter golden buddhas and jewelled temples  

  • and experience some of the world's most  spectacular and notorious railways as i travel  

  • through the diverse nations of this vast region  i'll learn how they asserted their independence  

  • against the british french and dutch empires to  become the economic tigers and dragons of today

  • i am in the kingdom of thailand formerly siam  for which 1913 the date of my guidebook was  

  • a moment of political dramanominally independent kingdom  

  • recently shorn of much of its territory owing to  french aggression as a protective measure in 1909  

  • four tributary states were transferred to british  southern teeth everything seems to point to a  

  • french protectorate of siam in the near future  but that never happened most exceptionally for  

  • a country in southern asia it never passed  under colonial rule i'm here to find out why

  • my quest will take me from the city of chiang mai  in northern thailand south through the once vast  

  • teak forest of lampang on my way to the old  capital of ayutia to the west of today's capital  

  • bangkok i'll make a stop at the meiklong railway  market before ending close to the border with  

  • myanmar at kanchanaburi on the journey i find out  about one of thailand's great monarchs king chala  

  • long gone is up to today michael uh venerated for  i'm saving thailand from this colonial threat take  

  • cover in an umbrella factory how do i look wow  you look like an astronaut and discover the potent  

  • ingredients of thai cooking so this is a shrimp  paste really yeah you can check the smell and um

  • i'm beginning my thai adventure in  the city of chiang mai thank you thank  

  • it you once the capital of a medieval  kingdom with connections to burma and laos  

  • and today is the largest city in northern thailand

  • the guidebook tells me that the railway  was about to be completed to chiang mai  

  • in 1913. now that was politically significant  because the french and british colonial powers  

  • were sniffing around this autonomous  region and now it will be connected to  

  • bangkok the royal capital of siam not just  by the ping river but by a permanent way

  • chiang mai is still the northernmost  point on thailand's rail network  

  • it was a royal city founded in 1296  where art and culture flourished

  • today it's a sprawling laid  back place with a walled  

  • old city of about one square mile at its heart  

  • in olden times the city was often attacked  

  • besieged and occupied so when they came to  build the fortifications they constructed not  

  • only a wall but for good measure a moat chiang  mai chiang mai so good they ringed it twice

  • i'm beginning inside the old city attemple which houses some of chiang mai's  

  • most impressive buildings what pressing and even  my western eyes can appreciate its enormous beauty  

  • and i sense its spirituality but i need  to understand what it means for thailand  

  • buddhism is centuries older than christianity  the year 2020 in the buddhist calendar is 2563

  • and this temple has housed since 1367  a.d a very revered statue of the buddha  

  • it's said that more than 90 of thais are  buddhist which would mean 60 million people  

  • one of the biggest populations of buddhists  in the world and just before my guidebook  

  • was published the king rama v created a supreme  council for the sangha that is the monastic order  

  • that originated with the disciples of the buddha  and with that act he brought together the king  

  • religion and the people inbond which is the thai state

  • i'm not a religious person but it's  impossible not to be affected by this  

  • glorious architecture of this ancient building  its faded murals the center of the candles  

  • and of the flowers the golden buddha and i'm  born along by the melodic chanting of the monks

  • to understand more about this temple  and this northern region of thailand  

  • i'm meeting guide noon udom sin

  • noon hello pleased to meet you michael pleased  to meet you and in such glorious surroundings  

  • this wonderful temple might i see something like  this anywhere in thailand this temple especially  

  • the elegantly decorated assembly  hall that you can see behind us  

  • is actually typically lana what was lada okay lon  in thai means a million and na means rice field  

  • lana is the name of the kingdom which chiang mai  was the capital chiang mai was an independent  

  • kingdom until the early 20th century how did that  position of independence come to an end at the  

  • turn of the 20th century chiang mai was annexed  by the kingdom of siam to be part of the kingdom  

  • of siam and for what reason for two reasons the  most important reason being the presence of the  

  • british empire in neighboring myanmar siam seeing  this colonial threat decided to annex chiang mai  

  • as a butt first date along with other uh provinces  in the north of thailand the second reason being  

  • the teagwood business which was one of the most  valuable natural resources in this region the  

  • guidebook which i'm using my branch guide  yes describes thailand as being surrounded  

  • by a burma by malaysia by indochina do you think  that's the way that thailand felt that it was  

  • surrounded yes uh very much king chala long  gone is up to today michael uh venerated for  

  • um saving thailand from this um colonial threats  king rama the fourth so king jalal ghan's father  

  • he already had this visions you know this  maybe we can call this fear of european  

  • expansionism because um during his reign he  invited a british lady on a leonovens and anna  

  • leo nolans actually taught king rama the fifth to  speak english so he was quite a westernized king  

  • anna's account of her time at the royal court  was turned into a novel a musical and a film  

  • the king and i but actor yul brinner's portrayal  of the scholarly king rama iv as a childish  

  • tyrant caused great offence in thailand the  film was banned and remained so to this day  

  • rama the fourth's adoption  of western ideas shaped siam  

  • when his son tuna long gone king rama v came  to the throne he began to modernize his country  

  • building a railway network reforming the law  and striking deals with european colonial powers  

  • here in chiang mai the british built a consulate  which they used to promote their interests

  • a very very grand house for a british consulate  what use did they make of the building  

  • well apart from the consulate prerogatives it was  also the center for british social life this is  

  • the center for sport and society polo for example  uh cricket as well so you'll be surprised to hear  

  • about the consular elephants elephants yes yes  i'm surprised what were they where the british  

  • kept the king's polo elephants four of king  george v elephants were stabled at the consulate  

  • their duties included bearing luggage for the  consul when he toured the remote northern regions  

  • how did the british use this building to exert  their influence the british actually had a lot  

  • of privileges here british banks were established  here commerces and also i have to mention  

  • about the the monopoly of teagwood exploitation  that was granted by king julien himself  

  • the guidebook leads me to believe that a french  protectorate in sam is imminent why does it not  

  • happen king julia long gone was an astute diplomat  you know he played this game in to moderate  

  • tensions between france and britain this piece  of ground was granted by king julia long gone  

  • to britain and just opposite the road  another piece of ground was given  

  • to france so he keeps the balance between  the british and the french he did he did

  • king chulalongkorn's shrewd deal-making  kept the rival colonial powers at bay  

  • and thailand was left as a buffer zone  between their two southeast asian empires  

  • my bradshaw's prediction of an imminent french  protectorate didn't come to pass although the  

  • british never annexed chiang mai they used the  social life of their consulate ruthlessly to push  

  • for their influence and their commercial interests  in the process giving an elbow to the french  

  • sometimes garden party diplomacy can  be as effective as gunboat diplomacy

  • at the time of my guidebook this region was being  drawn into the country now known as thailand  

  • but it has always retained its own identity its  lana heritage is rich in artisan crafts so i've  

  • come to the village of bosang just east of the  city in search of something to keep the monsoon  

  • off my breadshores the inscription tells us that  a monk called pra intar was one day visiting  

  • the border with burma for a meditation and he  saw the procedure by which umbrellas were made  

  • wrote it all down and brought the technology  back to his village ever since which people  

  • have been making the umbrellas here now this  may be true or it may simply be a cover story  

  • the rombo sung umbrella factory is  one of many workshops in the village  

  • where these glorious items  are painstakingly made by hand

  • these beautiful pieces all cut exactly  to a length that's all bamboo but the  

  • structure is held together with pieces of  beautifully crafted sandalwood at the top  

  • and the bottom huge skill is required from  carving the handle to threading the ribs  

  • these hand and foot crafted umbrellas are works  of art then look at this we end up with something

  • very lovely a moving piece where pieces of  bamboo wonderfully carved are just held together  

  • with cotton now what that needs  is a bamboo shaft and a cotton top

  • all umbrellas here are made from mulberry paper  or cotton traditionally a symbol of high status  

  • the more decorative parasols are  intricately painted by hand i don't know  

  • good to see you so is this almost  the last stage of the umbrella making  

  • almost yeah one more step from here then  we finished and what is this uh paint or  

  • die that you're applying this is uh oil  color painted we make the umbrella for  

  • good for sun and rain waterproof would it be  possible for me to have a go at that mirror kiss

  • how do i look wow you look like an astronaut

  • pretend that you do the dishwashing  

  • dishwashing one yes i have to remember how to  do that wow well done you want to work here

  • perfect come rain or shine

  • arts and crafts are a huge  part of this region's culture  

  • but here as in the whole of thailand identity  is also expressed through food i've come up  

  • into the hills 30 kilometers northwest of chiang  mai in search of the secrets of northern cuisine  

  • this is ascended into the clouds and intosort of heaven here i am amongst the flowers  

  • and down below the curly green terraces heavy with  vegetables clearly the mists bring great fertility

  • yui is a chef who lives and teaches in the area

  • yui hello hi michael i'm yuri very good  to see you now what are you cooking today  

  • i am cooking soup we call djapak it's a northern  dish that was using local vegetables in the season  

  • may i help you yes please what should i do i'm  just about chopping the shallot and the garlic  

  • and then i need someone to help me for pounding oh  yes what is different about the northern cuisine  

  • what are its characteristics we don't have much  dry spice and we have more like fresh herbs and  

  • that is we use as mainly in our cooking in  the north and the water base no coconut milk  

  • ah yes because many people think of thai food as  involving coconut milk but not in the north this  

  • is more like in the south yes beach so this isshrimp paste really yeah you can check the smell

  • very good with the pounding this is the work  of the thai woman who do it for every meals  

  • such a work that we are so strong then we're  gonna put this in the water so this is i called  

  • slimy spinach slime in spinach it doesn't name my  name it myself you have a way with words so lana  

  • was from time to time occupied by burma is thereburmese influence in the cooking yes i have a lot  

  • i can see that i've been in myanmar  and i've seen ingredients there  

  • like the one i used in chiang mai so they brought  their ingredients here when they moved here  

  • and we went there we brought our ingredients  there like we're blending together to be one union

  • i say while we've been cooking the mist has  lifted i had no idea there was that lovely  

  • row of mountains there isn't it beautiful here  yes it's adding to our food for more flavor  

  • all right excellent we're putting  the view into our food somehow  

  • time to serve yeah that looks  nice it does look nice so colorful

  • isn't that great yes do you think the food is  really one of the best things about thailand  

  • yes i think so that's the reasoncould not move away from thailand

  • i'm heading back to chiang mai station  my journey will continue south if you've  

  • been anytime in thailand you notice the  courtesy and perfect manners of the people  

  • here is a notice upon receiving an impolite  service please notify station master um please

  • all correct thank you

  • passport needed to buy a ticket

  • the special express to bangkok how exotic  does that sound but i'm going just about  

  • two hours to lampang around 14  trains a day leave chiang mai  

  • and with just one railway line they  all head in the direction of bangkok

  • this is stunning landscape and a region of great  fertility we've passed paddy fields here would  

  • have been the teak forest water by the river ping  and other waterways descending from the himalayas  

  • but it was unbelievably remote before the  coming of the railway the journey from  

  • bangkok to chiang mai would have taken weeks  and building the line was clearly no mean feat

  • between chiang mai and isnarrow belt of steep mountains  

  • the construction of a railway through  this terrain came at great cost  

  • we're now passing through the kuntan  tunnel the longest in thailand at 1.35  

  • kilometers this was built roughly during the  first world war by german engineers it said  

  • that a thousand men died in its construction  

  • from malaria from attacks by tigers from fighting  amongst themselves and from addiction to opium  

  • this may not have been a colonial province but  the disdain for human life was positively imperial

  • thailand's railway network extends across four  thousand kilometers the majority of which is  

  • single track and the procedure for avoiding  collisions hasn't changed in a century on a single  

  • track line a train can only occupy the track if  it has a token a large piece of metal and with  

  • no time to lose the oncoming train will hurl the  token onto this pole without stopping a good trick

  • faultlessly done and we're  on our way with the token  

  • my next stop is the city of  lampang also known as nakon lampang

  • hello um can i have a lime juice please  

  • so yeah that's a good idea so yeah thank  you the sun is out the humidity is up

  • and that is wonderfully refreshing fruit  juices with a touch of salt thank you

  • once surrounded by vast teak forests on  the river wang lam pang was in the late  

  • 19th and early 20th centuries a world center for  logging in that period a charming town emerged

  • lampang turns out to be an unexpected  gem an almost tourist-free town full  

  • of gorgeous teak buildings some like this  old temple are now substantially decayed  

  • but it's only grown more beautiful as it has  faded a thought with which i often console myself  

  • the elegant houses all across town tell  of the boom years over a century ago

  • a beautifully historic street full of wooden  houses from the start of the 20th century in a  

  • great variety of styles but all of them opulent  because here the people sapped the world from  

  • the forest and with every shipment of teak that  went down the river they logged up new profits  

  • to get a better look i'm using a form of  transport particular to this city thank you

  • travelling by a horse carriage known locally as  a rottweiler is a good opportunity to see if some  

  • of the larger teak houses in the suburbs some of  them are positively palatial the city is nicknamed  

  • horse carriage city the first one made locally was  known as a queen victoria but actually introduced  

  • only in 1916 and they reached their height  of popularity in the 1950s i suppose because  

  • they were a sign of prestige at a time when  speed was not important the legacy of the teak  

  • trade is everywhere and i'm meeting a direct  descendant of turn of the century loggers  

  • kitty chai watananikon's father and  grandfather worked as forest administrators  

  • thank you very much hello sword decap welcome to  this video lovely to see you i've seen in lampang  

  • the teak makes beautiful houses and here is  another but why were the europeans are interested  

  • in teak at that time in the 19th century due to  the depletion of oak teak became more and more  

  • important in the ship building industry and why  is teak good for ships because it is durable it  

  • is decay resistance it is termite resistant  it is easy to work with it is lightweight all  

  • this property make teeth valuable that's why the  european company began to do business with cheek  

  • of the foreign countries that became involved  in teak here which had the biggest share the  

  • biggest power that came to saiyan was the british  companies the british had already developed a  

  • large teak industry in india and neighbouring  burma and soon set their sights on northern  

  • thailand too chulalongon king rama v feared they  might try to annex this teak rich region and in  

  • 1873 signed what's become known as the chiang mai  treaty awarding them generous logging concessions  

  • who lived in this house this house  belonged to luis t leonoven he was  

  • the sons of anna jillian of an english teacher  in the royal palace of king lama fourth of saiyan  

  • and luis was the representative of the british  borneo company in 1884. what has happened to the  

  • teak industry in thailand the locking industry  was banned in 1989 because of deforestation so  

  • there is no more teak industry in thailand nowaday  between the colonial powers there was in southeast  

  • asia a sort of balance of power with the british  in burma and malaysia and the french in what we  

  • now call laos vietnam and cambodia and so both  were content to allow siam what we now call  

  • thailand to be nominally independent as far as  the british were concerned two things mattered one  

  • keeping the french out and two their incredibly  lucrative privilege for the exploitation of teak  

  • next time in thailand i'll discover the  splendors of the former capital of siam  

  • i was one of the wealthiest cities  in asia let alone southeast asia  

  • i'll be sized up by a gentle giant she's  just getting used to me now and have a close  

  • encounter with another astonishing railway  i think i might lean back at this point

  • it's just a massive crash on mumbai's  commuter trains squeeze in on the world's