Monday, January 18, 2010

Phraya Rhatsada (Slice of History):

The first governor of Trang Province, appointed by the King himself (and supposedly a distant relative), was a fellow named Phraya Rhatsada. We visited his house today, which is maintained by his descendants as a museum.

P.R. was quite a guy. He became governor in 1890 and imported the very first rubber tree to the province. It can still be seen (see photo) at the entrance to Katang Town where he lived. (About 40 minutes away.)

He did a lot of other things that brought modern life to Trang but rubber was the most important since it’s Trang’s number one product. Today, blocks of rubber are shipped from Katang down the Trang River to the ocean and eventually to Malaysia where they are made into tires and sold back to Thailand at vastly inflated prices.

P.R was very progressive for his day, and his home bears evidence of many Victorian touches.

He had four wives and too many mistresses for historians to keep track of. Said to be a great womanizer, he left behind an uncounted number of offspring, including five legitimate children sired on his first and chief wife.

Unfortunately, his amatory adventures finally did him in. In 1913, the husband of a woman on whom the lusty governor had set his sights, shot and killed P.R. His funeral was huge and the photographs of it took up lots of wall space. (See what happens when you play around?)

P.R. himself greets you as you enter his home. (Good wax likeness.)

Next to P.R.'s foot are vessels associated with the habit of chewing betel nut. Betel nuts grow in this part of the world and chewing them causes blackened teeth. The attraction lies in the intoxicating effect achieved by chewing them. (A spittoon must be kept handy, as one is here.) P.R. apparently enjoyed the habit with his guests. I could just imagine them all sitting around chewing and spitting! (Heck, you had to have something for entertainment before television and the internet.)

Upper entrance room. P.R. lived on the second floor where the breezes blew through the house, cooling his quarters.

Photo of P.R taken by the King himself (Rama VI) when he visited. Photography was really a cool new thing back then, indulged in only by the "upper class."

We were told that this was P.R.'s typewriter. (Did they even have 'em back then? A Smith Corona, yet?)

The living room with more betel nut paraphanalia on the center table.

The "boudoir." I asked if P.R. had all his wives and mistresses in this house. The answer was no. They were scattered far and wide and gave him an excuse to go visit them.

P.R.'s bathroom wasn't much to brag about but had to have been a pretty big deal in those days of "outdoor facilities."

 of photographyP.R himself adored the new "science" of photography. Photographs he took of guests hang throughout his home. I recognized these "boxes" even before we were told what they were. They are where "proofs" of photos were developed. (I fondly recall helping to "make" proofs in the sunshine for my Dad when I was growing up--and am sure other family members share similar memories and would have recognized them for what they are.)

Two tripods once used by P.R to support his camera. Wish they had had the camera on display, too.

P.R as a handsome younger man. (Doesn't he look like a lady killer?)

Welcome to Kantang, the town that owes its existence to P.R.

Two trains per day en route to Bangkok pass through Kantang's charming old railway station. A real slice of the past still operating exactly as it did when first built sometime during the initial rubber boom.

Tinu and Jack relaxing outside the Kantang Railway Station.

First rubber tree imported to Trang. Since it spurred an entire industry, it is kept alive (by frequent topping) just outside of Kantang Town.

Typical street span decoration honoring the King. Took it through the van window to show you because they are all over the place on the main roads.


  1. Very interesting. Sounds like the good governor enjoyed one too many Betel nuts! Will get you in trouble every time. Do you need any new tires for the Honda? Too bad it costs so much to ship things from over there. It looks like the Thai drive on the wrong side of the road, too!

  2. You get to go to some really interesting places! Do they plan this for you or do you have to find these gems by urself? What fun!

  3. Hi: Everything looks really very clean and colorful. Checking out the old Smith Corona ....did it have "plastic keys" or ivory? Could it belong to a more recent relative of P.R.'s. jan

  4. Thais consider that they ARE driving on the right side of the road--and we drive on the wrong side.

    This particular excursion was a "cultural activity" provided for us so that we can get to know Trang and the area around it.

    Don't know about the keys on the typewriter. Did not think to determine what they were made of!