Location/Culture Reports

Culture Report – Thailand

The racers’ next stop is Bangkok, Thailand. When most people think of Thailand, their first thought is probably “The King and I.” The King and I, in its many forms including the Rogers and Hammerstein musical and the movies, Anna and the King (1946 and 1999) and The King and I (1956), is based upon the upon the novel Anna and the King of Siam (1944) written by Margaret Landon. This book was based on the diaries of Anna Leonowens, an English schoolteacher who was a governess in the household of the king of Siam (now Thailand) during the mid-1800's. In Thailand, these movies are banned due to historical inaccuracy and perceived disrespect of the monarchy.

The King in the King and I was actually Mongkut, who reigned as king of Siam from 1851 to 1868. While on the throne, he appointed European advisers to his court and signed treaties with the United States and various European powers, beginning with the United Kingdom in 1855. These treaties greatly expanded trade and stimulated economic growth in Siam. Largely through Mongkut's diplomacy, Siam remained an independent state while other areas of Southeast Asia became European colonies. When Mongkut became king, he took the name Phra Chom Klao, and he is generally known by that name in Thailand. However, he continued to use the name Mongkut in his dealings with the West. After Mongkut died, he was succeeded by his son Chulalongkorn.

In “The Edge of Reason,” the sequel to Helen Fielding’s “Bridget Jones’s Diary,” Bridget vacations in Thailand and winds up spending time at the Women’s Correctional Institute in Bangkok (due to Shazzer’s “friend” hiding a white powder in their luggage). Other books about Bangkok and Thailand that are probably a bit more accurate include “The Beach” by Alex Garland, “Patpong Sisters” by Cleo Odzer, “The Dream of a Thousand Lives: A Sojourn in Thailand” by Karen Connolly, “Killing Smile” by Christopher G Moore, “A Woman in Bangkok” by Jack Reynold, and “Culture Shock! Thailand & How to Survive It” by Robert and Nanthapa Cooper.

Movies that have been filmed in Bangkok include Breakdown Palace, The Deer Hunter, The Killing Fields, and City of Ghosts. Movies that have been filmed in other locations in Thailand include The Beach, Casualties of War, Good Morning, Vietnam, and Tomorrow Never Dies.