The Free Thai / Seri Thai Museum - Phrae

DavidFL

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From Wikepedia:
The Free Thai Movement(Thai:; RTGS: Khabuan Kan Seri Thai) was a Thai underground resistance movement against Imperial Japan during World War II. Seri Thai were an important source of military intelligence for the Allies in the region, and were notable for being the only World War II resistance movement to use fighter aircraft of its own.[1]

In the aftermath of the Japanese invasion of Thailand on December 7/8, 1941, the regime of Plaek Pibulsonggram (Phibun) declared war on Britain and the United States on January 25, 1942. Seni Pramoj, the Thai ambassador in Washington, refused to deliver the declaration to the United States government. Accordingly, the United States refrained from declaring war on Thailand. Seni, a conservative aristocrat whose anti-Japanese credentials were well established, then organized the Free Thai Movement with American assistance, recruiting Thai students in the United States to work with the United States Office of Strategic Services (OSS). The OSS trained Thai personnel for underground activities, and units were readied to infiltrate Thailand. By the end of the war, more than 50,000 Thai had been trained and armed to resist the Japanese.

Important members of the Seri Thai movement were:
Queen Ramphaiphanni, widow of King Prajadhipok and nominal head of the Seri Thai in the United Kingdom
Khuang Abhaiwongse, head of the Thai Democrat Party, Prime Minister of Thailand 1944-45, 1946, 1948
Police General Adul Aduldejajaras, one time Deputy Minister of the Interior
Luang Bannakornkowit, Cabinet Member
Tawee Boonyaket, Prime Minister of Thailand 1945
Ananda Chintakanond, renowned career diplomat who later worked for ECAFE
Luang Dithakarnpakdi, renowned career diplomat
Direk Jayanama, one time Minister of Finance and Foreign Affairs
Air Marshal Thawee Junlasap
Kusa Panyarachun, Thai travel/tourism industry pioneer
Seni Pramoj, Prime Minister of Thailand 1945-46, 1975, 1976
Pridi Phanomyong, Prime Minister of Thailand 1946
Siddhi Savetsila, later Air Chief Marshal of the Royal Thai Air Force and a Foreign Minister of Thailand
Captain Luang Suphachalasai, one time Minister of the Interior
Rear Admiral Sangvara Suwannacheep, one time Deputy Minister of Defence
Lieutenant General Chit Munsilpa Sinadyodharaksa, Minister of Defence 1945
Tiang Sirikhanth, Assemblyman
Sanguan Tularaksa, Cabinet Member
Dr. Puey Ungpakorn, London-educated economist who headed the Bank of Thailand and later served as rector of Thammasat University.
The HQs of the Free Thai movement in Phrae has a museum to honour the resistance & record their history.

Opened a few years ago, the Seri Thai Museum is not well known, but is well worth a visit. Stop in here en route to / from Nan & learn some very interesting history.

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The US under cover agents worked hard, but were officially looked after.....

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Sgt Steve Sysko was the lucky / hard working operative

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The museum is full of interesting history & little stories

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Unaware of all this history, I found the place very informative & well worth a visit.
Sadly not all the info is in English.

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Last but not least, as I was leaving the contractor came to check up on his workers & the progress in improving the museum to honour the anti-Japanese resistance.

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what can you say?

I love Thailand.
 
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DavidFL

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From the above book at the Museum
THE FREE THAI
The Free Thai movement was a secret operation to resist the Japanese occupation of Thailand in WW2.

When the mighty Japanese forces attacked Thailand on 8th December 1941, the Thai government under Marshall Pibulsongkram was forced to surrender and entered into a formal military agreement on 21st December 1941.

While the Thai Ambassador to London issued Thailand's declaration of war to the British government, M.L. Seno Pramoj the Thai ambassador to Washington refused to cooperate and went onto organize Thai volunteers in support of the Allies.
In Thailand, Dr Pridi Banomyong organized his supporters right after the Japanese invasion to discuss the plan to set up an underground movement at his residence. The group which met secretly with Pridi consisted of long time friends and po9liticians, namely Pung Srichun, Thawin Udon, Tieng Sirikan and Thong Kanthatham.

They decided to ask DR Pridi to lead a secret movement to resist the Japanese troops and to work with the Allies in order to free Thailand of the occupation and the obligation with the Japanese. The movement gained thousands of supporters spreading into many regions of the country with the core group as their leaders.

In the North, Pridi assigned Thong Kanthatham, a Phrae M.P. to head the operation with a strategic base in Ban Nong Muang kai, a remote village deep in the mountainous terrain about 20 kms from the township. Meanwhile, Thong a native of the village, secretly assembled the Phrae resistance group. Among the members were his close relatives, prominently Thavesak Sinthuwong and Aun Luewatananon.

The group recruited over 500 volunteers to be trained in the makeshift camps in the nearby mountains with the cooperation of the American force. The American servicemen, Walter P Kuzmuc, W C Grant and Steve Sysko and the Thai volunteers were parachuted in, along with armaments and other army supplies
.
 

DavidFL

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4th March 2012.

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A tamboon ceremony was held to inaugurate a statue to Thong Kanthatham, the leader of the Free Thai movement in Phrae.

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The gent on the right with the sunglasses is Khun Puchong Kanthatham, owner of the Paradorn Hotel & son of K Thong Kanthatham. K Puchong has been educated in the states & speak fluent English. So dont be shy, drop by the Museum / Paradorn Hotel in Phrae & you can get all the right info.

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Info to be gleaned from the museum

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bigal

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hi David, I really fancy seeing this, is it on the 101 and is it open to visitors every day?
 

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bigal

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Ian Bungy;281613 wrote: That would be Saturday 25th and Back Sunday 26th? What is the Nightlife/Accommodation like there?
Hi Ian

I liked the museum but it is small and does not take a long time to get around, I found my lack of literacy in Thai meant I didn't understand quite a bit of the exhibits but I did enjoy it nevertheless.
Not sure that I know of much nightlife at all in Phrae but I am not exactly your top expert. My recommended place to stay the Phoom Thai Garden Hotel. I understand the Nakorn Phrae Tower may be a little more lively (booking possible via the bigal website!).
hope this helps.
 

chiangmairich

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Ian Bungy;281613 wrote: That would be Saturday 25th and Back Sunday 26th? What is the Nightlife/Accommodation like there?
I'm sure we can ferret out where the nightlife is Ian, anyway count me in as long long as its not raining cats and dogs on that weekend.
 

DavidFL

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chiangmairich;281797 wrote: I'm sure we can ferret out where the nightlife is Ian, anyway count me in as long long as its not raining cats and dogs on that weekend.
Ferreting out the night life is not a problem. 200 metres from the hotel is a night life - bar / karaoke / disco strip.
Out on the new super by-pass road there are several huge pub & restaurants.
 

DavidFL

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I'd propose leaving around 12.30Pm for the 180 kms ride to Phrae.

Arrive mid-late afternoon.
Check into the Paradorn Hotel.
Take a look at the museum & learn a bit of history.
Then kick back & have a few beverages.

Sunday morning take in some of the sights of Phrae & mid-arvo head back to Chiang Mai.

For those not so interested in sight seeing, & looking for a longer faster ride, consider returning via Phayao....
The route
Phrae - 101 to Pak Thang.
Turn left onto R103.
Stay on R103 until R1154, turn right & take R1154 for a fantastic ride through the Mae Yom national park to come out in Ngao on R1.
Turn right & take R1 north to R120 south of Phayao.
Turn left onto R120 for a fast blast over the mountains to Wang Nua & Mae Kachan & R118.
Turn left & head home to Chiang Mai via Doi Saket.

Either way, it sounds like a good weekend ride to me.
 

DavidFL

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Davidfl;281843 wrote: I'd propose leaving around 12.30Pm for the 180 kms ride to Phrae.

Arrive mid-late afternoon.
Check into the Paradorn Hotel.
Take a look at the museum & learn a bit of history.
Then kick back & have a few beverages.

Sunday morning take in some of the sights of Phrae & mid-arvo head back to Chiang Mai.

For those not so interested in sight seeing, & looking for a longer faster ride, consider returning via Phayao....
The route
Phrae - 101 to Pak Thang.
Turn left onto R103.
Stay on R103 until R1154, turn right & take R1154 for a fantastic ride through the Mae Yom national park to come out in Ngao on R1.
Turn right & take R1 north to R120 south of Phayao.
Turn left onto R120 for a fast blast over the mountains to Wang Nua & Mae Kachan & R118.
Turn left & head home to Chiang Mai via Doi Saket.

Either way, it sounds like a good weekend ride to me.
Any more takers?
Meet at 12.30PM at the PTT on R118 8 kms south of R121 the outer ring road.
The PTT station is on the left hand side heading south & 2 kms past the highway police box. It has a 7-11 & a Amazon Coffee at the petrol station.
 

DavidFL

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Catching up....better put something on here...

3 of us - Ron Webb, Chiangmairich & I - met at the PTT as planned, but at 1PM - I was the late one.
After coffee smokeos & tyre checks we got on the road close to 2PM I think it was.
It was a dry run down, "most of the way."
First & only stop was the Shell gas station on R11 south of Lampang where the bypass road joins up.
There was some light rain between Den Chai & Phrae going through the hills.
Phrae arrival time was around 4.15? PM from memory.
Time for happy hour somewhere. We imbibed a few ice coldies in the Paradorn Coffee shop, the moved on to chug around town & check out the attractions for late on that night.

As luck would have it we spotted a few bikes parked outside little bars.
The Bike Base turned out the place to hang out at

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the guys here are really cool & welcome all bikers to Phrae.
At the end of a not inconsiderable happy hour with numerous beers consumed, they refused to accept any payment because it was their "welcome to Phrae city."
Then in response to our enquiry for good food / music / drinks in Phrae they offered to show us where.
Down the main road & side roads later we arrived at a delightful little cafe - pub. The Boran Baan Terng.

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the ambiance was very mellow & inviting

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the food was excellent, cheap & with huge servings.

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There was a mix-up with the order & one dish never came, but we were pleased that it did not, because we could not eat anymore.
The music was friendly & western orientated (although no Hotel California).

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Time to pay the bill & we thought there was a mistake - it was far too cheap!
We double checked & everything was on the bill - unbelievable value for money.
Then there was another debate about who was paying - us or them. Our new found Phrae hosts wanted to pay yet again - it was their establishment too. But this time round we stuck to our guns & forced some money on the waitress & told her to keep the change.
Yep the Bike Base guys in Phrae certainly know how to look after you. Their generosity was overwhelming.

More to come...
 

DavidFL

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We sauntered off from the Bike Base guys cafe & managed to locate the Tawandang of Phrae: Inca.
We only found the place after getting lost once & then asking an inebriated guy coming out of another pub & restaurant on the highway. He said follow me & off he roared, doing a quick U-turn* racing off down a couple of side roads. Once there he yelled out Inca, Sawade Krap & off he went.

The Inca

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we arrived late at the Inca & the place was packed & rocking.
Service was considerably slow, but we did not care, there was so much going on & to observe.
We arrived late & left late, but the Inca was still ticking over when we left.
 

DavidFL

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The next morning was damp & wet - it was drizzling with rain.
We hit the Seri Thai Museum for a quick look around & some Thai political history.
Whilst the museum itself may not be that great, the history of the characters involved in the museum intrigues me & I find it very interesting to note that some of the players who formed the Seri Thai movement, were regarded as nationalists, were involved in the "coup" changing Thailand from an absolute monarchy to a constitutional monarchy, then left for their own safety, but many many years later returned when the coast was clear & again became involved in Thai politics & for some even served in the government for years. All except Pridi himself who stayed & died in exile.

Pridi remains a controversial figure in Thai modern history. As one of the leaders 1932 Pro-Democracy Coup, he has been viewed in many ways. The first declaration of the "revolution", which harshly attacked the king and his government, was written by Pridi himself. Nevertheless, Pridi held the position of regent when Rama VIII ascended to the throne.

During the period of military rule, Pridi was portrayed as a communist, a demon designed to frighten off others who might have liberal ideas. King Rama VIII's tragic death came to be blamed on Pridi. Rightwing factions accused Pridi of being the leader of a plot to assassinate the popular young monarch. This culminated in the military coup in 1957.

In his later years Seni Pramoj, also promoted the idea that he had saved Thailand from a post-war British colonial rule that Pridi had been willing to accept. Nigel Brailey treats the Free Thai movement as largely a sham and casts doubt on Pridi’s part, arguing “it appears questionable whether Pridi committed himself personally to the Allied cause much prior to August 1942, if even then,” suggesting that “his eventual anti-Japanese stance was a consequence primarily of his hostility to Phibun.”

There is no doubt that Pridi wanted to remove Phibun from power, and the war offered an opportunity to do so. However, there is no question that Pridi recognised well before the war that Thailand’s alignment with the Axis powers would work to Phibun’s advantage and enable him to strengthen his dictatorship. Even the Japanese recognised Pridi’s hostility, which is why he was forced out of the cabinet in December 1941. It was the reason every knowledgeable person on the Allied side, from Seni Pramoj and Prince Suphasawat, a chief organiser of the movement in Great Britain, to former British ambassador Josiah Crosby, anticipated that Pridi would emerge as the head of a domestic resistance movement.

One time conservative monarchist Sulak Sivaraksa has emerged as Pridi’s most ardent champion. A prolific critic of the Thai status quo, Sulak, in addition to praising the achievements of the Free Thai in saving Thailand’s sovereignty, has criticised Seni and his Democrat Party for alleged complicity in the military’s return to power in 1947.
Sulak led efforts to rehabilitate Pridi which achieved significant results. Four Bangkok streets now are named for him: three named Pridi Banomyong Road and one called Praditmanutham Road (after his royal title). His birthday, May 11, is now celebrated as Pridi Banomyong Day. In 1997 the Thai government dedicated a park in eastern Bangkok to the Free Thai resistance movement. On August 16, 2003, a library/museum, built as a replica of Pridi’s wartime residence, opened at the park.

On 30 October 1999 UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization) included Pridi Phanomyong's name in the calendar of Anniversaries of Great Personalities and Historic Events Calendar as tribute to not so much his achievements, but to his ideals and integrity.

There are two Pridi Banomyong Memorials, one in Pridi's hometown, and the other on the campus of Thammasat University, which he had founded. Thammasat is home to the Pridi Banomyong Library and the Pridi Banomyong International College. The law faculty at Dhurakij Pundit University is called the Pridi Banomyong Faculty of Law. The Pridi (Chloropsis aurifrons pridii), a species of leafbird, and Pridi Banomyong Institute, a non-profit academic organization, are also named in his honor. The Pridi Banomyong Institute holds an annual Pridi Banomyong Lecture, initially on Pridi Banomyong Day, but moved in recent years to June 24, in honor of his role in the 1932 coup.
Pridi secretly returned in 1949 in order to stage a pro-democracy coup d'état against Phibun's dictatorship. When it failed, Pridi left for China, never to return to Thailand. From China, he travelled to France, where he spent the remainder of his life.
Pridi died on May 2, 1983, at his home in the suburbs of Paris.

On the morning of June 9, 1946, the young king was found dead in his bed. The monarch's death resulted from a gunshot to the head, while in his bedroom in the Baromphiman Mansion in the Grand Palace. In October 1946, a Commission of Inquiry reported the King's death could not have been accidental, but that neither suicide nor murder was satisfactorily proved.[1]

After a general election, Pridi resigned as prime minister, resumed his status of Senior Statesman, and left on a world tour, visiting Generalissimo Chiang Kai-Shek and US-President Truman along the way.

On November 8, 1947, army troops seized various government installations in Bangkok. The coup, led by Lieutenant General Phin Choonhavan and Colonel Luang Katsongkhram, ousted Luang Thamrong's government. It marked the return to power of Phibun. At the same time, armoured cars arrived in front of Pridi's riverside residence. However, when the troops entered, they found that Pridi had already left. Pridi spent a week hiding with the Royal Thai Navy at Admiral Sindhu Songkhramchai's headquarters. On November 20, the statesman was spirited out of the country by British and American agents to Singapore

Siddhi Savetsila, is a retired Thai military officer and a member of the Privy Council of King Bhumibol Adulyadej.
He served as an OSS-trained Seri Thai officer during the Second World War and was foreign minister under the governments of Prem Tinsulanonda and Chatichai Choonhavan.
He also became an Air Chief Marshal.
In 1985 Siddhi took over leadership of the Social Action Party following the retirement of Kukrit Pramoj.
On May 8, 2000, he was among the five Free Thai veterans who were awarded the Agency Seal Medallion from CIA Director George Tenet. Savetsila is of mixed Thai and English parentage.

Seni Pramoj became Prime Minister of Thailand 1945-46, 1975, 1976

Dr. Puey Ungpakorn, London-educated economist who headed the Bank of Thailand and later served as rector of Thammasat University

Thong Thanthakham, the leader of the Phrae Seri Thai group, (& father of the Paradorn Hotel owner) fled to Myanmar, later returned became a senator for many years, before quitting politics & starting a tobacco business in Phrae.

Fired up searching for history the next stop was another Phrae museum: Khum Chao Luang Muang Phrae, the ex residence of the Phrae governor.

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and was built in 1893 by Chao Luang Piriyathepawong. The building is a mixture of Thai and European architecture, that was popular in the reign of King Chulalongkorn.

It is a magnificent building, with a total of 72 doors and windows. The eaves and other parts of the building are decorated with beautiful woodcarvings. The roof is covered with wooden tiles, and there are no gables.

The style is of a hip-roofed house, with a square portico projecting out in the front of the building. Formerly, it had two stairways at the sides of the building, on the north and south. But these have been dismantled, and now there are only stairways in the front and back.

The building is made of bricks and traditional cement, and is two-storied, without foundation posts, but with hardwood logs interred horizontally to support all the posts of the house.

Inside the Khum there is an old stable which was later used as the provincial school for boys, called Khokma School.

The Khum was also the Regional Area Command for Bangkok soldiers for a period of time, when the soldiers came to keep the peace after the Thai Yai rebellion, which had overrun Phrae, was suppressed.

Their Majesties, the current King and Queen, stayed in the Khum when they visited the province of Phrae from 15 to 17 March 1958.

This Khum won an Eminent Architecture Award from Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn in the category of institute and public buildings in 1993. At present it is opened to the public as a museum.

There is a basement that was used as a prison for detaining slaves who committed the severe offenses. The central rooms were dark windowless for serious offenders & the rooms on the left and right with light were used for petty offenders. There is an interesting photographic display of the methods of detention & punishment, including hanging & decapitation.

Phrae has a very strong conservation movement & has 20 odd museums, but sadly for which more than half have no English info.
The governor's residence records some of Phrae's history & local culture. It is worth a look if you are at all interested in local culture, history & traditions.

Info on the local temples.

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Local items for everyday use

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Local textiles

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evidence of the pride in the local architecture is a magnifcent book Houses That Speak To US, on 11 houses in Phrae

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the book has wonderful photos, plans of the houses; plus histories of the families still living in them.
If you're at all interested classic old Thai buildings & houses, don't miss Phrae & the governor's museum. You could easily spend 3 days in Phrae looking at this history alone.

Phrae also has a history of teak logging

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AND
the basement prison has some fascinating pics of why it would have been better not to mis-behave in those days gone by

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the gallows

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decapitation??

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an old meaning to playing ball

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The execution "chamber"

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you all behave now..

Nicely sobered then up the return route was the short backway via R1023
The one tourist stop was the picturesque Maharat Stone Garden

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but it was a might soggy & damp from earlier rainfall.

Last but not least there was a torrential downpour at the PTT at Hang Chat, just north of Lampang & it both looked like & felt like riding into a wall of water, just 1.5 kms short of the PTT.

Thanks to Ron & Chiangmairich for the ride, company & putting up with me taking so many photos.
Phrae has a lot more to offer & I've got a new hit list of places to see in town.
 
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guichard

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Jul 11, 2007
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Hi David,
You can't imagine how much I was interested in your post.I have met Pridi on few occasions in his little suburb house south of Paris from 75 because his daughter Khun Sudha,now retired in BKK was my Thai language teacher at Paris University!
His wife who lived in a lovely mansion in Thonburi,BKK right bank, was free to fly between BKK and Paris.
Pridi's brother has been the first Thai ambassador to Moscow after the War. And his two nephews,speaking fluent French worked for Air France at Don Muang as deputy station managers.
Surely next Nov i'll visit the museum and have a drink with your biker friendsand insist on paying the bill!
Cheers, Lung.
 

DavidFL

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guichard;282490 wrote: Hi David,
You can't imagine how much I was interested in your post.I have met Pridi on few occasions in his little suburb house south of Paris from 75 because his daughter Khun Sudha,now retired in BKK was my Thai language teacher at Paris University!
His wife who lived in a lovely mansion in Thonburi,BKK right bank, was free to fly between BKK and Paris.
Pridi's brother has been the first Thai ambassador to Moscow after the War. And his two nephews,speaking fluent French worked for Air France at Don Muang as deputy station managers.
Surely next Nov i'll visit the museum and have a drink with your biker friendsand insist on paying the bill!
Cheers, Lung.
Lung
I'm glad some one has appreciated the political history.
Amazing indeed that a GT Rider should have known Pridi!
Now if you do stop at the Paradorn hotel & introduce yourself to the owner Khun Puchong Kanthatham, I'm sure he will be extremely happy to meet & talk to you. He might even call over some more elderly mates to meet you!
Good luck & enjoy.
 

guichard

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Jul 11, 2007
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Hello David,
I take good note of the gentleman's name.
And I will surely meet him this fall as I am in relation with a French guy
living in Phrae who will show me the small trails linking Phrae to Namuen permitting a day loop:Nan,Nanoi, Khun Satan National park,Phrae,Namuen ,Nanoi,back to Nan.
I'll let you know when I have all the clues.
Cheers, Lung.
 

DavidFL

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A return to Phrae in seek of some more culture & local attractions.

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Phae Muang (Meuang) Phi forest park is sometimes referred to as Thailand's Grand Canyon.
Located 8 kms East-South-east of town, Muang Phi - "the City of Ghosts" is noted for its chimney or mushroom rock formations, caused by erosion.

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DavidFL

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Phrae Attractions continued.

Wat Phra That Cho Hae

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Is one of Thailand's most important temples & is considered a 'must visit' for Buddhists who go to Phrae.
Thai Buddhists traditionally walk around the Cho Hae chedi three times in order to pay homage; believing that it will bring good luck, especially for those born in the Thai year of tiger.

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Built in 1879 - 1881, the 33 metre high Chiang Saen style chedi was made of bricks and covered with bright brass sheets.
The chedi supposedly contains some of Buddha's hair "relics."

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The name Cho Hae comes from fine silk woven in Sip Song Panna first used to wrap around the Chedi when it was constructed.

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A revered Buddha image in the temple viharn is said to increase a woman's fertility.

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