Rama V and the roses

Roses have long been associated with romance and love in western culture but are also very popular in tropical Thailand. Some say this is because they were the favourite flowers of one of the most revered of Thai kings - Rama V or Chulalongkorn - the boy prince portrayed in 'The King and I'. 

So pivotal was his reign that even though he passed away in 1910 there is still an official day of commemoration each year. While neighbouring countries were annexed by foreign superpowers and became colonies, King Chulalongkorn succeeded in keeping his kingdom independent by clever diplomacy.

He was also the first king to travel to Europe conducting research, building allies and laying the foundations of modern government. He abolished slavery and encouraged exposure to western education and ideas.

According to David Thompson's 'Thai Food', Rama V was also "a great gourmet who loved to relax and idle over food" developing recipes and sharing hitherto exclusive royal dishes with the Thai people.

It was during his reign that the traditional manner of eating with hands was discarded by the Thai upper classes in favour of spoons and forks.