About one-half kilometer down a small soi near our apartment is the M. R. Kukrit House. The home and gardens occupy about two acres of land (or 5 rai in Thailand; one rai equals 1,600 square meters.) Like the Jim Thompson house (see: First Impressions), the Kukrit house was constructed from five traditional homes from central Thailand that were purchased, disassembled, moved to Bangkok, and then reassembled. The first house was acquired in 1960 and the others were added over the next twenty years. Since a traditional Thai home is held together with pegs and wooden joints, it can be moved more easily than a home that is held together with nails.
The compound was home to Major General Mom Rajawongse (M.R.) Kukrit Pramoj until he died at age 84 in 1995. Kukrit was both a politician and a scholar whose cultural interests ranged from literature to classical Thai dance. He was the 13th Prime Minister of Thailand and as such he established ties with Chairman Mao and the People’s Republic of China in 1975. In 1985, he was acclaimed as a National Artist of Thailand for his literary works.
An interesting anecdote is that in 1963 Kukrit was appointed to be the cultural advisor to the director and crew during the filming of The Ugly American in Thailand. The director (George Englund) was having a hard time finding an actor to fill the role of the fictional prime minister. Since Kukrit had attended boarding school in England and graduated from Queen’s College at Oxford, he was able to speak both Thai and English fluently. Consequently, he was asked to play Prime Minister Kwen Sai opposite Marlon Brando as Ambassador Harrison Carter MacWhite.
Immediately upon entering the M.R. Kukrit property, there is a large pavilion on the right. Unlike the homes that are built on stilts, the pavilion is built directly on the ground. In the center is a raised stage that was used for khon dance that depicts humans pitted against demons. On the back wall are shelves that contain the ornate masks worn by the dancers. There is a large garden that connects the reception pavilion with the five houses that comprise the main living areas of Kukrit’s home. This garden contains miniature trees (called Mai Dat in Thai), which are similar to but bigger than Japanese bonsai, and a fountain in the center.
As you walk from the front pavilion through the garden, you see the five homes on stilts that are connected to each other by a deck. Beneath the teak houses is a dining and less formal reception area. A number of mementos from Kukrit’s life are on display here including a set of two vases that he received from Mao and a Chinese altar from Deng Xiaoping.
From the main driveway, there is a central stairway that goes up to the main area of home. On the right side of the stairs is the large main house that can be seen from the reception hall near the property’s front entrance. This is the largest house in the compound and it was the official reception area for guests. On the right side of this large house is a small house that holds Buddha images and was used as a family shrine. Most homes in Thailand have a Buddha room for praying and meditation.
When looking out from the doorway of the main house, there are houses on both sides. The house on the left side contained Kukrit’s bedroom while the large house on the right side (across from the bedroom) was the library. From the end of the deck, these is a view of a pond and the rear garden.
Kukrit was very fond of dogs. In the living area beneath the houses, there is a portrait of him with two dogs. Throughout the gardens are small monuments to his deceased dogs — there have to be at least a dozen.
If you are interested in more information on M.R. Kukrit and his home, please check out: http://www.kukritshousefund.com/
Kop Khun Krab.
© 2011 Kurt Brown. All rights reserved.