Old stamps feature pictures of stamps from the 20th Asian International Stamp Exhibition in Bangkok at the Royal Paragon Hall, Siam Paragon held from 3 – 12 August 2007.
Walking through the rows of old postage stamps flooded my mind with a mix of memories of momentous events, of the rise and fall of great empires, some of which have occurred in my lifetime.
These were some of the pictures of stamps that caught my eye and revived old memories.
Penny Black stamps
England's Penny Black, the first pre-paid adhesive stamp in the world, was issued in 1840 in the reign of Queen Victoria at the height of the British Empire. The demise of the Empire came a century later, when Japan shattered Britain's invincibility in World War II.
Old stamps - Solot
In 1883, in the reign of King Rama V the first Thai stamp Solot (named after the price of the stamps in the old Thai currency) was issued. The postal service was one of the many reforms in the Chakri Reformation during the Fifth Reign from 1868 - 1910.
These two seemingly simple old stamps changed the lives of millions. For more on the history of Thai stamps, please see the Philatelic Museum in Bangkok.
Chinese military mail during the Sino-Japanese War 1894 – 1895, a long forgotten war, was a harbinger of worse to come. In the following century, Japan invaded China in the 1930s and South East Asia in the 1940s. Born after the war, I was spared the horrors of Japanese occupation. My grandparents and parents weren't so lucky.
Letter from Mafeking
Lord Baden Powell's letter from Mafeking brought back pleasant Boy Scout memories, the outdoor adventures and the wholesome values imbued by the international Scouting movement.
Old stamps on a letter from Sungei Golok
Narathiwat is the southern province in Thailand, adjacent to the Malaysian state of Kelantan. It's also currently gripped in a Muslim insurgency. Who could have sent that letter from Sungei Golok, an obscure little town in Narathiwat, to Paris in 1936?
The first day cover for the coronation of HM Queen Elizabeth II on 2 June 1953 reminds me of my mother. She still treasures the crockery set commemorating the event in 1953, that's proudly displayed in her showcase at home in Singapore.
Old stamps in the turbulent decades
The red stamps of China's Cultural Revolution were reminiscent of a turbulent age; the anti-colonial struggles in the 50s, the Communist insurgencies in the 60s and the climax of the Vietnam War in the 70s.
In April 1975 after the North Vietnamese took Saigon, the Prime Minister of Thailand, M R Kukrit Pramoj, asked the Thai army high command how long it would take the Vietnamese to reach Bangkok.
The answer was a matter of days!!! We shuddered when the Vietnamese marched into Phnom Penh in 1976.
By then, the fanaticism of Mao's Red Guards paled in comparison to the killing fields in Cambodia and the grim prospect of battle hardened troops knocking on our doors.
Man of the millenium
Mongolia's Genghis Khan resurrected images of the great warrior, in my school books, whose Empire stretched from Beijing to the Caspian Sea and the Danube as his horsemen rattled the gates of Eastern Europe. His military feats have been unsurpassed since.
These were the old stamps that fired my imagination, images of men and women over the centuries whose actions have moved the lives of millions around the world. Stamps tell different stories through different eyes. Take a journey through the pictures of stamps and find out, what's your story?
To return to Bangkok photographs.