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Where would we be without a Postal Service, postage stamps and the people who deliver the letters and parcels we send often to distant corners of the world? The days are long gone when Pony Express riders raced across North America or tall ships, under a cloud of canvas, swayed from Great Britain to distant colonies with sacks of mail within the cargo. These were the forerunners of the Royal Mail Ships and even today some vessels still retain the privilege of using the letters "RMS" as a prefix to the ship's name.

An Englishman, Sir Rowland Hill, is regarded as the founder of postal systems as we know them today. Previously, letter communication was very expensive at least for the recipient because it was he/she who had to pay. So not many letters were accepted. Sir Rowland introduced the economical "Penny Black" postage stamp in 1840 and soon everyone was writing to everyone else. Relatives who'd migrated to other lands and military men posted overseas were able to receive letters, safely and securely, from loved ones back home.

Thailand (Siam as it was) was not slow in realising the importance of postal communication. King Mongkut (Rama IV) was a prolific letter writer and, although it was a Royal Emissary who carried the King's mail, he wrote to many of his friends overseas including Queen Victoria, Abraham Lincoln and the Emperor of France. It was his son, King Chulalongkorn (Rama V), who introduced the Thai Post and Telegraph system.

In those formative days postage stamps were purely functionary an indication of a fee paid for safe delivery of a letter. They were unperforated and dowdy with little design imagination. The Penny Black design showed the head, in profile, of Queen Victoria and was quite drab in appearance (uniquely, Great Britain is the only country in the world which does not indicate the country of origin on its postage stamps).

Philatelists worldwide are eager to possess a Penny Black because of its rarity and monetary value but soon stamp collectors were able to see and appreciate something of the culture, beauty and history of distant nations. The design on Postage stamps became the vehicle whereby recipients and collectors could see something of a faraway country. Schoolchildren and young people learned much of geography from postage stamps.

Nowadays Thailand has one of the most up-to-date postal systems in the world with computerised technology used to issue stamps. Take your letter into a Post Office, the clerk will place it onto a scale, tap the country of destination into his keyboard and out pops a freshly printed, self-adhesive stamp showing the fee due. This is efficiency but not a "collectable" stamp!. Happily Thailand has not forgotten the pleasure many people receive from stamps and continues to issue many most beautifully designed stamps (you may request the postal clerk to provide you with a "proper" stamp instead of the computer generated one). Royal portraits, Siamese pageants, important buildings, flora fauna and marine life, commemorative days and religious ceremonials are a few of the stamp-design subjects reflecting the life of Thailand ancient and modern. A favourite image of Thailand is the stamp depicting the Royal Barge "Golden Swan" as it glides past Wat Arun in Bangkok and all for the price of 9 Baht!

Not all Post Offices carry the full range of beautiful Thai postage stamps but the Philatelists Corner at Mae Ping Post Office (near Warorot Market & Nawarat Bridge on the River Ping) will provide able assistance to collectors and visitors. The staff is knowledgeable, friendly and English speaking. Diagonally across the road from Mae Ping Post Office is the Postal Museum which offers the ardent collector, and the just curious, an insight into the Thai Postal Service since its inception by the Royal Command of King Chulalongkorn, Rama V. As a souvenir or a gift, a Presentation Pack of Thai Postage Stamps is an easy, lightweight way of remembering a holiday in Thailand or introducing a friend to the culture and diversity of the Kingdom. In modern times letters rarely travel by sea; Airmail, Luftpost or Par Avion are the words that are affixed alongside the Thai Postage Stamp so it is, indeed, Post Haste with love from Thailand!

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