THAILAND has a long history of preserving its natural heritage, be it in the form of traditional dance and music, customs or architecture, ample testimony to the latter being a stroll around any of the country's more than 40,000 temples. One of the most recent historical structures to be renovated is the Sanam Chandra Palace, which was built in 1907 on the orders of Crown Prince Vajiravudh, son of King Chulalongkorn the Great, in Nakhon Pratom province, 50 kilometres west of Bangkok. It was to be used for affairs of state and for military exercises for the newly formed Wild Tiger Corps, which was preparing to protect the nation from possible colonisation by Western powers. More importantly to Thailand's cultural heritage, the prince wanted to create a tranquil retreat where he could pursue his passion for writing. It was here that he wrote poetry, stories and plays, translated Western literature and dramatised Thai historical events. The sense of tranquillity and harmony which endeared the original site to the young prince endures, thanks to a complete restoration organised by Silapakorn University, on whose campus the complex now stands. One-hundred million baht (about HK$30 million) was raised by private and public donation. Vajiravudh's love of all things literary is reflected in the names he gave to buildings within the palace compound. His sense of humour and affection for theatrical characters is best exemplified by two structures, Phratamnak Chaleemongkhol-art, the king's favourite royal residence, and an adjoining structure, Phratamnak Mariratcharattaballang. One of the king's favourite plays while in England was My Friend Charlie, featuring the characters Charlie and Mary. A flamboyant mixture of French-Renaissance and Tudor styles, modified for the tropical climate by the inclusion of verandas and semi-circular balconies, Phratamnak Chaleemongkhol-art was used as a royal office and to receive royalty and nobility. In front of this fairytale castle is a statue of Yalae, the king's beloved pet dog, poisoned by court attendants who could take no more of the loyal animal's ferocity. In metallic splendour, Yalae glares towards the sweeping expanse of lawns and gardens, vexatious still. After ascending to the throne in 1910, Rama VI continued his love affair with cultural affairs, in addition to attending to the duties of an absolute monarch. Following the lead of his father, who had introduced sweeping reforms to Siamese society, King Vajiravudh promoted social welfare and revised lopsided foreign treaties, enabling Siam to develop her economy. Under his reign, compulsory education was introduced and he laid the foundation stone of Thailand's first university, Chulalongkorn, in memory of his father. He built up the Royal Air Force, established the Boy Scout movement, started a government savings bank and established the Siamese Red Cross and Chulalongkorn Hospital. In addition, he introduced the use of surnames and coined 6,432 family names himself.