I was reading a book from 1914 called the Directory for Bangkok and Siam. Intended as a guidebook for foreign businessmen, this book contains a lot of practical information about Siam, and it also contains a lot of statistics.
It has, for instances, statistics about the number of vehicles of different kinds in the country.
In 1914 the main means of transportation on land was a bullock-cart called a kwien.
kwien picture
At the same time, the prevalence of rivers and canals in the central part of the country meant that boats were an effective way to travel as well.
It is thus not surprising to see that there were a lot of small boats in use in 1914.
In comparing the use of kwien and small boats, as one might expect, we can see that small boats were more numerous around Bangkok, whereas kwien were more numerous in places like the northeast.
Kwien & small boats
When I mapped this data out, however, I was surprised to see that there were not many kwien in the north.
Kwien & small boats map
Looking at the statistics for the number of bullocks in the country, I saw that there were over 300,000 in the north (Bayap) and over 800,000 in the northeast (Isan). . .
. . . which when projected onto a map looks something like this:
bullock map
In terms of population, however, there were only about 200,000 more people living in the northeast, as compared to the north.
So the north and the northeast were two of the most populous areas. . .
pop heatmap
. . . and yet there were many more kwien in the northeast.
W. A. Graham wrote about the kwien in his 1913 work, Siam: A Handbook of Practical, Commercial, and Political Information. He surmised that the kwien was probably of Cambodian origin as it was “found all through that country and Siam, though apparently unknown in the Shan States or Burma” (pg. 311).
That may be the case, but it seems odd that it never caught on in the area around Chiang Mai. The statistics in the Directory for Bangkok and Siam suggests that people didn’t really use vehicles of any type in the Chiang Mai region.
At the same time, they had by far the largest number of elephants in the country, but not enough for common people to possess them.
So how did people transport goods in and around Chiang Mai?