Their architecture in wood, however, was excellent; and the teak forests of their country afforded the finest timber for building and for carving.
The result is that practically all the trade of these states is in the hands of Bangkok Chinese firms, of a certain number of European houses and others, while most of the manual labour connected with the teak industry is done by Ka Mus, who migrate in large numbers from the left bank of the Mekong.
The bombax or silk-cotton tree attains gigantic proportions in the forests, which are the home of the indiarubber-producing plants and of many valuable kinds of timber trees, such as odum (Chlorophora excelsa), ebony, mahogany (Khaya senegalensis), African teak or oak (Oldfieldia africana) and camwood (Baphia nitida).
About half of this quantity comes from the forests of Burma, where large amounts of teak and other woods are annually extracted, chiefly through the agency of private firms. It is, however, only the more valuable of the woods, such as teak, sandal-wood, ebony and the like, which find a market abroad.
The extraction of teak from the forests of northern Siam employs a large number of people.
Since the introduction of iron ships teak has supplanted oak, because it contains an essential oil which preserves iron and steel, instead of corroding them like the tannic acid contained in oak.
The most important timber trees are the tu'n (Cedrela Toona), sdl (Shorea robusta), the present area of which forms two belts separated by the Gangetic plain; satin wood (Chloroxylon Swietenia), common in the drier parts of the peninsula; sandalwood, especially characteristic of Mysore; iron-wood (Mesua ferrea), and teak (Tectona grandis).
The oak of Britain is still in demand for the construction of merchant shipping, though teak has become in some measure its substitute, and foreign oak of various quality and origin largely takes.
The forests contain valuable timber trees such as African oak or teak (Oldfieldia Africana), rosewood, ebony, tamarind, camwood, odum - whose wood resists the attacks of termites - and the tolmgah or brimstone tree.
The number of teak logs brought out via the Salween and Menam Chao Phaya rivers average 160,000 annually, Siam being thus the largest teak-producing country of the world.