In mid-1968, King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the ninth monarch of the present Chakri dynasty of Thailand, flew to the remote northwestern Thai town of Mae Hong Son. The town of Mae Hong Son at the time was strikingly different from any other provincial capital in Thailand. The bureaucratic polity, like the market, has intruded to a marked degree into the lives of the people in Thailand. In the early stages of national integration, the government promoted Thai Buddhism over Buddhist traditions associated with other ethnic groups. The central elements of the national culture have been reformulated by successive Thai governments. Since the middle of the nineteenth century, the Thai economy has been increasingly tied to the world economic system, and integration into the global economy has steadily transformed life in even the most remote villages in the society. Since the early 1960s, the Thai "open" economy has grown at a rate faster than that of most Third World economies.