HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Mississippi Blues Night with CoCo York and the Mike Del Ferro Trio

Chateau de Loei presents its new vintages

“Seen” photo exhibition at Gong Dee Gallery

River Kwai Adventure

Mississippi Blues Night with CoCo York and the Mike Del Ferro Trio

10 out of 10 for a night of Jazz and Blues

By Marion Vogt
Photos by Michael Vogt

American Voices, an independent non-profit American NGO, presented an exceptional concert of jazz and blues at the Grand Nanta Ballroom in the Westin Hotel, Chiang Mai.

What a great combination - CoCo York and Mike Del Ferro on piano.

The ballroom, set up for an audience of 600, was packed an hour before the concert started, and another 100 chairs did not solve the ‘chair problem’.

(From left) Mike Del Ferro, CoCo York, drummer Roy Dackus, and bassist Yasuhito Mori received flowers from (not shown) US Consul General Eric Rubin and Prinya Parnthong, vice governor of Chiang Mai (also not shown).

With so many people eager to listen to jazz and blues, it was no surprise the mood was excitement right from the beginning. US Consul General Eric Rubin told the audience that this tribute to jazz and blues was to pay homage to 100 years of blues. When he added that US president George W. Bush declared 2003 the ‘Year of the Blues’, he received many smiles, giggles and chuckles from the Americans in the audience. He said that it was his personal honor and privilege to introduce the Mike Del Ferro Trio and CoCo York, who currently tour the world to bring American music to audiences who normally would not have the chance to listen to such world class musicians.

700 chairs were just not enough, and another 70 stood for the whole evening. That’s a crowded house.

John Ferguson, the artistic director of American Voices since 1993, explained the program of the evening, which was a combination of jazz and opera during the first part, and blues and jazz after the intermission.

Interacting with the folks in the audience - CoCo’s way.

A combination of opera and jazz? There was a question mark in the air, but when the Mike Del Ferro Trio started with an Italian love song ‘Non ti scodra di me’ (Don’t forget me), followed by a quick jazz intermezzo with a drum solo by Roy Dackus, the applause became spontaneous. By song number three, ‘E lucevan le stelle’, from Puccini, there was no doubt that jazz and opera really go well together.

The musicians received a standing ovation.

Pianist Mike Del Ferro, drummer Roy Dackus and bassist Yasuhito Mori literally teased the audience. Their interpretation of Puccini was moving from opera to jazz and to salsa, enriched with drum, bass and piano solos, complete with changing tempos and rhythm.

Chiang Mai Vice Governor Prinya Parnthong and his wife enjoyed the show, as did US Consul General Eric Rubin and his wife Nicole.

The last song before the break was ‘Habanera’ where once again jazz, opera and salsa met in exciting crescendos, with drummer Roy Dackus changing from the drum set to a Cajon, which many people of the audience probably had mistaken as a bass box.

Simply perfection between Mike and Roy Dackus.

Part two was dedicated to the blues, and the minute CoCo York entered the stage she had everyone under her spell, saying to the audience that they’d better clap when she sings! It was a vocal feast, her humor while joking with the audience, her interpretation of well known songs such as ‘Georgia on my mind’ and ‘Unchain my heart’, interpreted so meaningfully with life and vigor that the audience was gripped and her stunning voice gave everybody goose bumps.

All four musicians again gave their very best for the Chiang Mai audience.

CoCo didn’t show any respect to the TV cameras and technicians, disappearing at will to see how long it would be before the camera man would find her again, but she met her match with around 30 nuns in the audience almost making her stumble for words. She was looking for excuses regarding her language, but at the same time asking for forgiveness with an unplanned (and un-rehearsed) gospel song, especially for the ‘sisters’ in the audience. The audience, including the nuns, were openly clapping and laughing.

Working his heart out at the drums - Roy Dackus.

After the touching gospel ‘Making heaven my home’, CoCo performed one overpowering song after another, seducing the audience, organizing little interactive games, and receiving in exchange the hearts of more than 700 people from Chiang Mai who could not get enough of her.

What looked like a speaker box was the rather unusual “Cajon”. Sit on it, beat it, and you’ll be surprised by all the bells and whistles this box features.

CoCo York’s emotions, her charming, warm personality with just the right amount of mischief, and her way of singing the blues has given her an enduring fan club in northern Thailand.

CoCo looks pensive as the band plays on.

John Ferguson, the artistic director of American Voices.

She came, sang, and conquered. Blues at it’s very best performed by an outstanding musician.

CoCo performed one overpowering song after another, and the performance was just flawless.

This little girl really didn’t know the song, but tried hard to cope with CoCo.

CoCo realizing that there were nuns in the audience. They certainly did not have the blues.

“I’d love to confuse people and make a mess; what do you think the cameras will see now after I’ve left the stage? NOTHING.”

Chateau de Loei presents its new vintages

The north-east’s ‘Bordeaux’?

By Marion Vogt
Photos by Michael Vogt

There is much to discover in Thailand, even for Thais - one of the newer discoveries is Thai Wine, and one of the original wine growers is Chateau de Loei and Dr. Chaijudh Karnasuta.

MC for the ‘lucky draw’ Chavalit Sirinirund from The Old Classical Wine Limited Partnership in Chiang Mai, with the Chateau de Loei promotion girls.

Over a decade ago Dr. Chaijudh discovered that the Phurua highlands of Northeastern Thailand could produce good wine-making grapes and in 1995, the first commercially produced quantity Thai wine hit the market.

From left: GM of Amari Rincome Hotel, Wim Fagel, Chef Adrian, John and Muesken Vloet from The Riverside with MD of C.P.K. International, Bhilaichit Roengpithya.

Dr. Chaijudh was born in the year of the rooster - a symbol of hard work and dedication, and so he made the rooster the logo of his Chateau de Loei vineyards.

Oraem Terdpravet, MD of C.P.K. Plantation Co., proudly posing in front of the huge rooster logo.

This year, he and his family’s determination and passion paid off and Chateau de Loei has become the first Thai wine to be exported to Europe and Japan.

Amari Rincome Hotel, with ‘The Old Classical Wine Limited Partnership’ Company and the Karnasuta family, last week introduced the new 2003 Chateau de Loei vintages to the hospitality industry in the North.

Oraem Terdpravat, MD of C.P.K. Plantation and daughter of founder Dr. Chaijudh Karnasuta, together with other members of the family proudly outlined the characteristics of the new 2003 wines.

The Chateau de Loei Syrah Reserve 2002 comes in a beautiful wooden box.

Oraem told the audience that Chateau de Loei is produced on 600 rai (240 acres) of vineyards and the driving philosophy is the same as it was in the early days - total quality, respect and use of French traditions, continuous research, and always striving to improve.

This year they introduced a Chenin Blanc, White Wine ‘Extra Dry’ 2003 with fresh, fragrant bouquet, flavorful but fine and dry, which it is hoped will suit the European market.

The new Syrah Rose wine is probably more for the Asian taste with a touch of sweetness, yet crisp and fruity.

Oraem explained that they are also proud to introduce here in Chiang Mai their new dessert wine - a Chenin Blanc 2003, harvested late in the season during cool nights and sunny days in February. The result is a sweet wine with the rich flavor of grapes.

At the end of the wine testing the Syrah Red Wine Reserve was decanted. Currently, only 2000 bottles are available. The wine is a vivid deep red color, with oak barrel maturation, the full ripe berry fruit flavor, and what was described as a mellow tannin finish.

In the north, we should perhaps look to our ‘own’ vintage wines as an alternative to the imported ones.

“Seen” photo exhibition at Gong Dee Gallery

Text by Marion Vogt
Photos by Michael Vogt

Gong Dee Studio on Nimmanhaemin Road 1 this month is showing a photography exhibition, rather than canvases. Thepsiri Sooksopa gave the very moving and lively welcome speech by expressing his amazement about how much feeling can be seen in photos. He told the audience that at first he was very much against a photo exhibition being called art, since he always believed art should be painted. He believed that a photo could not tell a story, but after walking from photo to photo he was astonished by how much feeling, fun, details and sentiment his friend Suvin Vajrasthira has caught with his camera.

A wonderful all golden photograph from Wat Sri Su Phan.

Suvin thanked him for the kind words, thanked his family who always stand behind him when he is on ‘another photo expedition’ and most of all Vichit Chaiwong, the owner of Gong Dee Gallery who made it possible this month to show his work to the public.

Gong Dee Studios have a concurrent exhibition of sculpture from Steven Muthikul Jones. Born in Bangkok with a British father, Jack Reynolds (the author of the book ‘A woman of Bangkok’), Steven was influenced at a very young age by various collections of art books and was fully encouraged and supported by his father to follow his emotions. Steven was inspired during the three years he studied with Vichit Chaiwong and Uab Sanasaen to use different materials in his sculptures. The delicate bronzes are sold in a limited edition only.

Thepsiri Sooksopa, a good friend of the artist gave the welcome speech, expressing his amazement about how much feeling can be seen in photographs.

Novices entering Sammanen.

One of Steven Muthikul Jones’ bronze sculptures titled ‘Re Birth’.

The artist with his family (from left) Mrs. Vajrasthira, daughter Taew (20), a student at the Faculty of medicine, photographer Suvin Vajrasthira and son Tem (15), a high school student.

River Kwai Adventure

Reinhard Hohler

The River Kwai became (in)famous during World War II, when the Japanese Imperial Army built a railway from Western Thailand to Southern Burma. Much of that history is still there today and the Bridge over the River Kwai has become a popular tourist destination. The following is the itinerary for a typical tourist program, or for those resident who would like a quick ‘potted guide’ to national features.

‘Mon’ cultural dancers waiting for their appearance.

Joining a 4 days/3 nights cruise that operates on the River Kwai Noi upstream every Monday to Thursday, you will be picked up at the lobby of any hotel in Bangkok for a bus transfer 130km west towards Kanchanaburi.

On the way, you visit the highest Thai chedi in Nakhon Pathom and Tha Muang, a small settlement near the Mae Klong Dam. There you climb the steps of Wat Tham Sua and Wat Tham Khao Noi Temple, where the Chinese goddess Kuan Yin is worshipped. Reaching the JEATH War Museum in Kanchanaburi in the grounds of Wat Chaichumpol by mid-day, you embark on the waiting cruise ship moored nearby.

The very famous bridge of the River Kwai.

The RV River Kwai is a newly built river cruiser based on original 1865 designs used by the Irrawaddy Flotilla Company from Burma. This vessel was fitted out in Kanchanaburi for a maximum of 20 passengers in 10 single deck, twin bed teakwood cabins.

If the water lever of the river is high, problems can arise trying to pass under some low bridges, but luckily the upper deck with the seating area is open and covered by a collapsible frame. The cruise ship comes with a fully equipped kitchen and space for the 9 crew members. By the way, smoking is not allowed in the cabins as the danger of fire should never be ignored.

Sai Yok Waterfall in the natural park near the River Kwai - a ‘must’ for every Thai visitor.

Once on board, the multilingual cruise director explains the logistics concerning the sightseeing program during the cruise into the scenic valley of the River Kwai Noi. Shortly after lunch, you leave the ship to visit Wat Tham Khao Poon, where a large Chinese Buddha is guarding a bend in the river. You continue by bus to the stone garden of Somdet Phra Sri Nakharin, located in the Kanchanaburi Agricultural College. Back on the river, you have a 3 hours cruise to the first resting place for the night near Ban Kao and enjoy a candlelight dinner.

After early breakfast and some bird watching you reach Prasat Muang Sing. In the middle of this ancient town is a majestic stone castle with the divinities of Tantric Khmer Buddhism. Leaving Muang Sing by bus, you arrive at the nearby railway station of Tha Kilen to catch the train from Kanchanaburi to Tham Krasae, going over the long wooden Wang Pho viaduct.

Having lunch on the ship, you pass an elephant camp upriver and continue the afternoon cruise. After an early dinner, you reach the second night resting place, just in front of the Resotel, a small jungle retreat with magnificent country and river views. There is also a traditional massage service and a nightly performance of tribal Mon dances to keep you amused.

On your last day of cruising upstream, you start early to visit the nearby Kaeng Lawa Cave with its outstanding stalactites and stalagmites. From there it is cruising upstream to visit the Hell Fire Pass, an infamous part of the 415 km railway cut through jungle and mountains from Ban Pong in Thailand to Thanbyuzayat in Burma. The Memorial Museum and the one and a half hours walking trail are dedicated to the thousands of soldiers who suffered and died working on the railway.

Back on the ship, you have a late lunch and reach the noisy but beautiful Sai Yok Yai Waterfall. The waterfall received its name from a large fig tree that is supposed to have fallen into the River Kwae Noi more than 100 years ago. A little bit upstream from this amazing place the boat stops for more than an hour to allow you to savour the fresh air of the virgin jungle vegetation along the river. After a very slow final cruise, you reach Wang Nok Keo Resort near the Daowadung Bridge, where it is time for the European style farewell dinner and for another night’s sleep on board.

After breakfast on the ship, you will be picked up and taken by bus 100 km back to Kanchanaburi, where you can visit the newly opened Thailand-Burma Railway Center near the central war cemetery. At midday you have a last Thai style lunch in a restaurant looking at the Bridge on the River Kwai, before heading back to Bangkok.

The downstream trip that runs from Thursday to Sunday will leave from Daowadung Bridge back to Kanchanaburi with a slightly different program. Alternatively, you can join a combined 7 days/6 nights cruise up and down the river.

For further information, please see www.cruiseasia.net or www.asiantrails.com or contact Chiang Mai Media Travel Consultant Reinhard Hohler, email [email protected]