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5th National Elephant Day celebrated at Maesa Camp

Grandma receives international support

Icelandic Artists at ‘The Writers Club’

5th National Elephant Day celebrated at Maesa Camp

Kantoke Feast for some and a frozen Daiquiri for others

Story: Marion Vogt
Photos: Michael Vogt and Linda Rachai

The 5th national elephant day was celebrated at the Maesa Elephant Camp in Mae Rim district, Chiang Mai. The event is to remember the significance of the elephant, Thailand’s sacred animal, which has played such an important role in Thailand’s culture and tradition.

Thailand’s elephants have been working elephants for centuries, being used during war, transporting goods, logging in the teak-forests and other tasks suitable for their intelligence and strength. It is no coincidence that the elephant symbol is used in the Royal Household.

The elephant numbers are dwindling with now no more than 3000 animals still living in Thailand, half of them domesticated and the other half living a ‘wild life’ in the National Parks.

The venue was the Maesa Elephant nursery and should there have been anyone who was not yet in love with the huge gray creatures, he definitely was before the afternoon was over.

Governor of Chiang Mai, Suwat Tantipat presided on the day. He gave a very earnest speech regarding the elephant protection plan, which is currently underway in Thailand as well as reminding the older generation to plant the love for elephants in the hearts of the youth of Thailand, as their elders did for them. A traditional blessing ceremony took place and Dr. Jao Duan Dueng na Chiang Mai thanked everybody who is helping save the endangered species, a huge part of Thai heritage.

Choochat Galmapijit, owner of Maesa Elephant Camp informed those present that the project of implanting frozen semen in a female elephant was hopefully successful. At the end of March, ‘Pang Chang’ the female elephant will have an ultrasound and if she is pregnant and can come to full term, this will be the first elephant baby, born following artificial insemination.

Since it was ‘their’ day, the elephants were treated to a feast in their honour. It was pure joy to watch large, small, old and young elephants, with their mahouts, walk majestically down from the mountain to take their place at the banquet table, to enjoy the bamboo shoots, grass and fruits set up in the grounds of the Maesa Nursery.

When the elephantine hunger was satisfied the spectators were treated to a painting exhibition which left more than one person wishing they could be as artistic as the painting pachyderms. Then the Thai Elephant Orchestra with the world’s finest animal harmonica players marched in, joyfully dancing around the grounds, before competing in the football match, basketball and a ‘must’ for a Thai elephant - the exceptionally amusing Muay Thai Boxing show.

I feel good when a lovely girl scratches my left ear.

Chiang Mai Governor Suwat Tantipat and Dr. Jao Duan Dueng na Chiang Mai were happy to receive the Thai national flag, presented by one of the toddlers.

To be honest, I deserve to have a meal, after such an exiting day.

Pointillism is my favorite! OK, I agree that the points are a bit larger, but so am I, compared to the average painter.

Chiang Mai Governor Suwat Tantipat, accompanied by such lovely girls.

Choochat Galmapijit, the owner of the Maesa Elephant Camp, during his opening address.

Thank God it’s raining blossoms, and not elephants - the traditional Lanna welcome dance was a delightful performance.

Dr. Jao Duan Dueng na Chiang Mai signing the reception book, and extending her best wishes for this 5th national elephant day.

We proudly present - the national flag carrier.

My Mommy told me to drink a lot of water when it’s hot - and it is hot today!

What a nice spread they have prepared for us today. Sugarcane, bananas, grass, just about everything our big hearts desire.

Mmmmmmm, left, right, center?

Don’t try this at home - feeding 60 elephants at the same time can be quite a consuming task.

Thailand’s largest drum was beaten to welcome the guests

Free kick!

In relation to us, the basketball basket is way too small...

Grandma receives international support

A blueprint of international cooperation

Hope Watcharaprecha and Marion Vogt

The 100 Years of Rotary project for the Rotary Club of Chiang Mai ThinThaiNgam, District 3360 is the “Grandma Cares” Project - a community related project which seems to grow every day. It is all about elderly people who must take care of their grandchildren who have been left orphaned when their parents have died as victims of HIV/AIDS.

Contributions to the Grandma Cares Project from four different countries, including Thailand. The founder - Aunty Boon from Chiang Mai, made another donation of 30,000 baht.

Hope Watcharaprecha, the president of the club, invited their sister club from Kuala Lumpur, Bukit Kiara Sunrise, to visit the one-day workshop, as a chance for them to see the “grassroots” community burden in our society for the elderly care-givers. As soon as they saw it, they fell for the ‘Grandmas’ and for the whole project itself.

The Rotarians from KL proposed that it was time for this project to go international and to form it into a trust. The Rotarians of Chiang Mai ThinThaiNgam agreed.

The Rotary Ladies of Chiang Mai ThinThaiNgam with H.E. the Thai ambassador to Malaysia, Chaisiri Anamarn.

A forum on the “Grandma Cares” project was then held in Kuala Lumpur, and six ladies flew down to represent the club and Thailand. A big surprise was the visit of H.E. the Thai ambassador to Malaysia, Chaisiri Anamarn, as the guest of honor. Another surprise was the presence of Rotarians from Rotary Clubs of Singapore, Hong Kong and various clubs from Malaysia. Founder and chairman for the ‘Grandma Cares’, and Past President Somboon Suprasert (Aunty Boon) prepared a very convincing power point presentation.

They won the hearts of the Kuala Lumpur Rotarians, by taking them to visit the ‘Grandmas’ in their homes.

A Declaration of Trust was created, establishing the ‘Grandma Cares Trust’ by Equity Trust (Singapore) Ltd. Each country made contributions on that day that reached about USD 25,000.

Rotary Club Bukit Kiara is now the marketing partner, and Chiang Mai club ThinThaiNgam is the operator of the project, with all past presidents acting as consultants. Australia has joined in, too, contributing 50,000 baht for the trust -a real Rotarian gesture.

Icelandic Artists at ‘The Writers Club’

Robert Tilley

Chiang Mai has its share of talented and itinerant artists. But probably none of them can match the very individual nature of Eyolf Snaidal and Vigdis Gigja, who are currently exhibiting their work at the Writers Club and Wine Bar.

It was also an evening for a good bye for two very special people of Chiang Mai, who are returning to the United States. Carol Stratton (right) whose new Thailand book was just released and her husband (opposite) will spend the summer ‘at home’. (Photo by Michael Vogt)

For a start, they’re from Iceland, “refugees” from that rugged Arctic country’s severe winter - seeking, like France’s Paul Gauguin, a climate where the paintbrush doesn’t freeze in their hand.

But it’s a more personal characteristic that makes this engaging young couple so extraordinary. They work totally in tandem - from the preliminary research and discussion of their projects to the final job of putting paint on canvas.

From left: Robert Tilley with his wife and Eyolf Snaidal with Vigdis Gigja in front of two of their paintings. (Photo by Michael Vogt)

Artistic partnerships of this kind are fairly common in the world of music and literature. But fine art? What kind of partnership can survive the intense activity of creating a work which by its nature is a form of personal statement?

Eyolf (28) and his 27-year-old partner Vigdis are so closely tied in their lives and in their life’s work that they even shrink from being interviewed for fear that what they say will be taken out of context and attributed to one of them and not to both.

A typical painting by the two Iceland artists. (Photo by Michael Vogt)

Yet it’s tall, bearded Eyolf - the very picture of an Icelander - who attempts to explain the rare synergy behind his artistic association with Vigdis. “We work as one,” he told Chiangmai Mail. “We try to maximize the potential of each one of us. Neither of us would have been able to create our art without the input of the other.”

A common theme also binds the two - their commitment to animal rights. Their work features animals in symbolic and sometimes almost surrealist settings. It’s never sentimental and yet palpably sympathetic - from the questioning, appealing look of a Thai temple dog to the cocky pose of a monkey portrayed before a game of chess. “One visitor at the opening of the exhibition said we were good advocates of the animal world, and that just about sums it up,” says Eyolf.

Both he and his pretty companion are committed vegetarians and the big variety of vegetarian restaurants in Chiang Mai is one of the factors that attracted them to the city. “It’s very difficult to be a vegetarian in Iceland, but here in Chiang Mai there’s no problem,” says Eyolf.

The temple dog and a buffalo are the only truly indigenous Thai animals featuring in the pictures painted by the two Icelanders during their stay in Chiang Mai. No elephants. No token tiger. Why’s that? “We came to Thailand with our program already worked out in our minds,” says Eyolf. “We had no time or room for elephants. But we’ve now gathered ideas and material featuring many kinds of Thai animals.”

When their Chiang Mai exhibition ends, he and Vigdis will return to Iceland. But they say they’ll be returning - “Perhaps next time we’ll paint an elephant.”

(The exhibition is open Tuesday - Sunday until March 25 at the Writers Club and Wine Bar, Rachadamnoen Road 141/3 - between Thapae Gate and Wat Pra Singh.)