HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Chak Kham School honors U.S. Ambassador by naming digital library after him

Thailand through the eyes of Belgian artists

Champagne amongst curious cows and bully buffalos

Chak Kham School honors U.S. Ambassador by naming digital library after him

US Chamber of Commerce Thailand donates computers

Nopniwat Krailerg

The U.S. Ambassador to Thailand, Darryl N. Johnson, presided over the inauguration of the “Darryl and Kathleen Johnson Digital Library” at the Chak Kham School in Lamphun on December 17.

Kathleen Johnson presents a basket of books to Amnuay Uttapayom, director of the Chak Kham School.

14 computers supported by the American Chamber of Commerce Thailand were also granted to the new digital library.

Prayoon Wongpanich, Lamphun deputy governor; Amnuay Uttapayom, director of the Chak Kham School; teachers and students gave a warm welcome to the US ambassador and his crew.

Ambassador Johnson is no stranger to the school, having worked as a volunteer teacher there while working for the US Peace Corps from 1965 to 1967. The US ambassador was named Ajarn Dumrong by his Thai colleagues and students.

U.S. Ambassador to Thailand Darryl N. Johnson and his wife Kathleen Johnson present a wreath to Chao Chak Kham Khachornsak at the Chak Kham School.

Ambassador Johnson said that over 50 students could use the digital library each day and students in other regions would also be given digital libraries like the Chak Kham School.

The ambassador told Chiangmai Mail that his visit to Lamphun brought back warm memories. “It’s like returning home,” he said. However, he admitted that Lamphun province had changed a lot in the last 42 years, but he still sensed the Lanna charm and happiness in the city.

U.S. Ambassador to Thailand Darryl N. Johnson (2nd right) presents 16 computers to Prayoon Wongpanich, Lamphun deputy governor.

U.S. Ambassador to Thailand Darryl N. Johnson, Kathleen Johnson and US Consul General Bea Camp with Chak Kham School’s teachers.

Ambassador Johnson said he would be returning to the US to retire and would come back to see his old friends at Lamphun the following year.

After the donation of computers, Kathleen Johnson presented a basket of books labeled “Granted by Laura Bush, the US First Lady” to the library.

Thailand through the eyes of Belgian artists

Charity for Rotary’s ‘Smiling Child Scholarship Fund’

G. van der Straten Ponthoz

On Saturday December 11, an exclusive garden party was organized by Count Gerald van der Straten Ponthoz and Weerapong Boonklieng, in association with the Rotary Club of Maechan, at Insii Thai House, Maechan.

Drs John J.H. Jeurissen, former director of Municipal Museum of Alkmaar (Netherlands) helping the Rotary charity work.

On that occasion, the paintings by six Belgian artists were exhibited on the grounds of the property.

50 paintings by four of the six artists were presented under the theme “Thailand Through the eyes of Belgian artists”. These were the works of Genevieve Gailliard (daughter of famous sur-impressionist Jean-Jacques Gailliard), Colette Staes, Francois de Lievre and Myriam Togni.

Count Herv้ van der Straten Ponthoz, Count G้rald van der Straten Ponthoz, Countess Monique van der Straten Ponthoz.

An interesting aspect of the exhibition was that none of these four had been to Thailand before, and painted the country “as it appeared in their mind only”.

Count G้rald van der Straten Ponthoz, Genevi่ve Gailliard, Hilde Van Inthoudt (Belgian Consul), Anan Laothamatas (Rotary assistant governor).

Following the wish of the hosts of the exhibition, the garden party was a non-commercial “one day” event, and the only opportunity to admire the work of the artists.

Besides art, charity was the main objective of the garden party. Each artist donated one painting to be sold later in favour of the Smiling Child Scholarship Fund.

The Rotary Club of Maechan and the Smiling Child Scholarship Fund provide scholarships to children who have lost their parents due to HIV/AIDS. The other two guest artists displaying their art, Yves Smeets and Olivier Lamboray were also Belgian, and joined this generous charity offer.

The donation to the Rotary Club was done in the presence of Hilde Van Inthoudt, the Belgian Consul.

Olivier Lamboray, Yves Smeets, Weerapong Boonklieng, Count G้rald van der Straten Ponthoz, Genevi่ve Gailliard, Colette Staes, Anan Laothamatas and Rotary members.

Champagne amongst curious cows and bully buffalos

Chiang Mai from a birds-eye view

Michael Vogt

One of the more quiet adventures you can undertake here in the beautiful Rose of the North is a flight in a hot air balloon, an undertaking enabling you to not only enjoy a beautiful sunrise, but also the scenic, mountain views of the various ‘Dois’ in our immediate neighborhood. To float on gentle air currents beneath the colorful canopy of a hot air balloon is an experience that everyone should do at least once.

Let it be known from this day forth that Mathias ascended into the sky in a free balloon.

Admittedly, it’s an early call, as the alarm clock fulfilled its duty at around 4 a.m. Despite the wee hours, the driver picking us up was all cheerful and happy, and took us straight to the Microlite airfield, not far from Doi Saket, where a crispy bonfire awaited us. Much needed with currently nine degrees Celsius at that time of the day. We watched the Balloon Team rolling out the huge envelope, and preparing the basket in which we would eventually end up.

Dee Shapland, a ‘Londoner’ and chief pilot of ‘Balloons over Thailand’, was busy checking and testing the three massive burners which are the ‘engine’ that would keep the balloon in the air.

Ground crew and onlookers hoping that all systems are ‘go’.

With the sun just about to rise behind Doi Saket, Dee invited us to hop on board, and gave us a few instructions as to how to position ourselves for the landing (which he guarantees will happen – nobody has been left up there forever!). All this when we were still safely on terra firma (or was that ‘terror’ firmer?).

The sensation of lift-off is like the ground dropping away at your feet, and if you carried a candle aloft it would not flicker. There is no need to worry about motion sickness, because there is no sense of motion like in a plane or a boat on water. When a balloon lands it is normal to experience a bump or series of bumps when the balloon basket touches the ground. How bumpy the landing will get depends on the wind speed, whereby wind speeds here are normally less than 10 mph.

Chief Pilot Dee tests the equipment – the burners are working!

Whilst we were quietly enjoying ourselves up in the air, interrupted only by the occasional “whoosh” of the burners, we caused a great deal of excitement to the people (and animals) about 150 meters below us. Remember, the daily route is dictated by the winds, and the balloon normally does not end up at the same place twice, and we had dozens of children on their way to the local schools, plus their parents and regular commuters, ending up standing on the street, parking their bicycles and cars, waving and laughing.

About an hour later, Dee, who by the way was in constant contact with his ground crew and the air traffic control tower, chose a field which was safe to land on. As wind was basically non-existent, he even maneuvered the balloon so professionally to land spot-on on the trailer of his pick-up, thus making the life of the ground crew much easier, as they did not have to carry the quite heavy basket.

Dee maintaining speed and altitude.

Within minutes, tables and chairs were set-up, the smell of bacon and eggs was in the air, and we all enjoyed a magnificent breakfast, watched only by the aforementioned cattle, and a number of local folks, probably thinking “Why have these strange farangs dropped into our little moo-baan, and why don’t they arrive by car?”

Chief Pilot Dee than presented us with a special commemorative certificate, and we all were invited to toast this very special occasion with a glass of champagne. A very memorable (early) morning came to an end, and we felt that hot air ballooning must be a great equalizer. The common denominator seems to be that everyone who does it appears to really enjoy life, and have a healthy curiosity for new experiences.

Spot-perfect landing on the trailer.

Breakfast in the middle of nowhere.