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Rotary Club of Chiang Mai West celebrates 30 years of service

Inner city gates deteriorating

Fifth cycle birthday celebration with a bonus

Rotary Club of Chiang Mai West celebrates 30 years of service

American Frank Weicks installed as new president

Peter McKenzie-Brown
Photos by Michael Vogt

This year, the Rotary Club of Chiang Mai West began its 30th year of service to humanity. After a preliminary meeting in 1974, it began life in 1975. It was the second Rotary club in the city, and a direct offshoot of the city’s original club.

The Rotary Club of Chiang Mai (the city’s first club) was founded in 1959, was already active. However, its founders – notably Hans Penth and Preecha Watchapawootikhun – decided upon a new and unusual undertaking. They wanted to create a club whose primary language of communication was not Thai, but English.

To the old and to the new president of Chiang Mai West. One was the president of the centennial, and the new one will be the thirtieth. For both a very good reason to be proud, as Tawee Tapingkae, District Governor 3360 said.

So Rotary Club of Chiang Mai West’s collective life began during a period of deep worry and great hope. America and allies were still embroiled in the Indo-Chinese War. Outside the war zone, Thailand was the United States’ primary Southeast Asian partner, and there were many US military bases in the country – two in the Chiang Mai area. The Thai government was deeply concerned about communist insurgency within the country – especially after the governments of neighboring Laos, Cambodia and South Vietnam fell in 1975.

Eight birthdays were celebrated during the month of June, and the room joined in ‘Happy Birthday’ singing while the eight ‘birthday kids’ showed their appreciation with a donation towards the club. Fourth from left is one of the longest serving members of the club, P.P. (1980-1981) Dr. Amnuay Tapingkae.

Such a new clubt was feasible for several reasons. Like today, many foreigners working for Western educational, medical and other non-government organizations were located in the city, and most spoke English. Also, many Thais in the business, academic and professional communities had received their education overseas at English-language universities. The club thus had many potential international members.

In the early days about half the club’s presidents and secretaries were foreign nationals; the first president, however, was Jitsook Jongjit, a Thai.

1994 was the first time the scholarship fund of the Rotary Club Chiangmai West was initiated, and until today every year underprivileged children receive funds for another year of schooling, handed out by the district governor himself. Seen here are the receiving children of this year together with President Preecha Wongsakul (left) and Incoming President Frank Weicks (right) with their wives.

The club has always been concerned about Chiang Mai’s needs, as our banners suggest. The one adopted in 1980 was based upon two important local landmarks – Wat Doi Suthep and the Ping River. It was later modified to reflect two key national institutions – Buddhism and the monarchy.

Rotarians in heart and mind. P.P. Surachai Sureephong (right) received a plaque of appreciation for 17 years of 100% attendance from outgoing president Preecha. Just imagine that; 17 years of 100% attendance means 884 Rotary meetings.

As the Indo-Chinese War ended, America began closing its local military bases. The pool of local English-speaking people decreased somewhat, and the club later underwent reorganization. Beginning in 1984, for some years the club was strictly a Thai-language club. However, the Rotary Club of Chiang Mai West had a strong tradition in the English language, and gradually re-emerged as a club for both Thai and foreign members. Eventually meetings began to be conducted in both Thai and English. Speakers today can use either language, with a translator bridging the gap.

The club’s first meetings were held in the Rincome Hotel, but moved to many other venues during the period 1980-1999. The first gatherings took place over lunch, but changed to dinner meetings in 1980. This provided time for an after-dinner speaker, and more time for club business and fellowship. In 2000, the club moved back to the (renamed) Amari Rincome Hotel, its original home.

Membership has varied over the years, but the club usually has about 30 members – little different from the original 27 members of 1975. Most are Thai nationals; with perhaps ten expatriates on the roster at any given time. As it was in the beginning, members still tend to be business people, professionals and academics with what we in Thailand call “jai dii” – a good heart.

The Rotary Club of Chiang Mai West meets Tuesday evenings (7 p.m.) at the Amari Rincome hotel. Guests are welcome, and will meet our new president, Frank Weicks.

Receiving the president’s chain from outgoing president Preecha is American Frank Weicks. His strong belief is that Rotarians can do a lot more to improve equality of life in their home town and we know him as dedicated to service and to promote the greater good within the community.

American Consul General Bea Camp and her husband David Summers were guests of honor to honor Frank Weicks when he took over the reigns of the club.

Bernie McKenzie-Brown was amongst the well wishers who came with a rose for Incoming President Frank Weicks and his wife Becky.

During an emotional ceremony the club also installed three new members. From left: Dean of the Faculty of Dentistry at Chiang Mai University, Prof. Virush Patanaporn, 32 year old double master degree holder, Dr. Kobkij Issarachevawat, and Peter Kouwenberg, formerly a development economist for the United Nations.

Let’s have a toast on the coming year, so that we can provide this great community with a better understanding of the problems which can be identified in the many diverse cultures which make up Chiang Mai. These were the final words of Incoming President Frank Weicks’ speech, and everybody stood up to join in.


Inner city gates deteriorating

Nopniwat Krailerg and Preeyanoot Jittawong

In the last issue we introduced the four corners of Chiang Mai and will, this time, present the Chiang Mai city gates. There were originally inner and outer gates to the city but the outer gates have now disappeared. These were constructed during the reign of King Mengrai.

Chang Phuak Gate is located on the north on Chang Phuak Road, and was originally called Hua Wiang Gate, but later changed to Chang Phuak Gate because a Chang Phuak (albino elephant) monument was set up at the north.

Chiang Mai Gate used to be called Tai Wiang Gate because it is also located towards the north. Old residents believed that it held the fame of city and no one was allowed to pass through this gate as it may cause the person to become unlucky.

Suan Dok Gate is on the west side. It’s named Suan Dok because it was a route to the flower garden (suan dok) owned by King Gue Na. A temple was established in the garden (Suan Dok Temple) in 1371, to keep the bones of a famous monk brought from Sukhothai. According to Suwan Khamdang’s chronicles, Suan Dok was itself a city set up in a period when the Lua tribe was prominent and was called Wiang Suan Dok. Wiang Suan Dok has a square shape surrounded by walls as can be seen clearly from the air.

Thapae Gate located on the east side is the route to the Mae Ping River where boats and rafts landed. It was been called Thapae (thapae means raft port) Gate until today.

Suan Proong Gate is in the south-east next to Chiang Mai Gate or Goo Huang Corner. It was the last gate established in 1402 during the reign of King Phaya Sam Fang Gaen and was used for transferring corpses to Hai Ya graveyard. This gate was called several names such as Suan Lae Gate or Sang Boong Pang gate.

There are two more inner gates recorded in ancient documents, but remains have not been found, such as Sriphum Gate, located at the north next to Sriphum Corner believed to have been set up in by King Phaya Tilokarat; and Chiang Yeun Gate.

The Yonok chronicle tells us that the gates were rebuilt several times, one took place in the reign of King Phra Muang Kaew, the 13th king of the Mengrai dynasty in 1495–1517, and another during the reign of King Kawila. However, at present Thapae Gate is in the best shape because it has been restored as a place to welcome Chiang Mai guests, but the other four gates are degenerating because of subsidence. Participation by the government, the Fine Arts Department and Chiang Mai residents is needed to conserve these gates because they are valued by Chiang Mai’s citizens.

Thapae Gate

Suan Dok Gate is still in good shape.

San Poong or Suan Proong Gate

Chiang Mai Gate is located behind a fresh market.

Thapae Gate is currently the best preserved gate.

Chiang Mai Gate

Construction of Chiang Mai’s gates in bricks.

Chang Phuak Gate remains with the old wall.

Chang Phuak Gate has a new fountain.

A notice board written in Thai, English and ancient Lanna languages.


Fifth cycle birthday celebration with a bonus

Paul, Cathy and Michael enjoyed the ‘after party’ the following day at the Tapas Bar at The House.

Blowing out 60 candles is not an easy task! Tungky holds on to the cake while Steve tries hard.

(Right) Paul, Steve and Richard with Cindi in the front on stage where the huge fireworks display is illuminating the night.

Khun Rooj from Rachamankha Hotel, Jens and Cindi.

Corinne and Suzanne have a jolly good time, even here at the ‘after party’ at The House.

Becky Lomax

When Cindi Novkov planned husband Steve’s birthday party, she knew that completing a fifth cycle of life, 60 years, deserved something more special than a simple birthday cake. So she chose upbeat, fun entertainment, including Scott Jones’ comedy slide show, and had fabulous Thai food prepared by Manat Chowmuang. She contacted friends far and wide, many of whom flew into Thailand for this auspicious occasion, and she did something very few people would think of doing. She planned a way to share the joy of the occasion with children who have little joy in their lives.

With the help of friends, she assembled a collection of beautiful items and services, added bid cards to each guest’s place setting, and had a private silent auction. The partygoers were generous, and the Foundation for the Education of Rural Children (FERC) and Kid’s Ark Foundation were the lucky beneficiaries of the auction proceeds. Congratulations to Steve on this wonderful occasion and to Cindi for creating more than just another birthday party.