HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Your Health & Happiness

The Doctor's Consultation

Agony Column

Camera Class by Snapshot

Money Matters

Life in the Laugh Lane

Your Health & Happiness: Thai Lanna Spa Association and TAT promote local Lanna spas

Kittiyaporn Kanjam (student trainee MFLU)

Junnapong Saranak, Director of TAT Northern Office Region 1 (right) and Arunsri Srimekhanont Sarttraniti, Division of Tourism Service Promotion’s director (left) trying the hand massage at the Thai Spa Invitation 2006 booth.

Thailand has long enjoyed a well deserved reputation of being one of the best places in the world to visit and enjoy a spa experience, so local tourism chiefs put together a package to promote the idea. Junnapong Saranak, Director of TAT Northern Office Region 1 together with Arunsri Srimekhanont Sarttraniti, Division of Tourism Service Promotion’s director and Chawanas Santhukheaw, President of Thai Lanna Spa Association presided over the soft opening ceremony of “Thai Spa Invitation 2006” with the theme, “Experience the Lanna Tradition, Experience the Spa”.

Yum Karng demonstration.

Junnapong Saranak said that the reason for holding this event was because TAT realized that the income from tourist spa services is very low. TAT believes that revenue from the health and spa business has the potential to be substantially increased by publicizing and promoting events concerning the spa industry to Thai and foreign tourists. The “Thai Spa Invitation 2006” will be held throughout the country all year. “We also recognize that the spa business in Chiang Mai has an identity all of its own and it is this difference from other places that could attract many tourists; so this opening is to introduce the local version of Lanna spa to tourists and locals alike,” he said.

To present the unique traditional Lanna spa of Chiang Mai, Thai Lanna Spa Association presented “Yum Karng”, a demonstration of the old traditional massage of Lanna, which will be shown in the Thai Spa Invitation 2006 booth, inside the Flower Festival at Buak Had Public Park. Yum Karng is the local wisdom that in the past people used in healing such conditions as aching muscles, paralysis, and various other minor ailments.

The Doctor's Consultation: Applied Consumerism – being an informed patient

I shudder to think how many expats have arrived in my office, pouring a bag of colored pills on my desk, and saying “What ones do I have to take?” This action tells me that there has been a breakdown in communications, and secondly, the person is not an ‘informed’ consumer.

We are in a consumer oriented age. In the western world, advice is no longer taken at face value. “Take these tablets three times a day until finished” is not acceptable these days unless there is a patient information (PI) leaflet inside, and the patient has been advised that if his toe nails drop off he should stop taking the medication immediately and consult his litigation lawyer post haste.

These PI sheets are a two edged sword in my view. Whilst it is important that the patient knows what they are taking, and why, listing every known side effect is somewhat off-putting, and can actually be counter-productive by making the patient stop the medication because they are afraid that something disastrous might happen to them. If the number of people who have taken the medication is squillions, while the number of catastrophic side effects can be counted on the fingers of one hand, what is the likelihood of getting an adverse effect? Not high. Put another way, did you know that one of the side effects of aspirin can be death, and yet aspirin is still one of the safest and best drugs on the planet.

So what do you really need to know to be an informed consumer? The first item is to know why you have been prescribed any particular medication and what it is supposed to do for you. Is the pink tablet the painkiller or the antibiotic, for example? The next important item is to know how often and when the medication should be taken. Before or after meals? At night or in the morning? These instructions can have enormous bearing upon the absorption of the medication. And on the likelihood of your getting a reaction or unwanted side effect, and on how long it will take you to get better.

The next important issue is that of reactions and side effects. You need to know the most likely side effects. If 20 percent of the folk who take this tablet get nausea, you need to be informed. If, however, less than 0.1 percent get a rash, then this is not such an important issue. I have always taught medical students that they should present the main issues only, but cover the rest by saying that if the patient has anything untoward happen to them which they think could be related to the medication, then stop taking the tablet and consult the doctor again.

Another important issue for the patient consumer is inter-actions. Some medications can affect the way the oral contraceptive pill does its job, for example. The informed consumer needs to know this! The wise doctor will tell you. The even wiser consumer will ask! Especially if you are on any medications at all, and that is including herbal medicines.

The other aspect of your treatment that should be known by you is how long it should be before you begin to feel better. If you know it is going to be six weeks, then you know not to start fretting after one week. If it is supposed to be one week and you’re still in trouble three weeks later, then you will know to return for another consultation.

So be a wise consumer. If you are unsure, then ascertain what the tablets are for, when and how to take them, the most common side effects and inter-actions and how long it should be before you are better.

Agony Column

Hi Hillary,
Like your article a lot, it is the first thing I read when I looked up Chiangmai Mail every Sat., keep up the good work. Glad to hear a success story between farang (American) and a Thai wife, so just want to add one of my own. I met my husband in Chiangmai 18 years ago. To make a long story short, now 18 years later we’re still happy married with two great kids (16 and 14 year old sons). We just came back from a trip to Thailand in late Nov. My younger son likes Thailand so much he said that when he grows up he will go back to Thailand and open a restaurant and call it “Bangkok Bill”. I couldn’t believe how much Thailand has changed (for better/for worse) in the past 18 years. Stay well, it is not often that someone as witty as you come along.
A Thai wife in USA

Dear Thai wife in the USA,
Hi to you too. Thank you for your kind words, and indeed I do try and stay well, and follow the ‘middle road’ as far as life is concerned. I certainly will not die from too many chocolates, or drown in champagne, but it is nice to dream.
You certainly don’t need advice from me, Petal. Yours is a success story too, so just you and your husband keep doing what you’re doing. You are on the right track. I shall await the grand opening of “Bangkok Bill”, just tell your 14 year old to put some bottles of champagne down now. They’ll be just right by then!

Dear Hillary,
I have been visiting Thailand regularly for the past 10 years and during the last three visits I have made in the last 12 months I have become friendly with a charming lady from Chiang Mai. We exchange emails, and she seems to have a very good command of English (though I have to admit that her written is better than her spoken). She seems to be very genuine, and often says how much she misses me, and how she thinks I am handsome, which is something the British ladies forget to say, so you can see why I keep coming back. Unfortunately she has fallen sick and can no longer work. She tells me she is now behind in her rent and will be kicked out if she doesn’t pay by next week. She said she is very sorry to ask me for money this way, but I am the only person she can turn to, as her family is too poor. I have sent her some money, but not as much as she asked, as I think that 20,000 baht a month is probably tops for monthly rent. How can I check on this? I don’t want to be seen as stingy, but with her making the effort on her side, I think I have to make some effort too. I ask for an answer before next month’s rent is due, Hillary.
Gentleman George

Dear GG,
What an amazing coincidence. Your initials are the same as a horse, and probably the back end of it too, Petal. Were you aware that there are people in this country who write letters for these girls? Were you aware that there are books published so these girls can write to their “boyfriends” with this month’s tale of woe? This month it will be rent, next month her brother will fall off his motorcycle and the month after that, her mother will need an operation. And talking about rentals, just where is your darling staying in Chiang Mai for 20,000 baht a month? The Phuping Heights luxury apartments? Canter off into the distance as soon as you can, GG
Dear Hillary,
There is a waitress in a restaurant here that I cannot get out of my mind. She is so petite and sweet natured, and I have never seen her frown at anyone, no matter how demanding the restaurant customers can be. I know her name because she wears a name badge, but I have never been able to just get her on her own for a quiet chat. I have been wondering if I could approach the management and ask them to help? I am going out of my mind. Help me, Hillary.

Dear Jim,
You poor darling. You really are smitten aren’t you. However nice the management may be, I somehow don’t think they’re going to play match-maker for you. No, Jim, you are going to have to do this all by yourself. A small bunch of flowers left at the reception desk for her with who it is from is a good start. Then next time you are in for lunch or dinner you can ask her if she got the flowers. You have by this shown your interest and it is then up to her whether she returns it. This is not an easy task either, my Petasl. Thai ladies can be very “proper” and it is not so easy to woo one over. You should read the book “Bangkok Angel” by Mike Smith, an Englishman who did exactly what you are going through now with a waitress from the Huntsman Pub in the Landmark Hotel in Bangkok. It took Mike years and thousands of pounds, but for him it was all worth it. Read it and learn!

Camera Class:  Making your photographs different

by Harry Flashman

There is an unfortunate tendency for photographers these days to attempt to make their photographs ‘different’ by fiddling with the image electronically using Photo-
shop or one of the other post-production software applications. I say ‘unfortunate’ because I believe this takes away from the creative eye that should be exercised when you take photographs.

Photography is still really all about the art of “seeing”, no matter what kind of camera you use, film, digital, SLR or compact. Successful photographers are ones who have discovered a “different” way of seeing the subjects they photograph.

One example is British photographer Bill Brandt, famous for photographing nudes by using a wide angle lens on the camera. This gave a very distorted figure, but one that became “arty” and produced fame for Brandt. Whether you find Brandt’s viewpoint aesthetic does not matter – the important fact to remember was that it was different.

Now I am not suggesting you screw the fish-eye on the front of the camera and rush out to the nearest go-go bar, but you should stop for a while and consider something unusual, compared to your “standard” way of taking shots.

You see, it makes no difference whether you have an SLR with multiple lens choices, or just a humble point and shooter with a fixed lens, we eventually get into a “habit” while taking photographs. Habits include the lens you stick on the front of the camera. I will wager that you have a favourite lens that stays on the camera body, and the others are only used when you cannot get the subject in the frame and have to use an alternative. And habits certainly do die hard, even if it is just always taking shots in the horizontal (landscape) format.

What I am suggesting this weekend, is to give some time to a new or different ways of doing things. Many times it is impossible to predict what the final result may be. You may have discovered a radical new approach, a highly individualistic way of presentation. The end result may not be to everyone’s taste (like my idea about Bill Brandt’s work), but you will never know till you try.

To get you going, here are a few ideas you might like to explore. The first I will call the child’s eye view. Our viewpoint is generally around 1.5 meters from the ground. That’s where our eye level is and that is the viewpoint we use in 99 percent of our photos. Now imagine you are a three year old child. Your viewpoint on life is very much closer to the ground. You spend more time looking up at the world. It would certainly be worth re-viewing some items from this very low viewpoint. OK, I know you will end up looking up people’s noses – but it just might work. You won’t know till you get the pictures back from the photo-processor.

The opposite end of the spectrum is the “Bird’s eye view”. This takes some more thought and planning – and sometimes a step ladder as well, but again you will get different shots. Ever noticed how many rock bands have photographs taken from above, with the members of the group looking up at the camera? Ever wondered why? It is because you end up getting a very powerful shot – and a different, memorable shot. Try standing on walls, on top of cars, or the afore-mentioned step ladder. Just don’t drop your expensive camera or fall off! It is actually quite easy to become unbalanced looking through the viewfinder when up high.

For those who do have choices of lenses, or do have zoom facility in the point and shooter, you can try using the two extremes that you have, even though you may think that the lens choice is unsuitable for what you are photographing. After all, remember Bill Brandt! It is even worthwhile taking the same subject matter with both of the two opposite extremes – wide angle and telephoto.

Try another viewpoint this weekend and you might be amazed.

Money Matters:  Early winter is here (Part 7)

Alan Hall
MBMG International Ltd.

Over the last few weeks, we’ve covered some of the reasons why the US and global economies are in such bad shape. We’ve touched on how that would affect businesses and therefore share prices in general. However, every company is an individual and while the removal of around $ 1 trillion of trade from the global economy every year would have widespread effects, some businesses may be unaffected or may even thrive. Insolvency practitioners, bailiffs and repossession agents may be the obvious calls. Historically, in austere times, breweries tend to perform quite well and you might expect video rental stores and pizza delivery companies to benefit at the expense of cinema chains and restaurants as the world tightens its belt.

In general, we would ex-pect the damage to be widespread. Although US and Western corporations are in reasonable shape, their share prices are predicated around the expectation of increased profits going forwards that most would be simply incapable of delivering.

Owning stocks is a claim to a future stream of free cash flows, i.e., the cash that
can actually be delivered to shareholders over time after all other obligations have been satisfied, including the provision for future growth. If that future stream of cash flows is better than currently anticipated the stock price should rise, if it’s worse, the price should fall or at least rise by less than the average rate of share price increase.

The long-term earnings growth for the S&P 500 has been 6% annually. In other words, in general it is factored in that earnings will grow at a rate of 6%. This is true regardless of whether one looks back 10, 20, 50 or 100 years. Given that the average historical price/earnings ratio for the S&P 500 is 16.3 we can see that it is currently expected with stocks trading at p/e ratios still in excess of 20 that growth will be much higher than 6% per year. In the cold light of day a return to expectations of 6% long term earnings growth would require a fall in the value of US stocks of the order of 25%. A sustained expectation of low growth, no growth or negative growth would each require a correspondingly higher fall in average share prices.

“The S&P 500 still appears to be moderately over-valued vs. its long-term historical trend. This would suggest investors should expect less than normal returns. Whilst average ‘up cycle’ has been about 30 years (since 1870), the average bear market has never been less than 10 years in duration. The bear market that started in 2000 could thus extend to well beyond 2010.” - Lombard Street Research (June 2005)

Additionally, we remain unconvinced that the asset values recorded by Western companies are as attractive as they seem. Any companies holding real estate assets may need to revalue these downwards if a real estate crash goes hand in hand with a recession (as is often the case). A real estate correction would cause a further deterioration in sentiment, economic conditions and share prices.

According to estimates by The Economist, the total value of residential property in developed economies rose by more than $30 trillion over the past five years, to over $70 trillion, an increase equivalent to 100% of those countries’ combined GDPs. Not only does this dwarf any previous house-price boom, it is larger than the global stock market bubble in the late 1990s (an increase over five years of 80% of GDP)
or America’s stock market bubble in the late 1920s (55% of GDP). In other words, it looks like the biggest bubble in history.” - The Economist (June 16, 2005)

“Once stocks fell, real estate became the primary outlet for the speculative frenzy that the stock market had unleashed. Where else could plungers apply their newly acquired trading talents? The materialistic display of the big house also has
become a salve to bruised egos of disappointed stock investors. These days, the only thing that comes close to real estate as a national obsession is poker.” - Robert Schiller, Professor of Economics, Yale University, author of “Irrational Exuberance”.

This has allowed people to live beyond their means, as they have serially extracted equity from the increased market appraisal of their homes, while simultaneously increasing their overall level of debt, and would be a further liquidity crunch, which would cause further deterioration in economic conditions.

Furthermore, post Sarbanes-Oxley we remain sceptical of both recorded and forecasted numbers. We highlighted the discrepancy between actual numbers and ‘street’ numbers in an article entitled “Sell USA - Buy Thailand” some time ago and these fears remain. The general perception of the standards of ethics within US
corporations following the various scandals may be best highlighted by the following apocryphal joke that is doing the email rounds. Almost certainly it is without any substance, but people can relate to it and almost want to believe that it’s genuine:

Young Kenny moved to Texas and bought a donkey from a farmer for $100.00. The farmer agreed to deliver the donkey the next day. The next day he drove up and said, “Sorry son, but I have some bad news, the donkey died.”

Kenny replied, “Well, then, just give me my money back.”

The farmer said, “Can’t do that. I went and spent it already.”

Kenny said, “Ok, then, just bring me the dead donkey.”

The farmer asked, “What ya gonna do with him?”

Kenny replied, “I’m going to raffle him off.”

The farmer said, “You can’t raffle off a dead donkey!”

Kenny said, “Sure I can. Watch me. I just won’t tell anybody he is dead.”

A month later, the farmer met up with Kenny and asked, “What happened with that dead donkey?”

Kenny said, “I raffled him off. I sold 500 tickets at 2 dollars a piece and made a profit of $998.00.”

The farmer said, “Didn’t anyone complain?”

Kenny said, “Just the guy who won. So I gave him his 2 dollars back.”

Kenny grew up and eventually became the chairman of Enron.

The above data and research was compiled from sources believed to be reliable. However, neither MBMG International Ltd nor its officers can accept any liability for any errors or omissions in the above article nor bear any responsibility for any losses achieved as a result of any actions taken or not taken as a consequence of reading the above article. For more information please contact Alan Hall on [email protected]

Life in the Laugh Lane: Nine Days of Pleasure and Pain: Part One

by Scott Jones

Bad brakes can cause flying bikes.

I’m in the hospital waiting room. A man talks with the nurse who calls the doctor and says, “There’s a patient here who thinks he’s invisible.” The doctor says, “Tell him I can’t see him right now.” Okay, that didn’t happen but it’s a great way to start a column.

I have a lump on my back that I thought was a spider bite but it kept growing like maybe she laid eggs inside me. The doctor says it’s a “benign sebaceous cyst” which sounds terminal in fractured Thai-English, so I say “I’d like another opinion.” He says, “I don’t like your haircut.” Okay, maybe he didn’t say that either. I say, “Maybe I’ll remove it with my handy travel medical do-it-yourself surgery kit called “Suture Self.” He doesn’t get it. 15 minutes, 4 stitches and 700 baht later he shows me a piece of me that looks like hardened chicken fat. I ask him to make it into a necklace for my girlfriend. He says, “Shall I go back in and find a couple more pieces for matching earrings?” (He might have said that. He was speaking Thai.)

He tells me to come back to remove the stitches, but a week later, I’m on a motorcycle trip with friends from America, in Mae Cham, after a long day of every kind of road in Thailand including the beautiful ones that suddenly degenerate into dirt ruts for 50 meters as if the pavement was sucked into the earth by the mud or taken away by alien spaceships. My backpack has pounded the stitches into my spinal cord. After general anesthesia consisting of four cold Singha beers, I lay on the guest house bed as two pseudo paramedics enter wearing flashlights strapped to their foreheads like miners ready to mine me. My dentist friend removes the stitches with a Swiss Army knife while my other friend, an ice cream/coffee shop owner, cleans the skin with hand sanitizer and whispers, “What’s that!!? Looks like they didn’t get it all. Did you see something move in there?”

We’re planning the Give-Live-Ride Thailand Charity Motorcycle Tour for January 2007 when we’ll raise a million baht for Children’s Garden orphanage while attempting to keep 14 people alive who have only ridden straight, flat roads in Minnesota. ( for more info) The next day’s ride is like smooth skiing through the green mountains to Mae Hong Son for an evening of bartering with Lisu hill tribe ladies and not eating fried insects.

As we mount the bikes the next morning, Jon the Dentist, very distant cousin of John the Baptist, notices a dark liquid seeping from his rear brakes. Todd the Ice Cream Man helps him scowl at the bike and create nightmares of flying off a mountain curve at 100 kph as they test the liquid in question with their fingers. Their noses reveal the “brake fluid” is benign urine from dogs which have marked the bikes as theirs. After a scrubbing session using steel sponges and the remaining hand sanitizer, we’re off to a Karen village that Lonely Planet and the guest house local assured us was north of town. This village has also disappeared into the earth or is now a tourist attraction on another planet. No problem. The waterfalls are grand, the King’s palace is grander, and the roads are a little less steep than climbing a skyscraper. At the palace zoo, Jon the Dentist vanishes amongst the cages of amazing birds as we muse about our visit next year when we’ll encounter a white-headed peacock with a bald spot containing no feathers, wearing glasses and holding a drill with its feet.

The Ice Cream Man turns into Liquid Lad as his intestines start to run. With visions of Slippery Road Ahead, we make sure he’s the last rider in the group. Our dreams of a hot spa in our reserved room in Pai are shattered with news that an elephant has stepped on the water pipe. No problem. Another one is just down the road and we collapse into a quiet outdoor spa until our silence is shattered by a group of immense, tattooed, hairy, very vocal, enduro bikers each carrying their weight in Chang beer bottles. As Mr. Harry Bigguy enters the pool, the water level raises above my nose. Later in my room, I learn how to insert three earplugs into each ear canal and duct tape a pillow around my head.