Classic cars make a run
to Mae Ngat dam
A good turn out of classic cars & a lot of ‘classic chatter’ at the Coffee
Bus at the RimPing Supermarket complex on the Middle Ring Road preceded our
departure to Mae Ngat Dam. There were several new faces, along with our
regulars, as well as a new car on its first Classic Cars of Lanna Sunday
Run, an immaculate postbox red early 1970’s Mini Moke, hood up for shade,
but side-screens off for natural flow through ventilation!
immaculate postbox red early 1970’s Mini Moke joined the run to the dam.
We departed in convoy up towards Mae-Jo, before cutting across on the outer
ring road to the 107, where we turned towards Mae Rim. Then it was straight
& easy driving through Mae Malai & Mae Taeng, before turning right onto the
1323, a quiet & scenic country road, towards the Mae Ngat Dam, located in
the Sri Lanna National Park.
Upon arrival at Mae Ngat Sombunchin Dam, we proceeded up to the look-out for
magnificent scenic views over the dam itself and the massive catchments
area. In the heat of the midday sun, we took time out for a group photo
opportunity, backed by the more somber Mae Ngat Dam memorial, commemorating
those that gave their lives in the construction of the dam.
Dam officials had an unplanned treat in store for us, as they opened up the
normally locked gates & allowed us all to drive along the top of the dam
wall, to a restaurant on the opposite side of the dam, our lunch stop for
the day. Prime seating awaited us, with splendid views over the dam &
surrounding area and a very fortunate cooling breeze. A delicious a la carte
Thai lunch was enjoyed by all – at very reasonable prices too.
Some of our group ventured down to the water’s edge & took a long tail speed
boat ride out onto the reservoir, to where modest floating accommodation is
located on rafts, about 8km away. We were told that the even more
adventurous, can take a long tail speed boat ride all the way through to
Phrao! The cooling spray as the long tail speed boat cut through the water
was refreshing & the ride very interesting.
Whilst our run officially ended at Mae Ngat Dam, some of the group decided
to continue in convoy together along a circuitous route back to Chiang Mai,
traveling mainly on small but well maintained country roads.
We suffered no breakdowns or even overheating – a credit to these old cars &
their owners and a great day was had by all.
The Classic Cars of Lanna
members gather to pay tribute to those who lost their lives while building
Toyota leads in local drag races
Thousands of horses took part in the north’s second Gymkhana event at
Prasert Land on the Irrigation Canal Road on June 17th, but spectators were
treated to the squeal of tortured tires rather than the thunder of heavy
few drivers knocked down cones, but everyone succeeded in avoiding the tree!
‘Gymkhana’ is the term given here to what the British call ‘Autotests’ and
most would call ‘car park racing’, with powerful cars hurtling around
complicated courses through plastic cones against the clock.
Fastest time of the day went to the Toyota of Ratvisit Sirichai by just 0.17
seconds to give him a class lead of 2 points after the 2nd of the 10 event
The next closest gap was 0.61 seconds which separated Apichart Hinsot’s
Kig-Kog Team Mitsubishi from the opposition in his class, while Nittikorn
Wutnanchai’s Honda, Itti Treesat’s Kig-Kog Toyota and Sapaporn Chowchawanin’
Mitsubishi had relative easy class wins.
Foreigners are very welcome to take part (entry fee 500 baht) provided they
wear seat belt and crash hat and the car has a fire extinguisher fitted. A
good handbrake for the tight turns helps, along with an excellent memory for
the tortuous routes. Organization as usual was by Khun Anusorn of Bodyshop
Sport. The next northern motor sport is Drag Racing at the 700 Year Sports
Complex on July 14-15th.
A Mitsu Evo hurtles towards
the finish line to stop the invisible clock.
From riches to rags to happiness
Learning from the lessons of the 1997 crisis
Denis D. Gray, Associated Press Writer
He was a typical, spoiled child of the so-called Asian economic miracle, a
dynamic Thai entrepreneur who dined at fancy restaurants, drove flashy cars
and sent his children abroad to summer schools.
Sirivat Voravetvuthikun was so deft at picking the right stocks that traders
called him “the Phantom.”
went from being a multi-millionaire to selling sandwiches. Today he is
happier than ever. (Photo provided by Mr. Sirivat)
Then, in 1997, the miracle curdled into the Asian financial crisis. Instead
of an expensive silk tie, Sirivat strung a yellow foam box around his neck
and trudged into the streets of Bangkok to hawk ham, cheese and tuna
“My wife and I woke up 3 a.m. in the morning to make fresh sandwiches,”
Sirivat says, recalling his first morning as a high-flyer turned street
vendor. “I felt depressed and disheartened. I kept asking myself, ‘Why did
this have to happen to me?”’
Thousands of blindsided Asians like Thailand’s “Sandwich Man” asked
themselves the same question 10 years ago as an era of frenetic speculation,
property bubbles and hot money inflows ended with plummeting stocks,
enfeebled currencies and bankruptcies of both individual risk-takers and
once mighty corporations.
The collapse started with a plunge in the Thai baht on July 2, 1997, and
spread rapidly across much of the continent. The three hardest-hit nations,
Thailand, Indonesia and South Korea ended up requiring multibillion dollar
bailouts from the International Monetary Fund.
Ten years later, the region has recovered but to varying degrees.
In South Korea, which bounced back quickly, the outlook is optimistic. The
crisis brought pain, but also healthy changes that cleared the decks for
more prosperous growth and innovation.
Sandwich Man continues to expand his empire and will open a branch in Chiang
Mai next month. (Photo provided by Mr. Sirivat)
In Thailand and Indonesia, which were slower to recover and enact reforms,
expectations have been vastly scaled back and a lingering fear hangs over
the business climate. Some feel that their economies are losing out to
growing competition from China and Vietnam.
“People don’t want to innovate or take business risks. Not even 10 years
after,” said Prachai Leopairatana, founder of what was once Southeast Asia’s
largest petrochemical enterprise until it became Thailand’s largest debt
defaulter almost overnight.
“A lot of people just want to be employees because of what happened to
people like me in 1997. So Thailand is losing its competitiveness.”
The following profiles of two Thai businessmen offer a window into how
Thailand has fared in the ensuing decade since the crisis. They are stories
of hope and depression, grit and determination, and ultimately of survival
through tumultuous economic times.
Prachai, the founder of Thai Petrochemical Industry, defaulted to the tune
of US$2.7 billion.
Before the crisis, TPI borrowed heavily from local and foreign creditors to
increase its capacity and develop a fully integrated petrochemical and
refinery complex. Prachai was the first in Thailand to introduce this
technology and invest the vast sums needed to build these modern integrated
When the crisis hit, his complex was unfinished and its foreign
currency-denominated debt ballooned overnight. Prachai had banked on
long-term repayment of his gargantuan investment.
“It was the worst time of my life. I had always had the support of people
around me so I never knew what it felt like to have everyone turn their
backs on me. The creditors treated you like a dog,” said Prachai.
Lenders, however, had their own grounds for complaints. When TPI went into
rehabilitation under a newly set up bankruptcy court, Prachai was named
administrator of the debt restructuring plan. But creditors came to believe
that he could not be trusted to meet his obligations to them.
For nine years, Prachai waged a battle against creditors to maintain
managerial control over TPI, mixing litigation with delays on debt
repayments, labor strikes and nationalistic advertising to try to tip the
balance in his favor.
Soon after the crisis, the Thai government updated archaic bankruptcy laws,
but it can still take years for creditors to pursue their claims. The
government has yet to push through further bankruptcy law reforms, partly
due to the sensitivities to powerful families who lost so much during the
To many debtors, who blamed government incompetence and corruption for the
crisis, Prachai became a heroic figure symbolizing victims caught in
circumstances beyond their control. His saga came to an end when the
bankruptcy court refused to delay any longer the government’s plan to
rehabilitate the debt-laden conglomerate by handing it to a group of
Prachai’s fall turned into a drawn-out saga that set him back irreparably.
For his country as a whole, he says, it was a lost decade in terms of
creativity, competitive edge and education of the work force in which
Thailand began to fall behind regional competitors like Vietnam and China.
Today, Prachai, 62, has lost some wealth and influence, but he is not poor.
He keeps busy as a director of cement maker TPI Polene, a former unit of
TPI. Still, he feels the pain acutely.
“The 10 years that I lost were the most valuable time of my life,” he said.
“It was a lost opportunity that I could have used to innovate more.”
Sirivat, the sandwich-seller, has left his days of stock and real estate
“I’m now investing in the real sector, which is more sustainable,” the
57-year-old businessman said, noting that no matter what happens people have
He even uses locally produced materials to avoid reliance on the vagaries of
The once wildly successful, U.S.-educated stockbroker had moved into
property just as a glut of space was coming onto the market. His first
luxury condominium project flopped, leaving him with a US$30.4 million debt
at time of crash.
While others like him were jumping off buildings, Sirivat swallowed his
pride and started selling sandwiches, becoming a national celebrity for his
refusal to succumb to fate.
“A person who had a debt of 15 million baht said to me that he decided not
to commit suicide because he saw my example,” he said.
As creditors sued, he continued to sell his homemade eats almost every day
for five years, building up a business that now employs 14 and includes
locally produced soft drinks, two coffee shops and a coffee and sandwich
“Sirivatsandwich” has become a well-known brand, with its logo of a floating
balloon with a dollar sign and “IMF” inscribed; a reminder of the US$17
billion loan Thailand got from the international lending agency during the
The “Sandwich Man” and his family live much more modestly than in the days
when the economy sizzled, but Sirivat is happier this way: “I became a free
man again,” he says.