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New Year in Chiang Mai

Pilgrims throng temples to pray for good fortune in the new year

No place to go - Chiang Mai’s first womens’ refuge


New Year in Chiang Mai

Sunrise far beyond civilization

Wim Fagel, General Manager of the Amari Rincome, looking forward to 2008.
 Jaap Smith and Wim, (standing), Maarten and Mamsie Smith, Pinkaew Fagel,
and Peter and Norah Heinze, (seated).

The Hanson family, poolside at the Amari Rincome, celebrating the New Year
whilst listening to the big bands. Mike, Lisa and Linda, (l-r).

Mark and Ellie Kiloh enjoying New Years Eve at the Riverside Restaurant
with their parents from the U.K.

Seeing out 2007 in style at The Chedi were Lassee, Guy, Eleanor, Karina, Dean,
 Pim and John, (l-r). one name missing.

Walther, Dorothy, Olaf, Lieke, Bianca, Werner, Marcel, Peter, Hanny, Jenny and Hans, (l-r), all celebrating the New Year at the Amari Rincome.

His Excellency the British Ambassador Quinton Quayle and family decided on The Chedi to see in the New Year.

The Arts family were thrilled with the entertainment offered by
The Chedi on New Year’s Eve.

Cenk, Nadine, Sean and Dejana relax at D2 on New Year’s Eve.

Chutima, Thanida, Palit and Thapanapong chose D2 to celebrate New Year’s Eve.

Gorgeous Gals and Guys end up at D2 to welcome in 2008! Natalie, Golf, Jenny, Monique, Tonkta, Stacey, Nathan and Brock, (l-r).

Vanita and Frank from Fashion King took the family to the Shangri La to celebrate the New Year. Raj, Roise, Vanita, Namrata, Rasleen and Frank, (l-r).

Namprao Suwanmongkol, (centre), daughter of Suchet Suwanmongkol,
the owner of the Mandarin Oriental Dhara Dhevi, celebrated New Year
at the resort with her good friends.

Tee, Shai, Matthew, Mark, Mohamad Jesr, (MD of the Lotus Hotel), Jens,
 Klaus and Tom, (standing), and Mark, Kevin, Tim and Peter, (seated),
all celebrate the arrival of 2008 at the Garden Bar.

Dugan, Salandaa, Sangyem, Nat, Anchalee, Ampipun, Warayan, Charsin,
Patela and Phinyo, (l-r), all decided the best place to celebrate
the New Year was at the Holiday Inn.

Mary Russell
I must be honest and confess that it wasn’t my idea! A couple of months ago our friends, with whom we love to celebrate, declared that, this time, they wanted to do something different on New Year’s Eve.
Briefly, I remembered the last few “Eves” spent in the company of far too large a crowd. Festivities had begun too early and I had been clock-watching from just after eight until the magic hour of midnight.
I had been heartily kissed full on the lips by the “Breath Monster” once too often, not to mention being called “Darling” by the obnoxious old witch who dislikes me as much as I dislike her! I was game for almost anything in order not to endure yet another bout of compulsory New Years Eve enjoyment, so this is what we did.
We arrived early at our friend’s home and after a tiny but exquisite dinner we went to bed. No hanky-panky involved, not even a book at bedtime, but we set the alarm for 3 am. We woke and filled two large thermos flasks with good black coffee and a smaller flask with hot milk. Smoked salmon, cream cheese and bagels were packed and out we went into the dark chill of early morning, clutching the hamper and wishing the car had a heater. At last, we were on our way, headed towards Doi Inthanon. Some primeval memory had been awakened and it seemed to us all that we needed to welcome the dawn from a high place. The dawning of the first day of the year has been celebrated in parts of Asia for centuries in this way and on other continents, too. The ancient druids also favoured an early morning ceremony.
The suburbs were silent. Even crossing the city was easy at that time. The road rose up and away from Chiang Mai, as the villages became smaller and further apart. Homeless dogs curled together at the roadside for warmth and the country houses were in darkness. Occasionally we saw a faint figure through the mist and wondered whether they were returning home or just beginning their day.
Higher and higher we went until we were at our destination. On the horizon was a faint line of pale yellow light to herald the new day. The grey mist swirled and the two chedis of His Majesty the King and Her Majesty the Queen were barely visible. We left the car and huddled together, chilled to the bone. We opened the thermos of steaming coffee and stood, quieter now, waiting as the yellow light spread and deepened in its path across the sky. It was too early for birdsong and there did not seem to be any active wildlife nearby but the mist was thinning and the sun was gaining strength. We waited until the light spread another inch across and then retreated to the comparative warmth of the car and our “petit dejeuner al fresco”. Finally, we toasted Their Majesties, Thailand and the continuing good health of ourselves and all our families.
It was a solemn journey back as we reflected on our experiences on the mountain. It had been totally silent. We could have been the only survivors of a world disaster. It had been a levelling experience.
Nearer the city, village life had begun its daily grind. The eerie silence we had enjoyed was gone and was replaced by the mosquito buzz of approaching motorbikes.
It was a different way to start the New Year and we had enjoyed it immensely. We all agreed that we’d do it again but next time with hats on!

Vorapong Muchaotai, the AMD of Riverside Spa Resort Co., Ltd.,
 (top right), celebrating the New Year with his family at the Sofitel Riverside.

At The House Restaurant, champagne glasses were elevated
and balloons were set loose.

The guests at the House restaurant couldn’t have enjoyed themselves more.

New Year’s Eve the traditional way at The House Restaurant.

The staff from Hillside 4 Condo are all very happy at the New Year’s Party.

Smiles all round at the Shangri La from Yan, Nom, Klaus, Ankara,
 (standing), Thom, Hen and Traus, (seated).

It’s party time at the Sofitel Riverside on New Year’s Eve! Trudie, Wee, Simon, Ning and Lynn, (l-r).

Pratyar, Nicky, Pond, Jo, Yui, Khem and Keiko, (l-r), all party on down at D2.

It’s party time at the River Ping Palace! Esther, Mariette, Jillian, Steve.
Joanna, Melissa and Murray, (l-r).

Esther was seen holding court on New Years Eve at the River Ping Palace! Bruce, Esther, Justin and Barrie, (standing), and Chadwick, Peter, Jill and Jaycen, (seated).

The Spice Road Bicycle Team chose to celebrate the New Year at the Imperial Mae Ping following a ten day bike ride around Northern Thailand.

Equality rules at the Shangri la on New Year’s Eve. Julie, Mary and Sally
 (standing) Howard, Wuttapong and Dirk (seated).

Milt, all dressed up with a great place to go! Milt and Tony, (standing),
John, Margaret and Pauline, (seated), at the Shangri La.

Popular at The House Restaurant: Balloons la Loy Krathong.

It was all smiles at the table with Monica and Mark at the River Ping Palace. 

Cathy and Peter enjoying the party atmosphere at the River Ping Palace.

Louise, Adrien, Francois and Isabelle enjoying the family party
at the Sofitel Riverside on New Year’s Eve.

Jeff and Les, (standing), and Caroline and Sandi, (seated), enjoyed
the buffet at the Holiday Inn on New Year’s Eve.

Hans, the owner of The House Restaurant, with two very happy guests,
Sue and Karl.

At the Shangri La on New Year’s Eve were Peter Rotherham, Rex Baggaley,
Paul Humphries, (standing), and Jo Baggaley and Judith Rotherham, (seated).

“Glam” is the byword at The Chedi on New Year’s Eve with Aiden, Hunny,
Michael and Adil, (l-r).

Colette and Bo see in the New Year with Somock, the Guru of D2.


Pilgrims throng temples to pray for good fortune in the new year

Traffic jams on road up to Doi Suthep

Crowds pay respect to the statue of Khru Bah Srivichai, the Lanna pilgrim,
at the foot of Doi Suthep Mountain.

Staff reporters
During the run-up to the New Year celebrations in and around Chiang Mai, many temples experienced a noticeable increase in the numbers of people arriving in order to make merit, receive prayers from famous monks, and pray for good fortune in the New Year.

The New Year countdown and celebrations organized at the Night Safari.
Sridonmoon Temple, in Tambon Chompoo, Sarapee, overflowed with people receiving prayers from Phrakruu Sirisinsangworn and Phra Acharn Noi, who is famous in the Lanna region. During their devotions, they bought tiny Mahalarp and Heart of Buddha 108 sacred scrolls. They also bought Kasatorn scrolls, which, it is believed, bring good luck and protection from accidents if carried with the faithful throughout the year. The two monks stated that they had never seen so many people attending the temple before, as in previous years people seemed to prefer attending New Year parties as a farewell to the old year and a welcome to the new. Both were very pleased with the increase in making of merit, although as a result of the increased numbers, their voices were now very hoarse! Phrakruu Sirinsangworn and Phra Acharn Noi also accept donations of teak to be used to make coffins at the impoverished Tonhayo Temple in Yangneng, Saraphee District. This temple was the home of a famous monk, Phra Ruen Sanyajito, who died there aged 92. His body was placed into a glass coffin, and remains within the temple; his previous teak coffin was given for charity.
Phrathat Doi Suthep Temple was also the scene of an unusually high number of visitors during the same period. This, combined with high tourist numbers, (many combining a visit to Doi Suthep with one to the Zoo),  at the nearby Chiang Mai Zoo, created a serious traffic jam on the road leading up to Doi Suthep. Police from Phuping Police station were forced to apply a “one-way” system, closing the road alternatively to upward and downward traffic.

No place to go - Chiang Mai’s first womens’ refuge

Wildflower Home faces problems

“When I was pregnant, my world collapsed and I thought I would die. Being at Wildflower Home helps me know that there is a way out. Here I feel support which helps me to do things for myself.”

The children’s room at present in use.

The above quote, from a young mother at Wildflower Home, could be from any young girl anywhere in the West who had found herself in the same frightening situation. Here in Thailand, the reality of that honest and heartfelt statement is very different from its Western counterpart. In most Western countries there would be government sponsored financial aid, accommodation would be provided, a modern hospital with all facilities would be ready and waiting at the moment of birth, and, most importantly, there would be little or no stigma attached to either the mother or to the baby. At Wildflower Home in Chiang Mai, the 13 residents, aged from 13 years upwards, mostly come from rural or tribal backgrounds, where traditional attitudes may well be far removed from those in the West. To put it bluntly, these girls simply have nowhere else to go except the streets, and no one to support them except themselves. Many have escaped from domestic violence, some have been rejected by their families on becoming pregnant, and most, together with their children, have been forced to bear the brunt of social stigmatisation, economic challenge, discrimination and violations of their human rights. All are single, alone, and in crisis. They come from all over, from Burma, from Laos, from the mountains of Northern Thailand as well as from the towns. And they keep coming. Over the two years Wildflower has been in operation, 63 % of the 35 women and 34 children they have accepted and helped have been victims of domestic abuse. Referrals come from schools, NGOs, hospitals, and religious organisations and are checked to make sure that a request for shelter is not being made to simply avoid deportation. There are far too few places on offer, 15 in all at present, rising, hopefully, to 25 when new dwellings are completed on the land which Wildflower is purchasing. There is no time limit on each individual woman’s stay; the goal is to support them during this particularly vulnerable time in their lives, and to educate them in self-sufficiency in order to give them the confidence and self-esteem necessary to take up their lives again and care for themselves and their children in the outside world. Residents at Wildflower have included 11 Hmong women, 3 Akka, 4 Lahu, one of whom was from Laos, 3 Karen, 2 Katchin from Burma, and 12 Thais. 20 women were pregnant when they arrived at Wildflower and 17 women, 3 of whom were also pregnant, brought with them their other children. Many different languages are spoken; but, as women do with other women, everyone manages to make themselves understood.
The objectives of Wildflower Home are simple - to provide safe shelter, health care, education and emotional support to women coming from difficult situations, to have each woman in a steady job or continuing education after leaving the refuge, and to be assured that each child is in a healthy, loving environment in his or her new home. So straightforward and relevant but so difficult to achieve when financing is solely from individual donations. Wildflower Home is fortunate enough to have dedicated volunteers, two of whom are residents, who provide essential counselling and group therapy, Thai and English language lessons, computer classes, vocational skills, capacity building exercises, health care education, financial management and spiritual guidance. Income generation skills are taught, in order to prepare the women for self-sufficiency when they are ready to leave Wildflower. Child care is organised on a rotation basis between the women themselves with help from volunteers in the local community. Health care and, where necessary, referrals to a psychologist are provided at a local hospital.
When a woman arrives at Wildflower Home, she is assessed by a social worker who will determine both her needs and her strengths. Goals are then set and reviewed after a three month period. After six months, new goals are set regarding the woman’s future after she leaves the refuge.
Some of the womens’ stories and other details will be published in a follow-up article in two weeks’ time; but right now we would like to focus your attention on an immediate problem faced by everyone at Wildflower. In April, only four short months from now, the entire organisation, together with the residents, will be forced to move from their present rented accommodation as it has been promised to another needy group. The land which they are purchasing is adjacent to their present site, however, there are as yet no homes built, and very little finance is readily available. At least two wooden structures containing three rooms each are urgently needed to house the women and their children, together with a nursery and a kitchen/dining space for communal cooking and eating. Estimates of approximately 400,000 baht per three room unit have recently been received from local building contractors. In addition, Wildflower Home is at present asking for donations of building materials, particularly concrete, hardwood, bamboo panels, plumbing and electrical supplies. Volunteers are desperately needed to help with general duties during the period of the build, working with a local construction company. The project will be self-managed, as Michael, who, with his wife Elizabeth, runs Wildflower Home, is a fully qualified and experienced architect and electrical design engineer. If you’d like to find out more, please visit Wildflower Home’s website at www.wildflowerhome.net.

Residents with their children in their present home.

The site of the homes to be constructed.