Vol. VII No. 3 - Tuesday
January 15, - January 21, 2008



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by Saichon Paewsoongnern


FEATURES
HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

The first Chiang Mai ToyRide a smashing success without a smash!

Food price inflation, is it affecting your budget?

 

The first Chiang Mai ToyRide a smashing success without a smash!

Scott Jones & Elle Faraday
Two months before the first Chiang Mai ToyRide 2008 on 6 January, Robert called me with plans for the ride that did not include a set date, a logo or an organization to handle the charity activities for the event. He did, however, have an overdeveloped heart and a committee with similar attributes. And they all had a dream: to give toys and stuffed animals to disadvantaged children. Everybody needs a buddy. Somehow we all pulled it together and had a grand event, although two months ago, Robert was 50-something and today he’s at least 60-something.
Robert Straghan and Richy Wilson were the two who originally came up with the idea of bringing the toy ride to Thailand. Robert had been involved with toy rides in Vancouver and had seen how successful they had been. The idea to organise one in Chiang Mai soon turned into a reality and together with a team of committee members, the toy ride was planned and carried out in just two months - a fantastic achievement!
About 160 bikes of all sizes, though heavy in the big bike category, met at Tesco Khamtien at 10 a.m. to begin the ToyRide around the moat, around the Samoeng loop and finally gathering at Huay Tung Tao Lake for an afternoon of food, music, festivities, games and most importantly, a presentation of toys to children from two local orphanages: Ponsawan Community Development Center in Sansai and Children’s Garden orphanage near Doi Saket. (While Robert, the leader of the pack, was getting ready to ride, all of the bikes left without him in the lead. This may have been responsible for one year of his recent aging.). Once the loop of the moat had been completed, those who did not feel their bikes were up to a long run went straight to the lake. The only requirement for participation was for everyone to bring a new toy and deposit it on the burgeoning pile of bears, trucks, dolls and games, that continued to grow along with the kids’ eyes with visions of which toy might be theirs. The park was filled with celebrities: Santa rode in, Spiderman lurked on a Harley, and the Pink Panther gave the audience a respectful wai.
A one minute silence was held in remembrance of H.M. the King’s sister and a speech by TAT director Khun Junnapong Saranak was well received by everyone.
Everyone was in a spirited mood while circulating through the vendors, marveling at Joker Man the Clown’s balloon artistry, chowing down on the complementary food donated by the Imperial Mae Ping, checking out the live music on stage and watching a hyperactive two-year-old snatching stuffed animals larger than her from the pile, while her mother raced after trying to catch her, perhaps wishing she had a large roll of duct tape so she could secure her daughter to a tree. There was a clown at the lake for the kids who did absolute wonders with balloons. They found themselves being handed balloons in the shape of bicycles, caterpillars, swords, guns, teddy bears and hats. The excitement radiating from their faces was impossible to ignore.
Certainly the highlight of the afternoon was when all the kids finally got to approach the toys just before they actually exploded with excitement, and though we tried to organize it orderly by age, soon they all dived in. As they sat round with their little eyes glued to the pile of toys, the signal came for them to pick a toy each and absolute mayhem ensued. The first girl to find herself at the pile of toys took a teddy bear which was possibly twice her size and she grinned from ear to ear as she walked away with her prize. The two-year-old literally did dive in, swimming through the toys doing the Australian crawl and the Thai backstroke, while flinging toys into the air with reckless abandon. Her life will be downhill from that moment of complete joy, a joy that transferred to the hearts of everyone watching.
The ToyRide committee represented bikers, non-bikers and several countries, though all make their home in Chiang Mai: Robert Straghan, retired Canadian engineer and avid petrol head; Ritchie Wilson, American owner of Richco Motorsports, who will powder coat your bike, your industrial machinery or your neighbor’s unruly pets; David Unkovich from Down Under, Mr G-T Rider Himself, map-maker and author of A Motorcycle Guide to the Golden Triangle; Ian Rauner, the Kiwi rider and God of Bungy from Chiang Mai X-Centre; Brit Charles Begley, non-rider proprietor of Tusker’s Bar and founder of the charity EleAid, which helps Asian elephants; Martin Titheridge, British English teacher, owner of PM Restaurant and scooter rider; and displaced American Scott Jones, chairman/founder of the nonprofit Give and Live, musician, writer, cross-biker (Harley or Honda) and human being, not necessarily in that order.
Numbers? 200-some bikes came to the lake and more than 300 folks partied till 5 p.m. including the 70 orphans and their caretakers. No one counted the toys, but there were plenty left for another presentation event with an ice cream truck, soda, Joker Man, toy presentation and thumb-wrestling tournament at the Girls’ Home at Vieng Ping orphanage on Saturday, January 12th for National Children’s Day. Through personal donations, vendor support and business sponsorships such as Harley Davidson Bangkok, Tesco Lotus, Discovery Moto Tours and Richco Motorsports, we raised an additional 150,000 baht, which will soon renovate larger playground equipment in desperate need of repair at Vieng Ping as well as fund more toys for the kids at the Boys’ Home and for lonely children in area hospitals. The funds and toy presentation events are handled by the nonprofit Give and Live, which matched donations up to a total of 20,000 baht.
After more fun and games the children got on stage, sang a few songs and the day came to an end. It had been a resounding success and taking into account the fact that this was the first ever toy ride seen in Thailand, it all went without a glitch.
We’re already planning next year’s event when we’ll try to remember to auction Ritchie’s powder coating that was donated but not auctioned this year for a very simple reason, although we haven’t figured out why yet. (Robert, David and I can blame it on age and memory loss, but not the rest of the committee.) Next year we need to get an invitation to every Honda Dream rider in Chiang Mai, which should boost our attendance to seventeen million. More photos will be up soon at www.chiangmaitoyride.com. Please join us next year!

 

Food price inflation, is it affecting your budget?

Bloomberg reports 12 % increase in food prices in Thailand

Staff Reporter
Most people are aware, due to media focus, that worldwide food prices have risen considerably over the last year. Many reasons are given; the favourite seems to be the increased cost of transportation due to rising oil prices on the world market - mostly fuelled (pardon the pun) by speculation rather than rises in production costs, fluctuations in supply, or an occasional hurricane. The increasing use of land to grow crops for bio-fuel had also been, correctly, blamed, pushing corn prices up to previously unheard of heights. But how does this affect supermarket prices in Chiang Mai? Official reports of last year’s inflation figures vary between 2.2 % overall to 4.5 %. However, Bloomberg recently reported that food price inflation in the Kingdom was running at 12 %. Does that sound about right? Given that the average Thai retailer’s reaction to falling turnover and profits is to raise prices, ignoring the principles of supply and demand, it’s still difficult to justify such a huge increase, which, of course, is being passed on to customers in restaurants and shops as well as at markets and in the malls. Fresh food is mostly either imported from China, at lower wholesale prices than are obtainable here by growers, or sourced locally, sometimes very locally! Imported goods always were expensive, and the dollar exchange rate has to be responsible for ever higher prices in this area, but this government’s fiscal policies are also not helping.
However, for expats on a fixed retirement budget, the reasons are not as important as the struggle to continue with a modest but comfortable lifestyle. It’s not always convenient, (and sometimes impossible!) to cook at home, and if Western food is preferred, ingredients may not always be available and are invariably expensive. Cutting back on social events is one somewhat depressing answer, as most of us came here to have a better quality of life in retirement that would have been possible in our home countries! Whilst real estate is still comparatively cheap, whether renting or buying, an empty fridge is not an attractive option, nor is having to miss out on a meal out with friends. Of course, it’s not just the expat community which is affected; consider the effect on the average Thai family budget of a 12 % increase in food bills!
Whether the new government will consider the increase as a problem to be addressed remains to be seen, (although it’s impossible to imagine that expats needs would be factored in!), but, apart from the fiscally risky strategy of granting even more subsidies to growers and producers, it’s hard to imagine what they can do to alleviate the situation. Just be thankful that you don’t live in the UK - food prices are projected to increase by 30% this year!



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