HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Experience elephants at close range

LTU International Airways hold party to introduce new service

Official opening of the Sofitel Riverside

Veterans of Foreign Wars Post established in Chiang Mai


Experience elephants at close range

Elfi Seitz
Wandering the forest trails with a herd of elephants, riding one over the fields and across the rivers, feeding and grooming the herd - this must be an elephant lover’s favourite dream. Elephant Life Experience, (ELE), lies in the Maetaman Valley, north of Mae Tang, near Chiang Mai, and makes the dream come true. The name says it all, as it is indeed a unique life experience.

Vanara Bunara, owner of the Elephant Life Experience, makes his welcome speech.
Visitors to ELE will have the opportunity to view elephants as they should be seen - as a herd. Isolated from any intrusive man-made noise, people may stay at the complex as long as they want to. They will be able to study carefully the lives of the elephants in their natural surroundings, and, at the same time, enjoy the freedom and flexibility to explore pure nature. In this beautiful and peaceful area, an idly running river forms the forest path through the gently wooded hills. Here, the pachyderms regularly enjoy their baths - guests are welcome to join them! Mahouts show how they train the giant beasts, and invite guests who want to study the lives of these “elephant gypsies” to their homes. Each guest is given genuine mahout clothes which they may take with them when they leave. One very special skill which the elephants have learned is that of painting, and every guest will receive an elephant masterpiece as a souvenir of their visit. A remote lodge is available, which provides comfort and luxury, together with the choice of a picnic or a delicate and delicious dinner!
The Elephant Life Experience was officially opened on January 17 by the Minister of Tourism and Sports, Dr. Suvit Yodmani. Together with his wife, Dr. Suvit was delighted by the establishment of this new camp, where elephants can be seen in an almost total wilderness. He thanked the owners, Anchalee Kalmapijit and Varayan Bunarat for their commitment and wished them all the best for their and the camp’s future. He commented that this was a terrific chance, especially for teenagers and children, to learn about nature through experiencing it “from the inside”.
On the opening day, the first visitors to the camp included many senior executives, mainly from the tourism sector, who joined in the colourful and amusing opening ceremony with much enjoyment. Dancers moved to the beat of two drums, one played by Dr. Suvit, the other by an elephant, as a group of beautiful women, each one dressed in elegant traditional costume and seated on an elephant, passed by in a picturesque parade. Guests who wished to hop onto an elephant’s back for a ride
found that their wish was granted! Later, the Amari Rincome’s excellent German Chef provided a delicious meal for the hundreds of guests. It was a perfect end to a truly amazing and adventurous elephant experience, one which many of the guests were determined to repeat on a return visit in the future.
In an exclusive interview, Anchalee told Chiang Mai Mail’s special correspondent how she came up with the idea for Elephant Life Experience. Many tourists, she said, view the usual style of elephant camp as not attractive because of the fixed, standard programmes at scheduled times. “In our family business, I’ve been working with elephants since 1976, so I’m very experienced. Previously, I managed both the Maesa and the Maetaman Elephant camps simultaneously, with 110 elephants and 400 employees. Currently, here we have 25 employees looking after 9 elephants, 3 young and six adult.” Anchalee deprecates the fact that elephants are allowed in Chiang Mai city and says, “This should be forbidden as it is in Bangkok. What we need are donations and the help of concerned organizations that support elephants and their mahouts. The elephant is the national symbol of Thailand, and the most important priority is to teach people how they should be treated. It may be difficult to find alternative work for them and their mahouts which they will be happy to do, but we must change the old law which regards elephants simply as vehicles”. Asked whether there are other facilities apart from the National Elephant Hospital near Lampang where old and sick beasts can be cared for, Anchalee replied, “There are two hospitals in Lampang, and one in Chiang Mai, as part of the Faculty of Veterinary Studies at the University. Also, Thailand has a mobile medical service that covers every corner of the kingdom. As you can see, there are more people than you might realize who care about and for these wonderful beasts.
Although prices for the adventure have not yet been decided, a programme of various options has been drawn up. Guests will, of course, be offered an excellent menu from which to choose, at all times of the day from breakfast to the evening meal. Special themed nights will be offered, as will wedding and honeymoon special packages.
To find out more about the camp, send an email to [email protected] or call 081 724 4211 (Anchalee).

Four pretty posers all in a row.

Jennifer Simms (Director of Wellness) and Elfi Seitz (Executive Editor Pattaya Blatt) fell in love with the baby elephant.

An elephant or Picasso - what’s the difference?

As if a dream...a beautiful maiden on an elephant wading through a stream.

Mahouts stand proudly in front of their adorable and talented brood.

Dr. Suvit Yodmani, Minister of Tourism and Sports, accepts a masterpiece
created by an elephant...Guess he will need a large fireplace!

Dr. Suvit Yodmani and Prai Jumbo play the long drums much
to the enjoyment of the guests.


LTU International Airways hold party to introduce new service

Bangkok to Berlin direct flights welcome Thai tourists to “Discover Berlin 2008”

Tess Itura
On the evening of January 16, LTU International Airways, a subsidiary of Air Berlin, held a party and presentation at the Saenkham Terrace Restaurant, to introduce their new service to Berlin as part of Berlin Tourism’s “Discover Berlin 2008“ initiative.

Dirk Weeber-Arayatumsopon from the German Thaifriends club shows off his new hair style.
The party was hosted by the German Consul, Hagen Dirksen, whose invited guests included the Princess Maja von Hohenzollern, who was in town on a visit to the School for Life, M. L. Sirchalerm Svasti and Mr Raymond Honings (Managing Director LTU Asia).
Hagen Dirksen welcomed the VIP guests, after which Ralf Ostendorf, sales director for the Berlin Tourism Marketing GmbH, and Raymond Honings, executive manager of LTU gave a short presentation about the new programme of flights from Bangkok to Berlin and the many attractions of the famous city.
“The exchange between Thailand and the German capital will now be easier than ever before with the introduction of the new travel route from Bangkok to Berlin with LTU International Airlines.” said the travel executives.
They emphasised fashion and design, contemporary art and galleries, and the legendary Berlin nightlife and multimedia scene. Also mentioned were the 225 discotheques, bars and clubs within the city, and that public transport runs all through the night, ensuring that night owls can find their way home safely and comfortably! For daytime shopping fun, as well as the thirty thousand boutiques, fashion shops with extraordinary Berlin designs, and stores, there are more than 30 flea markets and second hand markets scattered around the city. For culture buffs, the monumental Babylon exhibition will take place this summer at the Pergamon Museum, and in autumn/winter a major Paul Klee retrospective will be organised at the new National Gallery.
LTU offers 15 direct flights from Bangkok and Phuket to Berlin, Düsseldorf and Munich per week with easy connecting flights to major cities in German and Europe.

Raymond Honings (2nd left) poses with three very beautiful ladies,
 H. H. Princess Maja von Hohenzollern (left) Julie Hastings (2nd right)
 and Dominique Leutwiler (right).

Sabina, Susanna and Hans Peter enjoy the wine and the company
at the LTU gathering.

(l-r) Markus Moschner, LTU regional manager Asia, Ralf Ostendorf, H. H. Princess Maja von Hohenzollern, M. L.Sirichalerm Svasti, Raymond Honings (Managing Director LTU Asia), Dominique Leutwiler, Manager of the School for Life, Khun Wanphen and the Hon.German Consul, Hagen Dirksen.

Pattidi, Wanphen, M. L. Sirichalerm, Narong, Wiwat and Chamaiphan take time out for this important social gathering at the Saenkham Terrace Restaurant.

Official opening of the Sofitel Riverside

Splendid design, superb food, spectacular entertainment

Boomlert Buranupakorn and the Honourable Phornsiri Manoharn,
(second right), opening the Sofitel Riverside Hotel.

Over 200 years ago, the Wat Ket community became established in Chiang Mai along the banks of the River Ping. Over the course of time, travellers and merchants from China and the Western world settled there and influenced architectural styles. 200 years later, in the same area, the Managing Director of the Riverside Spa Resort Co. Ltd., Boomlert Buranupakorn, (himself born in Chiang Mai), was inspired to create a 5 star hotel which was to be managed by an international hotel chain, but 100% invested in and designed by local people. His chosen architect, Ajarn Apichart Sriarun, designed a stunning “low rise” 4 storied building, inspired by the traditional combined Chinese, Western and Lanna style of architecture in the immediate area.

Beautiful Thai dancers entertaining the guests in the swimming pool.
Although the “soft opening” of the new Sofitel Riverside took place some 9 months ago, the long-awaited official opening finally took place on January 19 amid sumptuous celebrations. Brendan Daly, the Sofitel’s General Manager, greeted his honoured guests, including part and present Governors of Chiang Mai, General Managers of the top Chiang Mai hotels, and a number of local businessmen, on their arrival. The opening ceremony itself was conducted by the Honourable Pornsiri Manoharn, the Governor of Tourism of Thailand. After the ceremony, held in front of the hotel, was concluded, many guests were treated to a very special event indeed. To their surprise and delight, they were invited to travel by horse and carriage down to the River Ping, where the Sofitel Launch was waiting to return them to the hotel in grand style!
Awaiting them was a superb dinner menu, specially arranged by the Sofitel’s executive chef, Mike Drews, who had ordered King Lobsters from Phuket, Pate de Foie Gras from France, Parma Ham from Italy, a selection of cheeses from both France and Italy, and many other delicacies including a delicious selection of Japanese specialities. To go with the meal, Moet et Chandon champagne was served in quantity! Both during the dinner and afterwards, guests were treated to Lanna and international dances and displays, as well as music from the Fusion Jazz Band, and entertainment by the “Elvis Artists of Thailand”. A much appreciated feature of the entertainment were the 11 songs of Lanna Jazz flavour which had been specially composed by Infinity both for the occasion and for the exclusive use of the Sofitel on future occasions.
Following the “after dinner” speeches, the celebrations ended with a Grande Finale and a magnificent firework display. The Sofitel Riverside is situated at the south end of Changklan Road, and has 75 bedrooms on four floors. Traditional Lanna decorative artefacts are used to stunning effect in the reception area, whilst the outdoor seating and dining areas are interspersed with ponds, tropical plants and water features, all complimenting the originality of the design, and providing a cool and relaxing environment. Sofitel’s motto is “Because no one country or city is the same,” Sofitel has made each of its hotels around the world a truly unique establishment. The same can be said for the opening celebrations, truly a magnificent affair.

Distinguished guests and management raise a glass of champagne to toast
the opening of the Sofitel Riverside.

General Managers from around town meeting Michael Morrow, the US Consul General, and his wife Shannon, at the opening of the Sofitel Riverside.

Veterans of Foreign Wars Post established in Chiang Mai

Official Post installation at the Chiang Mai Grandview Hotel

January 17, 2008 was an auspicious day for the American veterans of foreign wars now living in Chiang Mai, many of whom served in the conflict in Vietnam. Post 12074 was installed at the Grandview Hotel, and named in honour of Squadron Leader John “Scarsdale Jack” Newkirk, who was killed in action near Chiang Mai during the Second World War.

Rhett Webber welcoming Michael Morrow, the US Consul General.
The USA Consul General, Michael Morrow, was on hand to celebrate with the more than 70 veterans in attendance, together with VWF Department and District Commanders, Department staff from Korea, members of the Pattaya, Bangkok and Udon posts, wives and friends of the Chiang Mai members, and many of the regional VFW staff. The local media were also out in force, confirming the significance of the new Post.
The swearing in of officers and members of the Chiang Mai Post was conducted by Rhett Webber, the Department of the Pacific Area Commander. James Oden, the District 5 Commander, gave the prayer. Michael Morrow gave a brief address, with words of praise and admiration for the Post’s establishment in Chiang Mai.
A delightful buffet was provided, and the camaraderie amongst all present was so thick you could taste it!
The Veterans of Foreign Wars organisation is altruistic and non-profit-making, its primary benefit being to the wives and children of America’s military veteran expats.
Please visit the Chiang Mai VFW website, at www.vfw-chiangmai.org for full details and more photos of the event itself. VFW meetings will be held on the first Saturday of every month at 11.30 a.m. Location details and a map are available on the website.

James Oden, Larry Lyons, Jim Malott, Rose and Rhett Webber (l/r),
with Mike Holmes and Chris Palombi (standing).

Veterans of Foreign Wars being sworn in.