HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

The Doctor's Consultation

Your Health & Happiness

Agony Column

Camera Class by Snapshot

Money Matters

Life in Chiang Mai

Let's Go To The Movies

Life in the laugh lane

Doc English The Language Doctor

Welcome to Chiang Mai


tech tips with Mr.Tech Savvy

An American Redneck in Chiang Mai

The Doctor's Consultation:  by Dr. Iain Corness

Thanks, Mum and Dad

We all have much to thank our parents for. Just letting us grow up for starters. As an aside, if my young son continues much longer with the two year old tantrums, he’s going to be lucky to reach his third birthday, but no doubt his mother will shield him from paternal wrath.
However, heredity is one of the ‘clues’ to your health in the future, and what you can do to enjoy a long, lively and healthy one. This is where ‘thanks Mum and Dad’ comes in. One problem of being an orphan is that it leaves the person with no idea as to what ailments are going to befall them. Dad might have legged it or ‘fled the scene’, but did he live to tell the tale when he was 60?
With the increasing research into genetics, we are able to map out our likely futures and can predict such ailments as diabetes, epilepsy and other neurological problems like Huntington’s Chorea and Alzheimer’s Disease, some cancers such as breast, ovarian, lower bowel, prostate, skin and testicular, heart attacks, blood pressure problems, certain blood diseases like Sickle Cell anemia and so the list goes on.
However, you do not need to have multi-million baht examinations done on your DNA to see where you are headed, all you need to do is to start asking the older family members about your inheritance. Not the money - your genetic inheritance in the health stakes.
Have you ever wondered why the questionnaire for life insurance asks whether any close member of your family has ever suffered from diabetes, epilepsy and other ailments and then also asks you to write down how old your parents or brothers and sisters were when they died, and what they died from? All that they, the insurance companies, are doing is finding out the relative likelihood (or ‘risk’) of your succumbing early to an easily identifiable disease. This does not need a postgraduate Masters degree in rocket science. It needs a cursory application of family history.
If either of your parents had diabetes, your elder brother has diabetes, your younger brother has diabetes and your cousin has diabetes, what are the odds on your getting (or already having) diabetes? Again this is not rocket science. The answer is pretty damn high! And yet, I see families like this, where the individual members are totally surprised and amazed when they fall ill, go to hospital, and diabetes is diagnosed.
It does not really take very much time over a family lunch to begin to enquire about one’s forebears. After five minutes it will be obvious if there is some kind of common medical thread running through your family. That thread may not necessarily be life threatening, but could be something like arthritis for example.
Look at it this way - your future is being displayed by your family’s past. This could be considered frightening, when your father, his brother and your grandfather all died very early from heart attacks. Or, this could be considered as life saving, if it pushes you towards looking at you own cardiac health and overcoming an apparently disastrous medical history.
This is an advantage that you get provided you are not an orphan. You know what to look for before it becomes a problem. Going back to the family with diabetes, what should the younger members do? Well, if it were me, I would be having my blood sugar checked at least once a year from the age of 20. Any time I had reason to visit the doctor in between, I would also ask to have the level checked. We are talking about a very inexpensive test that could literally save you millions of baht in the future, as well as giving you a better quality of life, and a longer one.
Ask around the dinner table today and plan to check your medical future tomorrow. It’s called a ‘Check-up’!


Your Health & Happiness: UN secretary-general meets with Rotary leaders in Chicago

Organisation praised for its work in polio eradication

Susie Ma
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon met with Rotary leaders and praised Rotarians for their commitment to polio eradication during a recent visit to Chicago.
“Rotary International has led a worldwide campaign to wipe out polio. Sometime soon, their work will be done. Polio will be history, like smallpox,” Ban said in an address to the Economic Club of Chicago on February 7.
At a private ceremony earlier in the day, Rotary International President Wilfrid J. Wilkinson presented Ban with the Rotary International Award of Honor in recognition of his support for polio eradication and his dedication to furthering peace and cross-cultural understanding. Past recipients of this high Rotary honor include Kofi Annan, Bill Clinton, Mikhail Gorbachev, and Nelson Mandela.
The secretary-general also met with Foundation Trustee Chair Robert S. Scott, RI General Secretary Edwin H. Futa, and RI President-elect Dong Kurn Lee. Ban and Lee, both from South Korea, are personal friends.
Rotary’s close ties with the UN date back to 1945 when 49 Rotarians helped draft the UN charter. Rotary continues to collaborate with the UN through the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, a partnership with the United Nation’s Children’s Fund, the World Health Organization, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Source: Rotary International News

Heart to Heart  with Hillary

Dear Hillary,
Valentine’s Day has been and gone and I didn’t get one from anyone. Being as handsome as I am, I was sure that the postman would be weighed down with cards and suchlike, but he either missed my mailbox, or dropped my mail off in the klong because it must have been too heavy. How was your Valentine’s Day, Hillary? I hope it was better than mine. I feel that nobody loves me, and I don’t know why!
Dear Gorgeous George,
What a blow to the ego February 14 must have been for you! Not left waiting at the altar, but left waiting at the letterbox. What a fate, and people probably saw you there as well. Oh my goodness! However, Hillary has the answer for you, my handsome Petal. Next year send some cards to yourself and you can noisily take them out after the postman has been, so everyone in the street knows you got some. The only other way to go about filling the letterbox is to stop being such a smug, self-opinionated bore, and people will start to like you, and some may send you a real Valentine’s Day card. How was my day? Absolutely wonderful, stack of cards and flowers, though it was somewhat strange - most of the cards were addressed to “George”. Where exactly do you live? Close to my office?

Dear Hillary,
Can you recommend a good computer technician? Every time my computer breaks down, the technician takes it away to fix it, and returns it several days later and when I go to use it, something else has packed up. If he works on it at my condo he is there for hours click-clacking away and not only does he not fix the first problem, but leaves more than when he started. “You haven’t got enough RAM,” seems to be the catchword with these people, but even after buying more, the problems are still there. Any ideas, Hillary? My internet doesn’t work any more, and he can’t fix that either!
Dear Frazzled,
You’re lucky it’s only a RAM problem. I’ve bought a veritable sheep station of RAMs and now they’re telling me it is my operating system that is no good. I ask you, what’s wrong with Windows 1946? It worked before, why not now? Honestly Petal, I have no idea about this modern technology. Bring back faxes, I say. I could understand those. I have to communicate with the editor with notes written on the back of envelopes. His office is just below mine, so it’s easy to slip one under the door (he works rather strange hours, and nobody ever sees him). I think he might have one of those disfiguring diseases like a terminal hangnail or horrendous halitosis or something. I do inhale deeply as I pass his door, just in case he’s died in there after last week’s paper was put to be. See just how thoughtful I am!

Dear Hillary,
I am sure you’ve heard it all before, but I think I am being ripped off. My girlfriend (Thai) has recently started to ask me for more money than she normally gets for housekeeping and the monthly wage I give her. It was just a few hundred baht here and there to start with, but now she needs thousands at a time. When I ask her why she needs the extra she gets sulky and when I really push her for an answer the best I get is “for family - you farang no understand.” Hillary, is there something here that I should understand, or what? I am getting very tired of the continual cash hand-outs.
Dear ATM Andy,
It sounds like there is lots you don’t understand. “Family” is important to a Thai and is one of the strongest bonds for the individual. Family keeps them together, family gets them over problems of all types, financial and otherwise. It is very similar to the Chinese borrowing system - but there is always pay-back time. Your girlfriend may be returning money borrowed from before - in that time in her life B.A. - before Andy. She may also be helping her brother/mother/father/cousin (delete that which is not applicable) out of a jam. And on the other hand, she may be gambling with it, another very common Thai pastime. You really have to start communicating better with your girlfriend, Petal, if you want to know where the money goes. If she is the money manager for the household, sit down each week and discuss the family budget. If you do this in a non-threatening way, then you will find out where the money goes. If it ends up in sulkiness or accusations, then it is time to review the entire relationship and handle the housekeeping yourself. I also worry about relationships where the “girlfriend/wife” is paid a “wage” each month. For what, Andy? For staying with you, putting up with you, or what? We call that having a “mia chow” (rented wife), and a master and servant relationship will always fail, in my experience. Thai women may look meek and mild, but they’re not. They most certainly are not, and when pushed will bite back. That is something else you have to understand, Andy.

Camera Class:  by Harry Flashman

Do you need a flash at all?

Camera flashes come in all shapes and sizes. These range from piddly little things in the camera body, which will light up the end of your nose and not much else, through to pop-up flashes that will get to the other side of a (small) room, through to the big hammer-head flashes which bolt on to the camera and can light up the other side of the moon. But do you really need all this ‘firepower’?
Take a look at the photo with this week’s column. The Halloween lantern was photographed at night, and if a flash had been used, the whole atmosphere of this photograph would have been lost. With flash you would have had a washed out pumpkin, and nothing inside. Without the flash, the solitary candle burning inside was the source of light, and the photo really shows up the carving and the fact that it is a Halloween pumpkin. A small amount of light was reflected from the photographer back into the exterior front of the pumpkin, and there you have it – a ‘surreal’ shot of a Halloween pumpkin.
Now the orange color (which you can see on the net version of Chiang Mai Mail, but unfortunately not in the grey and white hard copy) is something that came with the candle light. What has to be remembered, is that light comes in many different colors. There is in fact a light scale, measured in degrees Kelvin, that shows why the late afternoon shots are ‘warm’ and the other shots are ‘cold’. It also explains why a household light bulb looks orange when photographed on ordinary film, and why objects lit by neon tubes look green. This color shift can also be seen with digital cameras if you do not reset the white balance for the prevailing light source.
Getting slightly technical, color temperature is a term that is borrowed from physics. However, the photographic color temperature is not exactly the same as the color temperature defined in physics, as photographic color temperature is measured only on the relative intensity of blue to red. However, we borrow the basic measurement scale from physics and we measure the photographic color temperature in degrees Kelvin (K).
Here is a table to show the differences in light sources.
1000 K Candles; oil lamps
2000 K Low effect tungsten lamps
2500 K Household light bulbs
3000 K Studio lights, photo floods
4000 K Clear flashbulbs
5000 K Typical daylight; electronic flash
5500 K The sun at noon
6000 K Bright sunshine with clear sky
7000 K Slightly overcast sky
8000 K Hazy sky
9000 K Open shade on clear day
The next confusing aspect is that the photographic film and the human eye do not see the colours with the same intensity. The usual print film is ‘balanced’ to around 5,000 K, so light sources lower in color temperature will look orange, even though it does not look orange to the naked eye. There are other films available balanced to tungsten light, so this time the light bulb will look white. You also do not have to know the degrees Kelvin table by heart to get some different photographs when you turn the flash off.
Try doing the following this weekend and let’s get some spectacular low-light photographs. Firstly, inactivate the flash, but turn on the automatic mode for your camera. In other words I am going to make this very easy for you. No hard exposure calculations. If you have a tripod, dust it off, but even if you haven’t, continue.
Go to your local markets at dusk and take some photographs of what goes on there, using just the stall-holder’s naked bulb for illumination. Be prepared to lean against a telephone pole to stop camera shake. But give it a go.
Now try photographing some of the hotels at night. Most are quite brightly lit and once again, you may end up very surprised at what you get. Even try some portraits lit by candles only. Use your imagination, and not the flash!

Money Matters:  Paul Gambles MBMG International Ltd.

The Writing is on the Wall (St) part 2

To our minds the idea that Wall Street takes an idea like long/short investing and packages it neatly (in the sense that a square peg in a round hole is neat), markets it, devalues it and then moves on and abandons it in favour of the next hot idea is the perfect example of why people are cynical about the financial industry. It is a little bit like turning on the radio to hear some really awful cover version of a song that’s always been important to you played by a talentless young band who just don’t understand what the original was all about but sense an opportunity to make money from it.
Whilst we are all in favour of innovation, we also go by the old maxim, “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it”. With this in mind, we have had quite a few people asking us about Alfred Winslow Jones, the founder of the hedge fund. We remain indebted to Michael C Litt’s excellent work on Puttnam, Jones and Moldodovsky for much of what we, at MBMG, know about Jones.
The least reported fact about Jones is that he was actually an Australian national. More widely recorded is that he was a graduate of Harvard’s 1923 class and his early career as a purser on tramp steamers was followed by a period in the U.S. diplomatic service in Depression-era Germany during the emergence of Nazism. He then moved into journalism. Originally covering the Spanish Civil War, Jones went on to study sociology at Columbia University and then to publish Life, Liberty and Property: A Story of Conflict and a Measurement of Conflicting Rights. During World War II, Jones worked as a staff writer for Fortune and Time magazines. In 1948, Fortune published an article he had been working on for quite some time, “Fashions in Forecasting”. This referred to the pioneering work of investment analysts who had evolved from the pure Dow theory “chartists” of the earlier part of the century to the consideration of increasingly complex sets of data in order to better gauge stock market machinations and investor behaviour.
Disparagingly called “technicians” these pioneers were considered pariahs by the disciples of the Graham and Dodd value approach, who exhibited that all too human trait of mocking what they couldn’t understand. In his article, Jones wrote that A. Wilfred May, the titular figurehead of the value approach at that time, was “directing a steady, fine spray of ridicule at the technicians … lumping them in with spiritualists, Ouija-board operators, astrologers, sunspot followers and cycle theorists.”
The most significant part of the article is Jones’ analysis of the work of fellow Harvard graduate, Nicholas Molodovsky of White, Weld & Co. Molodovsky was focusing solely on the technical approach, applying this by creating two lists of stocks, pairing shares of companies in the same or similar industries, and assessing their relative merits - one of each pair being consigned into a “value index” and the other into a “vision index” measuring investor confidence through the divergence in performance between the value and vision indices. 60 years ago Jones wrote, “The more volatile vision stocks normally diverge in price more widely from their ‘values.’”
Five years later Molodovsky himself published his seminal “A Theory of Price-Earnings Ratios,” and today an economics prize is awarded annually in his name, but his greatest legacy may well have been capturing Jones’ interest in such concepts as risk-weighting individual stocks, recognising their magnitude of divergence from their intrinsic value, and finding insights that deal in probabilities.
When Jones founded A.W. Jones & Co. in 1949 with $100,000 of initial capital, his strategy was based around the elimination of a good deal of market exposure by holding both long and short securities positions, with returns mainly generated by stock selection. For almost two decades, Jones operated extremely successfully, albeit without capturing too much attention until in 1966 Carol Loomis wrote a Fortune article, “The Jones Nobody Keeps Up With.” He wrote, “There are reasons to believe that the best professional manager of investors’ money these days is a quiet-spoken, seldom photographed man named Alfred Winslow Jones.” The idea that short selling and options could be used to protect stock portfolios was well-known at this stage.
Alfred Jones’ successful experiments with long/short funds (buying the stocks most likely to increase in value but short selling those most liable to correct) was about to create the worldwide phenomenon of hedge funds.
Jones had outperformed any other equity investment funds, while taking lower risks. This is precisely what S&P have recognised that MitonOptimal, in the form of Martin Gray, Sam Liddle and Scott Campbell, has done over the last ten years. It’s also what the Ivy League endowments have done. As we’ve highlighted recently, Harvard University enjoys the largest of the university endowment funds. The management of these has an extremely long history. It was already well established when the estate of John McLean was left in equal parts to Harvard University and Massachusetts General Hospital after his death in 1823. Over the subsequent seven years, while McLean’s widow was still living, the estate had not grown as expected under the care of designated trustees, leading both the university and hospital to sue the trustees for neglecting their duties, and resulting in Justice Puttnam pronouncing what has come to be known as ‘The prudent man’ rule which still pervades to this day.
The modern history of the Harvard endowment can probably be traced to 1988, when a team at Harvard Management Company (HMC) led by Jack Meyer started to pursue a non-conventional, or non-benchmarked approach to wealth management. During Meyer’s watch the endowment increased in value by over $8 billion more than would have been the case if HMC had simply achieved the university endowment benchmark during the period.
To be continued…

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 Paul Gambles on [email protected]

Life in Chiang Mai: by Mark Whitman

You may take a Thai out of Thailand but…

Three young Thais - my language teacher (female), an estate manager (male) and my hairdresser (gay male) - have each been kind enough to pay a similar compliment to me over the past weeks. Even allowing for natural Thai politeness and generosity I am emboldened enough to stray into the minefield known a Hillary Land and comment on some aspects of Thai-farang relationships, which each of the trio considered I was more understanding of ‘than most other farangs’. This conceit will possibly backfire, since it is inevitably based on generalizations and a mere few years of my life spent in the Kingdom. Also no-one, even generalizing, could encompass the range and classes of Thais - a unique and wonderful race - so I just ask you to wear the cap and see if it fits.
It supports the notion that you may take a Thai out of Thailand but you cannot take Thailand out of a Thai. Actually I believe this was originally said, or said most forcefully, by the great American photographer and sometime movie maker Bruce Weber, who remarked after a photo-shoot, “You can take the boy out of Vietnam but you cannot take Vietnam out of the boy”. So, in no particular order:
1. Thais are VERY different from farangs. The simple enormity of that remark is so obvious that it remains one of the mysteries of life as to why so many farangs fail to acknowledge it or more willfully choose to ignore it, absorbed as they are in their own world. Once sympathetically accepted and acted upon, life becomes infinitely easier for the intruder.
2. Thais, in common with most of us, long for security and one of the ways of achieving this is via a farang. This accounts for many ‘problems’, especially since they put family first, other Thais second and all else third. This is not a criticism.
3. Despite polite acquiescence, Thais - 99% of them, 99% of the time - do not enjoy other national foods in preference to their own spicy dishes. This applies nearly as much to, say, Chinese food (tasteless) or Indian (too oily) as to western food (bland). Any farang who consistently resists the local food and inflicts, (there is no other word), his own tastes on a Thai, should try a week’s diet of som tam at its spiciest, tom yum goong, (soup), pad ped kob (spicy boiled frog), and lab moo (minced pork) just to see how those extremes suit the palate.
4. The understanding of English though widespread is less deep than you may imagine. This will not usually be acknowledged through shyness or politeness and is, of course, exacerbated by the fact that they have turned off listening to the constant barrage of waffle which surrounds them when three or so foreigners talk about matters of no interest or relevance to them. A further problem may well be your rapidity of speech or a painful accent which renders you incoherent even to us farangs. So involve another Thai rather than go to dinner and say, “You sit opposite me so we can talk”, and then talk across the table or room, leaving your guest to chew on cardboard salmon and flick through glossy magazines, No wonder when the time comes and they are spoken to, usually to get the ‘check-bin’, they have to be woken up.
5. As mentioned, family comes first (remember when that used to be the case in the West too?). This accounts for the need to send money home and the ingenious stories about dead buffaloes, sick parents, school fees for brothers and sisters and so on. Whatever their veracity, they are lodged in a harsh, poverty based reality. Plus the fact that farangs are rightly perceived as wealthier than the majority of Thais, whatever the protestations and cries of a tax burden. Anyone who can fly here, even in economy, stay in a decent hotel, visit over-priced bars and eat out regularly is ‘rich’. Mean, sometimes, but rich.
6. Thais get bored by the sanook-free tone of farang life. The socializing, the endless chat (usually about the past, boys, girls, money, the merits or otherwise of different airlines and the idiocies of George W. Bush), plus the over-long meals, (Thais like to eat and go, little and often). Thais love their fun, have a wildly different humor, enjoy late nights with ‘odd’ sleep patterns, love karaoke, noisy discos and want to sleep and eat when necessary, (for necessary please insert immediately)! They do not - in the main - take life seriously, and are naturally modest in dress and manner. They can, however, be volatile.
7. Bad manners, unjustified anger and incomprehensible impatience are not understood - especially in social situations, such as restaurants and places of entertainment. Thai time is not Western time and if you are unable to relax and are constantly fussing about time, service, bumpy red busses, those irritating small tissues in bars, or the lack of a napkin or a knife then tension is bound to occur. May I suggest, Calm down, honey!
8. Thais like other Thais socially, sexually and often secretively. The na´ve assumption that we are the answer to their every prayer (except in the most obvious way) and that we depart the Kingdom leaving a string of broken hearts behind is rarely true. Of course, many Thais enjoy being with foreigners, as a reflection on their status, as a way of using English, because of the politeness of many visitors, the social contact and the cultural and monetary advantages. Thailand depends greatly on tourists and long term visitors but spending money here does not entitle one to change a way of life.
So, let’s remember that they enjoy sanook, live by a code of mai bpen rai, are a Buddhist nation and are devoted to their monarchy, enjoy their own humor, family, food and friends and cannot be expected this to be sacrificed 24/7. If you are jealous, propriatorial, over demanding, impatient, obsessive, mean spirited or just plain selfish you are in a for a rocky ride here, whether it be for a holiday or the last years of a lifetime. If, however you are prepared to pick up a smattering of Thai, to be your usual jovial self, generous and out going and adapt to the many delights and pleasures that the country offers the sky is the limit. And a very blue sky it is, too.

Let's Go To The Movies: Mark Gernpy

Now playing in Chiang Mai
Murder of the Inugami Clan:
Japan Thriller/Mystery (In Japanese, with Thai and English subtitles) - At Vista only, and thank you Vista for bringing something meaty and unusual to Chiang Mai!
Legendary Japanese director Ichikawa Kon’s 1976 film The Inugami Family holds a very special place in Japan’s long tradition of supernatural suspense. Based on Yokomizo Seishi’s epic work, this slow-burning family murder mystery is just about required viewing for Japanese cinema fans. In 2006, the 91-year-old director returned to remake his own most representative work, updating the classic film for contemporary audiences. Again, the unsettling Murder of the Inugami Clan delves into a tangled web of murderous lies and deceptions that is tearing apart a wealthy multi-generation family. Ishizaka Koji, who also featured in the original Inugami Family, leads the all-star cast as the famous Colombo-like detective Kindaichi Kosuke.
When tycoon Inugami Sahei passes away, he unexpectedly leaves the family fortune to outsider Tamayo on the condition that she marries one of the Inugami grandsons - Sukekiyo, Suketake, or Suketomo - pitting blood against blood. Soon afterwards, members of the family begin to show up dead, one by one. Detective Kindaichi Kosuke is called in to investigate the murders and the truth is slowly revealed as he happens upon years of hidden skeletons and a shocking family secret.
It’s not easy going; expect to work for your pleasure. Pay close attention to the plot details and I think you will be richly rewarded.
Jumper: US Adventure/Sci-Fi - Boy, is this a bad movie! I try very hard not to be negative, so here goes: If you check all your brains at the door, you might enjoy the mindless action without worrying about the truly stupid script. And for sure you will enjoy the scenic places he “jumps” to.
Kod (Handle Me With Care): Thai Romance - A three-armed man from Lampang worries he might be considered a freak, decides to remove one of his two left arms, even though his new girlfriend likes him the way he is. Let’s see who can come up with a limerick with the first line: “A three-armed man from Lampang…“
Kung Fu Dunk: Hong Kong/Taiwan Comedy - With superstar Jay Chou as an orphan turned Shaolin martial artist who ends up playing basketball. Thai dubbed only.
Charlie Wilson’s War: US Drama - Snappy, amusing, and ruefully ironic - but after yet another viewing, I find the tone all wrong. See if you don’t agree that the point of view is conflicting and confusing. But entertaining, yes, as long as it lasts. Rated R in the US for strong language, nudity/sexual content. Generally favorable reviews. At Airport Plaza only.
Chocolate: Thai Action - A superior Thai action film that is the top film in Thailand for two weeks now. Within the conventions of a martial arts movie, it’s really quite inventive. A young autistic woman has developed uncanny martial arts skills by watching television, and from living next door to a Muay Thai academy.
CJ7: Hong Kong Comedy/Sci-Fi/Family - 90 mins - Delightful! An extremely poor Stephen Chow finds a toy in the junkyard for his young son - a toy which is actually a sort of Chinese E.T. The movie is dubbed in Thai, and although the theater says it has no English subtitles, both times I saw it at Airport Plaza it did. It’s odd and quirky, the kid is great, and Stephen Chow is amusingly droll. I think it’s a lot of fun for kids and adults.
Death Note: L: Change the World: Japan Thriller - This film is being shown in Bangkok with the original Japanese soundtrack and with Thai and English subtitles. Here it’s shown only in a Thai-dubbed version, with no English subtitles! It deserves better treatment, to be seen by a wider audience. Despite that, I’ve now seen the film four times.
It’s mythic storytelling of the best kind, and the character “L” who is the focus of this movie is simply fascinating. Though a teenager, he is the world’s best detective, and as he hunkers in a chair with his arms draped to either side like broken wings, with his gaunt look and caved-in chest, he looks for all the world like a vulture, calmly surveying the scene.
27 Dresses: US Comedy/Romance - Frothy, funny, and formulaic, a pleasantly predictable romantic comedy. Mixed or average reviews.
Valentine: Thai Romance/Comedy - The typical Thai low comedy.
Ghost-in-Law: Thai Comedy/Horror - The usual Thai combination of horror with slapstick comedy, and the usual Thai stars.
Scheduled to open Feb. 28
The Mist:
US Horror - There seems to be a wide divergence of opinion on this film, from those who love it to those who hate it. A group of terrified townspeople are trapped in a grocery store by a strange, otherworldly mist, and there are “things” lurking in the mist. Mixed or average reviews.
The Filipino Film Festival at Alliance Francais.
For those who really do like something different, contemporary Filipino films will be featured in a series to be presented at the Alliance Franšaise, March 3 to 7. Two film sessions will be presented each day, at 5 and 8 pm. All the films are subtitled in English. Each session will feature one short, (about 20 minutes), and one full-length film. A 30-baht contribution is requested for each session.
Program is as follows: Monday March 3, 5 p.m. session - Short film: Mansayon, by Joel Ruiz, (Cinemalaya 2005). A middle-aged couple, Ambo and Dolores, are hired as caretakers of a large, opulent house for the duration of three months. The couple has fallen into a psychic rut, mechanically doing their housework. Until one day, Dolores finds a red perfume bottle...
Full-length film: Batad: Saa Pang Palay. (Batad: At the Mountain’s Edge) by Benjie Garcia & Vic Acedillo Jr. (2006). Set in the picturesque Banawe highlands, a young dropout helps his family by selling vegetables in a local market. The only thing he yearns for is a pair of rubber sneakers. But destiny has other plans for him.
8 pm. session - Short film: Kultado, (Boiling Point) by Lawrence Fajardo, (Best short Film, Cinemalaya 2005).
Life in a wet market in the provinces spells danger. A young vegetable vendor and his family are oppressed by the market thugs. But things always have a breaking point.
Full-length film: Ang Pagdadalaga Ni Maximo Oliveros (The Blossoming of Maximo Oliveros) by Auraeus Solito & Michiko Yamamoto, 2005 (Cinemalaya 2005). An international film festival favourite - about a delicate young boy who falls in love with a handsome cop. Winner, 2006 Berlinale Kinder Festival.
Tuesday, March 4. Theme: The Filipino & Nature. 5 pm. session: Short film: Rolyo (Film Roll) by Alvin Yapan, (Cinemalaya 2007). A farming family supports themselves in between harvests by catching birds and selling them each Sunday outside a provincial church. Full-length film: Biyaya Ng Lupa (Blessings of the Land) - directed by Manuel Silos, produced in 1959. (Film Classic 1959). This film represents one the great works of the “classic age” of Filipino art cinema, (the late fifties and early sixties). About the struggles of a simple farming family the film presents traditional Filipino social and cultural values at their best. 8 pm session: Short film: Gabon (Cloud) by Emmanuel Dela Cruz
The mystifying tale of a Muslim lass who is determined to attend her classes... no matter what! (Cinemalaya 2007).
Full-length film: Ang Daan Patungong Kalimugtong, (The Road to Kalimugtong) by Mes Guzman (2006).A simple yet stunning cinematic feat; two children in a remote mountain barrio must trek to school two hours each day. Cinemalaya 2006 & 2007 Exhibition Film (Award-Winning Film, 2006). Wednesday March 5. Theme: Love, Death & Memory
5 pm session: Short film: Nineball, by Enrico Aragon (Special Jury Prize, Cinemalaya 2007) Cited for “its hilarious and satirical take on the national pastime, billiards, and its engaging characterization.” Full-length film: Donsol by Adolf Alix (2006) (Cinemalaya 2006). Love blossoms in a small fishing town - Donsol - that is also the sanctuary to the endangered whale sharks. Daniel, a young tourist guide, meets the beautiful yet melancholy Teresa from Manila. Beautiful spots and landscapes of the small coastal town of Donsol, Sorsogon. 8 pm session: Short film: Doble Vista, (Double Vision), by Nix Lanas, Nisha Alicer & Caren Crisologo (Cinemalaya 2007). A witty and visually exciting tribute to Godard and the Nouvelle Vague centering on a lovelorn writer and his mystery lady. Full-length film: Tulad Ng Dati, (Same As Before) by Michael Sandejas (2006) (Cinemalaya 2006) A tribute to the legendary 80’s Pinoy rock band, The Dawn, played by the band members themselves. Jet Pangan, the band vocalist is hit on the head by a burglar... and finds himself losing his memory and retracing the memories of his past.
Thursday, March 6: Theme: Living in the City (1) 5 pm session: Short film: Babae (Woman) by Sigrid Bernardo (Cinemalaya 2005). Two disparate (and desperate) girls are brought together by fate. As they grow up in the slums of Manila, they find solace in each other’s company. And this develops into something much deeper. Full-length film: Insiang - directed by national artist Lino Brocka, produced in 1976. (Film Classic, 1976). “The first Filipino film to show at the Cannes Film Festival is set in the slums of Manila. A beautiful girl gets taken advantage of by her mother’s lover, and then learns how to exact revenge.” This is a favourite Brocka work and exemplifies what he is best known for - eliciting great performances from his actors (Hilda Koronel, Mona Lisa, and Ruel Vernal), tight dramatic plot-lines, and social realism. 8 pm session. Full-length film: Manila by Night - directed by Ishmael Bernal, produced in 1981.
This film essays the dark side of life in Imelda Marcos’s city of the “true, the good and the beautiful”. During its time it was known as the film which made Imelda furious and was heavily censored for its public release. This is the integral version of the Cultural Center of the Philippines! “Manila By Night is director Ishmael Bernal’s and possibly Philippine Cinema’s best work. Recognized locally and abroad, it probes the city’s depravity and exposes its strangeness through a string of characters played by the most competent actors of its time. Lorna Tolentino, Alma Moreno, Gina Alajar, Rio Locsin, Cherie Gil, Mitch Valdez, Charito Solis, Orestes Ojeda, William Martinez, and Bernardo Bernardo play an ensemble of desperate characters trapped between the city’s lure of a better life and its dark and ghastly ways of providing for its residents. The impoverished women pin their hopes on the city and the men lure them into prostitution, drugs, and crime. Ironically, while they seem to ruin one another’s lives, they also become each other’s best chances for hope and survival. The drug-pushing lesbian played by Cherie Gil finds solace in the blind sauna bath employee played by Rio Locsin who in turn is led across the dismal streets of Manila by the gay couturier played by Bernardo Bernardo. Manila by Night is a keen look into the social problems affecting Manila’s underworld. With its controversial bold visual imagery, it is a brilliant reflection of the reality that the Filipino has yet to confront.” Friday, March 7: Theme: Living in the City (2) 5 pm session: Short film: Putot (Small Fry) by Jeck Cogama (Cinemalaya 2006). A young boy cares for his mentally challenged father in a slum area that is about to be demolished. While trying to make a living selling shellfish, he meets Mayang, a girl slightly older than him. Soon he finds himself enamoured with the lass. Full-length film: Kubrador, (The Bet Collector) by Jeffrey Jeturian (Cinemalaya 2006 Opening Film) (Award-Winning Film, 2006)
The movie chronicles three days in the life of Amelita, a kubrador (bookie) for the illegal numbers game jueteng. She continues to collect bets from her regular patrons every day despite a government crackdown on the game. One day, she is apprehended by the police. She joins other kubradors in the police station until their protector bails them out. The following morning, Amelita returns to the streets and continues her illegal activities. She meets the parish priest, who informs her of a young neighbor’s sudden accidental death. He asks her to collect donations from neighbors and friends. Then, a series of events turns her mundane existence into a perplexing game of life, luck, and death.
All films will be introduced by Edward Delos Santos Cabagnot, Researcher, Asian Cinema. Films will be shown at the Alliance Franšaise, 138, Charoen Prathet Road, in Chiang Mai. The event is organized by The Association of Filipinos in Thailand (Northern Region Chapter), The Alliance Franšaise (Chiang Mai), and The Informal Northern Thai Group (INTG). Also involved in this presentation are the Cultural Center of the Philippines, the Cinemalaya Philippine Independent Film Festival, and the Asian Public Intellectuals Fellowship Program.

Life in the laugh lane: by Scott Jones

A Thai Moves to Minnesota

Last week’s column honored life in Chiang Mai while my hometown friends in America struggled through 40 degrees below zero temperatures. This week’s is a vivid personal slant on the reality of the situation. I didn’t write this piece; I just edited it from the original “A Californian Moves to Minnesota” written by someone who may not have survived the experience! It’s incomplete without the expletives essential to the original document, but I don’t know what words our imaginary Thai man might have learned, especially if they happened to be British English. You can mentally add your own favorite expressions of exasperation, since a respectable paper won’t print any of the real ones. It’s tricky: one “bad” word in one country is just fine in another. If our Thai man, perhaps named Nee, would ask an American, perhaps named Nye, the following question in Thai, he may get the exact same correct answer in either English or Thai, though perhaps with a different tone:

Okay, you found your car. Now what?
Nee: Fuk yoo nai? [Literally in English: “squash is where” or “Where is the squash?”]
Nye: Fuk yoo nee! [“Squash is here!”]
If you’re planning a trip to Minnesota, you may want to reconsider after reading these very authentic entries in our mythical Thai man’s diary:
8th: It’s 5:00 pm. Starting to snow. The first of the season and the first one we’ve ever seen. The wife and I took a couple of Singhas and sat by the picture window to watch the flakes drift down, clinging to the trees and covering the ground. It was beautiful!
9th: We awoke to a lovely blanket of crystal white snow covering the landscape. What a fantastic sight! Every tree and shrub covered with a beautiful white mantle. I shoveled snow for the first time in my life and loved it. I did both our driveway and our sidewalk. Later, a city snowplow came along and accidentally covered our driveway entrance with compacted snow from the street. The driver smiled and waved. I waved back and shoveled it again.
10th: It snowed an additional 12 centimeters last night and the temperature has dropped to around 10 degrees centigrade. Several limbs on the trees and shrubs snapped due to the weight of the snow. I shoveled our driveway again. Shortly afterwards the snowplow came by and did his trick again. Much of the snow is brownish-gray today.
11th: Warmed up enough during the day to create some slush which soon became ice when the temperature dropped again. Bought snow tires for both cars. Fell on my butt in the driveway. $145 to a chiropractor, but nothing broken. More snow and ice expected.
12th: Colder than before. Sold the wife’s car and bought a 4-wheel drive truck in order to get her to work. Slid into a guardrail anyway and did considerable damage to the right rear quarter panel. Had another 20 centimeters of white #&*%> last night. Both vehicles covered with salt and crud. More shoveling for me today. That #&*%> snowplow came by twice today.
13th: -20 degrees outside. More #&*%> snow. Not a tree or shrub on our property that hasn’t been damaged. Power was off for most of the night. Tried to keep from freezing to death with candles and a kerosene heater, which tipped over and nearly burned the house down. I finally put out the flames but suffered 2nd degree burns on my hands and lost my eyelashes and eyebrows. Truck slid on the ice going to the emergency room and was totalled.
14th: #&*<%!-#&*<%! white #&*<%! keeps coming down. Have to put all the clothes on that we own just to get to the #&*<%! mailbox. If I ever catch the son of a #&*<%! who drives the snowplow, I’ll chew open his chest and rip his heart out. I think he hides around the corner and waits for me to finish shoveling and then comes down the street at about 100 kph to bury our driveway again.
15th: Fifteen #&*<%! more #&*%> centimeters of snow and #&*%> ice and #&*%> sleet and God knows what other kind of white #&*%> #&*%> fell last night. I wounded the #&*%> snowplow #&*%> with an ice axe, but he got away. Wife left me. Car won’t start. I think I’m going snow blind. I can’t move my toes. Haven’t seen the sun in weeks. More #&*%> snow predicted. Wind chill -50 degrees. I’m moving back to Chiang Mai.

Doc English The Language Doctor: High-Frequency Words

Hello and welcome back to the occasional column for stressed parents teaching their kids English at home (you brave souls).
This week we look at high-frequency words. High-frequency words are words that appear most commonly in printed text. These are the words that your child should ideally learn to read and recognise first when learning English; however, it’s fine for them to learn other words too.
Learning to recognise high-frequency words by sight at an early age is really important in order for your child to become truly fluent in English. Some people argue that children should simply learn new words as they encounter them and not be restricted to learning words on a ‘word list’, but I think using a high-frequency word list is useful as it can help you structure your teaching and your child’s rate of learning.
So what are the high frequency words? The Dolch list of high frequency words comprises the 220 words (excluding nouns) that are found to be commonly used in the English language. You can find the lists at School Bell Dot Com: http://www. A similar list is used by UK schools and can be found at this incredibly long government web site address:
This week I have included the words that a child with at least one native English speaking parent should ideally be able to read, write, listen and say by the age of 5 (or by the start of Year 1 in an international school). Don’t worry if your child can’t read all these words, they will catch up! If they are learning two languages at home (such as English and Thai) then learning all these words may be twice as hard for your child. Remember these are goals set by UK schools, for native English speaking students. If your children can learn half of these words by age 5, they are still doing extremely well!
Children in the UK are also obliged to learn at least some of the following by age 5:
* days of the week
* months of the year
* numbers to twenty
* common colour words
* their name and address
* The name and address of their school
You should provide reading and exercise books and that make frequent use of high frequency words. If your child is learning to read for the first time, books that do not contain many instances of these words, use long complicated words or lots of text should be avoided.
A good way to teach high-frequency words is to provide your child with a new word to learn every day and there are a number of ways to present the new word to your child.
* When watching TV (in English or with English subtitles) encourage your child to shout out “Buzz!” every time you see or hear the target word (such as ‘the’). Compete against your child to see who the best at recognizing the word on TV. You could also play the game in the car, by listening to a popular children’s song that contains many occurrences of the target word.
* Have a Word of the Day. Write down a new word every day on a bit of paper and reveal it slowly from an envelope, to see if your child can guess what the new word will be. Make a Word Wall with the pieces of paper and get your child to stick each new word up on the wall to build an impressive collection of new words.
* You could get your child to rearrange the word wall occasionally, so that words are grouped into those with similar beginning sounds, vowel sounds, endings, or words on a particular subject. Putting words into groups makes words easier to learn. Your child’s school spelling list should contain words that have similar meanings, contain similar sounds, or relate to a topic that your child is learning in class.
* Your child can make their own dictionary if they wish using a blank exercise book. You should also buy a dictionary for your child to look up new words as they encounter them. Picture dictionaries are suitable for younger children as the pictures help them understand the meaning of new words. For older children, the Cambridge and Oxford dictionaries are best. For adults, dictionaries that contain phonetic translations can provide a way for them to pronounce new words, as well as read and understand meanings. Phonetic Symbols may also help you pronounce Thai Words. The list of phonetic symbols can be found at The Cambridge Dictionary site:
* The Internet provides a number of activities for helping children learn to read high frequency words. Some great games for learning high frequency words can be found here:
* You can find cheap posters in most Thai book shops containing lists of colours, days of the week, numbers, etc., in English which you can pin up around your child’s bedroom.
* Finally, if your child keeps a simple diary or has a penpal, then this will provide them with a daily opportunity to use their new vocabulary. They should learn how to use new words within the context of a sentence.
I hope you have enjoyed this week’s instruction on how to teach your child high frequency words in English. If you have any tips, suggestions or queries regarding English education in Thailand, please mail me at: [email protected] Don’t worry if your written English is not so great, I can assure you that my written Thai is a lot worse! Any Thai teachers out there by any chance?

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Welcome to Chiang Mai:

Shops, stores, markets, all your needs - but where? Part I

This week’s excerpt from the “Welcome to Chiang Mai” folder really is for new arrivals, as the rest of us will have found and regularly used our favourite places by now! However, for those of you who are maybe reading this online as part of your planning stages, or have just stepped off the plane, it’s useful! After all, you have to eat, furnish, decorate and re-purchase all the items you left at home, thinking you wouldn’t need them… Even if you are renting a furnished home, you’ll probably feel the need to add your own touches to personalise your living space.
However, the essential need, of course, is food and drink. Immediately, being farangs, we think - supermarkets! Tesco, Carrefour and Macro are familiar and trusted names in Europe and the UK, although arrivals from the USA will not, (fortunately or unfortunately), find a Wal-Mart superstore in Chiang Mai! But beware - the above “brand name” stores in the city bear very little resemblance to their European cousins. Why? Think about it, guys, this is Thailand, and Thais shop there in their hundreds of thousands! Yes, you will find imported “farang foods”, usually in their own section, but at prices which are similar to those in the West; which in fact may well put a strain on even the best planned budget! Wine, also imported, is, in general, more expensive than at home, although all the major stores stock a good selection. So, rule number one - if it’s imported, it’s expensive! And getting more so by the week. One good point about Chiang Mai supermarkets in general, though, is that the majority of the unfamiliar products you will see on the shelves do have the English names and descriptions on the price tags. As a result, even if you don’t know what you’ve just put in your trolley, or what to do with it when you get it home, you do know what it’s called!
But - do you really need Western food? After all, you’re in Thailand now. If you’re worried about highly spiced Thai dishes, or just can’t take them, we have to tell you that not every Thai dish is crammed with chillies! Rule number two - either bring with you or buy when you get here a really comprehensive Thai cookery book, if you like to cook, you’ll need it! Preferably one which, as well as recipes, has a section, with pictures, on various unfamiliar herbs, vegetables, etc, plus advice on how to use them. Armed with this, you can embark on one of the most enjoyable experiences of your new life - a visit to the local fresh market! Which, of course, is where most cost and quality conscious Thais shop for their ingredients. Anything you need is there, including fresh meat and ready cooked meals, (watch for those chillies, though!), green and red curry pastes, all kinds of rice, and, of course, piles and piles of fruit and vegetables in season. Wonderful, and very inexpensive. When you’ve loaded up with ingredients, don’t forget to visit the flower stalls and treat yourself by purchasing a huge bunch of orchids or roses for around 50 baht! This experience, on the whole, can be daunting at first, but you’ll find the vendors very friendly and helpful, particularly if you manage to stutter a few words in Thai and don’t forget to smile!
As regards actually cooking the things you’ve bought, it’s not as hard as you may imagine. Preparation of ingredients usually takes longer than the actual cooking time itself, which is, more often than not, done in a wok over a high flame. Taste regularly, and compare with your memory of similar dishes you may have eaten in restaurants.
Two good tips are, firstly, that stock powder here, available in sachets for around 10-12 baht, is extremely tasty, particularly if you’re cooking a meaty soup, you don’t need to buy the more expensive stock cubes you’ve been used to using. Secondly, buy the best quality, (i.e., the most expensive), fish sauce, (added to a great number of dishes), soi sauces, etc, the increase in quality and taste really is worth it!
Combining visits to the fresh markets with a regular supermarket run for cleaning materials, massive special offer packs of loo roll, and other basics is sensible for two reasons - firstly, value for money, and secondly, this is the “Thai way”, and millions of Thais can’t be wrong! Have fun!

This article is published courtesy of the “Welcome to Chiang Mai” information folder, available as an email attachment from: [email protected]


Stuart Rodger - The Englishman’s Garden, Chiang Dao

Hardy Bougainvilleas - variety and brilliance

Yes, they are so very common here, and seen all over the world as well as in almost every Chiang Mai garden and on the superhighway and ring roads - but, can you beat them for their audacious brilliance and variety?
Nothing is more suitable for showing up in bright sunshine when strong colours are called for, as paler colours become washed out in such strong light. The intensity of the great swathes of brightly coloured blossom that is the speciality of the bougainvillea species is totally acceptable in Thailand’s brilliant sunshine. All the varieties have what may be described as “unsubtle” colours, and can therefore be mixed together to great effect. If you are doubtful as to whether this would work in your garden, just consider the lessons Nature gives in places such as Africa, where, after the rains, every colour ever created flowers in glorious competition!
Sometimes, however, it can pay to be clever and choose colours more carefully. Your garden can look considerably larger if you restrain yourself to one particular variety and more subtle colour scheme. If, however, you have a lot of space, try deciding on one colour, and using different shades and tones to tastefully harmonise in a manner which will be very pleasing to the eye. To be really “chic”, choose white, and add a touch of blue - thus making the white look even whiter!
Bougainvillea makes an excellent boundary hedge, as its branches have sharp thorns which will discourage intruders, but is happiest when it finds a wall or tree to cling to. It can also be clipped into any shape you may prefer - what more do you want as regards versatility! It will flower best in the dry season, as it spends more time growing green shoots the rest of the year. To me, it is most effective when it is just left to grow, resulting in huge gracefully arching branches which will reward you with masses of flowers later. If you have to duck to avoid its thorns as you walk round your garden - so be it!

Tip of the Week
In the smaller garden, climbing plants are invaluable and essential for a fine display as there is no limit to how far upwards they will grow to reach the sun!

Backup and Restore your Outlook emails easily

It is good practice to make a backup of your important data regularly. And even otherwise, you would want to backup your Outlook emails and contacts when you are sending that old PC for an upgrade. This helps you get all those emails and contacts back to Outlook easily and neatly, without much work.
Let’s take a quick look at how Outlook keeps your personal data. The new versions of Microsoft Outlook use a format called “Microsoft Office Outlook Personal Folder” file, or “PST” file. This file contains all your Outlook folders including Inbox, Calendar and Contacts. This is the file which you need to backup in order to back up all of your Outlook information.
Here’s how you can backup your emails from Microsoft Outlook 2007:
1) First, you will have to locate the PST file. With Microsoft Outlook 2007 open, go to File and select Data File Management.
2) On the Data File tab, you should see a list of your Personal Folder files that Outlook has created for you. Select one of them and click “Open Folder”. This will open the Outlook folder where the PST files are stored.
3) Select the PST or “Microsoft Office Outlook Personal Folder” files in the folder, one of which should be “Outlook.pst”.
4) Copy the files to a backup location in another hard drive, or even better, burn it on a CD.
Now, whenever you want to restore the backup files, you can do that by simply copying the backup PST files back to the same folder. And to locate that folder, follow the same first two steps above.
Safe and easy it is!
For more computer tips, log on to

Answer and WIN!

Just for Geeks
Who created Google?

First two entries win an Apacer 2GB USB Flash Drive each! So hurry, send your answer to [email protected].
Till then… Tata ;-)

An American Redneck in Chiang Mai:

Run for the Border: Part III

Yos was stranded at the Thai/Laos border, enjoying the lack of friendship on the bridge. Miss Picasso was sleeping in Chiang Mai. Cats can sleep anywhere. At the Embassy in Vientiane, Jan had just learned that, if she wanted to teach in Chiang Mai, she needed a certificate stating that she had no criminal record. We had quite a few teachers in this outdoor office set in gorgeous scenery, who were, like Jan, just totally out of luck. They’d made the trip to Vientiane with every other piece of paper except the newly required one. Because, like Jan, they didn’t know.
They had some giggles, because the official said, “You need a criminal record.” Jokes about Aussies usually infer that they all have criminal records. But he meant proof that you were not a criminal, so...Well, it was funny if you were there, okay? It was hysterical. So were we. Jan didn’t have a criminal record. However, she did have Plan B. Put the papers back in my briefcase and pull out the other papers. Non-Immigrant Type O visa, O meaning “Other,” because she’s my dependant. And I depend on her even more, but never mind. “No teaching?” asked the clerk, who obviously had the patience of a saint because if I had his job I’d start putting Muay Thai on those fat foreign slugs. “No teaching,” Jan confirmed. “Oh, good…” More giggles.
A room full of teachers who were just told, more or less, that they could return to Bangkok as tourists and teach illegally and hope not to get arrested, cheered us for giving the system a tweak and getting our visas.
At 11:30, Yos arrived, two hours after our sudden separation. We were waiting in the other office to pay our fees. I never doubted him. He’d found a place in Thailand to park. This was a rented car, so theft would really be bad, but this is Yos I’m talking about. He’s loyal, man. He lived in Virginia for four years, but even if he’d never left Chiang Mai, I’d declare him an honorary redneck.
The stressful bit is over and the vacation can officially begin. Laos, it has been said, is even more laid back than Thailand, if such a thing is conceivable. Yes, it’s conceivable and, yes, it’s true. Vientiane is the capital of this nation. Which means it must be more advanced than the rest of the country, right? Yes, that’s right. It’s basic, but it’s not “turn off the paved road.” The road may have potholes, but it’s paved.
A former co-worker and fellow redneck once visited Sao Paulo, Brazil, on a business trip. He said that the Brazilians only work on Wednesdays. Monday, too hungover. Tuesday, starting to recover. Wednesday, work. Thursday, start planning the weekend. Friday, continue planning and perhaps begin early. Weekend, get plastered. Repeat ad infinitum. Right or wrong, that’s the vibe I got from Vientiane. Laid Back? Horizontal! In Vientiane, you can spend Thai baht. That worked out well for us. A tuk tuk took us from the Embassy to a hotel. We didn’t like the hotel so he took us to another. Yep, good one at 1/3 the price. The driver wanted 200 baht. In Chiang Mai I’d’ve paid 50 baht for that little trip. Jan questioned that price. “You can include a tip if you want, up to you!” with much laughter. This guy is a serious trip. Jan also noted that all the tuk tuk drivers in Vientiane look the same, with the same crazy red eyes, and this isn’t cultural imperialism or any of that silly mess. They do. They’re probably all related. Good business sense.
We paid him only 100 baht and booked him for the next day. And just to kill any pretense of dramatic tension, I tipped him 100 baht for the trip back to the Friendship Bridge the next day. I think I was grateful that he showed up, sober or not. Yos slept in his room for hours. Jan and I, meanwhile, took a walking tour of the little town of Vientiane. We eventually found a place where she could phone Chiang Mai and give the university the “bad news” that she can’t teach because of her visa status and lack of a criminal record (!). They seemed to mind, I don’t think she did.
Internet cafe. I’m fairly certain they hacked the phone lines, got themselves a free overseas call, and parted us from 10,000 kip. But since that’s a little over US$1, what about it? Since we were close to Kunming, China, naturally we saw a Kunming restaurant across the road, and quite near us some fella was shouting at the phone in Chinese. At a different phone, a guy was doing some outsourced tech support in English. He’s Laotian, but he may speak English better than I do.
In the other room, a guy got angry with his computer, walked over to the glass door, kicked the glass out of the bottom - very satisfying crash - and returned to his computer. A minute later, a little girl swept up the broken glass. And that is as much my impression of Vientiane as a monk with a girlfriend is my impression of Chiang Mai. It doesn’t happen. I could probably stop writing now.
But I won’t. I’ll continue to torture you next week. You have been warned.