HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

The Doctor's Consultation

Agony Column

Camera Class by Snapshot

Money Matters

Life in Chiang Mai

Let's Go To The Movies

Life in the laugh lane

Welcome to Chiang Mai


The Doctor's Consultation:  by Dr. Iain Corness

The cat’s revenge by Claude Gooleys

I hope you like the title this week. Some days I can’t help myself. However, almost every household has at least one cat, and often more. Cats are affectionate, warm pets that will sit on your lap for hours, purring away, while it licks your hands. During that time, it may even be giving you more than love. It may be giving you a little present called Bartonella henselae, or simply, Cat Scratch Disease! Yes, your cat is a walking, purring receptacle of disease.
Tell me more, you say, while wondering if you should strangle the cat now or later! But first a little history. A little over 50 years ago, the clinical signs of Cat Scratch Disease were described, called romantically “La Maladie des griffes du chat.” However, the symptoms of this ailment are far from romantic.
Cat Scratch Disease affects between 2-10 people per 100,000 head of population in America, so whilst it isn’t an every day diagnosis, most doctors will come across a few cases in their medical lifetime.
The presenting symptom is a regional swelling of the lymph nodes, generally in a young person or a child, and the usual scenario involves a panicking parent who is sure the child has lymphatic cancer.
What actually happens is that the cat is carrying the organism known as Bartonella henselae, which is found all over the world, and which it inoculates into the human system. This bug in turn is trapped by the lymph glands, within which one almighty fight takes place, with the end result being that the glands swell dramatically and can even burst through the skin as a suppurating discharge. Other signs and symptoms include a fever, sore throat and headache.
Now there are many causes for swollen glands, fever, headache and sore throat, so how do we pick on the family pussy cat? Quite simply, there will be a history of having been bitten or scratched by the family moggy, and the inoculation site will drain into the affected lymph glands.
So just how does the cat give you a “shot” of bugs? Well, firstly somewhere between 20-40 percent of cats are carrying the organism, and it lives in the cat’s saliva as well as in its blood. While licking its claws, pussy cat leaves a collection of the organism there, which in turn becomes yours when the cat scratches you. Deliberately or accidentally.
Cat Scratch Disease, although generally localized can even end up infecting internal organs such as the liver, spleen heart and brain, though this is very rare. For most people who contract the illness they quietly recover, though it can sometimes take some months. However, for people with compromised immune systems, spontaneous recovery is not the norm. Children get the disease more than adults, because children tend to spend more time with pets, and pull more than the occasional tail.
There is treatment, with one of the most appropriate antibiotics being Doxycycline, while the most usually available penicillins are fairly ineffective. There are tests which can be done in the laboratory to prove or disprove infection by Bartonella henselae, so what we call a “Definitive” diagnosis can be made. Again you can see the dangers in self medication. If you do indeed have Cat Scratch Disease from the cat bite, the penicillin you bought is useless!
So should we all go out and take our cats down to the vet and consign them to the great veterinary hospital in the sky? The simple answer is no, but the moral to this tale is that we should be on our guard. Cat scratches and bites should not be taken lightly. Immediately after any injuries you should wash the wounds with soap and water and after a thorough cleansing only then apply your favourite antiseptic, and at the first sign of problem, pop into the hospital and get it checked. But please leave the cat at home!


Heart to Heart  with Hillary

Dear Hillary,
How are you today? After reading your column, as I often do, I just don’t understand why all these negative experiences. Since I’ve been traveling this big ole rock, I’ve been to over 40 countries. My favorite by far is Thailand. Since the first time going to Thailand, I have loved the people, atmosphere, weather, food, and the cold beer. Right now, I still cannot wait to return and have another wonderful vacation. It blows my mind that so many people appear to have had a bad experience. I think they would have a bad time anywhere... why travel?
Can’t wait to get back!
Dear Can’t wait to get back,
I agree with you, Petal. As you say, “I have loved the people, atmosphere, weather, food, and the cold beer,” so what more could a young man (or an old man) want? I do believe that most of the people who have a negative experience have brought it upon themselves, and many of the long-stayers in Thailand say that for this group of long-stay complainers it is a case of “som nam na”, as the Thais would say, or as the English speakers would say, “serves you right”. You are also correct in identifying that this group of people will complain no matter where they are. I have read very similar complaints and “problems” with ex-pats and visitors to Spain and South America, for example. But by the same token, there are many who really enjoy their times in exotic places. Look at Ronnie Biggs, for example, and what happened to him when he returned to the UK from Brazil. No, Can’t wait to get back, you stick with your positive mental attitude and enjoy yourself as always in the Land of Smiles. The cold beer sellers are looking forward to your return as well.

Dear Hillary,
What’s your opinion on sexy movies? Are they a good thing or not? Would you ever star in one, or have you done it already? Real questions, Hillary.
Glued to the Box
Dear Glued to the Box,
What a strange pen name you have chosen for yourself, my Petal. Did you use that new Supa Glue that sets in a few seconds? Was it accidental, and was it painful? Real questions. In answer to your rather forward queries, are sexy movies a good thing? Depends on who you watch them with. I would have invited you over, but unfortunately you are stuck to your TV set, which would have made it rather awkward. Hope the glue breaks soon for you. You worry me.

Dear Hillary,
Did you know that your famous consultant is possibly descended from one of a horrid horde known as The Cor Nessie Boys? These wee scallywags would lure unsuspecting trippers to the lochside for a small fee on the pretext of spotting a friendly monster. They would then screech “Cor! Nessie!” in a semen-curdling falsetto and push the punters in! The wee beasties were eventually rounded up and exported to Botany Bay, along with sundry haggis benders, sporran tweakers and an opera singer named Sydney.
Dear Mistersingha,
If by the “consultant” you mean is the medical consultant on these pages, I checked with Dr. Iain and he does admit that he has been to the lochside, like so many people, to look for the Loch Ness monster. It was also some years ago and he was in a bus, and not surrounded by pimply Scottish brogue-speaking youths, so he claims all innocence. He also denies ever living in Botany Bay or any of his relatives having an affair with “an opera singer named Sydney”. Where do you get these fanciful notions from? After showing your email to Dr. Iain he too expressed concern over your mental state and suggested you should immediately double the dose of whatever it is that you are on, and then make an appointment to see your doctor straight away.

Dear Hillary,
I know you don’t agree with sending money to some of the girls in Thailand, but I want to, OK? I don’t want to lose the money when I send it over, so have you foolproof suggestions on how to do it? I wouldn’t be sending big lumps, probably about 50,000 or 100,000 baht at a time. What do you say, Hillary?
Dear Tim,
Is that Short Tim(e) or Long Tim(e) that we are looking at? Is the 100,000 baht per week or per month? (If it’s weekly, don’t worry about the transfer, I’m coming over to get it myself, sweetheart!) However, seriously speaking, by far the safest way is to open an account here for her, complete with an ATM card facility. You can transfer the lovely money from overseas quite easily and she can withdraw the lovely money as needed, with the circumstances depending upon the health of the buffalo, the condition of her brother’s motorcycle, the repairs to the front gate on her mother’s house and medical expenses for her sister’s second pregnancy, since none of the fathers wished to donate to the family coffers. However, be assured that whatever way and for whatever reason, you are going to lose the money in the end. Even more certain than death and taxes!

Camera Class:  by Harry Flashman

Polarizers assist digital cameras

There seems to be a concept in photographer’s minds that polarizing filters are good for film cameras, but not for digitals. This is actually quite wrong. If anything, it is the reverse. Whilst there are no polarizer advantages unique to digital cameras, digital cameras with limited dynamic range can benefit greatly from the selective suppression of excess contrast. Due to the limited UV sensitivity found in most digital cameras, polarizers also work well for haze control, especially with the haze we have in Thailand.
Quality polarizing filters are different from most others in the fact that they are made up of two distinct elements. There is an outer ring that rotates the outer “glass” relative to the inner element. This increases or reduces the degree of polarization to allow the photographer an endless range of polarized effects from one filter.
The principal behind these filters is to remove reflections, and funnily enough it is reflections that take the color out of color photography. Look at the surface of a swimming pool, for example - a shiny white, non-transparent surface. Now look through a polarizing filter and you can see right down to the tiles on the bottom of the pool. And the people frolicking in the pool!
What you have to understand now is that these filters remove reflections from any surface, not just water. The reason you cannot see through some normally transparent windows is because of reflected images on the surface of the glass. The reason some tree leaves appear to lose their color is through reflected light from the sky above.
One of the traps for young photographers is that because you know the grass is green, you see it as green when you look through the camera viewfinder - even though it is not truly green. Look again at the scene in the viewfinder. The green grass is really a mixture of green and silvery reflections, dark shadows and pale green shoots. Put the polarizing filter on the lens and slowly rotate the outer ring. Suddenly the silvery reflections disappear and become a deep, solid green color. The grass is now made up of green, dark green and pale green. This green will really leap out at you and smack you fair between the eyes!
Your next beach scene when taken with a polarizer will really amaze you. Again, slowly rotate the outer ring on the polarizer. Look critically through the viewfinder and you will see the sky take on a much deeper color to highlight the white clouds. Keep turning that outer ring and the sea will change to a deep blue to green luminescent hue. The end result is at your command. Try taking the same shot this weekend, but with varying degrees of polarization and see the differences in the final shots.
So, if the polarizer is such a wonderful bit of gear, why do we not make it a standard piece of equipment on all cameras? Well, like everything, there is a downside as well as the upside. In the case of the polarizer it does its bit of brilliance at the expense of the amount of light that gets through to the lens. With most polarizing filters you will lose about one and a half stops of light. What this means is that the shutter speed will be at least twice as long to record the same scene, or that the aperture will have to be twice the size. This means that you are more likely to get camera shake effects and suffer from lack of depth of field when using the polarizer. However, with shots in the bright sun, a polarizer will bring a new dimension to your shots.
By the way, when using any filter on your camera, I suggest you use a stepping ring to increase the diameter of the filter, so there are no unwanted vignetting effects, especially with wide angle settings. My new camera has a 55 mm diameter lens, which I have stepped up to 62 mm and can therefore take all my old filters. Including the polarizer.

Money Matters:  Paul Gambles MBMG International Ltd.

The Ugly, The Bad and The Good

Part 2 - The Bad

Daily Mail city editor, Alex Brummer, recently felt compelled to leave his normal area of comfort and understanding (the FTSE 100) and write about the bigger global economic picture in an article entitled, “UK and world facing the biggest financial shock since the Great Depression, says IMF”.
By now, just about everyone is aware of the IMF’s report last week whose 3 headline conclusions were:
1) The world is facing the biggest financial shock since the Great Depression
2) Great Britain could be the country hit hardest by the global credit crunch as it has bigger debts than anywhere else
3) The credit meltdown “has inflicted heavy damage on markets and the financial institutions at the core of the financial system... The financial markets crisis that erupted in August 2007 has developed into the largest financial shock since the Great Depression.
According to IMF analysis, British banks will lose more than GBP20bn, equivalent to three percent of gross domestic product (GDP) and as a result the UK will fall short of Chancellor Alistair Darling’s growth forecast of two percent this year. We still believe that the banking losses will be higher and therefore that economic performance will be even worse.
Better late than never, the IMF has finally admitted that the American economy is heading for recession (not really much alternative now as it is, in reality, probably already) and it forecasts negative growth of 0.7% this year, sufficient to cause global repercussions. However, this is based on the assumption that American banks’ losses will be less than USD150 billion (1.4% of US GDP). We believe that the losses will again be significantly worse and that the economic impact far more serious.
Interestingly, despite healthy growth in the Far East, the IMF now believes there is a 25 percent chance that the whole world could follow the Americans into recession, acknowledging for the first time our long held fears that the fallout can’t simply be constrained within developed economies.
The IMF now acknowledges that the losses from American mortgages will reach $945 billion (£500 billion) - more than twice their previous estimates - but still less than half of what we (and the most reliable analysts) ultimately fear. The IMF also acknowledges that the U.S. housing collapse is far from over, expecting a further 10% decline in 2008. Similarly in the UK, the rot has much further to go and that the housing correction will continue to:
1) Impact on consumers
2) Be a drag on the economy
Finally the IMF has come around to our way of thinking that there is no precedent or blueprint for what might happen from here.
Brummer comments that, “The apocalyptic language used by the fund is highly unusual and reflects an unprecedented concern about the impact of the credit crunch which has prevented banks from borrowing in the wholesale money markets, making it all but impossible to fund new mortgage lending on both sides of the Atlantic.”
In response, Chancellor Darling stood by his budget forecasts, claiming “grounds for optimism”. We’ll explore these alongside our more realistic grounds for pessimism in some future articles, but Britain remains hostage to the U.S. and Europe (where the German economy is rapidly slowing).
The IMF is somewhere in between - “In the UK there are a number of factors both domestically and externally holding back the economy. We do see house prices softening and we see potential for that to continue, with an impact on consumption. We also see the UK affected by the tightening in financial constraints related to the turmoil in the financial market. It will also be affected by the slowdown in the U.S. and the Euro area.”
The IMF did highlight:
1) The UK’s soaring budget deficit which is expected to hit £38 billion this year
2) Britain’s national debt which is perilously close to 40 percent of national output - the self-imposed limit under one of Gordon Brown’s fiscal ‘golden rules’
Finally, the IMF have also realized that this problem is protracted as well as deep and will persist into 2009 (under whichever new president in the White House) admitting that, “Downside risks especially for 2009 remain a concern,” and that house price falls of the order that we expect, well in excess of the IMF’s forecasts, could have serious repercussions.
The IMF fears that, other than America & Great Britain, the economies most affected would be France, Germany and Switzerland, all of which have significant exposure to the debts originating in the U.S. This may well affect the Swiss franc and people may also wake up to the fact the euro is not the old German mark. So, what are we left with if people actually want to make money? Well with falling interest rates that rules out cash.
With the risk of sounding like a broken record, people should consider the multi-asset class approach. Man Investments made 4.5% last month - when most stock exchanges lost heavily and our old favourties Miton Optimal did well too.
Next week, let’s look at why.

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

What has New York got that Chiang Mai, Bangkok and the rest of Thailand hasn’t…?

The answer to that question, in this particular article, is simple. New Yorkers, earlier this year were privileged - indeed allowed - to see the complete works of Thailand’s most important and original director, Apichatpong Weerasethakul. Not just the masterly and widely acclaimed Tropical Malady and the rare short films, but also his 2006 work, Syndromes and a Century (Sang Sattawat). Uncut, of course. In its country of origin, the censors believe that you should not see this film as the maker intended. Regardless of your age this is forbidden territory. You have no mind of your own. Or should I say you are not allowed to have a mind of your own?
In April, Sang Sattawat emerged in Bangkok. Originally the censors wanted six scenes removed and then after protests they backed down to a mere four. The film has premiered at the Venice Film Festival to much acclaim and had already achieved a small but devoted following. Now I must admit immediately that I cannot join in the praise not yet having seen it, although, to coin a phrase, I know a ‘man’ who has.
For the ‘Thai’ version the director left the six scenes out (otherwise the film could not be see at all) and apparently opted for silent, scratched black film in their place - even in one censored scene lasting seven minutes. A length of screen time that must have given the audience plenty of time to ponder over the censor’s decision. It does not matter whether you are 18 or 80, male or female, a graduate or a labourer, a film buff or a casual viewer, Asian or whatever, this movie - at least in Thailand is NOT ALLOWED. It’s ok if you happen to be in New York, Venice, Paris or elsewhere, but not in Bangkok, where its director now lives, after studying at the Art Institute in Chicago, having been raised in rural Thailand. So now it has been seen in the capital - after a fashion - and who knows maybe it will surface in Chiang Mai.
The Film Act, which has already helped spoil such imported works as Sweeney Todd, is quite recent. In the case of that film and others they have pixilated the screen to cover up the offending shots. Rather like putting a cover over part of an ‘objectionable’ painting. In Victorian Britain, well over 100 years ago, the legs of tables and pianos were covered in the houses of middle class prudes who thought that such parts of the anatomy, (even wooden versions), should not be seen. It appears that the Thai censors are as out of date as my Victorian ancestors. There is an organisation called the Free Thai Cinema Movement designed to fight such silliness. Its aims should apply to all films shown here, which should be shown complete provided they conform to Thai law. Just what form of censorship allows the disgusting spate of American and Thai ‘torture’ movies to be screened here and yet rejects the work of a major talent?
Sadly, Tropical Malady was not widely released here, but that is another issue and relates to distribution. I think there is a growing audience for better quality films in Thailand and there have been an increasing number of original, albeit commercial, films and directors emerging in recent years. Thailand has a long history of film making and ranks very high in the world in terms of production in relation to its population. This should be encouraged - not stamped on. After all films can make valuable foreign currency and culturally are a wonderful, (hopefully), reflection of a country’s culture.
A last word on the films mentioned. The New York screenings of ‘The Films of Apichatpong Weerasethakul’ have been and gone. No doubt they will pop out in other parts of the world and one day in Thailand too, when the Film Act is repealed - as it surely will be when common sense takes over and a sensible certification system as applies in other countries is applied and run by people who care about cinema - and the bureaucrats no longer have a say.
Meanwhile, over here rather than over there, just a few notes to make film buffs jealous on what I’ve managed to catch up on over the past week on screens in the south of England. Excluding, that is, repeat viewings of films such as There Will be Blood. Any of the following on view in Chiang Mai are well worth catching: Sidney Lumet’s stylish and poignant Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead, the scary Spanish horror film The Orphanage, Brian de Palma’s angry Iraq based Redacted, the engagingly nostalgic Flashbacks of a Fool, the powerful thriller In Bruges, the mild mannered thriller, The Oxford Murders and the heist movie, 21. And a brand new print of the exquisitely shot The Conformist - still Bernardo Bertolucci’s best film.
Not a dud film among them and all of them shown intact. I guess there is at least one consolation to being ‘back home’ for a while.

Let's Go To The Movies: Mark Gernpy

Now playing in Chiang Mai
Iron Man:
US Action/Adventure - Superb popular entertainment. They got it right here: all the right ingredients, served deliciously. I predict a big hit, and more importantly, that you’ll like it very much. The difficult and driven actor Robert Downey Jr. plays the Marvel superhero Tony Stark, a wealthy industrialist (originally modeled on Howard Hughes) who is forced to build an armored suit in order to escape his terrorist kidnappers, and ultimately decides to use its technology to fight against the evil use of weapons that he himself created. Downey is brilliant, and I cringe to think what this film would have been like with their original choice of star, Tom Cruise. With Terrence Howard and Jeff Bridges. Early reviews: Universal acclaim.
You may as well not even try to fight it: Marvel, along with its varied universe(s), is here to stay. Marvel is already planning two sequels to this Iron Man. And Marvel’s The Incredible Hulk is due here on June 12, and in it Iron Man makes an appearance. So just sit back and relax, and enjoy the action.
The Eye: US Drama/Horror - A fairly poor remake of the hugely successful Hong Kong terror film, originally written and directed by two of my favorite filmmakers, the Pang twins (Oxide Pang and Danny Pang). A young, blind violinist is given a corneal transplant, and is haunted by frightening visions. Generally negative reviews. At Airport Plaza only.
Nim’s Island: US Adventure/Family/Fantasy - Nim is a smart, independent 11-year-old who lives with her microbiologist father Jack on an uncharted South Pacific island. She has a life most kids would envy: no school, a host of tame animal friends, and a whole island to herself. Then her dad goes missing in a storm, and she turns for help to her favorite author of adventure stories. Some nice scenery, an unexpectedly funny performance by Jodie Foster as a neurotic writer who lives through her novels, and a spunky Abigail Breslin as the young heroine make for an exhilarating and enchanting family picture. Mixed or average reviews. At Airport Plaza only.
The Forbidden Kingdom: US Action/Adventure - I thoroughly enjoyed this movie. It’s a wrap-up and summary of every Kung Fu/martial arts movie ever made, encapsulating every known cliché, all of the standard shots of beautiful scenery, and nearly all the tricks of martial arts. It’s all here! And done lovingly and with a great sense of humor and style by the tops in the business, the legendary Jackie Chan and Jet Li. I found it quite witty indeed. In English at Airport Plaza.
Phobia/See-prang: Thai Horror - If you at all enjoy Thai horror films, I suggest you check this out. Four quite good horror stories by four different Thai directors, each given the assignment of bringing in a short horror film no longer than 25 minutes. Quite well done. Audiences have a lot of fun screaming themselves silly. The four directors include Banjong Pisanthanakun and Parkpoom Wongpoom who together as a team directed the original famous Shutter. Here they each have their own segment to direct. Another story is by Paween Purikitpanya, director of the bloody Body #19, and one by Youngyoot Thongkonthun, director of the international comedy hit, Iron Ladies.
Three Kingdoms: Resurrection of the Dragon: Hong Kong Action/War - With Andy Lau, Maggie Q. Not terribly distinguishable from the other Chinese war epics we’ve seen here recently. Beautiful costumes: check. Stylish weapons: check. Breathtaking landscapes: check. Armies of thousands: check. Exciting martial arts and action sequences: usually. (Listings say English dubbed at Airport Plaza.)
In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale: US Adventure/Action - A cheap rip-off of “Lord of the Rings.” Reviews: Extreme dislike or disgust. At Vista only.
Vantage Point: US Drama/Thriller - Eight different views of an assassination attempt. Fairly exciting: starts off intriguingly, and finishes in a conventional way, with a series of car crashes. Mixed or average reviews. At Vista only.
Teng’s Angel: Thai Comedy - The usual Thai comedy.
Dream Team: Thai Family/Comedy - Five-year-old boys compete in Kindergarten tug-of-war championships. At Vista only.
Scheduled for May 8
Speed Racer:
US Action/Drama - A somewhat computerized but basically live action film from the classic anime series created by anime pioneer Tatsuo Yoshida, with rather revolutionary visual effects. This adaptation of the classic Japanese cartoon was filmed almost entirely in front of a green screen, with the backgrounds drawn in later. “Speed” is a boy who was born to race cars - he’s aggressive, instinctive, and, most of all, fearless. John Goodman and Susan Sarandon play his parents.
What Happens in Vegas…: US Comedy/Romance - Cameron Diaz and Ashton Kutcher star as strangers who unwittingly end up as bride and groom after a wild night in Las Vegas. When they find that one of them won a jackpot the night before, the two greedily fight for the loot.

Life in the laugh lane: by Scott Jones

Western Toilet Instruction

In a petrol station toilet near Chiang Mai, this sign is posted prominently to educate novices about the solitary, raised Western toilet they recently installed, complete with a seat and flushing capability. There are no signs for farangs like me, who after five years of living in Thailand, still do not understand how to handle the hoses and buckets or lack of necessary toilet paper, so I don’t emerge with soaked shoes and embarrassing dark spots from the waist down, looking like I just went to the bathroom without going to the bathroom. Since the instructions were only written in the Thai language, the letters of which I do not know except the one pronounced “gai” that looks like and means “chicken”, I could only guess at what the sign may be attempting to teach. All the pictures looked pretty scary to me, so I struggled with the squat variety and used a shiny but sharp and completely non-absorbent magazine ad for the required clean-up. Here are my translations of the pictures that are definitely worth a thousand meanings each.

I’m alone here in the stall and if I wear rubber waders, I can do anything I want!

Cool! I can clean my shoes in here with this neat lever that moves the water.

When I wear my weird glasses upside down, I can’t tell where I should do what.

Wow! It’s even a birdbath for cute, little flying white cuckoos!

Don’t add any more of your own little white birds unless you can swim!

Maybe this thing will work even if I don’t take off my pants.

Help! The Toilet Spirit is angry! I’ll never come in here again!

If I lose these stupid glasses, maybe the Toilet Spirit will leave me alone.

Welcome to Chiang Mai:

Invasion of the flying termites!

Tess Itura
Even if you’ve read everything there is to read on and offline about this lovely city’s seasons, weather, temperature variations and amazing tropical rains, there’s one subject you are very unlikely to have encountered. Ditto if you’ve not yet lived here in April/May - expat residents don’t talk about it unless it’s happening!
New incomers, (and the rest of us!), spend most of the thankfully brief hot, dry season bemoaning the high temperatures and dry air, wasting large quantities of water on our parched gardens whilst watching it run off rather than soak in, dreading the next aircon-inflated electricity bill and searching the skies for clouds which might, just, bring that first welcome storm which signals the beginning of the rainy season. Finally it happens, usually in the evening - rain, thunder, more rain… wonderful! Sit on the terrace, enjoy the cool wind, and stare at the falling sheets of rain as if you’d never seen them before. All is well… BUT! What’s that? And those? And these? All of a sudden you’re enveloped in a huge cloud of flying insects, all desperately trying to get to the lights and into the house! At that point you remember that you’ve left the insect screens open in several rooms, and the lights on… Congratulations, you’re now experiencing your first “invasion of the flying termites”! Next step is to shut all the windows, (remembering that window-shutting won’t deter the most determined amongst the horrible hoards), switch off all outside lights in the hope they’ll go away, (they won’t!), pick up the nearest newspaper, (not the Mail, we hope), roll it up and do murder. For at least an hour. This is absolutely necessary - after all, these things are termites determined to lay eggs, which will develop into grubs with large teeth which eat houses… or so you’ve been told. If you’re fortunate enough to have a swimming pool, you’ll need to spend at least another hour the following morning scooping out the massed remains of at least ten thousand of the little horrors, at which point you will discover the tens of thousands more that have sunk to the bottom! Suicidal termites...or don’t they realise they can’t swim?
By now, “Ain’t Nature wonderful” has a slightly hollow ring… This is possibly not the time to ring your developer and ask whether all wood used in the construction of your brand new home has been properly protected. It’s tempting, but you may not appreciate his answer. Of course, you haven’t yet realised the really bad news; this invasion and its consequences continues for most nights for at least two weeks, along with the rain. Maybe the Thai style outdoor kitchen wasn’t such a good idea after all, particularly since you’ve now begun to appreciate the true meaning of the well known phrase and saying ,”In Your Face”.
Talking with expat friends, before their arrival in Chiang Mai the main “fauna” concerns seemed to focus on snakes, spiders, scorpions, centipedes, rats, rabies, and mosquitoes carrying all kinds of disgusting diseases from dengue fever to malaria. Once we’d all survived our first encounter with flying termites, we were all agreed - they’re the worst! Possibly because they arrive in their millions and get everywhere, in your hair, in your food, in the pool, on the dogs, on the floor, in your bed, everywhere. The other resident horrors seem more controllable, somehow. Snakes - seen rarely in domestic situation and mainly of a harmless variety - although once you’ve spotted one in your garden it will get out of your way too quickly for you to identify it from your specially purchased book on that fascinating subject. Result - you’ll never know which of you had a better chance of killing the other. A friend’s response to finding a snake in his bathroom was, in a moment of confusion, to attack it with his bath mat. This is not a recommended solution! Spiders - the larger, nastier ones are, again, rarely seen around homes. If we ever do see one of that type, the screams will be heard all over the city. Scorpions - you may occasionally meet a few, both large and small, but, like your average snake, they are more scared of us that we are of them. However, a hefty whack or two with a large flip-flop should solve the scorpion problem fairly fast. Ditto centipedes, especially the large, revolting-looking ones! Rats, again rarely seen, except in certain areas of the city which used to be known as “backpacker land”. Rabies - very rare, but it’s a good idea to avoid long and affectionate conversations with street dogs, however cute - that way you’ll avoid their fleas and ticks as well. Mosquitoes - part of life’s rich pattern. EVERYONE, though, detests those darn termites! Except, of course, the geckos, who can’t believe their luck.

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


Stuart Rodger - The Englishman’s Garden, Chiang Dao

Glorious Red, Yellow and Purple

Right now, the roadsides of Chiang Mai are ablaze with the vibrant colours of trees in blossom, all of which are valued worldwide for their spectacular floral exuberance. The purple blossoms are from Loundon’s “crepe myrtle”, a native of Thailand, and the even larger bloomed Lagerstroemeria speciosa, which spreads throughout Asia. Its exceptionally hard wood rivals that of teak, and is highly valued.
The brilliant red flowers of Delonix regia are world-renowned for their fantastic flaming display. This tree hails from Madagascar, an island famous for its amazing and unique flora. Its spread throughout the tropics didn’t take long after its discovery, as sailors on leave in Madagascar’s ports collected the seed pods, and took them home with them. This tree was easy to identify for the purpose, as its seed pods take a year to mature, and are ripe for picking when the tree is in flower the following year. As a result, when sailors noticed and admired the beautiful blooms, the seed pods were right there, ripe and hanging on the tree. A temptation impossible to resist! Sadly, it is now almost extinct in its native habitat, an illustration of how important it is to be able to give refuge in one’s garden to specimens of endangered plant and tree species. To balance its large, spreading canopy, D. regia has an aggressive root system, so should be placed at a safe distance from buildings, masonry, paths and ponds.
The amazing Indian Laburnum, Cassia fistula, is also in its full glory at present. Made famous in Thailand by the highly successful Rachapruak, (the tree’s name in Thai), floral exhibition held in celebration of the 60th anniversary of His Majesty the King’s Coronation, an example of the tree took pride of place on a mound right by the entrance to the exhibition. Because of its name and its yellow flowers, (yellow being the Royal colour), it is called the “Royal Tree”, or “King’s Tree”. Its hanging racemes in brilliant yellow are breathtaking to behold.
Tabebuia chrysantha has lovely bunches of yellow trumpet-shaped blooms which burst forth after rain. This tree originates from the West Indies through to Mexico and across to Peru. A different variety, T. chrysostricha, has leaves which are covered in rusty coloured hairs and have seed pods that are similarly pubescent. This variety comes from Columbia and Brazil, and is a smaller size, ideal for street planting or in the smaller garden.

Tip of the Week
Be cautious when buying Lagerstroemeria, as it does not take kindly to re-planting and should be carefully root-pruned well in advance before digging up and transplanting to another site. If a large amount of money is involved, make sure your supplier takes responsibility for the tree’s survival in the form of a guarantee.