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An Isaan Journey

Chiang Mai Mail M.D. Pratheep Malhotra installed as Rotary District Governor

London businessman’s Chiang Mai Children’s Trust supports Hang Dong school

A horse and carriage for the bride - Imperial Mae Ping’s Wedding Fair

 

An Isaan Journey

George Scudder
Recently, the realization dawned that, after 13 years in Thailand, I had only a peripheral acquaintance with the eastern side of the Kingdom, better known as the Isaan region. To remedy the situation without further delay, I scrounged around for my maps, fired up the computer, did the required Google searches, ran out and bought a used Lonely Planet Thailand guide book, and, thus well armed, was ready to plot this Vasco da Gama journey through the world of Isaan. First, though, I must give credit to a fellow Chiang Mai expat, Bernard Davis, who had told me that this was “really a very nice trip”. He was to be proved right, in spades! With many hours at the computer, much research on tourist sites and local hotels, and an attempted foray to find some restaurant suggestions, (the latter of which proved to be most elusive), we were ready to begin our journey.

The gilded bronze Chinnarat Buddha at Wat Phra Si Ratana Mahathat. This beautiful image is considered to be second only in importance to the Emerald Buddha.
We left Chiang Mai on a Monday morning, on a route that would take us through Uttaradit, and on to Phitsanulok, for our first overnight stay. Just outside of Uttaradit, we encountered Wat Denchai, home of a 29 metre image of the reclining Buddha, in serene repose in front of the impressive Wat.
Leaving Wat Denchai we headed to Phitsanulok, and, more specifically, Wat Phra Si Ratana Mahathat, the home of the Chinnarat Buddha. This bronze image is considered to be second in importance only to the Emerald Buddha in Bangkok’s Wat Phra Kaew. Cast in the late Sukhothai style, the image’s flammiform halo becomes dragon serpent (naga), heads either side of the image’s body.
After sightseeing in and around the Wat, and its environs, we began the next leg of our journey, heading to Khon Kaen, where we had planned to stay the night. The drive, 376 kilometres, through the loveliest scenery of the trip thus far, took a total time of about 6 hours, including gas, bathroom and refreshment breaks, mainly because of the mountainous winding roads, After a good night’s rest, we departed Khon Kaen and moved on to the city of Korat. As you get near this historical area, there are many ruins to visit. The first major area you encounter is Phimai Historical Park. One could make this a whole day’s excursion by itself, and thus we could not do it justice. However, we did cover a lot of ground, and if one has already visited the superb ruins at Angkor Wat, it helps one to speed through this site.
After leaving Phimai, we stopped at other ruins, most of them less than impressive, and decided to head for the next pit stop, the Dusit Princess Hotel in Korat, where we had planned to stay for two nights. Our next treat was a day trip to a wonderful site, Phanom Rung, where we soon became aware of a feeling of spirituality that was really enthralling. One could literally feel the peace of the Lord Buddha here, and the Khmer influence of the sculptures and architecture was easily recognised.
We decided next day to make a loop off of Highway 24, along what seemed to be a short loop to the Khao Angkhan Temple. On the map, it looked easy and close; however, this was definitely not the case! But at the end of the day, it was clearly worth the effort and time. Although this complex was erected in 1982, and is a modern stylization of the Khmer style of architecture, it is worth the trip. Not easy to find, but really worth the effort.
After spending some time at Wat Khao Angkhan, we continued on the loop and worked our way over to Prasat Meuang Tam, another site in what I call the “Phanom Rung loop”. This ancient Wat dates to the 10th century, was “sponsored” by King Jayavarman V, and is reputedly, and I would say I agree, considered to be the third most interesting temple complex, after Phanom Rung, and Phimai.
On leaving Meung Tam, our planned visits were over, but, candidly, there were many sites we missed because of the lack of available time. Our last night was spent in Si Saket, gathering strength for the arduous journey home. Certainly, our first trip to Isaan was one of discovery and enjoyment, and definitely needs to be repeated some day soon! The pictures, of course, are just a few examples of the amazing photo opportunities that one finds at these historical sites, but they give you a sense of wonder of these special places. Clearly, this is an area of Thailand that one could spend serious time exploring in order to truly appreciate the essence of these sites, and to clearly understand and feel their magnificence and ancient heritage.

The 29 metre image of the reclining Buddha at Wat Denchai, Uttaradit.

An ancient stupa in Phimai Historical Park.

Wat Khao Angkarn, built in 1982, using a modern stylization
of the Khmer style of architecture.

An entry gate to Prasat Meuang Tam, built in the 10th century, and sponsored by King Jayavarman V.

The “Grand Staircase” to the main stupa at Phanom Rung,
near Khorat, showing clearly the Khmer architectural style.

 

Chiang Mai Mail M.D. Pratheep Malhotra installed as Rotary District Governor

The 61 clubs in the Rotary International District 3340 turned out in force at the Royal Cliff Beach Resort in Pattaya recently to honour their new District Governor, Pratheep (Peter) Malhotra. More than 400 well-wishers came to see Peter’s 21 years of selfless devotion to the Rotary ideals rewarded by the bestowing of the governorship of the district. Almost every organisation in Pattaya with connection to welfare and tourism was represented, including the Director of Tourism for Thailand and the President of Skål, Thailand. However, the most honoured guest was H.E. Bhichai Rattakul, the most respected Rotarian in Thailand, former President of the Thai Parliament, past District Governor, past Rotary International Director and the first Thai to become, in the year 2002-2003, President of Rotary International.

Past Rotary International President Bhichai Rattakul installs Pratheep as Governor of District 3340 R.I.
To initiate the proceedings, a “Welcome” dance was performed by Thai dancers, followed by an Indian epic supplied by Sopin Thappajug, which included an interesting leading “lady”! The personal touch was provided by Pratheep’s three sons, Prince, Tony and Dave, who formed a trio with guitars and sang a song for their father, bringing more than one tear to their father’s eyes.
The installation ceremony itself was conducted by H.E. Bhichai Rattakul, who, in his official address, said that “Pratheep was born in Phitsanulok, the second son of Indian parents who ran a successful trading business in textiles, typewriters and sewing machines. Malhotra senior, however, with a wise eye to the future, decided that an ability to speak English would soon be a pre-requisite for the future of business in Thailand. The most accessible place for Pratheep to learn this skill was India, which would also give the young boy a chance to investigate and understand his Indian roots. Consequently, he was sent to an Irish Catholic boarding school in Mussoorie, at the foot of the Himalayas, when he was 5 years old”. H.E. Bhichai continued, “One of his most obvious traits is his enthusiasm. He will embrace an idea or a concept and run with it, encouraging all those around him to look ahead to its ultimate aim. This international man, however, always acknowledges his debt of gratitude to his parents and to the other members of his family. Whilst the symbolism may have changed for Pratheep, in all his guises, his personal philosophy never has. He retains the close bonds of the Thai/Indian family unit and the respect for that concept which his father and mother gave him. That is now, in turn, being taught to his own three sons, and his nephews and nieces. Hopefully, the strengths which come from that will continue through the Malhotra lineage. One aspect that does put Peter apart from many others is his understanding of people and their strengths and weaknesses, and he has never stopped helping those in unfortunate circumstances. Whilst Pratheep may seem an enigma to many, he is not really so. He is just a man driven by his own quest for excellence, a quest that has been the same for all pioneers, whether they were the Pilgrim Fathers, Christopher Columbus or Magellan. A pioneer has to have a mission, a pioneer has to have forward vision and a pioneer has to have boundless enthusiasm. Pratheep, the pioneer has all that.”

Peter pours his heart out to the audience, thanking one and all for the love showered upon him.
Ending his speech, H.E. Bhichai, knowing Pratheep’s stance regarding hard work, ethics and goal-setting, quoted the former British prime minister Maggie Thatcher, who said that one has to stick to one’s principles - if you stand in the middle you get run over from both directions! Pratheep will not suffer that fate.
The new District Governor’s reply to H.E. Bhichai began with these words, “Out of the gloom a voice spoke to me and said, smile and be happy, things could be worse. So I did smile and be happy, and things still got worse!” He explained that the quote was taken from the words of a great Rotarian, the late past District Governor, Nelson Alexander, who had loved life, loved people, and was always there to lend a helping hand, to pick up those who had stumbled and to hold them steady until they were strong again. Nelson had fought tirelessly with Rotary bureaucracy to allow a Thai to become the RI President, but sadly, in 2002, when his resolve bore fruit, he was no longer there to see it.
Pratheep pledged to dedicate his year as District Governor to Nelson’s memory, and mentioned that his own father, who had predicted that his second son would become a president one day, sadly did not live long enough to see him rise even higher and become a District Governor. He proceeded to thank all those people who had inspired and assisted him on his way, including H.E. Bhichai, his elder brother Marlowe, his family members, and all his role models in Rotary’s selfless society whose motto is “Service above Self”, and whose theme for 2008-2009 is “Make Dreams Real”. The worldwide organization will instigate projects to decrease child mortality under the age of 5 years. Every day around the world, some 30,000 children under that age die from preventable causes such as pneumonia, measles and malaria. Thousands die from the lack of that most basic resource; clean water, and many more die from a combination of factors, in which malnutrition and poverty play major roles.
It will be towards alleviating these shocking statistics that Pratheep will be guiding the 61 clubs in District 3340. “Nothing happens on its own”, is almost his motto. He is a man who is not afraid of hard work, and those children will have a wonderful champion for their cause. It will be a busy year for the new District Governor, but not one in which he will shrink from the task.
In 1932, Rotarian Herbert J. Taylor created the Four-Way Test, a code of ethics adopted by Rotary. The test asks the following questions:
Of the things we think, say or do - Is it the TRUTH? Is it FAIR to all concerned?
Will it build GOODWILL and BETTER FRIENDSHIPS? Will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned?
Pratheep Malhotra has applied the Four-Way Test to all his dealings, not just within Rotary circles, but to his life in Pattaya, which explains in some way the standing he enjoys within the local community, which, by the end of the next 12 months, will have been extended to the greater area of Thailand covered by RI District 3340. The new District Governor will make sure his year in office will be beneficial for those needy, and very young, children.

Pornsak Euerprasert, Governor (2008-09) of District 3360 R.I. and Khun Jiraporn wish Peter and Rani a successful year as governor.

Past Rotary International President Bhichai gives moral support to (l-r) Suthasinee, Thinakorn, Primprao, Yanyong and Krisda, volunteers of the Pattaya Rotary Liaison Office, for their untiring work at the District Assembly.

Dave, Tony and Prince (l-r) sing for their father.


London businessman’s Chiang Mai Children’s Trust supports Hang Dong school

A very special trip and an engagement party!

John Stewart, the owner of the “Farang” shop in Camden, London UK, is also the director of the Chiang Mai Children’s Trust, which supports the educational development of children at Tong Khay school in Hang Dong by raising funds from his customers.

John and Nuke at their traditional Thai engagement ceremony at the Sirinart Garden Hotel.
Twice yearly, John comes to Chiang Mai, and organises the distribution of the funds according to the school’s needs, and on his recent visit, he also organised an educational day trip for 70 of the children. The day began with a visit to Mae Moe mine, where the children were taught about the process of electricity generation, after which an enjoyable and very noisy lunch was provided! Then came the fun - hill sliding - 70 children with grass sleds and a great deal of laughter. Afterwards, everyone moved on to Lamphun, where a tour of the town in horse-drawn carriages had been arranged, together with a visit to a local temple. Shopping and refreshments followed, and all arrived home weary but overjoyed with their day.
On this visit, the funds provided repairs to the school building, scholarships for 4 graduating students to enable them to attend high school, and 150 books and educational DVD’s. In addition, Ning, a local resident and former pupil of the school, offered the use of her sala, (which is currently serving as an impromptu library till school resumes), as a summer reading room.
This very special visit was one which John will remember all his life, as, whilst he was here, he became engaged to Natthanicha Boonsuit, (Nuke), whom he had met on a buying trip to Chiang Mai in 2006. The happy couple celebrated a traditional Thai engagement ceremony at the Sirinart Garden Hotel, attended by 75 family members and friends, and partied in the evening at the air traffic controllers’ club on the airport complex. John has been a frequent visitor to Chiang Mai for many years, making regular buying trips for his shop.

The happy couple, John and Nuke, centre back,
celebrating their engagement with friends.

Children from Tong Khay School enjoying a horse and carriage ride in Lamphun.


A horse and carriage for the bride - Imperial Mae Ping’s Wedding Fair

The Imperial Mae Ping’s Wedding Fair team,
all happy to give the bride and groom their “perfect day”.

A romantic horse drawn carriage adorned with beautiful flowers is available
to whisk away the bride and groom.

On May 16-18, the Imperial Mae Ping Hotel held its 4th annual Wedding Fair at Robinson’s, Airport Plaza. This year’s theme is, “We make your fairy tales come true!” Together with the Wedding Fair’s sponsors, WOW 88 studio, who provide both the beautiful wedding and bridesmaids’ dresses, a professional hairdressing and make-up service for the bride if required, and even smart suits for the groom, the Imperial Mae Ping’s wedding packages take the headaches out of organising the great day!
Along with its sister hotel, the Imperial Resort at Mae Rim, the Imperial’s facilities for the wedding itself and the reception are sumptuous and elegant. The sales team consists of 10 experienced staff, who will help with all the necessary decisions, such as the choice of an indoor or outdoor venue, and accommodation at either hotel both before and after the occasion itself. There are three “wedding packages” to choose from; Silver, Gold and Platinum, and over 70 weddings, mostly of local couples, were held at the Imperial Mae Ping last year.
An innovation for the bride who wants to arrive in style this year was unveiled earlier this month - a horse and carriage, which was paraded, decorated with flowers, around the moat accompanied by an escort of motorbikes. One large version of which, it must be noted, was ridden by the hotel’s GM, Nick Bauer. The horse, a gentle beastie named San-Bao, didn’t seem to mind the noise at all!
The Chiang Mai Mail’s reporter asked Nick about his most embarrassing moment at a wedding - he replied that on one unforgettable occasion, there had been 500 guests booked for the formal sit-down reception, and 650 turned up! Of course, without disturbing the ‘big day’ of the happy couple, the staff managed to sort it out without anyone noticing, much to Nick’s relief. If there’s any occasion where expertise truly counts, surely it must be that “big day”.