Two communities - two festive occasions-one party
Everyone’s having fun!
Girls’ get-together - the guys are discussing
football on the terrace!
Integration between the Thai and expat communities has been very much in
focus recently - this page has mentioned, more than once, that it seems
essential and should also include interaction between the diverse
sub-communities within the foreign presence here in CM. But, how difficult
is this to achieve, given cultural differences as well as language problems?
Within the city itself, the “great divide” often seems wider than it perhaps
is; a successful exception to this rule being the Chiang Mai Friends group,
growing fast in numbers and including many Thai residents as well as
farangs. However, in the country areas surrounding the city, it may well be
a different story.
For example, a party was held last week in a tiny and sadly incomplete
moo baan in San Sai, approximately 2 kms from the main Doi Saket road,
highway 118. The moo baan is located at the edge of a small village in which
the meeting place is, inevitably, the local shop/ bar, run by Khun Banee and
her husband, the deputy headman of the village. Readers would easily
recognise the shop as the equivalent of their local pub or bar in their home
country, but, of course, it also sells everything from straw hats,
(essential not only for villagers but also for balding farang guys with
gardens that need lots of daytime work), to foodstuffs of every kind,
household goods and that even more essential supply, beer! Most nights, the
tables outside the shop are full, not only with Thais, but with regulars
from the farang community resident in several nearby moo baans. All
are made equally welcome by Khun Banee.
The party-givers, Carole and Eric, emigrated as retirees from the UK nearly
3 years ago, and took up residence in their new home a year or so after they
had arrived in Chiang Mai. Even now, there are only two homes permanently
occupied, theirs and this writer’s, with another large house belonging to a
Brit working abroad, three houses standing empty, one plot being ignored by
its supposed owner and three plots unsold, probably permanently. Not exactly
what was promised by the developer…it’s “watch your back” time again, folks!
The good news is that Roger and Jason will have left the UK and will be our
next-door neighbours by the end of this month - welcome, guys! Excuse for
Back to last week’s party - a double celebration of the arrival on their
first visit to Mum and Dad’s new home of Carole and Eric’s son Stephen, his
wife Sarah and their children Ethan and Rhianna - both of whom have spent
most of their time in their grandparents’ swimming pool! The second cause
for celebration was Stephen’s birthday. Not overly enthusiastic about
cooking for 25 or so guests, not to mention clearing up after them the
following morning, the ever-practical Carole asked Khun Banee to provide the
food, extra seating and an awning to protect against the regular evening
tropical downpours of this untypical rainy season. As it turned out, a great
idea all round! The party itself was integration personified, with guests
from both communities mixing, laughing, talking, (occasionally in two
different languages!) eating delicious and over-supplied food, drinking,
(lots of that going on!) dancing and singing along with the guitarist, who
was also provided, of course, by Khun Banee!
So, that’s how it should be. We’re all human beings - we all enjoy a great
night out - (or in, in this case), with friends. Those of us who came here
to make friends with the local people will know by now that it enriches our
lives - and, hopefully, those of our Thai friends as well - to those of us
who are still stuck in “farang land”, get out there and go for it - the
rewards are immense.
Elephant therapy hope for autistic kids extended
to depressives and phobia sufferers
Following innovative research begun last year at Chiang Mai University
into “elephant therapy” as a promising treatment for autism in children,
CMU’s Faculty of Medical Sciences has taken the theory a step further. A
similar programme has now been proposed involving sufferers from
depression and phobias.
The theory behind the use of elephants is based on results of studies of
elephant calls, which contain infra sound - a relaxation tone - and
ultra sound, which triggers active emotions, both of which are
beneficial to autism sufferers and, it is believed, may also reduce the
symptoms of depression and phobias.
CMU and the Forest Industry Organisation’s Thai Elephant Conservation
Centre in Lampang last week signed a memorandum of cooperation to work
together to devise a full therapy programme for autistic children
between the ages of 9 and 19 years. The initial study reported
improvements in several areas, including self-reliance and social
reactions. Dr. Audomsark Haesungcharern, dean of the Faculty of Medical
Sciences, confirmed that the results of the research had been beyond his
team’s expectations, and that further studies could be extended to cover
various psychological disorders.
The head of the project, Nuntanee Satiansukpong, explained the manner in
which children would be matched with elephants which had compatible
personalities in that, for example, hyperactive children could be paired
with calm elephants and introverted children with extrovert elephants.
Nuntanee also reported that an autistic boy who had never shown any
physical affection or verbal communication with his parents had, after
therapy, spoken to and hugged them.
Worldwide research has shown that other mammals, particularly horses,
dogs and dolphins, can also be of benefit in improving the symptoms of
OPINION: Finally, some answers to a frequently asked question
After frequent requests and unanswered pleas, both verbal and in
writing, for input from readers as regards their likes, dislikes and
opinions about this newspaper, it seems that I have, at last, somewhat
of an answer. Not, it must be said, from Mailbag or in a letter to the
editor, but from that refuge for frazzled farangs, (and, thankfully,
others not so frazzled,) the Thai Visa Chiang Mai Forum. A friend
alerted me to the thread; after having read the initial post, (obviously
from someone who had not read that week’s paper carefully enough), and
having sifted through the predictably negative “fish and chip wrapper”
comments, I was amazed to read a critique of the CM Mail which
included some seriously valid points. My sincere thanks to its author!
However, there were comments made on certain issues which, I feel, might
need a brief explanation.
The Chiang Mai Mail is the expat community’s only English
language newspaper, and is, as mentioned in the post, a “weekly” rather
than a daily which covers a wider range of countrywide news. Therein
lies the first problem - we at the sharp end have no idea how many of
our readers watch the news, (either in Thai or in English), read the
Bangkok Post, etc, or surf the international media pages. We don’t know
because no-one tells us! So - given at least 3 days between deadlines
and hitting the news stands, it’s possible that some of you might just
know more about a particular non-local story’s updates than we did when
we placed it! But - it’s also possible that there are many readers who
do not follow the news in the above manner for various reasons, and are
happy to read it some days after its occurrence.
Secondly - and a very good point - timely and significant local news.
This, together with most news from local organisations and other sources
is almost always in Thai, as are all press reports, national and local
meetings, etc. The team here in Chiang Mai are farang; unfortunately we
are not fluent Thai speakers and therefore rely mostly on supplied (not
chosen) local news items, often delayed by the need for translation by
an outside agency. In other words - we use what we’re sent when we get
it! We are, however, looking at ways to improve this aspect. Readers
could help - local news is not just about muggings, drugs, floods, etc,
it’s also about human interest stories concerning real people and their
lives. If you don’t tell us, we won’t know!
We are reporting CMU research and events where possible - yes, it’s
important. See this page for an example. Local political news,
particularly if connected with the Mayor’s administration, is now being
published on a regular basis, as are business stories when available.
The author of the Thai Visa post is absolutely right on this - anything
which helps farangs to understand local issues and their possible
consequences is essential reading. Regular updates on the tourist
industry, immigration and economic issues will be forthcoming in future,
as will more detailed advance notifications of diverse events of
interest. Various economic issues, mostly linked to agriculture and the
increase in food prices, have, in fact, been “forthcoming” frequently in
the not-too distant past! Pollution issues have also been very well
covered. On the lighter side, the comment about occasional “idle
chatter” on the Femail page seems a little harsh - we women enjoy “idle
chatter” from time to time, and don’t have problems focusing on both
serious and trivial issues! Note to the post’s author - sadly, I am
unable to trace Edna! Maybe she’ll reappear some day…
The Thai Visa post which prompted this text mentions “last year” several
times - I hope its author also noticed that the paper’s moved on from
there, albeit slowly. As regards “cut and paste” articles, serious
reporting and “filling” the paper, I would like to invite said author to
submit a letter to Mailbag stressing these points! And, to any readers
who want to submit their views as well - bring ‘em on, I’d love to hear
from you. Our vision for the Chiang Mai Mail is for it to inform,
entertain and support its readers and for it to become the valid
representative and voice of the expat community. I can’t stress too
strongly that, for us to achieve this goal, we need your input.