Vol. VII No. 50 - Tuesday
December 9 - December 15, 2008



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by Saichon Paewsoongnern


Chiang Mai FeMail 
HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Farang Lady House Hunts…

Re-connections – town girl, country life

Is Thailand becoming more unsafe for women?

Opinion: Shooting the Kingdom in the foot

 

Farang Lady House Hunts…

The International Herald Tribune, in August, had a magazine included that was showing houses for sale in America. We are all aware that house prices have gone down the drain and now is the time to snap up the bargains.
So, since most of you didn’t have the opportunity to see this amazing magazine, I thought I would share some of the offerings with you. Get out your pen, and jot down the ones that sound good, call me, and I’ll send you the contact information.
First, if you want to live in California, although that seems déclassé for some, there is an adorable French country manor in a gated community. It is located in Montecito, the little get-away from the doldrums of Beverly Hills, especially for the rich and famous. This amazing bargain cottage has 4 bedrooms and 4.5 baths within 5,000 square feet. I know it’s on the smallish side, but it is located near the exclusive Valley Club. There you can get away from your tiny home to play golf and rub elbows with those bored by their Hollywood existence. Oprah would be your neighbor. It’s offered at the rock bottom price of $4,950,000.
If you really want to get away from it all and not be bothered by pesky neighbors next door, you could buy a 48 acre island near St. George Maine. It has an elegant main residence, guest cottage, caretaker’s apartment, boat barn and two docks. The amazingly low price, for a whole island is, $5,750,000.
If you get lonesome on your island, Boston offers a good getaway on weekends. This real estate gem is a 5,000 square foot penthouse with 1,000 square feet of terrace. From its 850 square foot rooftop garden you can probably see Montreal on a clear day. The elevator to your penthouse is private, heaven forbid you should have to share. This three bedroom and four bath gem is offered at the reduced price of $12,500,000.
No matter where you live, it would be handy to have a small condo in New York City, if just for shopping sprees. Two choices I can alert you about are: A loft-like condo, on 73rd Street, 1, 600 square feet with 2 bedrooms and 2.5 baths. An open kitchen (obviously a budget condo) complete with balcony. It is offered for $3.2 million. You do get what you pay for!. Or, there is a sprawling prewar condo, 2,750 square feet, oak floors, large windows, pantry, library, and maid’s room. This larger condo is yours for $3,850,000.
If status is your thing…I have just the place for you. Only an hour from Manhattan, Cassiobury in Bedford, is an illustrious brick Georgian estate. The original Cassiobury House dates back to the 1500’s in England, and was once the ancestral seat of the Earl of Essex. Can this get any better? In 1920’s, the house was dismantled and and selected elements moved to the colonies. It has rose colored 16th century bricks, 18th century paneling, and carved fireplace mantels. You can wander with your morning coffee through the 6,700 square feet of classical ambience. You could enjoy 24 acres of land bordering the Beaver Dam River, with riding trails. Twin brick gatehouses, would welcome you to your pool and large barn. This touch of class is offered at $11,500,000.
Lastly, if you want the luxury you deserve, and live in the big apple, here’s what you would just love, although you may have to cash in some bonds for this one. A superb penthouse duplex on Fifth Avenue. It has 17 rooms, including 6 bedrooms. The ceilings are 17th century Venetian palace transplants, completed with an Italian staircase reputedly carved of marble from one of Michelangelo’s quarries. Three windows look over Central Park, where you can view the peasants having picnics. Of course the obligatory wrap around terrace has a massive view of the park, and more of Manhattan than you would ever want to see. Priced at $46,000,000, this might be out of reach of some of our budgets.
So there you are. They are giving houses away in America, it is time to invest for your future. After all, if you don’t go first class, your kids will.

 

Re-connections – town girl, country life

Elena Edwards
Only slightly late for an appointment in town, I’m driving carefully—it’s a very narrow road—down to the junction with Highway 118. Past the village shop—only two guys trying out the local lau, but it is 9.a.m, after all… around the 90 degree bend by the Wat, and—straight into a traffic jam, inexplicable as there’s not a single cow in sight! Inexplicable until I shake off that ‘early morning’ feeling, (yes, 9 a.m. is early for me…), and spot the cause of the line of two battered and one smart pick-up trucks interspersed with the usual five Honda Dreams with assorted passengers, human and canine.
The cause of this Thai village version of chaos is a huge lorry, almost on top of which is an even huger combine harvester. I say ‘almost on top of’, as, surrounding the dual behemoths are at least 8 Thai guys waving their arms and shouting instructions. Then I realise what’s going down…literally. The combine harvester! These guys are trying to get a 20 foot long combine harvester off a lorry and onto a 10 foot wide road, before turning it round 180 degrees and getting it into the rice field on the left hand side of the road. Right. Oh, did I forget to mention the rice field? I also forgot to mention the very close, very wide, very deep klong, on the right hand side of the road…
15 totally absorbed and fascinated minutes later, I realise that a miracle has occurred—they’ve done it! The gigantic machine is where it should be, in the rice field, and not where it shoudn’t be, in the klong! I’m not even quite sure how that happened. Everyone, including the occupants of all vehicles, me included, is smiling and laughing, watching the huge harvester trundle into position, and waiting for the signal. No, not the signal for us to continue with our journeys, the signal that the machine gives as it begins its job—an incredibly loud, joyous series of four hoots, totally celebratory of another harvest about to be safely gathered in! It’s one of the most glorious, evocative sounds I’ve ever heard, and I’ve had come all the way from London, UK, to Chiang Mai, Thailand to hear it.
Sound evokes memories from our tribal subconscious, going back through the ages to a time when the seasons had a real meaning. It’s the trigger that sets our minds off on journeys into the past, and sometimes even into the future. All our significant occasions are marked in our minds by sounds. Driving down 118 towards town, my head was filled with that joyous noise, and my mind was automatically spiralling back to a time, long before I was born, when the harvest wasn’t just an event celebrated in a hymn and no longer witnessed or involved in by most of my own people, but was a true, heartfelt link to the earth and its bounty. I’ve had to come all the way from London, UK, to Chiang Mai, Thailand, to feel that link in my own heart.


Is Thailand becoming more unsafe for women?

A recent report from the World Health Organisation may indicated that Thailand is becoming far less safe for women, with worrying increases in the number of domestic abuse cases, gang rapes and violent attacks. At a recent seminar in Chiang Mai, held to mark International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, a women’s rights activist stated that Thailand was now on the list of the 10 countries with the highest number of reported domestic abuse cases. This number, of course, does not include the unreported cases, of which it is suspected there are a great number, due to victims’ embarrassment or fear of further attacks. Sexual assaults are also on the rise, as are the numbers of abused or abandoned children. The speaker added that a disturbing number of videos are emerging which depict rape, fights amongst schoolgirls, teenaged girls being gang-raped and obscene clips taken by peeping toms.
With street violence and unrest due both to political differences and terrorism in the south now commonplace in a country once known for its peaceful nature, the above shocking report comes as no surprise.


Opinion: Shooting the Kingdom in the foot

Elena Edwards
It’s obviously not over yet, even although Suvarnabhumi and Don Mueang are now open. But, how much more damage can a minority group of supposedly mainly educated, middle-class people do to the country they profess to love?
Last Tuesday, the expected announcement was made by the Constitutional Court in Bangkok that the PPP and two of its supporting parliamentary parties must disband and that a large number of its representatives, including the Prime Minister, are to be banned from politics for 5 years. Basically, no surprise there then, the reason for the court’s decision being inappropriate behaviour by PPP politicians during last year’s election.
Similar, perhaps, to what millions of right- minded USA citizens were discussing, online and offline, after the election of George Bush to his second, disastrous term as USA president or, possibly, the ‘election’ of Russian president Putin’s successor.
However, the USA and Russia are not Thailand - they are both highly sophisticated and enormously wealthy first world counties. Thailand is an ‘emerging economy’, largely reliant on exports and, to a lesser but essential extent in the coastal resorts and the north, on tourism.
The invading and closure of the two Bangkok airports by PAD protestors would not have been permitted to continue to damage the economies of either the USA or Russia for more than a day. The inability to deal immediately with the situation by government or police, apart from stranding at least 350,000 passengers and possibly ensuring that they never set foot in the Kingdom again, has ‘lost face’ worldwide for Thailand as a country. More importantly still, the stand-off between the warring factions has cost the export sector at least 3.5 billion baht per day, and will also, no doubt, have an effect on much-needed long-term foreign investment.
This latest, so-called ‘victory’ by the PAD in its long-running war with the majority of the Thai people, therefore, is certain to result in an alarming economic downturn, even before the full effects of a massive loss of purchasing power in the West hit home hard in Thailand’s export-led economy during 2009.
In their much trumpeted attack against the Thai version of corruption – endemic worldwide in its different forms - the PAD have been allowed to created a country, now in a power vacuum and without even a Prime Minister, slipping irrevocably into economic disaster. Tourists, frightened off by exaggerated media reports and ill-thought out warnings from various Foreign Offices that the country as a whole is a dangerous place, are cancelling in their droves.
Now, as a final blow to Thailand’s ‘second city’, Chiang Mai, the ASEAN summit, recently relocated from Bangkok, has been postponed until March 2009, and will, presumably, be held in the capital as originally intended. The summit would have provided a brief financial respite for many businesses in the northern city, already suffering, as are the tourist destinations in other areas of the Kingdom, one of the worst tourist high seasons in living memory.
It would be naïve to think that the court’s judgement will bring to a close the difficulties facing the kingdom, even with the airports now open and essential trade and passenger services re-established. A constitutionally correct interim government is being formed, and the PPP itself is reported to be reforming under another name - to which the PAD will, no doubt, also object.
Stalemate, therefore, must be considered as a long-term result of these last several months, culminating in the actions and reactions of the last week, with neither side prepared to put the country’s welfare before its political convictions. At any time in Thailand’s recent past, the actions of both warring factions would have been damaging. At this, the most difficult time for the world economy for more than 80 years, such actions are truly disastrous.
Surely, it is time to make certain that a similar situation is never allowed to occur again, no matter what seemingly insoluble political problems lie ahead. The present government, such as it is, should consider its responsibility to the Thai people as paramount; as should its opponents, and take steps to remedy the damage caused, both economically and, most importantly, to Thailand’s tragically diminished worldwide image.



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