La Luna Gallery presents
‘Fashion, Food and Flowers’ on World AIDs Day
Sommai from La Luna Gallery, with Michael from
welcome guests as they arrive.
Chiang Mai joined the rest of the world on December 1 in marking ‘World AIDS
Day’ with fundraisers and other events, including a Gala Dinner organised by
La Luna Gallery entitled ‘Fashion, Food and Flowers’ and held at the Chedi.
Maund (Sangha Metta Project), Alvaro Bermeso (head of Global AIDS Alliance),
and Nadine France (Health and Development Network) are pictured with Lasse
Norgaard from La Luna Gallery.
Alvaro Bermejo, head of the Global Aids Alliance and Nadine France, from the
Health and Development Network, mingled with guests during the cocktail hour
whilst passing on their expert knowledge of the epidemic.
The 120 guests enjoyed a scrumptious meal in a heavenly setting by the
swimming pool, with one guest commenting that “even the moon is smiling
tonight.” A four course dinner included a delicious pan roasted sea bass
fillet with caramelised eggplant, pickled fennel and ginger dressing.
Mai’s own Book Kitavandha, pictured with two of the models from the fashion
The entertainment was directed by those now famous MCs, Pim and John, and
included fashion shows by Bangkok’s Raffless Institute, Chiang Mai’s Ginger,
local designer Atthakrisna Vannason and featured two incredible dresses made
from thousands of condoms by the Brazilian designer Adriana Bertini. All the
lovely flower creations were the works and design of the internationally
renowned Sakul Intakul. Music included Chiang Mai’s own Book Kitavadhana,
who thrilled the guests with his perfect baritone voice.
Funds raised at the magical evening will go to three local Chiang Mai AIDS
Charities. Support for the Children Foundation provides foster homes for
abandoned children with HIV/AIDS and orphaned youngsters whose parents have
died from AIDS. The second charity, MPLUS+ works to improve the sexual
health of men who have sex with other men. Last, but certainly not least, is
the Sangha Metta Project which promotes and supports the role of the
Buddhist clergy in HIV/AIDS prevention and care.
The evening ended with the auction of a painting by Jittiwut Sriyang,
depicting an elephant, which was sold for 125, 000 baht. Although accounts
for the evening are not yet finalised, La Luna hopes to donate 125,000 baht
to each of the three organizations.
Chiang Mai Friends consider comparative cultural values in Thailand
Members of the Chiang Mai Friends’ group
gather after Carol’s interesting and enlightening presentation.
The recent regular monthly meeting of the Chiang Mai Friends’ group was
held at the Uniserve building on Chiang Mai University’s Conference
Centre campus off Nimmanhaeminda Road. As usual, friends met and chatted
prior to the meeting, with most people taking an early supper break and
ordering from the Lemon Tree Restaurant’s branch within the building.
The focus of this group is concentrated on providing a national and
international bridge between cultures, essential in these difficult
days. ‘Think globally - live locally’, is a genuine ‘sound-bite’ which
we should all consider.
At the beginning of the meeting, Duenpen Chaladlam (Khun Boong to her
very many loyal friends) gave a brief description of the Green Seminar
recently held here in Chiang Mai and reported in last week’s Chiang
Mai Mail. The Dutch Ambassador to Thailand, together with Rupert
Konijn, an agriculture and food quality expert based at the Dutch
Embassy in Bangkok, were in attendance at the conference, which launched
the Chiang Mai pilot project involving a Green Master Plan for the city,
with the financial assistance of the Dutch government: An excellent
example of ‘Think globally - live locally’ in action. Rupert is planning
to return to Chiang Mai next April to check on the project’s status -
watch this space for updates.
The presentation at the meeting was given by Carol Beauclerc, on the
fascinating subject of comparative cultural values, with a focus on her
own experiences 27 years ago as a Peace Corps volunteer in the rural
south of Thailand. Carol divided her experiences into 10 sections,
explaining the aspects of Thai cultural behaviour which had impressed
themselves on her, and asking the meeting for their own, modern
experiences of the same themes.
Her first recollection concerned the rituals of eating - with a Thai
proverb saying that it’s ‘better to have no food left over’,
illustrating the cultural aspect. To Thais, food is a very serious
subject, with, when families meet for a meal, much discussion about what
should be ordered in order to create a ‘complete’ experience, of taste
and even of colour. She noted that a little food should be left on the
plate - if all has been eaten, the guest will be offered more, and more,
etc. An interesting point was made in that, perhaps, the sharing of
food, particularly with a foreign person, may be a subtle invitation to
share in Thai culture.
Another Thai saying introduced the second theme, with at supper time the
Thai husband saying, “First eat, then shower,” and the wife replying,
“No, first shower, then eat,” interpreted as the fact that, in Thailand,
form and appearance are essentially important.
A discussion of dress, dependent on occasion, led to another proverb, ‘a
chicken is lovely because its feathers are clean and beautiful; a person
is lovely because they dress right.’ A point which, here in CM, those
who like to ‘people-watch’ in the tourist areas and Wats might well
appreciate. Basically and culturally, the crux is that there is a
correct way to do everything, even everyday activities like preparing
food and cleaning the house.
Advice is often given that the showing of attention involving physical
contact between men and women is culturally frowned on in Thailand.
However, it is quite acceptable between persons of the same sex, either
male or female. The aspect of respect was also mentioned, particularly
for one’s parents and older people in general, and for teachers. This
last may surprise older farangs who have had experience of teaching in
some of Chiang Mai’s non-government schools!
A cultural norm which affected Carol when she returned home to be with
her parents was the acceptability of ‘white lies’ within Thai society.
Unlike the telling of lies in the Western world, this is considered to
be quite acceptable, as it is often used as the only means by which to
avoid conflict and promote harmony. Perhaps, for foreign residents in
Chiang Mai, this may be one of the most difficult cultural differences.
Feelings and ‘face’, are also very important in Thai society, and
perhaps are also difficult aspects for farangs to understand. ‘Jai’
(heart) is a word which is used very frequently in Thai, and very rarely
in the English language. How often do we, in English, refer to a
‘good-hearted’ person, (jai dee)? - a very simple example of the word’s
Face is equally tricky; Carol told a story about a young gay man who, at
a certain age, and having not spoken of his preference to his parents,
was presented with a gift from them - a lovely young Thai lady - his for
the night! Of course, he thanked his parents graciously, not letting
them see his feeling even for a moment - just to save their ‘face’.
Something to be learned there, we suspect.
An easier concept for foreigners is that of ‘sanook’ - fun! Being alone
is not ‘sanook’, hence the problem for Westerners of the following the
cultural norm here in Thailand – the lack of privacy. Communal culture
is the norm here, and extremely and supportively important. Curiosity is
not regarded as intrusive or nosy; it’s merely a way of supporting
Finally, a sense of abundance is evident in Thai culture. Carol quoted,
‘There is fish in the river and rice in the fields…’ a saying taken from
a very old stone stele in a Bangkok museum. Just look at the multitude
of differing plates of food when a large group of Thais eat out at a
local restaurant - you’ll get the point!
Understanding these cultural norms, which may at first seem very strange
to newcomers to the city and the kingdom, will help us all to retain the
good in Western culture at the same time as recognizing and enjoying the
good things in Thai culture. Mix the two - the result is Sanook!