HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

The Doctor's Consultation

Care for Dogs

Agony Column

Camera Class by Snapshot

Money Matters

Life in Chiang Mai

Let's Go To The Movies


Bridge in Paradise

The Doctor's Consultation:  by Dr. Iain Corness

End of year - and end of life

As we approach the end of 2009, we look forward to 2010 and have the hope that it will be a better one than this year. I hope so too, as none of us have been left untouched by the fall-out from the world’s economic crisis.
However, there are those amongst us for whom New Year 2010 is possibly the last one they will celebrate. How should those people living with terminal cancer approach 2010? I prefer to call the situation ‘living’ with a terminal cancer, rather than ‘dying’ from a terminal cancer. There is a significant difference, and much more than looking at life through my rose-colored glasses.
So you have just found out you have terminal cancer. What can you do? The first thing is to sit down and take stock of your circumstances. All of us know that the piece of string called “life” eventually comes to an end - but we don’t know when. The only difference with you is that your doctor has actually told you when your piece of “life” string is due to run out.
Now whilst the immediate thought is “How do I beat this?” there are many factors you have to consider in the time ahead, and one of the main ones is called ‘The Quality of Life’.
It is natural for a person with advanced cancer to feel many emotions including anger, fear, and sadness. Just as you may need time to adjust to this new phase of your life, your family and friends may also need time to adjust to these new circumstances.
Once you were given the diagnosis, the onus is now on you to find out as much as you can about your particular cancer. Talk with your treating doctors, and get information from reliable internet sites. Note I say “reliable” sites. There are always plenty of sites ready to sell you snake oil. However, I do suggest you read everything and become the world expert on your own condition. But don’t buy snake oil.
But back to Quality of Life. Now is the time to manage your symptoms. Your quality of life is better if your symptoms are under control. Talk to your doctors about the best way for you to manage your symptoms. Analgesics (pain killers) are important, and there are many with different capabilities. With some of the patch technology, the pain relief is almost as good as injections. There’s a lot more than paracetamol.
Do not be afraid to ask your doctors to fully explain any proposed treatment. Getting an extra two months of life, but at the cost of the Quality of Life, may not be worth having. Always keep that in mind. Quality of (the remaining) life is everything. You do not want to spend those ‘extra’ two months in an ICU recovering from major surgery.
Please make your wishes known as well. Making the decision to stop active cancer treatments can be a hard choice for a person with cancer and their family. These are personal choices. If you are faced with making these decisions, talk with your family and doctors about your wishes and explore all of your options. You are still able to make decisions about your life to the extent that you desire. Just keep saying that mantra “Quality of Life”, that is the key to everything at this stage. Don’t forget it!
You may also consider creating a ‘Living Will’ or giving specific instructions on what your wishes are as your cancer progresses. This process helps make your end-of-life wishes and desires known to family, friends, and your doctors and can help ensure that your wishes are honored.
Sorry if the column this week sounds a little deep and dark, but it can give assistance to those who feel as if all their options have gone. There are always options. Even deciding not to continue with various therapies is an option. From my personal point of view, I have taken note of the old phrase “You can’t take it with you,” and consequently I have decided not to go. That’s another option!


Care for Dogs: By Ana Gracey, Care for Dogs

Dog of the Week-Cherry

Cherry is looking for a new home with a loving family.

What a gorgeous, loving, special dog. Cherry is 2-3 years old, a little shy with strangers but simply bursting with all the love she has to give the right person. If you are looking for a sweet-natured, mature, characterful companion, look no further. She is healthy, sterilised and fully vaccinated. If you think Cherry could be the perfect match for you or anyone you know, then contact Care for Dogs, English (08 47 52 52 55) Thai (08 69 13 87 01) or e-mail: [email protected] to make an appointment to meet her at the shelter.

Heart to Heart  with Hillary

Dear Hillary,
We have all heard of copy Rolex watches, copy Nike sports wear, and copy Gucci handbags in Thailand, but like you have yet to see any! Well forget all the lovelorn letters you get Hillary and try and get to the bottom of this one, copy Toilet Rolls!
Yes it’s no bum steer I’m giving you Hillary, here is the case in question. I bought ‘Scott Extra Care’ toilet tissues. They were the best I have ever had in Thailand, so soft. When I went to purchase toilet tissues again I made sure I got exactly the same. I even took the wrapper from the previous pack with me to be sure. To my surprise they were nothing like the previous pack, more like sandpaper or that Zit brand we can get!
Should I write to Kimberly Clark who are the makers of that brand, or just sit and bear it?
I guess if I pursue the matter we might see that steam roller that is used to demolish copy DVDs demolishing mountains of toilet rolls!
Anyway I thought this revelation would be a change from all the usual letters we get to read. All the every best to you all at ‘The Mail’.
Kind regards
Dear Delboy,
How nice to hear from you again. I always enjoy your bright and fluffy emails, and sorry that you got rolled by some fakes. Obviously these were actually the John Wayne brand (don’t take no sh*t from nobody). I don’t think I can get any more double entendres out of this subject – you grabbed them all first.
How is your young monk getting along with his diesel plant? All the best for the New Year. With the price of fuel going up all the time, perhaps I should be asking for diesel instead of champagne!

Dear Hillary,
Sorry we can’t come over this Xmas and bring you some French bubbly and chocolates, but it will have to wait until Easter next year. We always enjoy your column but wonder are there really that many men so silly as to imagine that a gorgeous 19 year old falls in love with a 70 year old pensioner? All the best. Toorah.
George and Mabel
Dear George and Mabel,
You are correct. 70 year old pensioners should not be taken in by 19 year olds but should look for a 70 year old Thai woman to settle down with. The Thai woman by that stage will be a grandmother and her daughters will be sending her money each month, so this is an extra income on top of his pension, and he can play with the grandchildren and pretend they are his and then help with their homework.
It really needs Hillary to get up to Suvarnabhumi and direct the traffic. Perhaps a ‘Silly Old Pensioners’ gate after they’ve been through the ‘Aliens’ gate could be a good idea. I could match them up with some old dears from up-country and charge a small ‘finders’ fee, which I could spend at the champagne counter of the duty free at the airport. I might even be able to stretch it to some chocs as well, if I can grab a couple of the old codgers. Thank you for the great idea, and have a nice Xmas and a great New Year too.

Dear Hillary,
I am an American and I want to buy a house here in Thailand, but I believe it is not possible for me to do this. Is this right? If so, is there a way around this problem because I really would like to do this, as I have met a fabulous little lady and would like to have a home for us. I want to make sure I am the legal owner, just as I would check back in the States.
Dear Chuck,
I don’t know who told you this, my Petal, but they are wrong. Buying a house is very easy for foreigners here, it’s just ‘owning’ it that is a little more difficult. Let me explain, even though any reputable real estate person could give you this advice better than I can. ‘Buying’ means giving somebody (known as the seller) a pile of money, for which they will give you a pile of bricks sitting on a lump of dirt. To do this very quickly, I suggest you go to the nearest beer bar and ask to see one of the female real estate consultants there who can be recognized by the fact they will invite you to “sit down please, sexy man”. This young lady will help you through the paperwork and Thai laws and statutes, and at the end of the time you will have managed to complete your dream of buying a house here in Thailand. The only catch is that the title deeds will be in her name, not yours, but up till the time of the title deeds being issued, you will also have a very faithful companion. After the issuance of said title deeds, things generally change somewhat. That gets us back to the differences between ‘buying’ and ‘owning’. Please go and ask for a reputable real estate agent, and not in the beer bars.

Camera Class:  by Harry Flashman

Buying a compact for Xmas

At some stage in your life you are going to buy a camera. If not for you, then for your children. With Xmas coming up, the answer is probably sooner rather than later. So what should you buy?
That question is about the same as “What car should I buy?” You see, the confusing part is that these days all cameras will produce reasonable photographs. However, like all cars which will get you from A to B, some are capable of doing it better than others. The same goes for cameras.
However, before you start rushing off to the camera store, picking up brochures or thumbing through photography magazines there is one vital step that has to be done first. How much do you want to spend? It is a total waste of time looking at a new BMW if all you can afford is a second hand Corolla. Set a ceiling on your budget and work from there.
The next item in the search for a camera is what you want to do with it. Sure you want to take photographs, but do you want to be a creative photographer, or just take snaps of family outings at the beach? If you do not want to “get involved” with photography, then a simple compact “Point and Shoot” is all you need. However, if you want to try and master the art of photography then you must look at getting a digital SLR (Single Lens Reflex) camera, even though some top end compacts will allow you to fiddle with shutter speeds, etc. Certainly, the top of the range compacts have lots of features usually only seen in SLRs these days - but nothing, repeat nothing, beats a DSLR for 35 mm photography.
So now let’s look at megapixels in compacts first. Let’s get megapixels out of the way first. More megapixels in a compact camera does not mean that you will necessarily get a better final picture. It is all very complicated, but I just suggest you look at something between five and 10 megapixels as having more than enough for what you want a compact camera to do.
Now the lens. Get an optical zoom, rather than a ‘digital’ zoom. Most compact digital cameras feature a 3x zoom lens, which offers a reasonably wide-angle setting at one end and a short telephoto at the other. Some of the larger compact cameras offer a more generous optical zoom, like the Canon PowerShot, which combines a 12x zoom lens with an image stabilization system.
I suggest that you look at any one that has a range in the focal length of the lens. Generally these are called something like 28-70 or 38-105. This sort of range gives you the advantage of a wide angle lens and a small telephoto all built in. What to look for here is just how easy is it to look through the viewfinder and see what you are going to get in the different lens positions. With most compacts you can also use the LCD screen to compose your pictures, but remember that the more you use the LCD, the sooner the camera runs out of batteries.
The majority of compact cameras now come without separate viewfinders, so a clear and bright LCD is essential for composing shots. With this in mind, a 2.5 to 3.0 inch LCD is preferable over smaller sizes. Bigger is better.
Now the ASA that this compact can run under. A good sensitivity range, typically from 50 to 800 ISO, also gives you the best chance of getting the shots you want without resorting to built-in flash. However, try as much as possible to run around 100-200 ASA. You will get better snaps, without “noise”. Remember this is a snapshot camera, not a DSLR.
Now to batteries. If you are a very disciplined type of photographer, who always keeps the rechargeable batteries fully charged, then get a camera which takes rechargeable ones. If, however, this just isn’t you, then get a compact which allows you to use standard off-the-shelf batteries which you can buy at any convenience store.
And finally - try before you buy!

Money Matters:  Paul Gambles MBMG International Ltd.

The Battle is Lost but can we win the War? Part 2

Normally, when there is a recession jobs come back on the market as the economy continues on in the same direction. When there is a depression this is not necessarily so. Debts are paid off and the consumer keeps hold of his money whenever possible. The economy contracts until the time that debt is back to acceptable levels or a new way of getting growth can be found.
The present problems are not helped by the fact the US Dollar has lost about 25% of its purchasing power over the same length of time. This can be interpreted to read that investors have basically lost 25% of their money over the last ten years. This is not exactly what investing is about - especially as there is a good chance they have lost their job as well.
People are wondering what President Obama is going to do. He is printing money at the moment and will have to borrow more. The problem is that if he borrows too much then the Chinese will object. What to do? He is being very Keynesian about the whole thing. Is there an alternative?
Well, in the crisis of 1920, President Harding did absolutely nothing. He let nature take its course. He cut government spending and reduced the budget by half. He decreased taxes and lowered the National Debt by over 30 percent. Within two years unemployment was down to just over two percent.
Unfortunately, Obama is president at a time when he is expected to act. He is also surrounded by people who put their own interests first. It does not look good that many of those in positions of power at the moment are directly or indirectly employed by Goldman Sachs. This is the company that recently announced its profits were four times that of twelve months ago. It has just awarded payouts of billions. Yet it is advising on toxic assets, TARP etc.
As said in the Financial Times, Goldman Sachs and its “activities have become more profitable after the crisis reduced competition and governments injected funds in the banking system.” Goldman can borrow this money at basically no cost to itself. The bank can use this money anyway it wants to. It can, and I love this, lend back to the government at a guaranteed rate which is automatic profit or it can buy commodities or shares or whatever it wants to. It can even speculate against the US Dollar. It is not surprising gold has gone up so much this year. If one borrows at basically zero cost then it is a lot easier to make money from the markets.
The American government has over USD13 trillion financed in various debts. Isn’t it wonderful that Goldman Sachs gets a cut as well? Not happy with this, Obama has recently said he wants to send seventy eight million American senior citizens a cheque for USD250. This is from a government which is losing USD15 billion every 24 hours. Brilliant!
The Wall Street Journal recently asked the CEO of CCB, one of China’s largest banks, if he was interested in acquiring any western banks. Guo Shuquing said there was no chance. Carrying on, he said that banks in the west are on a “downhill path.”
Prices are on the way down in America. They have retreated almost twelve percent from where they were a year ago. If you remove energy they are still down four percent. Remember, this is with a US Dollar that is losing value at the same time. The price of imports should be going up; however, deflation is causing the reverse.
What happens then if America does what Japan has done and goes into a slump for many years? Obama’s budget forecast states there will be a quick return to growth whilst admitting there will still be trillion dollar deficits until 2020 at least. The problem is that if the government is wrong then there are real problems. There is no increase in tax revenue and spending carries on upwards. Soon the trillion dollar deficits become multi-trillion. The country cannot cope and could follow the example of California and go broke.
However, America has one thing that the Golden State does not - a printing press. The problem is that it is cheaper to go broke than it is to keep printing money. It is not helped by these moronic figures either.
The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) insures about USD4.5 trillion of banking reserves. The problem is that it actually only insures about USD10 billion. The mathematics is elementary - USD4.5 trillion divided by USD10 billion means that each USD450 dollars on deposit is being insured by one US Dollar. Put another way, it is way under 1% worth of insurance. The FDIC insures over 8,000 banks. As of 23rd October 2009, 100 US banks have failed this year. This is over one percent. There are another 400 on the critical list. The question is, what happens if another one percent fails? Answer: The US taxpayer and the printing presses get hit again.
However, it is not only the US that is in the pooh.
To be continued…

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


A cinematic journey into darkness and horror

The film Vinyan, recently at Vista and now probably only available to you on DVD, presents a bleakly fatalistic view of the world. The central character (an intense performance from Emmanuelle Beart) makes a decision to pursue her obsession that her young son, seemingly swept away in the tsunami, is alive and living in the Burmese jungle.
She drags her dullard of a husband (clever casting of Rufus Sewell, all sound and ineffective fury, with the personality of a totem pole) on a mission worthy of the indubitably crazy Werner Herzog and his Fitzcarraldo. She, we soon realise, is demented by grief and, unless she undertakes the journey (six lonely months after the Christmas-time disaster) into the heart of darkness, has no option other than an alternative catastrophe or, more probably, suicide.
So the journey begins. She and her surly, unwilling accomplice are led by a conniving guide (soon to be slaughtered by his associates; ‘He deserved it’, says their leader – Thaksin Gao - and soon-to-be new guide) found in the demi-monde of sleazy Phuket.
They hire a boat and chug fitfully on the Andaman Sea, soon losing contact with their own world as they enter Burmese waters and islands, possibly those facing the Thai coast up from Ranong or Champon . We never really know, since the journey is actually a fall into an abyss, imagined with uber-reality rather than documentary precision. The jungle they encounter is dark, unwelcoming, vicious: think of some of Henri Rousseau’s paintings with the leaves so black-green and dense that no light seems to permeate the foliage. The rain is incessant, they have no food, little shelter – only a descent into purgatory. Normal behaviour has no place here.
The film soon develops its own rhythm, all the time bordering on the hysteria which is part of the woman’s agonized character. The ‘reasonable’ voice of the husband, ‘Let’s go back, I never believed that Joshua was still alive’, is drowned out by sturm und drang. We witness almost metaphysical despair and when the guide agrees to take them back at the husband’s insistence, the wife bribes him with the last of their cash. He later tells the husband contemptuously, ‘You can’t control your wife’, suggesting a cuckold rather than the beefy reality of the man.
Soon the journey, reminiscent of Apocalypse Now as well as Conrad’s trip up the Congo river to ‘horror’, lurches into an extreme vision of Golding’s Lord of the Flies as they encounter feral children, capable of unutterable cruelty. Two elderly people are being starved to death as captives of a group of cackling youngsters (the scene is one of the most disturbing in the movie) and later on we see the guide buried alive, Poe-like, and his ship’s mate hanging upside down, another victim of the children.
The loot he has stolen from the woman is now in the possession of the kids and one of them is smearing his already whitened face (she, of course, is looking for a white boy amongst the brown skins) with bright red lipstick. The savages turn on the husband, stabbing him with their sharpened sticks and cannibalising him, echoing the fate of Tennessee Williams’ handsome heroes in Suddenly Last Summer and other works. She is left to her new found children who smear her with mud and caresses. Are her wounds bizarrely healed or will her entrails be spilled like those of her soon forgotten husband? This haunting, single track movie ends on that ambiguous note. We are left to wonder if she has lost one son and discovered the ‘ghosts’ of hundreds more.
Vinyan is a painterly work: fleeting images echo the screaming Cardinals of Francis Bacon, the insect like children swarming over the body of the husband look like a canvas inspired by Hieronymus Bosch. And the references do not end there. The children, zombie–like, home in on their final victim like the creatures from Romero’s Night of the Living Dead.
We are certainly not in Kansas anymore and if this dark world is the other side of a rainbow, then it is populated only by wicked witches. The images, compounded by heightened, overly-dramatic sound, are sometimes obscure. So, you might argue, is the movie. But the Belgian writer -director Fabrice Du Welz shows himself a director of stunning promise. But a promise of what kind? He is content to present a fractured narrative. He allows improvisation in the dialogue, with the poor result of someone working in a foreign tongue. The film is occasionally messy and if you are looking for comforting images, a political comment on the situation in Burma or psychological explanations then look elsewhere. What you will find here is a movie that is both dizzying and an assault on the senses, which is occasionally repugnant and over indulgent. But surely never dull. Never negligible. There’s as much to admire as to be repelled by in his imaginings.
The people depicted are doomed by their own intensity, by forces of nature they cannot comprehend, by a lack of a common culture and language and by greed. They are literally thrown to the ‘wolves’ via forces that are an echo of the original tsunami, so brilliantly evoked at the beginning of the film. The effects of that watery hell, the director seems to be saying, have consequences far beyond those terrible hours.
And for some sort of explanation we have to look at the title which translates as spirit(s) and which in the film are referred to as unhappy ones. Are the children real? Or are they a symbolic representation of disturbed victims who have not been able to rest because of the manner of their deaths? The husband dies because he has ‘moved on from the tragedy’. The woman perhaps spared because she has remembered the living dead. The Thai dialogue is not translated but three times there is a reference to the woman as ‘mummy’.
Perhaps all this is too fanciful for us non Thai viewers. For myself I am prepared to settle for this movie as a startlingly pessimistic horror story (Du Welz shares the deeply entrenched pessimism of his inspiration Conrad’s Heart of Darkness) and a work which I admire if not wholly warm to. Given the sadly conventional maunderings of what passes for most contemporary cinema you miss a film like this at your peril.

Let's Go To The Movies:  by Mark Gernpy

All but three movie times a day at Airport Plaza are for Avatar.  There’s little escaping it this week.  Nor should you.  All the hype about it is true.  It’s Titanic all over again, and even more impressive.
Now playing in Chiang Mai
I bought my 3D Avatar ticket several days in advance, for the first showing, at 11:15.  Duly arriving there Thursday morning, I was told that the 3D version had not arrived.  Would I care for the 2D version?  Well, yes and no, but I ended up seeing the 2D version in the big theater (Cinema 7) at 11:45.  It’s an astounding film, even in 2D.  And to tell the truth, it’s kind of nice not to be bothered with the glasses, and not having to put up with the dimming effect of the 3D process.
I was told that all the 3D prints received in Thailand were “not widescreen” and were returned to the distributor in the US and a new shipment ordered, expected to arrive in Chiang Mai the next day.  At any rate, it seems the much ballyhooed roll-out of Avatar in 3D just didn’t happen anywhere in Thailand on Thursday.
By Friday the 3D had arrived.  Tickets for the 3D version are 260 baht for regular seats, 280 for Honeymoon seats.
US, Action/ Adventure/ Sci-Fi/ Thriller – From director James Cameron, a major achievement and a technological breakthrough.  The story involves a band of humans pitted in battle against a distant planet’s indigenous population.  It’s a film of universal appeal that just about everyone who ever goes to the movies will see.  In English and Na’vi dialogue, with English and Thai subtitles as needed at Airport Plaza; plus there’s a Thai-dubbed version.  Vista version is 2D and Thai-dubbed only.  In 3D only in Cinema 3 at Airport Plaza.  Reviews: Universal acclaim.
The film delivers on all counts.  Not to be missed.
Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans:
US, Crime/ Drama – Directed by Werner Herzog.  Nicolas Cage plays a demented cop on the brink of insanity – a rogue detective who’s as devoted to his job as he is at scoring for drugs – and playing fast and loose with the law.  In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina he becomes a high-functioning addict – a fearless detective reigning over the beautiful ruins of New Orleans with authority and abandon.  Complicating his tumultuous life is the prostitute he loves (played by Eva Mendes).  Together they descend into their own world marked by desire, compulsion, and conscience.  The result is possibly a singular masterpiece of filmmaking, equally sad and manically humorous.  The film is offbeat, silly, disarming, and loopy all at the same time, and viewers will decide to ride with it or just give up on it, according to mood and disposition.  With Val Kilmer. Rated R in the US for drug use and language throughout, some violence, and sexuality.  Generally favorable reviews, but a wide divergence of opinion.  At Vista only. (13+)
New York, I Love You:
France/ US, Drama/ Romance – An anthology joining ten short films by ten directors, all love stories set in New York.  The rules: No more than two days’ shooting time.  One week of editing.  An eight-minute time limit.  If one film isn’t working for you, just wait a few minutes.  Rated R in the US for language and sexual content.  I found it generally entertaining, and a couple of episodes quite striking.  It’s a nice little unthreatening collection of 8-minute films, most with a twist at the end.  Mixed or average reviews.  At Vista only.
Pai in Love:
Thai, Romance/ Comedy – Thai ensemble romantic comedy of six short films centered about a group of friends who all happen to take a winter vacation in Pai, northern Thailand’s hippie retreat, where they all find the true meaning of love.  In Thai only at Airport Plaza, with English subtitles at Vista.  Thank you, Vista for providing them!  I’ve been complaining about their absence.
Couples Retreat:
US, Comedy – A comedy centered around four couples who settle into a tropical-island resort for a vacation with therapy sessions.  Generally unfavorable reviews.  At Vista only.
Yam Yasothon 2 / Hello Yasothorn 2:
Thai, Comedy – Thai down-country comedy with popular comedian Mum Jokmok and the usual TV comedians, engaged in rustic humor.
Scheduled for December 24
Sherlock Holmes
: US/ UK/ Australia, Action/ Crime/ Thriller – A new take on the Holmes canon: Sherlock Holmes as an action figure! Robert Downey Jr. plays Holmes and Jude Law his stalwart partner Watson. 
The Storm Warriors
: Hong Kong, Action/ Fantasy – A film produced and directed by the twins Oxide Pang Chun and Danny Pang, described as a martial arts/wuxia film, and the first Chinese film to extensively use bluescreen.  Shot entirely in three studios in Bangkok.
October Sonata
: Thai, Drama/ Romance – Set against a backdrop of the October 1973 democracy demonstrations.

HOW DOES YOUR GARDEN GROW?: By Eric Danell, Dokmai Garden

Rats or gibbons?

Two years ago the Queen remarked in a speech that the people of northern Thailand should stop cutting down their forests. I did not know what she referred to until I took the southern route to Mae Hong Son. After Doi Inthanon, I spent five hours in the car seeing nothing but treeless, black, barren land. A nuclear blast could not have been more effective. Surprisingly, Mae Hong Son province has successfully turned this tragedy into a tourist attraction! Bus loads of innocent tourists are taken to mountainsides in November-December where they can behold Tithonia diversifolia (Mexican sunflower, Bua tong). There is nothing wrong with the plant itself, but this Mexican weed symbolizes the tomb of the 2200 Thai plant species that once grew on the mountain. To some people, a massive exotic yellow color IS more interesting than an ancient subtle Thai ecosystem. A field of yellow takes only a second to grasp, even for an insect brain, while the appreciation of a mosaic of thousands of species may demand more effort and knowledge than most tour companies are able to provide. To cover up the hoax, this weed is called “Wild Sunflower”. Exploiting innocent tourists in this way is similar to killing all the elephants, tigers and gibbons, and then bringing the tourists to behold the fantastic rat! It is like replacing an old sophisticated Thai temple mural with cheap yellow paint. So, if Mae Hong Son has a weed as the province’s flower, what is the flower of Chiang Mai? Being a center of culture and science, local scholars have made a far more distinguished choice: Butea monosperma (Flame of the forest, ton kwao). This Thai tree symbolizes endurance, it is a local monsoon plant that is able to withstand fire and drought, and it affords magic orange blossoms in the middle of the hardest times. This tree is planted at Chiang Mai University and is handed out for free by governmental nurseries. It may need pruning to maintain a decent shape but the reward for its care is stunning [email protected]

Bridge in Paradise : by Neil Robinson

Imagine you hold the hand below and are the fourth to bid after three passes to you. Everyone is vulnerable. The hand certainly does not meet the rule of fifteen to open in fourth seat (the rule of fifteen states that high card points plus number of spades should add up to fifteen in order to open). With only ten high card points, including the singleton king of spades, I would certainly pass. What about you—what would you bid?

S: K                                                     

H: AJ876

D: Q9652

C: 62

This hand comes from board 7 of the Bridge Club of Chiang Mai pairs game on Dec 9th (hand directions rotated for convenience in viewing the hands). West dealt.

                         S: A752

                         H: Q1043

                         D: A8

                         C: J74         

S: J1098                               S: Q643

H: K95                                 H: 2

D: J43                                   D: K107

C: AQ9                                C: K10853

                         S: K

                         H: AJ876

                         D: Q9652

                         C: 62          

If you chose to pass out the hand, as I would have done, you would have missed a game! Of the six tables, only one passed it out. Four tables ended up in game in hearts played by South, and three of these made it. The defence can take a diamond, a heart and two clubs. However, if West makes the probable lead of the jack of spades, declarer will take it in hand with the king and then cross to the ace of diamonds on board. A low club is thrown on the ace of spades and now the defence can take only three tricks—a club, a diamond and a heart. So four hearts bid and made by South. Congratulations to those pairs who made this game: Ann & Sean Ryan, Kob Cavin & Ake Vateetong and Rado Nordtveit & Penny Ellis (this last pair against my partner and me unfortunately!).
Bridge Club of Chiang Mai welcomes new players. For information on the Club go to the web site at www. If you have bridge questions, or to send me your interesting hands, please contact me at: [email protected]