HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

The Doctor's Consultation

Care for Dogs

Agony Column

Camera Class by Snapshot

Money Matters

DVD of the Week

Let's Go To The Movies

Bridge in Paradise


How does your garden grow?

The Doctor's Consultation:  by Dr. Iain Corness

How’s your (sickness) insurance?

I was talking to the Scandinavian Expats Club and mentioned the check-up packages offered by many local hospitals. I advised them to seriously consider an annual check-up. In my humble (medical) opinion, the advantages of finding medical problems at an early stage far outweigh not knowing.

For example, correcting hypertension at an early stage makes medical sense. You must agree that correcting hypertension is better than brain surgery and intensive care after a stroke caused by high blood pressure, never mind pain and suffering and living the rest of your life as a tomato or an even less colorful vegetable!

Likewise, correction of high blood sugar today beats having your leg surgically removed because of diabetic problems in 20 years time!

However, Peter Smith from AA Insurance Brokers brought out an interesting situation, which could be vitally important for someone finding they have a chronic problem. If you have your check-up and find that you have high blood pressure, and then go and take out insurance, it is too late. You “know” about your blood pressure problem at the time of applying for the insurance, so it becomes a ‘pre-existing condition’ and your insurer is within its rights to refuse to pay for the further treatment of your blood pressure, or for any other conditions caused by high blood pressure. Including the stroke.

The simple answer is to make sure your insurance policies are in place before having the annual check-up. In fact, I strongly advise everyone to take out medical insurance. You do not know what is round the next corner. It could be a motorcycle coming the wrong way up a one way street. Even I have insurance, and I work in the hospital, so I don’t really need it - but I can also be run over in Bangkok, Chiang Mai or Nakhon Nowhere!

So back to check-ups. Many people work on the principle that they would rather not know about any underlying or sinister medical conditions they may have. After all, we are all going to die one day, aren’t we? I have always said that despite all the advances in medical science, the death rate will always be the same – one per person!

However, check-ups are inherently involved in that important feature called the Quality of Life. Longevity alone, with no quality, just isn’t worth it in my book.

The guiding principle behind check-ups is to find deviations from normal health patterns at an early stage. Early enough that the trend can be reversed, before damage has occurred. Examples of this include blood pressure (BP) increase which is generally symptomless, and blood sugar. It requires sky-high sugar levels before the person begins to feel that something might be wrong. And by then the sugar levels have affected vision, the vascular system and many other systems, all of which can decrease your quality of life in the future.

Respiratory conditions also rate high on the list of medical events that can decrease your quality of life. Yet the majority of these can be found early, and treated successfully.

Cardiac conditions and abnormalities, be that in anatomy or function, can also very adversely affect your quality of life, but are very easily found during a routine check-up. Various blood tests and an EKG can show just how well the cardiac pump is functioning, and how well it will continue to function in the future. The inability to walk more than 50 meters certainly takes the fun out of shopping, yet this can be predicted - if you have some serial records!

Another of the silent killers can be discovered in your lipid profile, with Cholesterol and its fractions HDL and LDL being intimately connected with your cardiac status. Again a situation where detecting abnormalities now can mean that you can get through the deadly 50-60 year age bracket in the future with clear coronary arteries and a clean bill of health.

Renal (kidney) function and liver function can also be monitored through an annual check-up, as can prostate size (indicated by the PSA blood test) or breast tumors (by mammogram).

Take my tip, make sure you have insurance and then get your check-up. But do it quickly! That makes good sense.


Care for Dogs:

Bankaew dog needs a home with a yard

This is Simba - a beautiful purebred Bankaew with a wonderful coat. He has been sterilized and vaccinated. We rescued him from a terrible breeder in Bangkok. His previous owner had sometimes beaten him and had chained him for two years which caused chain marks around his neck. Simba is playful and loyal and a very good guard dog. Bankaew dogs tend to be very protective towards their owner. While this is a loyal and wonderful trait this same behavior can mean difficulties with visitors and/or other dogs. As our shelter welcomes many visitors a day and has over one hundred other dogs, our set-up is not an ideal place for him. Simba needs to stay with a person who has experience with Bankaews, has a fenced-in garden and, ideally, no other dogs. Simba deserves a warm loving home with owners who can nurture his good side.  If you are interested in adopting Simba, please contact us as soon as possible. (Phone English 08 47 52 52 55 / Thai 086 913 87 01 or [email protected] /

Heart to Heart  with Hillary

Dear Hillary,
You do seem to cop some stick from all the “thinkers” out there who believe in Santa Claus and sick buffaloes as being facts. One chap hit it right on the head when he wrote that you’ll always have a job as there are so many mindless males visiting Thailand. Just ignore the idiots out there, old girl, we all love you. Keep up the good work.

Dear Max,
Thank you for the morale booster, even if what you call “the idiots out there” really need ‘moral’ boosters. If they thought with the big head, rather than the small one, if you understand my shorthand, then there wouldn’t be so many men wondering where their nest eggs went to. However, Petal, it is my duty to try and look after these poor souls, a task I voluntarily undertook after seeing the plight of several of these buffaloes and brothers with broken legs from motorcycle accidents. You have to feel sorry for them, Max. You really do, but please, if you contact me in the future a little less of the “old girl”.

Dear Hillary,
I have just recently come to live in Thailand with my husband on a two year overseas posting. Normally back home I like to be fairly independent and drive myself everywhere, but I am a little afraid of the traffic here. My husband’s company supplies a driver, but I don’t like to think of him sitting around in the heat while I do my shopping. Do you think it is safe enough for Western women to drive here and at night too? My husband says I shouldn’t bother and it doesn’t matter, that’s what the driver’s there for. What do you think?

Dear Timid Theresa,
Your husband is right. If you have a driver be eternally grateful. Thai drivers really do not mind waiting. One of the bonuses of being a driver is that they get paid to sleep while they wait, in air-conditioned comfort too. Yes it is completely safe to drive around Chiang Mai both day and night compared to Bangkok traffic which is chaotic and not so much fun. Though, as your husband says, why bother to drive if you have a driver? That is what he is there for. If you are concerned about your independence or the driver being suddenly unavailable, then practise driving here so there’s never a problem.

Dear Hillary,
There has been a crackdown recently about copy goods - shirts, CD’s and watches and the like. Why is this? Everyone knows that you go to Asia and buy real bargains. I always bring back three or four watches for the girl friends and a couple of footy shirts for the blokes. What’s wrong with this? If I can’t get the stuff in Thailand, do you know where I can get them? I’m coming over in a couple of weeks, so if you can let me know early that would be good.

Dear Copycat,
How would you feel if you made some type of special goods and then found that cheap copies were being marketed at half the price you sell them for? Mind you, I think that many of these overseas goods are highly over-priced too. The whole question of copyright is well beyond Hillary’s brain, I’m afraid. I’m just worried about getting ‘copy’ champagne. As to where you can go to get the things you want - the markets still have them I believe, but don’t tell the police. Unless the police are running the market!

Dear Hillary,
Are all Thai girls as forward as the one I met the other night? I was sitting on my own in the bar and I didn’t want to listen to the usual inane chatter that the bar girls carry on with, “Hello sexy man. Where you come from?” that kind of stuff. I started to talk to the service girl and she seemed a nice enough lady, so I bought her a couple of drinks, but then went home. The next day she rolls up at my office with some flowers for me! I was so embarrassed, as all my work mates were laughing, and the girls in the office weren’t all that impressed. I asked one of the girls to find out what she wanted, but all they said was that the lady liked me. What do I do with this? The last thing I need is unwanted visits.
Embarrassed Edward

Dear Embarrassed Edward,
Just how did this girl know where you worked? If she is clairvoyant, then I think you should keep her, my Petal, and cash up on all the winning lottery tickets she will predict for you. But if, on the other had, it was because you gave her your business card, then you have nobody to blame but yourself. If you don’t want to be followed up, don’t hand out your business cards. Of course you can always use someone else’s card, but I didn’t tell you that.

Camera Class:  by Harry Flashman

Inspiration and your favorite photographer

Do you have you a favorite photographer? No? Well, you should! Everyone should have a photographer whose work stimulates you to greater heights. For me, I have many whose work I enjoy - Norman Parkinson, Helmut Newton and Jeff Dunas all rate high, but one photographer who inspires me not only with his images, but also with his words, is Larry Dale Gordon.

I have many photographic books in my personal library including the irreplaceable “Shooting your way to a million dollars” by Richard Sharabura, Al Satterwhite and Michael Busselle. However Larry Dale Gordon has his own special magic.

Now when I say that your favorite photographer’s work should inspire you, that does not mean that you should rush out and slavishly copy their work. Don’t laugh, I have seen it done so many times in camera club level photographers who have been most upset when I mark them down for copying, rather than being creative.

When I say “inspire” I mean that you look at the work and say to yourself, “How did he/she do that?” You should look at the end result and work out how you can use that technique, to produce your own shot. Half the fun in photography is working out “how to” with the other half being the enjoyment of looking at the final image.

So why does Larry Dale Gordon inspire me? There are many reasons. First off, he is a self trained photographer who believes that the way to learn is to do it. Let me quote you from one of his books: “I learned photography through experience; by putting film through the camera, peering through the lenses, trial and error, and pondering every facet of light. It’s the only way. If you think there is another way, or a faster way, write a book telling how and you will make considerably more money than by being a photographer.” These are very wise words. Cut them out and stick them on your bathroom mirror and read them every day! In fact, a renowned Thai photographer, Tom Chuawiwat, used to tell me that professional photography was the only job where the client paid you to learn!

I’ve tried to see just what it is about Larry Dale Gordon’s pictures that appeal so much to me and I’ve come up with two basic concepts. Simplicity and Color.

Look at the photograph I have used to illustrate this week’s article. A classic, showing simplicity and color by a Colin Glanfield. The couple running up the beach, silhouetted against the water and the sand in the background. Unfortunately, this newspaper is a black and white medium, so just imagine, if you will, what that shot looks like with the water a golden orange with the black shadows and silhouette. It is a simple, uncluttered shot with only one color in it. It is classic and timeless and there is absolutely nothing to detract (or distract) from the couple in the photograph.

Now before you rip out with two friends at sunset and try and duplicate this shot, read the second paragraph again! Let’s not make slavish copies! But instead, let’s look at how we can accomplish the effect of a monochromatic picture and silhouette. This can actually be done any time of day, but to make it easier for you, pick your favorite beach or riverside at a time when the sun can be behind your subject - be that people or things. Now you need a tricky filter, called a “tobacco” filter. On that bright sunny day, with the light behind your subject(s) hold this brown/orange filter over the lens and pop the shutter. Stick it on Auto if you will, the camera will do the rest. Even experiment with different colors to get strangely wonderful or weirdly dreadful results.

The only point to really remember is to get the light behind the subject. You will be able to get this “pseudo sunset” look any time after three in the afternoon. Try it and amaze your friends with a classic silhouette - and if you don’t tell them about Colin Glanfield, I won’t!

Money Matters:  John Sheehan Global Markets Asia

The inevitable demise of Western Democratic Capitalism? Part 2

ineffectiveness demonstrated in numbers

The 2008 crash, that government neither understood nor thought ever likely to occur, generates its own compelling statistics. Equity markets lost US$26 trillion. Real estate markets, US$30 trillion so far, and are still falling. Structured securities US$5 trillion according to the newly elected US President until the spin machine gagged him! Add it all together and US$60 trillion slipped through the net in a year - that is in excess of World GDP, 4 years of the US economy and somewhere between 15 and 20 years of the Chinese economy, all completely missed and deemed impossible by Government!

Who is responsible for this carnage? Government of course! What sensible entity would cure a bubble by creating another one? In this case, replacing the and TMT bubble of the ‘90s (which followed the big bang boom of the ‘80s) with a housing bubble, and in doing so, demonstrating a clear misunderstanding of macroeconomic interest rate policy!

The media is littered with quotes from government which at first seemed amusing, but upon further reflection give an ominously alarmist indication of government incompetence. Quotes like, “The unlikelihood of there ever being a nationwide US housing crash!” That, “In spite of the sub-prime crash market fundamentals were solid, and sub-prime was just a minor blip.” Perhaps most worrying from the man now charged with leading the US out of recession; “That sub-prime would be contained and might end up costing the taxpayer as much as UD$100 billion!”

Recently described as a “moral hazard” at a Senate Committee Hearing, Bernanke’s best solution to the current problem seems to be to repeat the Greenspan misjudgement and generate a new asset bubble of sufficient capacity to return the economy to growth!

Bernanke’s recovery tactics have centred on boosting the money supply in an effort to avoid similar policy mistakes made by the Fed that contributed to the Great Depression. Like his predecessors 70 years previously he is now learning that it is relatively easy to inject the money into the system, but a much tougher challenge to make it circulate freely and boost the economy! Worryingly, he increasingly resembles an isolated academic rather than the streetwise man of action critical to creating genuine confidence that is capable of kick-starting a real and sustainable recovery.

In response to Milton Friedman’s criticism of the Fed’s mistakes during the Great Depression, Bernanke stated in 2002: “As an official representative of the Federal Reserve, I would like to say to Milton: Regarding the Great Depression, ‘you’re right, we did it. We’re very sorry. But thanks to you, we won’t do it again.’” As he is seemingly such a loyal follower of the Friedman monetarist policies that have become so discredited in recent years, let’s hope that these words do not return to haunt him in the future!

How Governments fix the numbers

Number massaging has been used by governments since the dawn of politics to paint a rosy picture, especially in the run-up to elections. The three main areas where governments may seek to fraudulently improve their perceived performance are unemployment numbers, GDP and consumer price indexes. If one takes the US official unemployment rate as an example, which is currently running at 10.2%: add back into the numbers the professionally unemployed sector, which was removed in 1994 and short term discouraged workers and the unemployment rate doubles to 22%! That means that within the working age population one out of every five people are being subsidized by the other four!

Another example is calculation of GDP numbers. GDP numbers are generally optimistic because they include government spending but do not subtract government borrowing to fund the spending. There are three main ways to calculate GDP: 1) the expenditure method, 2) the income method, and 3) the value-added method. Theoretically all three methods should produce the same result, but as we have seen recently with the torrent of stimulus packages from governments all around the world GDP “growth” registers most prominently in the expenditure method. Manipulation in this manner has, for example, enabled the Australian government to claim that it has avoided entering recession in 2009. Obvious adjustment is clearly evident within the Consumer Price Index when the method of calculation was changed during the Clinton administration to give a better picture of the numbers.

Blatant withholding of information by Government has recently come to light as a result of Bloomberg suing the Fed under the Freedom of Information Act. On November 7th 2009 Bloomberg commenced an action in response to the Fed refusing to release information regarding commercial bank lending. It is likely that if this information were released it would show the truth behind lending performance which would likely have an adverse effect upon markets and expose a fundamental constituent of Government’s stimulus programmes as failing.

In addition to this, the Gold Anti-Trust Action Committee also brought out a suit against the Fed in December 2009 seeking a court order for release of the central bank’s records on intervention in the gold market undertaken in order to manipulate the metal’s market price!

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]

DVD of the Week: By Mark Whitman

The Hurt Locker (2009) and Flandres (2005)

The first thing to say is that if The Hurt Locker opens commercially in cinemas here as the result of its many Oscars, then see it on the big screen with an audience. It is powerful and electrifying stuff, not great but sharply written, wonderfully well acted and directed with urgency and skill by Kathryn Bigelow. Put bluntly, the dreary Avatar should not be mentioned in the same breath, since in fact they are as different as might be.

Hurt Locker deals with men in war and especially when under great stress: the main guys defuse bombs and booby traps – no pen pushers here. The tensions they experience here (and, as we know, on returning home) are familiar to anyone who has had the misfortune to be in battle or occupied territory and, of course, is familiar second hand from great movies such as the Thin Red Line by Terrence Malick. This film lacks the poetry and grandeur of that masterpiece and is touted as a plea for ‘bringing our boys back home’ but does not try to address the political background.

I have written about this very new film because the cinemas in Chiang Mai have – so far - neglected it and it is already on DVD, as is a ‘companion piece’ Flandres by the controversial director Bruno Dumont who has moved away (well sort of) from his normal locations and taken some of his characters into a war which brutalizes them even more than the harsh surrounding they are plucked from. In this film the locations were Tunisia (for the American film they went to Jordan) but the difference matters little – in both cases the soldiers are alien from the locals and the new ‘world’ they are obliged to inhabit.

Dumont’s film won not an Oscar but the Grand Prize of the Jury at the Cannes Film Festival and it is an intense experience. He shows us the background from which the young men are taken, his characteristic northern locations, flat, windswept, harsh and the grinding work and near poverty they endure. Sex is shown as perfunctory and when they later encounter a woman combatant they gang rape her and later many of them pay the consequences of this vile and unfeeling action.

Dumont’s film is far more minimalist and decidedly more disturbing. But both films make their point with great strength. They show us that no one wins in a war and it was ‘amusing’ to me to see in the excellent, if superficial, Green Zone, recently released, Mr. Bush shown spouting proudly that ‘America and her allies have won the Iraq war’ How wrong could a man be? Both the DVDs are available from the Movies and Music DVD shop at 289 Suthep Road, which has a stock of 20,000 movies for hire.

Let's Go To The Movies:  by Mark Gernpy

Three issues ago I expressed my displeasure at Major Cineplex for promising, through posters and previews, to bring “Up in the Air” to Chiang Mai, and then failing to do so.  If you were interested, I asked you to write to them and complain.  I heard from several people that they did just that.  Maybe it worked!  At any rate, here we have “Up in the Air” this week.  Make sure you make use of our hard-earned victory.  Not that it’s the greatest picture of all time, but it was nominated for best picture this year, and George Clooney was up for best actor, and the two leading ladies were each up for the best supporting actress award.  So there is considerable interest in the film.  And I do think that there is hardly an actor alive with whom it’s more pleasant to spend a couple of hours than George Clooney.  (And if you get the chance, don’t miss him in “Fantastic Mr. Fox”.)

And as an added bonus we have the feel-good movie of the year, the truly delightful “Julie & Julia”, also promised by Major Cineplex for an appearance a long time ago.  But enough, go and enjoy. 

Now playing in Chiang Mai

Up in the Air: US, Comedy/ Drama/ Romance – Led by charismatic performances by its three leads, director/ writer Jason Reitman delivers a smart blend of humor and emotion with just enough edge to be nominated as best picture of the year, with the best directing and the best adapted screenplay.  George Clooney flies around the US firing people that their bosses are too timid to do themselves.  Co-stars Vera Farmiga and Anna Kendrick were each nominated for best supporting actress.  Vera Farmiga plays for me a fascinating character, and her relationship with George Clooney is utterly fresh and surprising.  Rated R in the US for language and some sexual content. Reviews: Universal acclaim.  

 Julie & Julia: US, Biography/ Comedy/ Drama/ Romance – An absolutely delightful and joyful film!  See it!  Meryl Streep gives a charismatic performance as Julia Child, and Amy Adams is Julie Powell in writer-director Nora Ephron’s adaptation of their bestselling memoirs, in a story about the intertwined lives of two women who, though separated by time and space, are both at loose ends – until they discover that with the right combination of passion, fearlessness, and butter, anything is possible.  Generally favorable reviews.

 When in Rome: US, Comedy/ Romance – Rom-com cliches, but a pair of young, attractive leads.  Kristen Bell plays a young, ambitious New Yorker who is completely unlucky in love, but on a whirlwind trip to Rome she impulsively steals some coins from a reputed fountain of love, and is then aggressively pursued by a band of suitors.  Generally unfavorable reviews.

 Alice in Wonderland (3D): US, Adventure/ Family/ Fantasy –  Not your usual Alice, because it’s a new story, a riff on the original, with Alice all grown up as a late teens girl about to be proposed to.  Escaping for a moment from the ditz proposing to her, she returns to Wonderland to find the strange land now in the hands of a cruel despot who is making life miserable for everybody.  With director Tim Burton, plus this particular Alice (Misa Wasikowska), plus Johnny Depp in another of his way-out-there tragicomic performances, plus 3D – it adds up to an unforgettable, one-of-a-kind movie experience.  Mixed or average reviews.  In 3D, and at Major Cineplex Airport Plaza only.

 Green Zone: France/ US/ Spain/ UK, Action/ Drama/ Thriller/ War – Courageous director Paul Greengrass takes on the whole Bush Administration (and the Blair administration too I guess) as he reminds us all, very forcefully, that there never were “Weapons of Mass Destruction” in Iraq and the governments knew it, and the whole fiction was created as an excuse to go to war.  Starring Matt Damon as a US Army officer who hunts for the elusive WMD and finds only an elaborate cover-up.  Rated R in the US for violence and language.  Vista has a Thai-dubbed version as well. 

 Nak Prok / Shadow of the Naga: Thai, Action/ Drama – A long-shelved monks-with-guns crime drama, it’s the story of three thieves who bury their loot on the grounds of a Buddhist monastery, and when they come back later to dig it up, they find a temple has been built on the spot.  So they ordain as Buddhist monks while they figure out how to get their treasure.  The film premiered at the 2008 Toronto International Film Festival, but its strong depictions of the thieves robed as Buddhist monks have kept it out of Thai theaters until now.

 The Little Comedian / Ban Chan: Thai, Family/ Comedy – A family comedy troupe harbors a black sheep – a son who isn’t funny and is constantly upstaged by his filthy-mouthed younger sister.  Comedian Jaturong Mokjok plays the father of the clan.

Bridge in Paradise : by Neil Robinson

Here is board 14 from the Bridge Club of Chiang Mai pairs game on March 10th. No one was vulnerable and East dealt. At all six tables, South played in a heart contract. Two tables were in 4H, two tables were in 5H (presumably after EW bid 4S and forced NS to the five level) and two were in 6H doubled.  Both slams went down one. Both 5H contracts just made. Only the two 4H contracts made twelve tricks. Yet, if declarer plays correctly twelve tricks are cold, no matter what the defense does. Can you see the correct line of play? 

The answer is to pull one round of trumps, play out the ace of spades and the high diamonds. Then either set up dummy’s diamonds or cross ruff the hand out—on this hand the play to do either is much the same. At our table West led a singleton diamond. Win this in dummy and lead a low heart to the ace, relieved to see the queen of hearts fall (declarer must not duck the queen or East will play a diamond back for West to ruff and the contract will go down). Leave the master king of hearts outstanding. Play the ace of spades, throwing the losing club from board. Now cross to board with the ace of clubs, and play the other high diamond throwing a club from hand. It does not make any difference whether West ruffs with the king or not. But say that West does ruff and now leads a high spade. Ruff this on board and play another diamond. East covers and you ruff. Now you cross to board again by ruffing a spade and play another diamond. East covers with his last diamond. You ruff again and get back to board by trumping your last black card. By now, both dummy and hand are good—dummy has only the three last winning diamonds and you have only winning trumps in your hand. Of your losing two clubs and two spades, one was thrown on a high diamond and the other three were ruffed on board. Twelve tricks made, losing only the king of clubs.

It does not make any difference what opening lead West makes. For example, if West leads a club, win the ace on board, cross to hand with the ace of trumps and throw the losing club from dummy on the ace of spades. Then cross ruff the hand out as before. Congratulations to the two declarers who did play it correctly, Dennis Hudson and John Bucher.

Bridge Club of Chiang Mai welcomes new players. For information on the Club go to the web site at If you have bridge questions, or to send me your interesting hands, please contact me at: [email protected]

MAIL OPINION : The haze is sullying not just the view

The astonishingly bad air quality in Chiang Mai last week boggles the mind. Everyone was dumbfounded and friends of mine said it was the worst they had seen in years. This after the Provincial Authorities started an educational campaign and promoted a hotline to call in case of fire. I can’t imagine that the fires are solely the result of the burning of agricultural fields, on a trip south Sunday the 14th I passed many unburned fields of rice stubble. So, it seems, at least the Lamphun farmers were listening, Perhaps they started burning after I passed by.

The great debate of ‘should I wear a mask’, ‘which mask is more effective’ and ‘should I leave’, has begun in earnest. My friends tell me that many of the people who can leave, are leaving now or plan to leave in the near future. One long term expat tells me that he makes sure he always leaves Chiang Mai for a minimum of 5 weeks beginning every March. Not only is the mass exodus detrimental to an economy already hit by the global economic crisis but the health implications to those that remain cause concern for many.

All that can be said is that if Chiang Mai wishes to retain its residents, both expat and Thai, retirees, employees and employers, its tourists and visitors, this situation must be remedied and cannot be repeated as it has been for years. Chiang Mai is a beautiful city with so much to offer. Friendly people, good food, live music, arts. An amazing and vibrant local culture makes Chiang Mai an utterly unique destination in Thailand, a reputation that locals hold with pride. But haze so thick that visibility is reduced to less than a kilometer can do nothing but sully the reputation of this beautiful city. Haze so thick that the airport is forced to turn on landing lights during the daytime scares people off and rightly so. It saddens me that Chiang Mai will be better known as a polluted place to avoid rather than the lovely, vibrant and culturally important city that it is.

How does your garden grow?: By Eric Danell, Dokmai Garden

Mae Khanin in memoriam?

National parks are important to any gardener as a source of inspiration. Therefore I was sad to learn that a most adorable valley in the Opkhan National Park is (again) promoted as a site for a dam. Mae Khanin Tai is situated some 25 km SW of the Chiang Mai Airport Plaza, and is one of these pristine mountain villages which the guide books claim does not exist anymore. I trust it is absolutely essential to quickly promote the valley for ecotourism, as otherwise many people, including villagers, would love to sell it to the concrete lobby. The valley is home to civets, barking dear, jungle fowl, macaque monkeys and leopard cats. When I searched for orchids in the Mae Sa valley I was surprised to find hardly any, as they have been exterminated by forestry and illegal collectors. I was surprised, because I had been spoiled by the scenery in Mae Khanin, where rare native orchids are abundant. However, to see them, you have to climb straight up the hillsides, which is very tough. The silence, the adorable Lanna style temple and the steep mountainsides covered with indigenous trees should not be lost. A solution to the water needs would be to buy any other scrubland, dig a deep quarry and then collect more water, although we have many of those already here in Hang Dong. To get there; take the canal road past the Night Safari and past the Samoeng intersection. Keep driving along the canal another ca 5 km until you see a road sign saying “Opkhan National Park” to your right (west). Drive on that road about 12 km. Do not turn left where it says “Opkhan”, but keep driving on the brand new asphalt road straight west. At a fork, keep left. Drive until you see the cute little forest temple. If you speak Thai, ask for Duang Ta, who is married to the village head, and who is a proud defender of Thai nature. She might suggest what you can do to save the valley, or at least you can show her your sympathy, to boost her spirits to fight the giants. [email protected]