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?

Life in Chiang Mai

Day Tripper

The Doctor's Consultation:  by Dr. Iain Corness

Passive smoking - should we take it passively?

Every so often I return to one of my favorite subjects - smoking and it effects, and how to stop. Stopping is not an easy task, once you have become a committed smoker. Stopping requires dedication and commitment, and I congratulate all people who have given up smoking. You have done your health profile in the future a great service. While smoking cigarettes does not mean you will automatically get lung cancer, or other smoking related illnesses, by becoming a non-smoker does guarantee that your chances of getting the above conditions are very much less. And before the cigarette smokers out there start waving their arms (or cudgels), the evidence is in the arena of public knowledge. Read it. And please do not mention atmospheric pollution to me when you are happily inhaling cigarette smoke into your lungs 25 times a day.

However, there is one more aspect of smoking, which I should mention. That is “passive” smoking. So what exactly is passive smoking? In essence, it is breathing in other people’s cigarette smoke, which the scientists break up into two parts - “sidestream” smoke from the burning tip of the cigarette which the scientists say accounts for 85 percent of the smoke in an enclosed area, and “mainstream” smoke that has been inhaled and then exhaled from the lungs by the smoker. I usually refer to this 15 percent as “second-hand smoke”.

The situation associated with passive smoking has been well investigated by the scientific communities of the world, and the following information was extracted from the Scientific Committee on Tobacco and Health (SCOTH) in the UK. For example, is tobacco smoke a simple compound? No, tobacco smoke contains over 4000 chemicals in the form of particles and gases. The particulate phase includes tar, nicotine, benzene and benzo(a)pyrene. The gas phase includes carbon monoxide, ammonia, dimethylnitrosamine, formaldehyde, hydrogen cyanide and acrolein. It has been estimated that tobacco smoke contains as many as 60 substances which cause - or are suspected of causing - cancer. And many irritate the tissues of the respiratory system. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the USA has classified environmental tobacco smoke as a class A carcinogen - ranking it alongside asbestos and arsenic. You don’t need to be an academic toxicologist to understand that formaldehyde and hydrogen cyanide are hardly amongst the compounds that are “good” for you!

SCOTH looked at the situation and concluded that passive smoking can cause eye irritation, headache, cough, sore throat, dizziness and nausea. Just 30 minutes exposure can be enough to reduce blood flow through the heart. If your blood supply to the heart is only just sufficient under normal conditions, this could be enough to tip the scales. More than slightly worrying! There is also evidence to show that people with asthma can experience a significant decline in lung function when exposed.

The advantage of well based scientific study is that large groups of people can be examined and findings collated. When large exposed groups show a preponderance of any sign or symptom, compared to a group not exposed, then you can place some credence on the findings. Here are some of them. Non-smokers who are exposed to passive smoking in the home have a 25 percent increased risk of heart disease and lung cancer. Researchers from London’s St. George’s Medical School and the Royal Free hospital have recently found when you include exposure to passive smoking in the workplace and public places the risk of coronary heart disease is increased by 50-60 percent. A major review in 1998 by SCOTH concluded that passive smoking is a cause of lung cancer and ischemic heart disease in adult non-smokers, and a cause of respiratory disease, cot death, middle ear disease and asthmatic attacks in children. Children in smoking households have a much higher risk of respiratory problems (72 percent) than those raised in non-smoking households. The UK Government’s Committee on Carcinogens concluded that environmental tobacco smoke is carcinogenic, and responsible for several hundred deaths a year in the UK.

I do not need further proof. Do you?


A lot of dog in a little package!

Hi, I’m Rambo! I am a somewhat shy but solid little dog who would love to protect your home and family. I am around 2-3 years old, am sterilised and fully vaccinated. I would love a place to call home where I can push my little head into your hand or get a generous pat to thank me for doing my work so well. If you are interested in meeting me, contact the shelter English (08 47 52 52 55) or Thai language (08 69 13 87 01) to make an appointment, e-mail: [email protected] .org or visit the website for further information.

Heart to Heart  with Hillary

Hi Hillary,

Keep the bright side of life going - for those of us not lucky enough to be in Thailand all the time we certainly appreciate the Thai sunshine you bring to us. My Thai wife and I get over about three times a year and you’ve got no idea just how much I look forward to it.

It is certainly refreshing to see a Farang / Thai marriage success story. For the doubters out there - yes, there are very many others who share in the wonderful experience of being married to a Thai woman. Dare I give advice? Okay then, but it is the same as for any other prospective long term union irrespective of nationality - “remember to engage the brain before slapping the gear stick into top and then pressing the turbo button.” Yes, there are many differences in culture to overcome and the rules are not quite the same, “face” was certainly a new concept for me to understand! But a good Thai woman with some education and a sensible and flexible Farang man who can listen and try to understand can match just perfectly - it is after all only the fool and his money that are soon parted, but parting with a little here and there occasionally to help the family is expected and is not so bad, is it? Not when you look at the rewards.


Dear Happy,

I am so glad I can add you and your wife to the ‘happy’ relationships pile, my Petal. You are correct when you say that there is a certain amount of flexibility required to overcome the cultural differences, but that comes from both sides. She has to understand you just as you have to understand her. Financial assistance for the family is expected in Thailand, but provided this is kept to within agreed limits there is no problem. In fact, most farang husbands enjoy taking on the additional responsibilities. I hope you will always remain “Happy”!

Dear Hillary,

I see motorcyclists riding down the road, riding with one hand and talking on the telephone. Surely this can’t be inside the law? It is dangerous as well. No wonder the road toll is so high. Do you know how many are motorcyclists?

Road Sense

Dear Road Sense,

Your letter shouldn’t really be addressed to me, as it is a subject too deep for the ‘Advice to the Lovelorn’, but since you did send it, I will reply. Sure there are laws against this, and also riding without a helmet, but as you may have seen, application of the laws is a little haphazard, to put it mildly. The road toll is horrendous, and I am told that 80 percent are motorcyclists and 50 percent involve alcohol. How many involve mobile phones I do not know, but there are more pressing public problems than using a mobile on the move. Take my tip - don’t ride a motorcycle.

Dear Hillary,

My husband is looking for an old motorcycle to restore, but we live in a condo and have no place to work on anything like that. Totally impractical as always. Thank goodness we live on the 10th floor, or he might be tempted to put one in the elevator. Why don’t grown men grow out of these things? I thought they were supposed to outgrow Lego before they got to their teens, or is mine just a trifle retarded?

Mrs. Meccano

Dear Mrs. Meccano,

I don’t know where you got the information that the men folk grow out of these things. All the ones I know all want to get their hands dirty, and they’re 40 years on from their teens at least. The best idea is to help him find a small shed somewhere so he can go off there and get out of your hair. You can always then invite the girls over for a session.

Dear Hillary,

I have heard about golfing widows, but at least golf is played in the daytime. My problem is that I am turning into a football widow. Football matches seem to be played at any time of the day (or night) and he is always off to some pub or other to watch the game. I am not interested in football, or else I’d go with him, but I am getting lonely left at home. What should I do? Tell him it is football or me? (I’m afraid he might go for the football.)

Footy Widow

Dear Footy Widow,

If you make life difficult for your football mad mate, then he will go for the football and it will be an ‘away’ game every night. Men will always take the easy way out when pushed into a corner. They have no real goals in life, you see. Before you get right cross and relegated to Left Right Out, I would ask around to see if any of his football watching mate’s wives would like to come over for a hen session. Even if you are not interested, a night out at the pub might also be fun. Let him watch while you gossip with the other women there. That is much better for everyone, rather than sitting fuming at home, while plotting how to give your man a red card.

Camera Class:  by Harry Flashman

Cinematography for Dummies

From the outset, I do not claim to be an expert in shooting video, but there are certain aspects of it that are true for all types of photography, still or moving. These are almost the basic building blocks of all photography.

Let us begin with the first very important fact. Still photography freezes a moment in time, while video photography tells a moving picture story. Try not to shoot ‘stills’ with a video camera and your videos will start to look professional immediately. Like all aspects of good camera-work, you have to think about the end product before you begin to shoot. For the still photographer it is a case of looking at the background and then working out the best combination of shutter speed and aperture. For the video photographer it is a case of working out the story line and then how to shoot the various elements in the story.

One of the ways you can pick the first time video user is the fact that the camera operator spends much time taking shots of still subjects. Having not made the mental adjustment from still photography, many minutes are taken up with video of his girlfriend standing by the front door of the hotel you stayed at in Chiang Mai. That, Mr. Cameraman, was a ‘still’ shot. With video, you film your wife checking out at the cashier’s desk, picking up her bags and walking towards the exit door. Then you rush outside and the next footage is her coming out of the hotel and hailing a taxi. You have just shot a living ‘story’.

Just as still photographers have photographs in books and magazines to study, the video photographer has a very ready source of informative examples to scrutinize. This is called TV! Sit down in front of the goggle box and see how the pros do it. Start to look critically at technique. Where was the camera relative to the subject? Did they zoom in or was it one far shot and another close up to follow? How many times did the cameraman actually use the inbuilt zoom? You may be amazed to see how seldom! However, I do recommend that you study anything but not Thai TV soaps.

One of the common problems for both the video and the still photographer is low light levels. Filming while the light is too low produces poor and muddy video because the camera has to do all sorts of electronic trickery to artificially increase the apparent light levels. This function is generally called Automatic Gain Control and while you can continue to shoot, the end result is very disappointing ‘grainy’ video.

Another of the common problems with both types of camera work is ‘camera shake’. For a still shot you get a ‘soft’ and blurred image. For a video shoot you get drunken backgrounds, jumping foregrounds and seasick viewers. Now the still photographer can avoid this problem by the use of both hands and a tripod as well if necessary, and guess what, the video cameraman should do the same. Ever seen a pro video shoot? The camera is mounted on a ‘dolly’, a tripod on wheels and moved around. Ever watched a news video cameraman? He has the camera mounted securely on his shoulder and uses two hands to hold it there. Yet how many times do you see the one handed video approach? Lots!

Focusing. This is a common problem with still cameras with Auto-Focus (AF), and 99% of video cameras are AF too. The magic eye in the camera focuses on a spot in the middle of the screen. When you are filming a couple in front of the Wat Arun, if the magic dot is not on one of the people, they will end up out of focus and the Wat perfectly sharp. This is where you may need to use manual over-ride.

Be critical with your work and it will be much more satisfying for everyone.

Money Matters:  Paul Gambles MBMG International Ltd.

The ups and downs of the world’s currencies

Rampant volatility in currency markets recently surged to a three-month high. There is little sign of this turbulent trend abating. Such uncertainty can have a dramatic impact on key economic drivers, as well as having a crippling effect on the individual finances of expatriates based in Thailand who are remunerated in weakening western currencies or who have not bothered to hedge their investments and savings.

While the Greenback and the Euro have slid down the league table of global currencies over the past eighteen months, the Baht has held its ground - although it has fallen against other trading partner currencies such as Canadian and Australian Dollars. This has led senior figures from both the foreign and Thai business communities to repeatedly call on the central bank to cause the Baht to weaken in line with other regional currencies. This would help boost exports by making them cheaper and could provide some solace for the tourism industry by making Thailand a better value destination.

Currency management is one of two control levers which central banks use to influence events related to their country’s financial flows, with the other lever being interest rates. Essentially when one lever is pulled, the other is free to find its own level in response. Fixing or “pegging” the currency rate would cause interest rates to fluctuate in response to market activity. Conversely, if a central bank fixes interest rates, currencies fluctuate instead.

It is possible for both levers to be pulled at the same time. However, if the combined levels are set at or become too different from the market expectations, pressures build up. Typically these end up being released explosively. A good example of this is the Baht’s valuation in the mid-90s which failed to fully reflect the requirement for overseas capital, foreign goods and expensive imports. Capital tended to be imported in hard currency due to exchange restrictions on the Baht. Foreign investors typically leant in Dollars and demanded Dollars back because they did not want to hold an overvalued, hard to trade, artificially priced currency. The problem eventually became self-fulfilling. Pushing interest rates up into the high teens did nothing to address the structural problems, merely papering over the cracks and tending to attract hot money which tried to head for the hills at the first signs of trouble in 1997.

Global Markets Asia’s John Sheehan recently mooted the idea of implementing a fixed Baht exchange rate now, on the grounds that we are currently in the opposite situation to 1997. Today, we have a global currency system where competitive devaluations are the likely order of the day and fixing the rate at a defined level lower than the current market rate can stimulate growth. Ultimately the explosive pressure could lead to revaluation upwards at some point and meanwhile inflationary pressures may be unleashed but that would not necessarily be a bad thing right now and could stimulate badly-needed inflows too. A competitive rate fix could also be very good for Thai exports. The proposal is not as crazy as it sounds but may be too risky for most mainstream politicians to consider at this stage.

A key point is that right now both China and the US are accusing each other of manipulating their currencies for their own ends and the truth is that, in different ways, they are probably both right. Ultimately, the Yuan will probably win the battle with the Greenback, though essentially it is a game of chicken to see who will blink first. Meanwhile, all other currencies that “play fair” are paying an exorbitant privilege by subsidising the US and Chinese gross domestic product. Thailand does have alternatives - however unlikely.

The impact of recent volatility goes beyond economic management and central bank policy; it also creates huge difficulties for expats living in Thailand whose finances are built on foreign currencies.

Scott Campbell, three times S&P award-winning CEO of international portfolio management company MitonOptimal, can claim to have made more prescient currency calls than anyone on his recent trips to Bangkok. In 2007, he predicted the weakening of the US Dollar. In June 2008, he called a Dollar bounce when consensus was that the Greenback had become a banana currency, and in February last year he once again correctly called a weakening of the Dollar.

His recent take has been that US Dollar was due short term strength but Asian currencies could prevail in the mid- to long-term once the various local and global crises are over. Even though currency volatility could surge going forwards Asian currencies that are not linked to the US Dollar, such as Singapore Dollar and Baht, are poised to benefit. Amazingly these two currencies have become a relatively safe haven now, a far cry from events in 1997.

One potential solution to successfully navigate the shifting sands of the currency market and the profit at the same time is to hedge into Asian currencies. Scott Campbell has pioneered the only global investment portfolios available fully hedged into Baht and Singapore Dollars as well as the major currencies. As with most things in life hedging your bets is a sensible strategy to adopt, and for the time being the safest bets may be in Asia.

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 ‘Best’ of the genre movies

As a change from DVD of the week with one movie or a double bill recommended, here is a longer list of films which come into various categories, more poshly known by their French equivalent, which has now become internationally used: Genre – ‘Type or style of artistic endeavour’.

Cinema thrives on genre and so do critics, especially the French who take both film making and film analysis more seriously than any other nation. The earliest examples of cinema in France were the realist works (Train Entering a Station, Feeding the Baby by the Lumiere Bros) and fantasy (Voyage to the Moon by Melies) and in the U.S.A. a while later the short narrative western The Great Train Robbery.

From these early works on the various genres developed: war films, gangster movies, comedies and later the musical. There are sub genres such as film noir and whole other areas of cinema such as animation and documentary which are not in the following list.

Most if not all of the following classic examples are available from the DVD Movie and Music Shop at 289 Suthep Road, other outlets or to buy via Amazon and elsewhere.

The concentration here is on ‘Hollywood’ movies, since certain genres obviously ‘belong’ there – not least westerns and musicals. There have been great gangster movies from France (Le Samurai and others by Melville) and Britain (They Made me a Fugitive) and the list of fine war movies from elsewhere would fill this page, but Malick’s masterpiece is unique. It’s a shame to miss out Some Like it Hot, but I prefer Stan and Ollie to Curtis and Lemmon even though all four do drag superlatively well and perhaps The Bride of Frankenstein should replace Cat People. But no list is definitive and will inevitably miss out films which ‘mix’ genres, such as Michael Powell’s great drama/horror/thriller Peeping Tom, which ranks with Psycho in such a category. The list is alphabetical by genre.

Biopic: The Terence Davies Trilogy. Dir. Terence Davies G.B. 1980-84. The first of his incomparable portraits of a life.

Comedy: Way Out West. Dir. James W. Horne U.S.A. 1937. Stan and Ollie in sublime form.

Fantasy: The Wizard of Oz. Dir. Victor Fleming U.S.A. 1939. Judy discovering there is no place like home.

Film Noir: Detour. Dir. Edgar G. Ulmer. U.S.A. 1945.

‘Noir’ has never been blacker, no femme fatale more fatal.

Gangster: Scarface. Dir. Howard Hawks U.S.A. 1932. Hawks and star Muni create the definitive portrait of a fearsome mobster.

Horror/Fantasy. Cat People. Dir. Jacques Tourneur U.S.A. 1947. Sublime movie about a woman who turns into a ‘big cat’…sounds banal but this is elegant and frightening and subtle.

Horror/Thriller: Psycho. Dir. Alfred Hitchcock U.S.A. 1960. Just re-issued on film in Europe and the U.S.A. but not yet here. Never go into the shower alone! Scary stuff.

Historical: The New World. Dir. Terrence Malick U.S.A. 2005. Malick’s poetic vision of 17th century exploration of the new world.

Musical: Meet Me in St. Louis. Dir. Vincente Minnelli U.S.A. 1944. Judy growing up and falling in love, in a ground breaking musical which redefined the genre.

Neo-realism: Ossessione. Dir. Luchino Visconti. Italy 1942. Film historians still debate the emergence of neo-realism; no one questions this film’s eminence and power.

Science Fiction: The Invisible Man. Dir. James Whale. U.S.A. 1933. Claude Raines acts mainly with his voice in this spellbinding journey into insanity.

Thriller: Double Indemnity. Dir. Billy Wilder U.S.A. 1944. Another James M. Cain adaptation: another incomparable screenplay about love, murder and fate.

War: The Thin Red Line. Dir Terrence Malick. U.S.A. 1988. America’s greatest living director blends poetry and harsh realism to examine war and the unanswered question.

Western: Ulzana’s Raid. Dir. Robert Aldrich. U.S.A. 1972. No tougher, more authentic portrait of the west (and Vietnam?) exists than this searing vision of conflict.

Let's Go To The Movies:  by Mark Gernpy

Now playing in Chiang Mai

Iron Man 2: US, Action/ Adventure/ Sci-Fi/ Thriller –– Directed by Jon Favreau, starring Robert Downey Jr., Don Cheadle, Scarlett Johansson, Glwyneth Paltrow, Mickey Rourke, Garry Shandling, Paul Bettany (fresh from Legion), Samuel L. Jackson, and CNN’s Christiane Amanpour. Seems like it has turned out to be a wild, lavish, and expensive film that’s a lot of fun. The wonderful actor Robert Downey Jr. again, of course, plays the role of Tony Stark, the wealthy playboy whose exploits as Iron Man are now public knowledge after his admission at the close of the first film. Tony is under pressure from the government, the press, and the public to share his technology with the military, but he is unwilling to give away too much. Airport Plaza also has a version of this with digital sound and image in their Cinema 3 (but not 3D – this film doesn’t come in 3D).

Kheaw Ar-Khad / The Intruder: Thai, Horror/ Suspense – It’s payback time when hundreds of cobras attack residents of an apartment that was built on their breeding ground. The story goes that when the film was in production last year, two of the actors were actually bitten by the snakes. Make of that what you will.

Edge of the Empire / Kon Tai Ting Pandin: Thai, Action/ Drama – A film inspired by Thai historical heroes who sacrificed their lives to fight against an invasion by the Han tribe. In southern Mongolia over 1,000 years ago, a small tribe existed called “Tai,” a colony enslaved by the Great Han. They were the forefathers of the present-day Thais according to legend, but this belief has been disproven. At Airport Plaza only.

The Crazies: US, Mystery/ Sci-Fi/ Thriller – A remake of George Romero’s 1973 film, by director Breck Eisner, the son of Disney’s Michael Eisner. Definitely not a Disney movie! What is it? It’s part zombie movie, part apocalyptic bioterror, part military conspiracy thriller. Reviews say it’s tense, nicely shot, and uncommonly intelligent. A husband and wife in a small Midwestern town find themselves battling for survival as their friends and family descend into madness when a mysterious toxin in the water supply turns everyone exposed to it into mindless killers and the authorities leave the uninfected to their certain doom. Rated R in the US for bloody violence and language; 18+ in Thailand. Mixed or average reviews. At Airport Plaza only.

Legion: US, Action/ Fantasy/ Horror/ Thriller – In the first minute, the angel Michael falls to earth and then cuts off his wings. God, who has given up on mankind, gave him a command that he didn’t want to do, as he thinks there’s still hope for us. The first 40 minutes are terrific – evocative and stylish. Then I suggest you leave. With a quite impressive Paul Bettany. Rated R in the US for strong bloody violence, and language; 18+ in Thailand. Generally unfavorable reviews. At Vista only.

Kick-Ass: US/ UK, Action/ Comedy/ Drama – An unnoticed high school student and comic book fan decides one day to become a super-hero, even though he has no powers, training, or meaningful reason to do so. It’s been hailed as a rollicking, virtuoso comic-book adaptation that fizzes with originality, feisty wit, and an unexpected degree of heart. With Nicolas Cage, to boot. Rated R in the US for strong brutal violence throughout, pervasive language, sexual content, nudity, and some drug use - some involving children. 18+ in Thailand. Generally favorable reviews. Vista also has a Thai-dubbed version. At Vista only.

Opening tomorrow, Coronation Day

Ong-Bak 3: Thai, Action – Tony Jaa in the historical martial-arts conclusion of the two-part prequel to the Ong-Bak movie that made him a star in 2003. Cutting-edge martial arts by one of the most creative, driven, and energetic personalities in Thailand.

A Nightmare on Elm Street: (Possibly, not sure!) US, Fantasy/ Horror/ Thriller – Critics have not been kind to this remake, saying that it lives up to its title in the worst possible way. They say it’s visually faithful but lacking the depth and subversive twists that made the original so memorable. Generally unfavorable reviews. Rated R in the US for strong bloody horror violence, disturbing images, terror, and language.

Bridge in Paradise : by Neil Robinson

Imagine you are sitting in your favourite Thai restaurant enjoying a spicy, flavourful curry. Suddenly you are ambushed by an explosive chili and your mouth is on fire. You lose all hope that your taste buds will ever live again. But, gradually (with the aid of a large bottle of Singha) you begin to recover. More than that, you discover that you have gained from it all—the food actually tastes better after the ordeal. It is the same with bridge.

For most players, me included, squeezes are difficult to even think of, let alone play for. However, sometimes you are lucky enough to fall into them. When they work, the results seem almost miraculous, resurrecting apparently dead contracts and making certain tricks disappear! This hand was dealt at a table where I was playing, with dealer North and all vulnerable: 

                       S: AK95

                       H: K9765

                       D: J6

                       C: 42      

S: 84                              S: QJ1063

H: 43                             H: AQJ108

D: 97                              D: 52

C: J1087653                      C: 9

                       S: 72

                       H: 2

                       D: AKQ10843

                       C: AKQ   

What do you think the contract should be? 6N played by North or 6D by South both work. Both contracts score seven diamond tricks, three clubs and two spades, losing only the heart ace. But this was the bidding: 

North  East        South     West

1H        1S           2D           P

2N        P              4N           P

5D        P              6N           P

P           Dbl          7D           P

P           Dbl          All pass   

In response to 4N (Blackwood), North bid 5D, which shows one ace. South therefore placed the contract in 6N, to make North declarer and thus protect North’s spade stopper from a lead coming through it. East doubled, expecting that North would have to try and make at least one trick from his bid suit, and relying on his heart stack. The double sounded confident to South (even though this confidence was actually misplaced), and he feared that East had running top tricks, possibly in hearts. Consequently, he pulled to 7D, in spite of the missing ace, in order to limit possible losses and to put West on lead, in the hope that he might lead the wrong suit (whatever that might be!)

West now had to choose a lead. East’s double was not Lightner (asking for an unusual lead) because the grand slam was not freely bid. Also, the double of 6N was certainly not Lightner, because the doubler would have been on lead. Consequently, West led his partner’s suit, spades. After that lead, would you prefer to be declarer or defence?

It looks like the contract is dead—the heart ace must score for the defence. In fact however, the contract is now cold, with likely defence. Watch the heart ace go away! Declarer won the lead in dummy, ran all the trumps and then ran clubs. The key is that he knew, from the bidding, that East held the missing high cards. West kept his only cards of apparent value, the clubs (would you be clever enough to keep the lowly four of hearts—I don’t think I would!). Dummy discarded one spade and all his low hearts. This was the situation as the club queen was led: 

                      S: A9

                      H: K

                      D: -

                      C: -             

S: -                                     S: QJ

H: -                                    H: A

D: -                                    D: -

C: J108                             C:-

                      S: 7

                      H: 2

                      D: -

                      C: Q (led)    

West followed suit and dummy threw the heart king, but what is East to do? He has a choice of ways to commit suicide. At the table, he threw the spade jack. Declarer then led to the spade king and took the last trick with the nine. It would have been more spectacular if East had thrown the heart ace. Declarer then leads his singleton heart, and takes the critical trick with a two, on the very first round of the suit! Doubled grand slam made and South, writing plus 2380 on the score pad, felt much better for his ordeal.

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 : Rainbow shirts and Facebook

By Shana Kongmun

As a long term resident of Thailand I can’t help but feel pain at the dire straits she finds herself in these days. With violence on the rise, bombings and what appears to be an increasingly divided nation, I feel sorrow that it has come to this.

There has arisen a new phenomenon, a group of people, linked, it seems, mainly by their desire to have peace and calm reign once again. Joined together by a multitude of ways, one of the biggest unifiers seems to be that social networking tool often descried for its foolish applications and the seeming need of many members to broadcast their every movement.

Online social networking has often been criticized for limiting face to face communication; I even read an article where it said that normal social relationships are suffering because of it. I am not convinced. At least for me, personally, living overseas for many years now, it has allowed me to re-kindle relationships thought long lost. Some of them, perhaps I wish I hadn’t but many I am grateful to have again. I can see photos of my niece, nephews and now a great nephew, see how my family and friends are doing. It allows my family and friends to keep track of my life in a way that letters never could and email made difficult.

A friend of mine told me about his teenage son’s girlfriend visiting with her family from Singapore. Confused I asked how he had a girlfriend in Singapore and received the notice that I was behind the times, kids, at least on the international scene, met people through social networking as much as face to face.

Additionaly, it’s proving a tool for social change. Allowing people of a like mind from all over the globe connect on issues that matter to them. From petitioning the Discovery Channel to keep Sarah Palin from hosting a show, to battling whale hunting, to uniting disparate groups in Thailand; Facebook is making a mark on the activist scene. There has often been criticism of the social movements on Facebook, that those who join are activists in the least sense of the word. That by simply joining a group they are proving they don’t have the wherewithal to actually get up off the couch and do something.

Perhaps that has changed with the recent actions in Thailand. From the groups in Bangkok and now Chiang Mai and Mae Hong Son, it seems that Facebook is providing itself as a communication tool in a way that perhaps its founders never foresaw. Whether they are called the multi coloured shirts, the Rainbow shirts, or maybe just a Facebook group, it seems that social networking may have taken an entirely new leap forward in social change.

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

Inspirations for gardeners

Newcomers to Chiang Mai may have difficulties in finding fellow garden lovers, good nurseries and public gardens. At the ”Garden Discussion and Full Moon Cocktail Party” on the 28th of April (http://dokmaidogma. you will meet other garden lovers, but until then here are some other suggestions: 1) The Queen Sirikit Botanical Garden is the national botanical garden of Thailand, aimed at research and preservation of Thai plants. It is located in a very scenic mountain area on the Mae Sa road, which can be reached from the Samoeng road or from Mae Rim. 2) Tweechol Botanic Garden (Horizon) is located just outside town on the road to Chiang Rai. It is a nice family destination, with mini zoo, paddling boats and fantastic topiaries. 3) The Khamtieng flower market is located behind Tesco Lotus north of town, near Highway 11. This is the best source to buy ornamental plants in northern Thailand. Customers bring trucks from Chiang Rai and even Laos to shop at this market. You will find CITES-registered orchid dealers, trees, stones, designers etc. 4) The Doi Ang Khang Royal project is located a 3 hour drive from Chiang Mai, towards Fang. This project aims at cultivation of temperate crops as a substitute for opium, aimed at the hill tribes. If you long for roses, this is a good place to go in January-April. Personally I admire the combined rock- and bonsai garden. This is one of the most interesting gardens in Thailand, small, but a lovely continuum from rocky lime stones with indigenous species, to a parkland with bonsais mounted on posts. The bonsai material is very diverse, including ginkgo, bamboo and conifers. 5) The Phuping Royal Palace is located on the same road as Doi Suthep temple, but higher up. This is another nice option for studying high elevation indigenous plants, as well as temperate species like roses. 6) The Chiang Mai Gardeners Bulletin Board can be found here: 7) Finally, you are of course always welcome to Dokmai Garden if you search for knowledge about monsoon plants.

Life in Chiang Mai: By Mark Whitman

Dramatic changes in the temperature

Political changes in the U.K. —- and here? 

When I left for the U.K. in late March, the red shirts were heading for Bangkok and reports suggested considerable turmoil in the Thai political situation. That’s for Thailand – not outsiders – to correct, but by the look of the streets devoid of visitors, sooner rather that later.

What I had not expected on arrival in Britain was to witness a sea change in political happenings over there too. It was as dramatic as that which occurred in the weather during the first ten days of my stay there and a change that may well have far reaching consequences. We shall know in a few days (perhaps in Thailand too?).

When I touched down in London, the weather was appalling: wet, windy and bitterly cold. The remnants of the worst winter in decades. By the time I managed to get a flight back to Bangkok – delayed by five days thanks to a volcano erupting in Iceland - Spring had sprung, colour was everywhere, blossoms abounded, leaves were on the trees, the hedgerows were thickening, the grass greener than I could ever recall and the sun shone, albeit somewhat ineffectively against cool winds.

And at the same time the political temperature had warmed from a very lack lustre ‘tepid’ to something approaching ‘hot’. The old saying, now almost a clich้, that a week is a long time in politics was never truer. The first fortnight of the election campaign (the actual polling day is Thursday May 6th with about a six week run up) had been little short of predictable and dreary. It was by no means the sort of settled result which had been anticipated back in the heady days of 1997, but there was a general assumption that 13 years of one party might prove enough and I had a non-financial bet with a friend that the Tories would gain a smallish but workable overall majority of around 30, perhaps even more. There was some talk of a ‘hung’ Parliament i.e. no one party with a majority but nothing significant.

(For those not familiar with our system, it is a first past the post with the Labour (left) and Conservatives (right) in the great majority and the Lib-Dems (liberal) trailing third plus other minority parties. Such a system is unfair on the smaller parties who are under represented in relation to the votes cast – but naturally the two big parties cling on to their advantage, the Conservatives most of all).

As I write this, a few days before the vote, the situation has changed markedly. This is largely thanks to the first ever televised debate between the leaders of the three main parties. The Lib-Dems have always been sidelined (they came into being in 1847, ahead of the Labour party, as the Liberals and were a riposte to the ruling land owning conservatives) and this proved a fillip to them that can hardly have been imagined.

The debate had been widely touted by the Tory party as the chance for their leader, the unctuous David Cameron, to shine over the younger and seemingly inexperienced David Clegg (Lib-Dem) and the weighty but rather tired and uncharismatic Gordon Brown (Labour and present Prime Minister). Strict guidelines were negotiated: an audience from which questions would be invited, with no applause, no heckling, a neutral moderator, and three programmes each of 90 minutes dealing with 1. General topics, 2. Foreign affairs and 3.the economy. Even the position of the speakers standing on the stage would be alternated with each of the weekly events. Fairness was to be the key word, with equal time paramount. The result was to be dependent on the leaders and how they acquitted themselves.

This Presidential style discussion, modelled on the American debates, was a first for the U.K. and the result was widely anticipated as an easy run for the slick Cameron and a solid second for the P.M. with Clegg having nothing to lose. At least he was up there with the big boys. The result was – I must say – exaggerated but the following day one might have thought the aforementioned flowers and buds of Spring had all emerged over night. Clegg was considered triumphant and (daftest of all) the most popular politician since Winston Churchill in his hey day.

The camera – as had been widely observed – loves some people more than others. This is how stars are made. And for a brief period Nick Clegg was in the ascendant with Cameron sounding the hollow man he is and Brown sounding a tad dull. Three days later the knives were out. The right wing press concocted smears against the ‘newcomer’, fed it was believed by researchers at the Tory H.Q. Even the normally respectable Daily Telegraph headlined a story about political donations being paid directly into Clegg’s private bank account. Something which was known and declared but had been purely an administrative ploy. Both the main parties were rattled and the right most of all.

By the time of the second live television and radio show there had been 400,000 young people newly registered to vote, Clegg was a known quantity and the media was talking of little else but the real prospect of a hung Parliament, or a balanced one as some people prefer to call it. Cameron did his homework and rehearsed his lines to much better effect and Brown lightened up a bit and became more critical of the new pretender. No one, it seemed, was taking anything for granted any more and that, dear reader, is more or less how I left it.

The third discussion is on the economy and that should favour the Prime Minister who was in charge of finances for over 10 years. But all such live debates are open to chance and this could – with an audience of ten million prospective voters - determine the final outcome. Before the first encounter, the polls suggested the Conservatives with the largest number of supporters, followed by Labour and the Lib-Dems quite a way behind. Because of the way the country is divided into rural and urban constituencies the Labour party is slightly favoured. Recent polls suggest the parties nearer 30 per cent each and the notion of a ‘hung’ Parliament as a very definite outcome.

Nothing is certain, but my bet would be that if the Conservatives do not gain an overall majority, then Cameron will also lose his position. Brown ditto and even if the Labour Party have the largest number of seats, I doubt that he will be leader for very long. Clegg will remain in his role whatever happens and could – just could – be the Deputy Prime Minister in a coalition government between Labour and the Lib –Dems, with a new Prime Minister. I still have a feeling that my ‘bet’ of several months ago may be right.

Even so, the prospect of electoral reform is now very real and unless the media and pundits and pollsters are very wrong then this will be the most interesting election in the U.K. for decades. With the press (which is mainly right wing) spreading alarm about the dangers of no clear ‘victory’, no one really knows. Money has poured into the Conservatives campaign and posters and advertisement slanted against their opposition abound.

Whatever happens, a normally rather tame event in Britain has been enlivened and no one can ever doubt the power of that box in the corner of so many living rooms.

Day Tripper: By Jane Doh

Classic cars: different strokes for different folks

Some of the classic cars on display every month at Rimping parking lot.

Popular with both Thai and Western car owners,
the classic car meet at Rimping is well attended.

Sunday April 25th saw another vivid mix of vehicles at the monthly meet of Classic Cars of Lanna at NIM City Daily, otherwise known as “Rimping near the airport.”

Now allied with the newer group Chiangmai Classic Car, the 6 year old CCL club meets there from 10.00am until noon on the last Sunday of each month. Coffee and chat is often followed by a convoy run to a local place of interest. Membership is free and a wealth of information and advice on old car parts and service is available.

The April get-together was again well attended with possibly the greatest variety of vehicles yet. A 1950’s ‘split screen’ VW Microbus towered over a Mini 1000, two Mercedes spanned a time gap of over 40 years and a Mitsubishi Jeep vied for attention with an immaculate Alfa Romeo Giulietta.

The younger Thai members are currently showing a marked trend towards small pick-ups, and Khun Kamon saw no loss of face in proudly showing off his newly acquired old Datsun 1600, long before it gets the restoration treatment.

For English updates, see and in Thai see www. or e-mail David Hardcastle at [email protected]