The Doctor's Consultation: by Dr. Iain Corness
Buying drugs from Internet “pharmacies”
Around 12 months ago I wrote on
this subject and finished by saying ‘Caveat Emptor’ (let the buyer beware)
as there are many ‘copy drugs’ out there. But one article doesn’t stop them.
Every day I receive at least four email offers of cut-price drugs that will
keep me in a state of perpetual priapism. For those unsure of this condition,
it is a state of continuing (and painful) male erection and the term was
coined after the Greek god Priapus who is shown in paintings to have a
central member similar to the fifth leg of the elephant.
However, this is actually a serious situation. If most
drugs are only available through pharmacies world-wide, on the prescription
of a doctor, is it safe to just buy over the Internet, without any doctor’s
I believe it is not safe. As the American Food and Drug
Administration (FDA) reports in its website, “Patients who buy prescription
drugs from websites operating outside the law are at increased risk of
suffering life-threatening adverse events, such as side effects from
inappropriately prescribed medications, dangerous drug interactions,
contaminated drugs, and impure or unknown ingredients found in unapproved
The FDA goes on to warn “… certain drugs be dispensed
only with a valid prescription because they are not safe for use without the
supervision of a licensed health care practitioner. Generally, before the
practitioner issues a prescription for a drug the patient has never taken
before, he or she must first examine the patient to determine the
appropriate treatment. Subsequently, the patient receives the drug from a
registered pharmacist working in a licensed pharmacy that meets state
practice standards.” That situation is certainly not the case when you look
at buying blue diamonds over the ‘net, is it?
The incidence of internet pseudo-pharmacies is also very
high. In the US, according to the American Medical Association, there are at
least 400 web sites that both dispense and offer a prescribing service -
half of these sites are located in foreign countries. Some have estimated
that the number of websites selling prescription drugs may now be closer to
As far as I can see it, one of the big problems is the
lack of regulation that these “net pharmacies” work under. Are the blue
diamonds ‘real’ Vitamin V?
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), it has
been fighting drug counterfeiting since it became a major threat in the
1980s. The problem was first noticed by the pharmaceutical industry. They
saw that their own products were being copied, and it went on from there.
In fact, the WHO estimates that 25 percent of medications
bought in street markets in developing countries are fake. My own experience
in some of the poorer SE Asian countries has been that another 50 percent
are real but out of date, leaving around 25 percent genuine manufacturer’s
Some authors say that the figures are even worse than
that. An international study published in Tropical Medicine and
International Health found that 53 percent of Artesunate tablet packs sold
in the region did not contain Artesunate. And Artesunate is a vital
antimalarial drug. You can see the danger.
The reports come in from all over the world. The WHO
cited the case of a counterfeit iron preparation that has killed pregnant
women in Argentina in the last two years. Hundreds of children in Bangladesh
suffered kidney failure and many died due to a fake paracetamol syrup
diluted with diethylene glycol, according to a study published in the BMJ in
The FDA in the US estimates that worldwide sales of fake
drugs exceed USD 3.5 billion per year, according to a paper published in
April 2005. The Center for Medicines in the Public Interest in the US
predicts that counterfeit drug sales could reach USD 75 billion globally in
2010 if action is not taken to curb the trade.
According to WHO, drugs commonly counterfeited include
antibiotics, antimalarials, hormones and steroids. Anticancer and antiviral
drugs are also faked. And yes, the ‘blue diamonds’. Never forget the phrase
“Caveat emptor” (Let the buyer beware).
You have been warned. Get your medications on
prescription from a pharmacy you can trust.
Luuking for Love? Meet Luuk Tarn…
WLTM new owner for fun, affection and maybe more…
Hi – I’m Luuk Tarn. I am excellent on the lead
and love walks, playing and attention. I’m not too big and I’m not
too small – I’m just right, in fact I could be your Ms. Right if
you’ll let me. I’m healthy, sterilised and fully vaccinated. Luuking
for love? You’ve found it.
If you think Luuk Tarn could be the right one for
you – contact the shelter English (08 47 52 52 55) or Thai language
(08 69 13 87 01) to make an appointment to meet her, e-mail: [email protected]
or visit the website for further information.
Heart to Heart
Times have gotten tough since my girlfriend’s sponsor
quit sending her money for the buffaloe (sic) which had horrible
stomach problems. I have had to resort to drinking cheap beer from the
7-11 and sitting on the curb with my boys. I have lost respect with
them. I am hoping that her benefactor didn’t do anything rash like
jumping from a balcony (UFF - Unidentified Flying Farang) or spending
his money on something foolish like food and clothes. Anyway, I have
started walking on the opposite side of the street when passing high
buildings until my girl makes another contact. Wish me luck.
Dear Singha Jerry,
Times are tough everywhere, my Petal, even for
people who can spell (and you certainly can’t). No wonder the buffalo (no
“e” Petal) has problems. Interested that you have found a 7-11 selling
cheap beer. Generally the convenience stores don’t have the cheapest
items in town compared to the supermarkets, for example. But then, if
you are having to walk there, Tesco’s’/Carrefour/Big C/Foodland might be
too far. I wouldn’t worry about the UFF problems, you are more likely to
be hit by a UFS (Unidentified Flying Songtaew). And as far as wishing
you luck - are you kidding? Here you are pimping on your girlfriend’s
“sponsor” as you call him. You don’t need “luck” Singha Jerry, you need
When did you become stucked (sic) to champane
(sic) and chocolates? With that sorta (sic) diet you must
weigh about 10 tons by now. Are you locked in your office because your (sic)
to (sic) fat to get through the doorway? Anyway, we loves you,
Hills old fruit, but no bubbles or chocs from us - we’re thinking of
your wasteline (sic).
The Likely Lads
Dear Likely Lads,
I was very tempted to drop this rude, poorly
spelled and dreadfully constructed letter in the round file under my
desk, but then I thought, “Why let this opportunity pass me by? This is
my chance to do some good for someone out there.” So, Likely Lads,
listen up. There is no word “stucked” in the English language. The word
you were looking for was “addicted”, but because it has more than four
letters it was probably not in your vocabulary. Never mind, now you
know. The drink is called “champagne” as it comes from the champagne
area of France. That’s a country on the other side of the English
Channel. You may have heard of it. “Sorta” isn’t a word either, what you
should have written was “sort of”. When you want to write “you are”, it
is written as “you’re”. If you use “your” it means something belonging
to you. Getting the message, Lads? And the region of your belly where
your belly-button lurks, is called your “waist”, not your “waste”, which
means rubbish. By the way, your belly-button is an important feature of
your waistline. It is for holding the salt while eating celery in bed.
But finally, Petals, my name is Hillary and I am not “old fruit”.
Reserve that term for rotten bananas and the like. So pleased to have
been of service to you. Even though no chocolates or bubbles. But please
don’t write in again until you have mastered Primary 3 English, that’s
Can you help please. I am not sure if I have found
some strange culture problem, or maybe I just have too open a face. Do
all Thai people ask you the most personal questions? Things like “How
much money you make? You married yet? Why not? You got girlfriend? You
want me to go with you?” Apart from the fact that this is considered a
very rude way of starting a relationship in the UK, I also find it very
embarrassing when I am over here. How do I get these people to stop
doing this? You seem to have the answers for everyone else, so I hope
you have some for me too.
Shy and Retiring
Dear Shy and Retiring,
Or is that Shy and Retired? You have to look at
where these women are who ask such direct questions. My bet is in a bar
somewhere. They are not in the habit of issuing a gilt edged invitation
to dinner, hand inscribed in Ye Olde English. Be real and be thankful
that ‘these people’ as you call them are interested enough in you to
even ask questions. There’s only one thing worse than being a wall-flower
at parties, and that’s not being invited at all. In actual fact, my
Petal, those inquiries are very cleverly designed “standard” bar girl
questions to see if you are worthwhile bothering with at all. If you
have no money all interest will be lost immediately. Likewise if you are
married they will want to know if “You marry Thai?” or whether your
partner is waiting faithfully for you back home in the UK, while you
contemplate the unfaithful ideas. Lighten up and when you are asked next
time just say, “No money. Wife take all money to boy bar,” and then
laugh a lot. They’ll get the message and you will be left happily lonely,
then you can write me letters asking why does nobody talk to you!
by Harry Flashman
Sod’s Law and SD cards
received the email below, following the publishing of my article
on SD cards and electronic traps for young players a couple of
Hi again Harry,
Always great to read your column on a Friday. I may
not take great photos, but I do have a lot of experience with SD cards!
My latest triumph being the recovery of most of a
friend’s son’s wedding photos after problems with the card, which may
have arisen from constant deleting, rather than regular downloading all
photos to a computer and re-formatting/re-partitioning the card in-camera.
I have read several times that constant deleting can
cause a variety of problems with cards.
I always advise frequent downloading of SD cards and
IMMEDIATE backup of all photos onto another, preferably external,
storage device - I usually suggest a USB thumb drive as they are so
cheap - but I use an external hard disk myself, which contains back ups
of other files.
(The necessary SD/USB adaptor is available in shops
here for as little as B50! I advise buying two at that price - if one
Then I recommend formatting of the card in camera -
again immediately to “Format (Card)” which is simple to find in the
menus of many small cameras now.
Finally I advise the purchase of a second SD card as
soon as possible - not just for “overflow” - but it is not unknown for
SD cards to corrupt beyond recovery - very rare, but “Sod’s Law” always
“Belt and Braces” approach, I know, but it saves a
lot of woe - and me sweating trying to recover images!
Thank you, Don, you are certainly a very loyal reader,
and since you like to shoot in the ‘RAW’ format, as you told me in
February, I am sure you do take some “great photos”, so don’t be so
Yes, “Sod’s Law” does exist and seems particularly
apt in photography. Batteries will always go flat as you are about to
take the world’s best photograph of … fill in your own details…! You
press the “Delete All” button, when you meant to delete one shot only.
My favorite is the shot you decide to come back to take tomorrow when
the light will be better, and it rains for three weeks non-stop. And
when the sun actually does come out, somebody has removed the item you
wanted to photograph.
Now I know there are people out there who say that
Murphy’s Law is quite different from Sod’s Law, but I think the
terminology is inter-changeable. But there are other laws which you will
recognize, so enjoy these.
Sod’s law, also known as Murphy’s law. If anything
can go wrong, it will.
O’Toole’s commentary on Murphy’s law. Murphy was an
The first corollary to Sod’s Law. Anything that is to
go wrong will do so at the worst possible moment.
The unspeakable law. As soon as you mention something,
if it’s good, it goes away; if it’s bad, it happens.
Non-reciprocal laws of expectations. Negative
expectations yield negative results. Positive expectations yield
Howe’s law. Every man has a scheme which will not
Zymurgy’s first law of evolving system dynamics. Once
you open a can of worms, the only way to re-can them is to use a larger
Skinner’s constant. The quantity which must be
multiplied by, divided by, added to or subtracted from the answer you
get to give the answer you should have got.
Law of selective gravity. An object will fall so as
to do the most damage.
Jenning’s corollary. The chance of the bread falling
with the buttered side down is directly proportional to the cost of the
Barth’s distinction. There are two types of people:
those who divide people into two types and those who do not.
Ninety-ninety rule of project schedules. The first
90% of the job takes 90% of the time, the last 10% takes the other 90%.
Farber’s rule. Necessity is the mother of strange
So this week you have had some words of wisdom on SD cards, and a
smile as well. Happy snapping!
Money Matters: Paul Gambles
MBMG International Ltd.
The Real Estate Market is just not real, part 3
Finally, the final installment of our look at the real estate
Asset Protection Schemes are not unique to the UK. America
has agreed to underwrite securitized real estate debt and, unbelievably, relaxed
the rules on defaults. Ireland also has its equivalent which will buy GBP70
billion of bad property loans. It has to be said that these governments do not
really care about real estate per se or the people in it but they do worry about
the banks and bankers. By taking the steps they have these governments have
saved a possible large scale foreclosure on commercial developments. However,
this does not stop the problems that occur when a property becomes vacant as
this interferes with rental income usually used to pay off debt. In 2009 the
European commercial property debt maturity schedule is USD65 billion. In two
years time it will be over USD150 billion and in 2012 it will be over USD160
billion (perhaps the movie is right and it really is the end of the world!).
It is the income which is the most important thing for the
banks. If interest is not paid then they become worried as yet more losses will
be incurred by borrowers who have lost income from the failure of the businesses
which they have rented out their properties to.
It is not necessarily the LTV which the banks are worried
about but if interest loans are not repaid as they should be then the bank has
to account for them in other ways. As Ian Marcus of Credit Suisse says, “A
serious impact from tenant default means that any borrower will have significant
difficulties in refinancing their debt.”
This is one of the main problems and is a massive obstacle to
overcome for those who lend on property. Nearly GBP1,000 billion of commercial
mortgage debt will mature by 2014 and GBP330 billion of it is in Europe. This is
just huge and the problems will just compound if there is no money to cover all
these loans as and when they come up for renewal. Banks will try and roll these
loans over where possible if for no other reason than not to have them in the
loss side of the balance book. Naturally, they will also increase the
commissions earned for doing this. The problem is that this does not reduce the
risk that the real estate sector has.
One group of analysts believes that GBP100 billion will be
required to revitalize the property market in Britain, and in doing this,
reducing the LTV to a sustainable ratio. However, the downside in this strategy
is that negative equity could be around for anything up to ten years.
What does all of this mean? Well, as you can see from the
above figures, the maths is simple. The real estate sector is up that well known
creek without a paddle. This will take years to sort out and basically reverts
to the old fashioned idea of when someone lends something then they want their
money back, preferably with some interest. If this does not happen then there
Is there any hope? Well, a good property recovery would help.
Indeed, in H2 of 2009, there was an increase in the price of commercial premises
but this was really due to the demand for prime property. It is all the property
that is not classified as ‘prime’ which is the problem. It will be almost
impossible to refinance this until the market gets better. This brings in the
real estate Catch 22: the banks want to offload bad property debt but cannot
afford to do so and the real estate companies want property but are not prepared
to pay what they bank wants. Unless a compromise is made then repossessed
buildings are going to stay on a bank’s books for a long time.
People are already looking at different possibilities to get
us out of this hole and will look at such options as REITS and Property Funds.
Also, for those who are brave, offering loans should be very profitable at the
There is already one fund which is available which will
protect against any further drops in the market. As I agree with two recent
reports (Fitch and Capital Economics) which are forecasting a minimum fall of
15% in the price of UK property over the next two years, I heartily recommend
it. It is called the UK Property Protector Fund. This is a unique product that
is designed to benefit anyone who has property assets in the UK. The product
acts as both an investment and an insurance solution, which protects UK property
owners against the loss of equity due to falling house prices by acting as a
hedge that relates directly to the UK House Price Index. Property Protector is
intended to secure the current value of UK property assets, whilst also giving
investors the opportunity to benefit from the depreciating UK property market.
It should make up a small part of your diversified portfolio.
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
Letter From an Unknown
exquisite film was made a while ago, but since it is also set fifty years
before in turn of the century Vienna there is no sense of it being outdated.
It remains fresh, vibrant and moving and I doubt whether any of the several
reworkings (including one from China and one from France) can compare with
the original’s muted splendour.
It tells of a girl (Joan Fontaine miraculously ageing
from a na๏ve love struck youngster into a sophisticated woman of the world)
who falls hopelessly in love with a handsome young pianist and remains
faithful to him until her – literally –dying moments as she completes the
letter which gives the film its title.
The man (Louis Jordan) is a self –centered philanderer, a
fine pianist who never reaches his potential because of his weakness of
character and indulgences. Only when he receives her letter, written from a
hospital, does he finally understand what has happened. The movie ends with
his deciding to fight a duel which he earlier planned to avoid by skipping
town. We do not know the outcome, but the suggestion is that he anticipates
losing and cares little either way.
I have given the plot, since the framework of the story
matters little. What is important is the inner core, the detail, the telling
of this simple story which is based on a story of ‘amour fou’ by Stefan
Sweig, adapted by a fine writer Howard Koch whose most famous credit is
Casablanca (among many other fine movies).
Max Ophuls was one of the talented European directors who
moved to the U.S.A. to escape the Nazis and greatly enriched the American
cultural scene. Sadly, on arrival, he had to wait for some years before
resuming his career and died suddenly in his fifties, when beginning work on
a doomed film Montparnasse 19, which starred an ailing G้rard Philipe as
Modigliani and was taken over by Jacques Becker, who also died soon after
the film was completed.
Ophuls is most famous for La Ronde, a hugely successful
French film and that and ‘Letter’ are probably his two greatest works. His
films are distinguished by a fluid camera style, which was copied by many (including
Kubrick) though seldom equalled. It creates a calm, observational effect
which is never flashy and always sympathetic with a tinge of irony,
sophistication and worldliness to undercut any sentimentality.
Ophuls was one of those directors who create a complete
world on screen so that we are enveloped as though in one of the sumptuous
cloaks which characters wear in this movie. It is one sign of his talent
that whilst watching Letter from an Unknown Woman, the outside world ceases
to exist. Book it out for a Sunday afternoon of indulgence, followed by the
type of chocolate cake(or sachertorte) and strong black coffee enjoyed in
the cafes of Vienna or Berlin, even long after the period of this beautiful
and engaging film.
All films recommended in this column are available from
the DVD Film and Music Shop at Suthep Road, Chiang Mai. Check out other
films by Ophuls, also available on DVD.
Let's Go To The Movies:
by Mark Gernpy
Now playing in Chiang Mai
Shutter Island: US, Drama/
Mystery/ Thriller – Major Cineplex showed this two times on Wednesday, then
removed it from their schedule Thursday, then returned it on Friday for
another two showings. Lord knows if and when it’s showing now, but if it’s
on, I urge you to see this, and quickly! They seem very unpredictable on
But I have to warn you that a great number of people seem to
dislike this film immensely. I’m just very fond of it, that’s all there is
to it. I think the discrepancy lies in expectations. If you go to see
another great gritty Martin Scorsese film in the tradition of The
Departed, you will not like it at all. Here he’s just having fun with an
old film tradition – scary goings-on in a lonely island hospital for the
criminally insane, with crazy people all around and frightening things
happening in the middle of lightning storms. Within this framework, Scorsese
is taking great joy in playing with his audience’s expectations, leading us
all on a merry chase full of deceptions.
With Leonardo DiCaprio, Ben Kingsley, and Max von Sydow (how
can you go wrong with a cast like that!). Rated R in the US for disturbing
violent content, language, and some nudity; 18+ in Thailand. Generally
Here’s the plot, more or less, for this fun horror fantasy:
It’s 1954, and an up-and-coming US marshal (DiCaprio) is assigned to
investigate the disappearance of a patient from Boston’s Shutter Island
Hospital. He’s been pushing for an assignment on the island for personal
reasons, but before long he wonders whether he hasn’t been brought there as
part of a twisted plot by hospital doctors, whose radical treatments range
from unethical to illegal to downright sinister. The marshal’s shrewd
investigating skills soon provide a promising lead, but the hospital refuses
him access to records he suspects would break the case wide open. As a
hurricane cuts off communication with the mainland, more dangerous criminals
“escape” in the confusion, and as the puzzling, improbable clues multiply,
he begins to doubt everything - his memory, his partner, even his own
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.
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). Both
theaters also have a Thai-dubbed version. Mixed or average reviews.
Kheaw Ar-Khad / The Intruder: Thai, Horror/ Suspense –
Hundreds of cobras attack residents of an apartment that was built on their
Edge of the Empire / Kon Tai Ting Pandin: Thai, Action/
Drama – Inspired by legendary Thai heroes in southern Mongolia over 1,000
years ago who sacrificed their lives to fight against an invasion by the Han
tribe. These “Tai” were supposedly the forefathers of the present-day Thais.
At Airport Plaza only, Thai only.
Scheduled for May 13
Robin Hood: US, Action/
Adventure – Ridley Scott’s long-brewing visit to Sherwood’s most famous
forest make it clear this reboot isn’t Errol Flynn in green tights but a
Robin Hood much more gladiator than prancing pilferer. Bringing him to life
is Russell Crowe – all grunting and scowling. It’s something of an origin
story, finding historical context in the legend by telling of Hood’s days as
an archer in the service of King Richard, before he became a man in tights
redistributing the crown’s wealth.
The Bounty Hunter: US, Action/ Comedy – Gerard Butler
plays a down-on-his-luck bounty hunter who gets his dream job when he is
assigned to track down his bail-jumping ex-wife (Jennifer Aniston).
Complications, as they say, ensue...
A Nightmare on Elm Street: 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
There are several possible reasons for bidding. The most
obvious is to help your side find the right contract. But you may be bidding
just to get in the way of the opponents and make it more difficult for them
to find the right contract. Another possible reason is to help your partner
find the right lead if you end up defending. Yet a fourth reason is to
discourage the opponents from leading a suit. This column is about that
Here is board 3 from the Bridge Club of Chiang Mai pairs
game on April 28th. East-West
were vulnerable and South dealt. What contract should East-West be in? They
have 32 HCP points between them, so are in potential slam territory. The
only problem is that there are two spade losers off the top. On the other
hand, if you can discourage the opponents from leading a spade, then you
have thirteen tricks—five heart tricks, five club tricks and the three top
diamonds. The only pair to both bid and make a slam were Bernard Garwood,
sitting East, and Montri (Tri) Wongkhamla, sitting West. Their bidding is
South West North East
P 1H P 2D
P 2S P 4N
P 5H P 6N
West’s bid of two spades does two things. First, it tells
his partner that he has a strong hand, because it is a reverse (bidding a
lower ranking suit first, followed by a higher ranking one at the two level,
thereby forcing partner to the three level if partner wants to choose the
originally opened suit—forcing partner to the three level needs a very good
hand). Secondly, West is bidding the suit he would least like the defence to
lead against him. West has first or second round control in the other suits,
but not in spades. With luck, bidding spades will discourage the defence
from leading this suit. East used Blackwood to ask for aces. Finding that
one was missing, he settled for six no trumps. South chose the passive
“safe” lead of the jack of diamonds, instead of the ace of spades, allowing
East to take thirteen tricks for a top. Well done to Bernard and Tri for an
aggressively bid slam.
Bridge Club of Chiang Mai welcomes new players. For
information on the Club go to the web site at www.bridgeclub chiangmai.com.
If you have bridge questions, or to send me your interesting hands, please
contact me at: bridgethailand @live.com.
MAIL OPINION : Acceptance and change
Years ago, a British bricklayer friend of mine decided to
build a small concrete block shed for his girlfriend. He scoffed at the Thai
way of doing it, finding the idea of putting up the roof first
incomprehensible. He declined his girlfriend’s father’s help, adding that he
had been building for years, was a professional, and knew what he was doing.
After a few days of laying concrete block in the broiling
sun, he was starting to understand the roof business. Then, after a
torrential rain that filled his little building to the brim, he came to me
and said, in a rather sheepish manner, “Well, now I understand why they put
the roof up first.”
It was a valuable lesson for my friend, and one he has
carried with him to this day. That while we may not always understand the
Thai way of doing things, and while we may not always agree with the Thai
way of doing things, they have been doing things this way for quite some
time now and their reasons for doing so are worth considering. Local
knowledge is a tremendous thing, as any hunter or fisherman will tell you.
Why would that be any different when trying to adjust to living in
completely different society?
I certainly cannot begin to say I understand the Thai way
of doing things, but I have learned to accept it, go with the flow as they
say. Another friend of mine said the same thing about driving a motorbike
here. He said, “Look at yourself as the river flowing around the pebbles.
This is how the Thais drive their motorbikes in the city and to do
differently not only upsets the flow but is so alien to the way that
everyone else is driving it puts you and the other drivers at risk”.
Certainly, as he pointed out, be safe. But to drive as if one is in the West,
and expect that everyone else will be driving that way as well, is foolish
and potentially dangerous.
My years in Thailand have taught me infinite patience,
not necessarily a bad thing. They have taught me that sometimes there is no
point in banging your head against the brick wall. It doesn’t do anything to
the wall and only makes your head bloody. But it has also taught me that the
Thai way of just accepting everything that comes along as fate, karma,
inevitable, is also not necessarily my way. And when the issue is important
or I think I can make a change then I will make the effort to do so in a way
that does no harm to others.
I realize that my way is not necessarily every Thai
person’s way; it is not always even every Westerner’s way. However, I have
come to learn that the Serenity Prayer is applicable to life in so many ways;
“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the
courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
How does your garden grow?:
By Eric Danell,Dokmai Garden
What is permaculture?
On the 25th of April we had a celebrity guest speaker at Dokmai Garden:
Christian Shearer, who initiated the Panya project north of Chiang Mai.
Christian aims at learning more about permaculture, i.e. sustainable
At one time, everybody made a living from their own
family farm. Although many small-scale Thai farmers still live in
permacultures, they are becoming more dependent on oil, machines, computers
and artificial fertilizers. By trial and error in collaboration with
volunteers, Christian shares his experience with anyone who is interested.
Ultimately, a permaculture aims at independence from the outside world. As
Christian explained, it is impossible to make the transition in one leap.
Everybody interested should take many little steps, and feel joy and pride
whenever a little step is accomplished. Christian explained that the driving
force to start a permaculture may differ from person to person. Some do it
for the health aspects, to know what they eat. Others want to save money or
save the world, i.e. create an ecosystem where people fit in without
depleting resources. Thirdly, some people practice permaculture because they
want to make friends and relatives happy. The opposite could also deter
people from trying permaculture, i.e. you may live in a village where
everybody laughs at organic food and where a tour to the shopping mall is
the peak of happiness. Finally, some people may begin with a permaculture
for spiritual reasons.
Christian emphasised that whatever the reason for
beginning, soon most people realise that all four reasons are important.
Small steps you can take in your own garden are using your own seeds instead
of commercial hybrid seeds, use local manure instead of artificial
fertilizers, grow your own pesticide-free vegetables, filter your own
drinking water or build your own house from natural materials. I personally
think that the Thais are moving away from permaculture, wanting to embrace
the brave new world, where the westerners, who have seen the brave new world,
want to move back, although with significantly broader holistic knowledge
than their grandparents. For more information see www.panyaproject.org.
Life in Chiang Mai:
By Mark Whitman
Elections…who needs them?
Last week I wrote about the forthcoming election in the
U.K., an event which by the time this appears will be all over bar the
shouting. And I suspect there will be a lot of shouting after the result,
none of it that constructive. Still as elections go in many countries of the
world, this will have been a free and fair one.
O.K., the big parties spend much more cash and hog the
limelight, though happily there are now more constraints on this. The press
favours the right, but in general the media (especially the B.B.C.) is far
less biased than –say – that in America: we have no ‘Fox News’ or near
fascist radio commentators.
Everyone over 18 (though, unfairly, not people in prison)
is eligible to vote. This may even come down to 16 in future, in line with
the ‘age of consent’. Nothing is perfect, but the overall result is
democratic. One person, one vote, minimum corruption and which ever party
wins (if one does this time) is entitled to that victory. More or less.
Britain has the oldest elected Parliamentary system, one
which has been copied extensively. A maximum of a five year term (some
people would like it set at four years with a specific date not the present
open ended one). Sadly the second house is not fairly elected, but their
powers have been curtailed and proportional representation is still a dream
for the Lib Dems. But for now it is as good as it gets: no reason for
complacency unless one looks further afield.
And the first place to look might be Burma, which has
just announced a date (vaguely set as October or November this year, rather
than the mooted May or June). Some of the generals are even now struggling
out of their uniforms and donning civilian garb and putting away their
medals tarnished with the blood of their victims.
The whole process is a meaningless charade, a farce in
the devising, an insult to the Burmese people and to the rest of the world
that has so long made overtures to help them. No one believes for a second
that the ‘election’ will be fair. The opposition party, which years ago had
a landslide victory that was snatched from them by the junta, cannot stand
under its existing name. Over 2,000 political prisoners will likely remain
in jail during the coming months and the legitimate leader of the country
Aung San Suu Kyi will not be allowed to take part. The election will be
monitored by the generals’ cohorts.
The result is a foregone conclusion and all the recent
conciliatory overtures made by President Obama have been treated with
contempt. We can easily criticize our own leaders, but in comparison with
the rulers in Burma they can be seen as models of democracy.
The generals there have no intention of heeding outside
opinion and so long as they continue to get support from several super
powers, notably China, Russia and India, they can afford to ignore external
criticism and even sanctions. And in one way, the ASEAN countries are most
to blame since they are most closely involved. So the regime will hold so
called elections and they will have the ‘gloss’ of being called that but the
same result as before, a denial of peoples’ freedom. What price Burma, what
price North Korea?
Meanwhile nearer home the situation in Thailand is
impossible to ignore. Only this morning I received an e-mail from friends
saying that their family was putting their plans for a holiday in Thailand (in
December) on hold. One tiny anecdote, which is reflected a million times
throughout the world.
Returning here after a few weeks away was like entering a
ghost town, even the normally busy Nimmanhaemin Road was devoid of traffic.
Ditto restaurants and shops and so on. Seemingly – and unsurprisingly –
Bangkok is far worse and it seems that over 40 countries advise against ALL
travel to Thailand, not just the capital. And what is the supposed cause of
The desire for an election. Viewed objectively there
seems to be a solution to the impasse.
At the time of writing this, the Prime Minister has said
that he will bring forward the date of an election and open negotiations
sooner rather than later. Even within the next couple of days. Perhaps this
will have happened by May 11. Those who care greatly about this country and
its future can only hope so.
A few years ago the tsunami hurt Thailand (and other
countries even worse) greatly. I was in Phuket when that struck and saw the
devastation first hand. But the rally over the following months and years
was positive and effective.
Just as much damage has been done by the yellow shirts in
closing down the airports in Bangkok and by the red shirts on more than one
occasion, but particularly at present. Will all sides stand by the results
of an election this year or next? Will it be a fair one? Let’s hope so. Put
crudely and simply there is no other way out of the present near catastrophe
than a free and fair election in Thailand.
By Shana Kongmun
The “other side” of the Ping River
Oft overlooked for a trip into the western mountains, Mae
On, San Kamphaeng and its surrounds have scenic beauties to offer as well.
Head east out of the city for about 30 km and you hit San Kamphaeng. With
its surrounding rice fields and pleasant rural views, it’s quite a nice
drive. A visit to the San Kamphaeng hot springs would not go amiss, known
for their therapeutic value, they are also quite lovely to behold. On site,
are a series of manmade pools popular for picnickers, a warm water pool and
private bathing huts.
Mae On Cave is nearby, with an ascent of 300 steps the
entrance and then a following descent into the caverns of an equal number of
stairs, the going is not for the faint hearted. Slightly claustrophobic, it
widens out at the bottom to an enormous chamber with a natural Chedi formed
from a stalactite. Consecrated Buddha statues have been added to make this
beautiful spot also a spiritual one.
Nearby is the interestingly named Crazy Horse Buttress, a
popular climbing site developed by several local climbing companies. Head
further East into the mountain to Mae Takrai National Park for some
outstanding views overlooking the valley. Mae Kampong, an eco village is
along this route and Flight of Gibbon can be found further up the road, for
those who wish to continue to the adventure theme of the day. Alternatively
the Mae Kampong Falls offer a refreshing stop for hikers and picnickers.
Not to be overlooked east of the Mae Ping is worth a
Bird Watching for Pleasure
Bird Watching Tales
England’s Moorland Beauty
Then, sshh-listen, it was the easterly wind carrying the
call of the Curlew, and the sound of bleating sheep over the pastoral craggy
moorland. It was only then, that we knew, we were home again. Mid England in
March was scarf wrapping and bracingly cold. Gardens and hedgerows displayed
profusions of snow-drops, so delicate and white. They waltzed in the
prevailing winds, and were nature’s way of saying that ‘spring’ was around
the corner. Indeed, Wordsworth’s immortal poetic words, -”a host of golden
daffodils”, was also apt, as these trumpeted, oh so English jewels bedazzled
the countryside. A tear-drop or two from a recent shower, balanced
delicately on their forms.
Flash, at 1518 feet above sea level, is the highest
village in England. Its bleakness and biting winds found us winter clad, as
we searched the surrounding moorlands for the elusive long curved billed
Curlews. Swathes of snow, which had deeply drifted in the severe winter,
could still be seen, but alas, in that area only the long haired and horned
highland cattle seemed ‘at home’ in such conditions. Nearby, and
considerably lower in altitude, nestled the hamlet of Meerbrook. There, the
dammed Tittesworth Reservoir welcomes anglers and birding enthusiasts to the
area. A narrow road bridge straddles the restless waters, and we were
delighted to see that a wooden hide, West Hide, stood in a wooded area,
close to the lapping water’s edge. The hide’s outlook frames revealed a
vista of bird species. Mighty Canada Geese, Great Crested Grebes, Mallards,
Coots and Tufted Ducks, probed and dived to satisfy their hunger pangs.
Close to the hide was a small raised island, Lapwings stood proudly atop
making light of the gusty, cold clime. Pair of Oystercatchers stayed on the
isle’s leeward side, and was a genuine surprise to us. In days gone-by this
location was so much enjoyed because it attracted a rich variety of bird
life. Certainly we never observed Oystercatchers here, as this 45cm long,
pied, red-billed probing master was usually seen in the estuaries of Wales
and Scotland. How times change. On land near to the hide were bird feeding
tables, complete with hanging steel mesh tubes, full of nuts, seeds and
suet. As the ground was still so hard a plethora of Finches, Tits and
Nuthatches gorged themselves until satisfied. How delightful it was to
return to the area once again.
A few kilometers south-west of Meerbrook, and sited
between Newcastle and Woore, lies the tiny village of Acton. Occasionally
the sun’s rays peeped out from the cumulus strata above, as we walked past
the riding stables and along the narrow lane. A replica cannon was seen in
someone’s garden, and a Pied Wagtail with its tail cocked, perched on the
end of the barrel. Old Oak trees, with their contorted branch forms, stood
proudly all around. Then, as we approached a wooded copse a loud mewing call
directly overhead drew our binoculars to the ready. The 51 cm long Buzzard
was returning to its nest within the copse, and its call alerted others to
the area. Soon there were four of them, flying close to us, all saying, be
on your way. We retreated and strolled along an undulating lane, with horses
in a nearby field. Colourful long tailed Pheasants could be seen eking out
an existence in the hedgerows, and not too distant, the Blackbird’s familiar
song filled the cold pastoral arena. So English. Enjoy the gifts of nature.