HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

The Doctor's Consultation

Care for Dogs

Agony Column

Camera Class by Snap shots

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

Staying happy in Paradise - the Counseling Corner

The Doctor's Consultation:  by Dr. Iain Corness

ED is more than a talking horse

It seems that a large percentage of expat males in this country live in fear of ED. Not Ed the talking horse of the 60’s black and white TV, but Erectile Dysfunction! It is seems this affliction is life threatening.

Judging by the number of signs outside small medical clinics, Erectile Dysfunction, or ED, must be very prevalent in Thailand. The sign usually indicates the treatment as well, where take your choice from Viagra, Cialis or Levitra. It’s all there on the sign. Salvation is here. Hallelujah, ED has been conquered, just like we did with smallpox all those years ago.

I used to have a very old cat. Didn’t do much, just slept under the back stairs most of the day. Got up a couple of times for a pee and something to eat and then went back to sleep again. But that cat was a hell-raiser in his heyday. No female tabby cat was safe with him around.

What has that to do with ED, I hear you ask? I would suggest - everything! You see, I believe that lots of males out there get this ED label hung around their necks, until they begin to believe it. Somehow, this fit young virile 50 year old suddenly gets this disease called ED when in his 60’s. Where did this disease come from? How did he get it? How do you get rid of it, and how do the rest of you make sure you don’t get it either?

Before we get too much further into this, I want you to think back to when you were in your late teens, early twenties. You could run 100 meters in well under 13 seconds. Now you probably can’t run that distance at all. Is this a new disease? Should we call it “Leg Dysfunction”, or LD for short?

When you were in your twenties, you had no problems reading the newspaper, but by the time you were 40, it was becoming a bit of a problem. By the time you were 60, you really had problems with distance vision as well as reading. We should probably call this “Visual Dysfunction”, but the initials VD have already been taken, so let’s call it “Seeing Dysfunction”, or SD for short.

In your twenties you probably didn’t have any problems with the erectile thingy either. You know, the dangly bits. In fact, it was probably overactive. But as you got older, the frequency and intensity began to slow up somewhat. By the time you were 60 you were told you had this terrible disease - ED. But what’s the difference between LD, SD and ED?

I would suggest to you, that there is no difference. I made up LD and SD, because neither is a true “dysfunction”, but just the natural aging that occurs. Likewise, I would suggest that ED is not a true “dysfunction” when it occurs later in life. It is just part of the natural aging process too. You haven’t got a disease. You’re just growing older, like my cat.

Now there are a few differences from Mr. Tom Cat and Mr. Tom Expat. Sex is not just procreational, it is recreational, and is something about which we have built up great mystique. We judge ourselves on our horizontal abilities, rather than our intellectual achievements. Those with younger wives feel that they are letting the side down (or something else) if they cannot rise to the occasion (sorry about that) every night, or every second night, or every “whenever” that you have decided “homework” should be done.

So what should be done about it? Well, first off, the Viagra, Cialis, etc., do work, but they open up much more than just the door to the bedroom, they open you up to physical exercise (I was going to say “viagorous” exercise, but Ms. Hillary stole that line) for which your body might not be fit enough. This is why these medications should only be taken after examination by a doctor, to ensure your general level of fitness is good enough. Homework shouldn’t become undertaker’s work!

Talk to your doctor and get a good check-up first!


Presenting Barry…

Oh yeah. This is Barry, named after the Walrus-of-Love himself, Mr. Barry White. Ok, so maybe that’s not true but Barry has just as much love to give and entertainment to provide. Could you be his “first, his last his everything and the answer to all his dreams“? You know he’s “Got So Much Love to Give“, “Can’t Get Enough of You babe” and is “Never Gonna Give You Up“. Could his “Sweetness Be Your Weakness“? Come on down to the shelter and find out!

Contact Care For Dogs: English (08 47 52 52 55) or Thai language (08 69 13 87 01) to make an appointment to meet him, e-mail: [email protected] or visit the website for further information.

Heart to Heart  with Hillary

Dear Hillary,

What with clothes being so cheap in Thailand we have friends who keep telling me they are bringing an empty suitcase so that they take all their new clothes back with them. The problem is that both of them are around a size 18, or just about twice the size of the local women. They are really going to stand out here. I have been looking around the fashion shops before they come, but the clothes establishments (even the designer shops) just don’t stock size 18, and “one size fit all” just doesn’t work in this case. Do you know of any places that sell larger sizes? If you don’t, how do I tactfully break the news to them?

Karl Lagerfeld

Dear KL,

I am honored! A famous designer writing to Hillary. And wanting my advice on fitting dresses to models. It’s just a pity the models in question are so large. The best places for bargains in clothes are still Pratunam in Bangkok, but that’s a bit too close to all the ruckus we’ve had this month. If they are coming in three months, then they can spend some time looking - but size 18 is just a little bit optimistic. However, all is not lost. Tailoring for women as well as men is very inexpensive in Thailand. They will make anything to measure in 48 hours (they’ll tell you 24, but it usually takes a couple of fittings). Tell your friends to bring over any favorite outfits and they can also copy these right down to the last stitch, and at a price very much less than the cost of the original items in their home country.

Dear Hillary,

I am a frequent visitor to Thailand I have read the books written about bar girls also read with interest your column whilst in Thailand and at home on the net, it is a great source of quality information and amusement, so I should have been prepared.

I am divorced and two years ago I met a young lady in one of the sea front bars and the usual holiday romance ensued, liking this girl too much I arranged for her to return to her family home in Chiang Mai while I returned to Liverpool and began sending her money on a monthly basis. I can see a number of you shaking your heads already.

After lots of contact via email telephone and a few further trips back to Thailand and our feelings being even stronger, we applied for a six month visa to the UK and I brought my young lady home. We returned to Thailand in the November last year and were married; now we reside in the UK but hope to live in Thailand by this time next year.

All my family and friends adore Lek and she brings to me fits of laughter on a daily basis, this Thai lady is a joy to be with full of genuine love affection and compassion.

Lek works extremely hard in and around the house and garden and always has a smile to give to everyone, the elderly people next door think she is a true treasure and are extremely fond of her, so am I one of the lucky ones or are the Thai girls too much maligned by a few bad apples amongst them?

Happy Harold

Dear HH,

Are you a lucky one? I think the old hands would say you definitely are the lucky one, Petal. However, just as there are “few bad apples” as you say, there are also a few good apples, and it would seem you have found one. But I hasten to caution that your romance is still only two years old, with much of that time being spent apart from each other. The ‘honeymoon’ period is still on. For your sake (and hers) I do hope you will be just as happy in another two years. Let me know.

Dear Hillary,

I still wonder if the letters you get are real. Surely people aren’t as stupid as they make themselves out to be? It seems as though these old people are on a course of self destruction, because they all fall for the same old traps and tricks. Are there that many lonely people out there? Are they so lonely they will take companionship from anyone, no matter how much it costs?


Dear Lyall,

“Are there that many lonely people out there?” Yes, Petal, there are. Older men do get lonely and it is very difficult for them to find intimate satisfaction in the western countries, being thought of as some sort of pervert for even thinking about female company. So you can see it is easy to understand why they come to Thailand and get caught up in the bar scene. The problems occur when they become so involved with one of the bar ladies that they confuse the fact that they are buying rent-a-friends, not a lifetime lover. Are the letters real? Are the situations real? Just re-read Harold’s letter (above yours) and you can see the genuine needs of a divorced man, which were filled by a young lady from a bar. Perhaps not the best situation, but one that is working for him

Camera Class:  by Harry Flashman

The ‘decisive moment’

Henri Cartier-Bresson, the originator of the phrase in photography, “The Decisive Moment”, died in 2004, aged 95. However, he will be remembered for his contributions to photography forever. However, despite his fame and notoriety, he was never one to look for personal publicity, and in fact hid from it.

He was born in France in 1908 and initially studied painting, following much of the Surrealist school of thought of the time. However, by the time he was 22 years old he had dropped art for photography, but began to apply the art concepts he had been exposed to towards photography.

One of the factors that allowed Cartier-Bresson to do this was the advent of the small portable cameras, such as the Leica fitted with a 50 mm lens, which was to become Cartier-Bresson’s favorite instrument. He believed that the photographer had to become part of what was going on, and after becoming ‘in tune’ with the subject, it was then possible to capture the essential moment, the very essence of the event. This was explained by Cartier-Bresson in the foreword to his book, published in 1952, Images a la Sauvette (The Decisive Moment). He called it “The simultaneous recognition, in a fraction of a second, of the significance of an event as well as the precise organization of forms which give that event its proper expression.”

With this concept and the portable lightweight camera, Cartier-Bresson became one of the principal ‘street’ photographers. A true journalist with a camera - a photo-journalist. He would record not just a parade, but also the people watching the event, and their reactions to the event.

Take a look at the classic photo to illustrate the decisive moment. The shot was taken in 1932 at the Place de l’Europe, where the marooned man has finally realized that there is no way out, and having made the decision, launches himself off the ladder. That split second, that decisive moment caught by Cartier-Bresson in such a way the viewer can feel the moment still today, 72 years later. In his words, “There was a plank fence around some repairs behind the Gare Saint-Lazare train station. I happened to be peeking through a gap in the fence with my camera at the moment the man jumped.”

He recorded the Spanish Civil War in the 1930’s and then WW II, but was finally captured and he became a POW. He escaped three years later, and was there to record the liberation of Paris from the Germans.

Of course, he was by that stage becoming an icon, and in 1947 joined forces with two other ground-breaking photojournalists, Robert Capa and David Seymour to form the Magnum agency. However, for Cartier-Bresson, news was much more than the photo-journalists were showing. It was necessary to get behind the scenes.

Cartier-Bresson and his confreres forged a name for hard hitting news photography. Cartier-Bresson spent almost 20 years there, covering Mao Zedong’s victory in China and the death in India of nationalist movement leader Mahatma Gandhi.

Regarded as one of the pioneers of photojournalism, his pictures now hang in art galleries around the world, with a retrospective in Europe to be extended to allow more visitors the chance to view his work.

Friend and fellow photographer Lord Snowdon paid tribute to him saying, “He was brilliant. I will miss him very much. I don’t think he’d like his work to be called art, he would like to be remembered as an anonymous figure. His books record moments that can’t be captured again.” Again that concept of the ‘decisive moment’.

But by 1975 he gave up photography. “All I care about these days is painting - photography has never been more than a way into painting, a sort of instant drawing.”

Ex-French President Jacques Chirac said Cartier-Bresson’s death was a major loss to his country. “France loses a genius photographer, a true master, and one of the most gifted artists of his generation and most respected in the world.”

In 2004, the world lost a photographer who had vision and the ability to record his vision in a way the world could understand. The decisive moment will always belong to Henri Cartier-Bresson.

Money Matters:  Paul Gambles MBMG International Ltd.

Politics and economics - not a good mix


I never talk about politics because I try to limit myself to rational topics of which I have some understanding. In the past I have only ever commented on politics or politicians when they have impinged on my chosen field of economics. Sadly, this seems to happen more and more frequently. I prefer the old-fashioned idea that economics was something which existed very much outside the political realm. The spectre of politicians getting involved in fiscal and monetary policy is a bizarre nightmare that haunted much of the 20th century but happily independent central banks have, in many cases, now once again attained some levels of independent power and responsibility.

In particular, I never comment on Thai politics because I really do not feel qualified to add anything to the debate, having only lived here for 16 years (even in another 50 years I doubt if I would have any real understanding), but I do recognize that Thailand might fail to capitalize on the opportunities presenting themselves to Asian investment markets if political risk continues to affect the country’s economy.

Last month, Scott Campbell, CEO MitonOptimal Guernsey, MBMG Group’s S&P award-winning affiliated portfolio manager, spoke to investors here in Bangkok about the great divergence between Western markets, which in many cases are still significantly below the levels of ten years ago, and regional stocks which have increased three-to-fourfold since the Asian crisis. Local valuations remain reasonable and a number of structural factors such as the growth in domestic consumption and markets, the rapid expansion of intra-regional trade and favourable demographics will continue to offer an advantage to the East over the West and to other developing markets rather than developed markets for perhaps the next 30 to 40 years. Asian population distribution looks similar to that of the United States in the Baby Boom era.

Scott Campbell stated, ‘’The region is exporting within itself. This has shown that Asia is much less dependent on the West which is very positive... An economy that has a higher proportion of population in younger age groups is in much better shape than economies that have an aging population. India, for example, will progress through the baby boom stage and isn’t projected to reach the top heavy state that is now starting to impact on the growth of the US today until 2050. In long term trends this theme is very supportive of emerging markets growth for another 40 years or so.’’

Scott also noted that other shifts have occurred from West to East - “In the past, a high-risk portfolio was emerging market bonds, Japanese equities and developing market property. At the same time a low-risk one contained US government bonds, German blue-chip companies and UK property. Now, the situation is completely reversed.’’

Asian commercial property is particularly attractive with low gearing ratios and, in many cases, good yield carry - unlike western commercial property markets where higher leverage and low or negative real yields make asset prices extremely vulnerable.

While Thailand’s economic fundamentals are attractive, political risk is currently a major obstacle. Scott highlighted the relative underperformance of the baht during a period which has seen a significant rebound in ASEAN currencies (other than the Vietnamese Dong!).

‘’Currency is a barometer of political risk and the Thai baht has been pretty much flat since last year [on a trade-weighted basis]… If the political risk gets sorted out, then you may see the Thai baht appreciate just to catch up with the other regional currencies which it has lagged during this time.’’

Currency change relative to US$

Data source: Bloomberg

Long term observers such as Dr. Mark Mobius have noted that Thailand started to underperform in 2004, when political tensions first began to affect the economy. If so, it may well account for much of the underperformance identified in research by John Sheehan of Global Market Asia which shows that Thailand’s economy has significantly lagged over the last few years in terms of economic growth rates, FX rates and stock market valuations relative to those ASEAN neighbours which have not only caught up with but have overtaken Thailand.

If you take the superior GDP growth rate of the Philippines and apply this higher rate to Thailand’s growth from 2005, it can be seen that by the end of 2008 Thailand’s GDP would have been somewhere between US$30 billion and $40 billion higher than it actually was. Hopefully, the political stalemate in Thailand is now much closer to a resolution and any undervaluation that this has caused in local assets and/or the currency now represents a buying opportunity.

The following chart highlights the dangers of dogmatic political extremism to an economy. It does not really make any significant difference who is in charge as long as extreme influences do not dominate the political agenda (see Graph 2).

With all three candidates in last week’s UK election fighting hard over the middle ground, that should be comforting news. However, the actual paucity of choices makes us glad we do not follow politics. Alexis De Tocqueville said that in a democracy we get the government we deserve. You might feel that this is a harsh way to look at the choices facing voters in Thailand and the UK where politics seem to have descended into Hobson’s choice! In both cases, the incumbent prime ministers may have a lot going against them but one widespread view is that maybe they have limitations as politicians just because they are decent, honest and sincere people. Maybe the depressing, universal truth is simply that good people make bad politicians and vice versa.

Having lived in Thailand for sixteen years not only means that I have not been here long enough to qualify to comment on Thai politics but also that, on the other hand, I have been away from the UK so long I am afraid I cannot tell one party from the other. Let’s just hope that not only is De Tocqueville right but also that our Karma yields good political results and I can just go back to fretting about what I do know something about - the relatively less tangled web of the investment world ... did anyone see the Goldman hearings last week?

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 Brian Baxter

The films of Robert Bresson

In recommending films available on DVD I have concentrated on ‘classics’ and some recent quality films, but have not yet mentioned – in detail- those by the French director Robert Bresson, who was, I believe, the greatest and most original talent in the history of the medium. Godard compared him with Mozart in music. Others with Dostoevsky, still others with Racine. Invoke any comparison you wish, Hals in painting, Bach rather than Mozart, Dickinson in poetry. What we are saying is that he is up there with the gods.

He made only 13 films between 1942 and 1982, some 20 hours of screen time. None is less than astounding, although inevitably some are more ‘substantial’ than others: a case of Four Nights of a Dreamer or Lancelot. Just as one might say a case of The Merry Wives of Windsor or King Lear.

Perhaps not all of his films are available at the DVD Film and Music Shop in Suthep Road, though most are. Where to start? Possibly with the earliest available, or with the highly accessible Mouchette or his most optimistic film and greatest commercial success, A Man Escaped. Certainly one should end with his last masterpiece, Money (1982), which ranks with Balthazar and Lancelot. Films which regularly feature on any ‘top ten’ lists by fellow film makers or critics.

His films are the ‘purest’ ever made and became more refined as his work progressed from the debut, Les Anges du Peche, shot during the occupation after his release from a P.O.W. camp, and the second and third films. With Diary of a Country Priest, adapted from a famous novel by Bernanos, he made a breakthrough winning the main award at the Venice Film Festival and several years later with A Man Escaped (1956), the Palme d’Or at Cannes.

From this work on he abandoned the use of professional actors and restricted music to the credits, plus music integral within the actual film. Bresson later used only the one lens (50mm) and moved to colour in 1969 with A Gentle Creature, taken from a story by Dostoevsky. After the first two films, he no longer used collaborators on the screenplay and has always had complete control over every aspect of the film, especially the editing and the complex interaction of the soundtrack and images.

Although the number of films was restricted by a refusal to compromise, he never worked outside cinema: never directing plays or opera, as a writer (except for his single book Notes of a Cinematographer), a teacher, a member of any film jury, as a producer or indeed in any capacity other than what he preferred to call a cinematographer, rather than a director. Despite this seemingly small output, a bibliography of commentaries on Bresson runs to hundreds of pages. He has influenced directors throughout the world: among them, The Dardennes Brothers, Jean Luc Godard, Jean-Marie Straub, Bill Douglas, Chantal Ackermann, Martin Scorsese, Paul Schrader, Andrei Tarkovsky, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Mitsua Yamaguchi, Michael Mann, Michael Snow, Louis Malle, Claude Miller, Mark Rappaport, Gerard Blain, Bruno Dumont, Eric Rohmer and Michael Haneke. And many others.

His 13 films comprise a monumental body of work, which enthrall on repeated viewings (I have seen some 20 or so times) and yield to the sympathetic spectator. They are rigorous, elliptical and often considered austere, if only because of an absence of any sentimentality. A characteristic of every film is the completeness which is achieved only with the last image, the last words, possibly the last note of a drum beat as in The Trial of Joan of Arc. They can be as simple as the words spoken at the end of Les Dames du Bois de Boulogne (‘Je reste’) or as complex as the Monteverdi used at the end of Mouchette with the sound of a splash in a river. Or simply the last word spoken by Lancelot or the complete absence of any sound at the climax of his most perfect film, Money. One thing is certain: anyone who enjoys films and who is prepared to enter Bresson’s world will find it a unique and powerful experience.

Let's Go To The Movies:  by Mark Gernpy

Now playing in Chiang Mai

Shrek Forever After - 3D: US, Animation/ Comedy/ Family – The further adventures of the giant green ogre, Shrek, living in the land of Far, Far Away, this time in 3D (at Airport Plaza). Still a fun movie for the family – at least I was solidly amused. The story: Now domesticated and bored, Shrek makes a pact with deal-maker Rumpelstiltskin to get the real ogre feeling once again, but is duped and sent to a twisted version of Far, Far Away. With the voices of Mike Myers, Cameron Diaz, Antonio Banderas, and Eddie Murphy. In 3D at Major Cineplex, 2D and Thai-dubbed only at Vista. Mixed or average reviews.

Sin Sisters 2 / Poo Ying Ha Bap 2: Thai, Erotic – Soft porn for Thai males. A bit of torture, a bit of bondage, and the usual violence. The first Thai film to be awarded the quite restrictive 20+ rating – only for those over 20, and ID’s are supposed to be checked. Story has something to do with five attractive girls who find themselves trapped in an unfamiliar place where a strange voice tells them that one of them must sacrifice her life in a diabolical ritual. And to survive, each of the other girls needs to describe all her sins and sexual experiences, in detail, to satisfy the devilish voice and presumably the males in the audience. The first “Sin Sisters” has been called one of the worst movies of all time. “This movie is even more sinful,” says director Sukit Narin. Major Cineplex only, with the 20+ rating.

Robin Hood: US, Action/ Drama – Robin Hood as gladiator, brought to life by director Ridley Scott, and starring Russell Crowe, all grunting and scowling. It does have impressive visuals and some great sweeping battle scenes, and strong performances, by Russell Crowe, Cate Blanchet, William Hurt, Max van Sydow, and Mark Strong among others. But it took me a long while to get interested in the main characters during the back-story, and the 1199 AD events of King Richard on his last crusade. But after the story got going, I got involved. It’s loud, noisy, and confusing in the modern way of showing battles, where clarity is sacrificed for jittery, jumpy editing, and you are left with visual impressions, not information. Mixed or average reviews.

Iron Man 2: US, Action/ Adventure/ Sci-Fi – Starring Robert Downey Jr. It isn’t quite the breath of fresh air that “Iron Man” was, but this sequel comes close, with solid performances and an action-packed plot. I was particularly impressed with the work of Mickey Rourke. If you enjoy action movies, you should like this one; it has the requisite sound, fury, and flash. Vista also has a Thai-dubbed version. Mixed or average reviews.

Sam Yan: Thai, Comedy – Usual regurgitation of Thai slapstick comedy. A dead passenger on a bus returns to haunt the driver, and two other tales. Rated 18+ in Thailand. In Thai only.

The Losers: US, Action/ Crime/ Mystery/ Thriller – An action tale of betrayal and revenge. After being betrayed and left for dead, members of an elite Special Forces black ops team root out those who targeted them for assassination. Loud, fast, and unrelentingly violent. Mixed or average reviews. At Vista only.

Furry Vengeance: US, Comedy/ Family – Live-action animals with animated mouths. Generally unfavorable reviews.

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). Critics say the two leads are as attractive as ever, but the script doesn’t know what to do with them. Generally unfavorable reviews.

A Nightmare on Elm Street: US, Fantasy/ Horror – A group of suburban teenagers share one common bond: they are all being stalked by Freddy Krueger, a horribly disfigured killer who hunts them in their dreams. As long as they stay awake, they’re okay. Critics have not been kind to this remake, saying that it lives up to its title in the worst possible way. Rated R in the US for strong bloody horror violence, disturbing images, terror, and language. 18+ in Thailand. Generally unfavorable reviews.

Ip Man 2: Hong Kong, Action/ Biography/ History – The second in a trilogy of semi-biographical martial arts films based on the life of Ip Man, a grandmaster of the martial art Wing Chun. One of his students was Bruce Lee. Thai-dubbed only, and only at Airport Plaza.

Scheduled for June 3

The Ghost Writer: France/ Germany/ UK, Drama/ Mystery/ Suspense/ Thriller – I really hate to go out on a limb and list what’s “scheduled” given how much I’ve been burned lately, but this one looks fairly well assured, and is one I am really looking forward to seeing. It’s the latest from the great director Roman Polanski, starring Ewan McGregor and Pierce Brosnan. Generally favorable reviews.

Bridge in Paradise : by Neil Robinson

The first inaugural Bridge Club of Chiang Mai’s Chiang Dao
tournament was well attended by members of the Bridge Club.

Just over an hour drive north of Chiang Mai is one of my favourite resorts, the Chiang Dao Nest. The site is beautiful, in a charming valley shaded by tall trees and with a mountain rising up so sharply that it looks almost within touching distance. The cabins are cozy (in the sense of nurturing and nest-like, rather than estate agents’ jargon for cramped). Possibly most surprising to those unfamiliar with the Nest is that you will be served gourmet Western cooking (I definitely recommend the lamb tagine I ate for dinner).

On top of all this, the outdoor restaurant is an excellent location for a few hands of bridge. To this end, the Bridge Club of Chiang Mai held their inaugural Chiang Dao tournament there earlier this month. For variety there were three quite different events spread over two days, a duplicate pairs tournament, a light hearted Chicago tournament featuring some really wild bidding and an individual event. Particular credit goes to Chris Hedges for organizing the trip, John Bucher for all his work on movement cards and scoring, and Penny Ellis for handling the finances. Based on the reaction of participants, we are already planning the next such trip.

Kob Cavin and Martin Bagnall won the pairs, closely followed by Marjolaine Dionne and Pascal Tanquay. The individual was won by Neil Robinson, just tipping Kob Cavin on the last board. Tim Dickey was third and Chris Hedges came in fourth. The hottest competition however was for the booby prize in the individual. The result was a draw between Ruth Willmon and Pascal Tanquay—quite a contrast for Pascal between the two days, after nearly winning the pairs. Congratulations to all.

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

Playing in pairs during competition at the Chiang Dao Nest.

MAIL OPINION : By Shana Kongmun

The resiliency of Thailand

I have spent many years living in Thailand and have found things to love, things that frustrate and some things I just cannot stand (sataw!) but I have to say that one of the things that I truly love about Thailand and the Thai people is their tremendous resiliency in the face of adversity.

Like most of us in this internet connected world of Facebook, Youtube and social networking I have seen all the videos of the fires and the devastation in Bangkok. And like everyone else, I also saw the heartwarming video of Bangkokians joining together; men, women, young and old alike, from all classes of society, to clean their city up. It seemed like half the city came out to clean and, I think, gave everyone a renewed sense of community and commitment to their city.

Chiang Mai is well known for the pride and love its residents hold for it. It is a lovely city, from the temples and walls around the moat to the friendly people with a ready smile. The pride in the ancient Lanna culture and the cherished belief that Chiang Mai is one of the cradles of what most consider Thai culture binds the residents of Chiang Mai together.

It is this pride and love of their city that needs to be utilized to once again restore Chiang Mai to the jewel of the crown in Thailand. A sense of responsibility and community, of everyone working together to bring the shine back to Chiang Mai will propel the city forward. Any suggestions or ideas from our readers as to what we can do as a community and what our government can do to help Chiang Mai forward would be most welcome. Please send them to [email protected]

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

Ton Pradu

When guidebooks write about the famous Thai teak houses, they usually skip the fact that a classical teak house is in fact built with many different woods. The indigenous teak, mai sak or Tectona grandis of the verbena family, is usually the bulk wood, and beautiful for interior design, but it is not a hardwood. At the Yuwa wood carving centre in San Patong the wood carvers use teak because it is soft and easy to carve, and the amber colour is beautiful. For strength, like the pillars of the teak house, the carpenters would use mai dhaeng, i.e. the local redwood Xylia xylocarpa, which is a legume. Since it grows more slowly than teak, it is less interesting for landowners to plant, and so makes this wood very expensive. Imported mai dhaeng, although legal, still implies the buyer contributes to deforestation in Laos or Burma, where the governments do not care about future generations. If you still want a decorative teak house for your garden, I simply propose you buy an old house! Anyhow, the details of the teak house demanding exceptional strength are made of mai pradu. The tricky part is that there are two such trees, ton pradu pa (Pterocarpus macrocarpus) and ton pradu ban (P. indicus). Ton pradu pa is a super-strong native legume, while ton pradu ban is introduced from Malaysia, often used as a shade tree in Chiang Mai because it grows quickly. The quick growth results in low quality timber. The trees look very similar, but young shoots of ton pradu pa have brown hairs, while ton pradu ban has smooth shoots. My experience is also that a young (2-4 years) ton pradu pa has a brown, rough bark, while a young ton pradu ban has a smooth, grey bark. Dalbergia or Chinese Rosewood, resembles ton pradu, but lacks the red bark-sap which is characteristic of ton pradu. Ton pradu’s golden and wrinkled pea-flowers are in blossom in April-May. Unfortunately, the blossom of an individual tree lasts for only 2-3 days.

Life in Chiang Mai: By Mark Whitman

Does the truth really hurt?

It is a truism that Thais do not welcome confrontation. In fact they actively avoid it. In normal conversation and social intercourse they are polite, deferential to elders and outsiders, especially farangs. It simply not done to embarrass or upset another person, causing them to lose face (‘sia na’).

One does not criticise except possibly privately and then only in a constructive manner, in order to show a positive approach to a problem or mistake. People like to come to a conclusion themselves rather than be told that they are doing something wrong. This takes a little time- it is something alien to many westerners, especially some Americans and one can see evidence of what is considered rudeness or impatience in many daily instances.

How different to the two extremes presented by ‘Americans’ and the ‘English’, who do not adopt this middle way. At the risk of another generalisation it was once said that Americans tell the truth to be kind, whereas the English (rather than the British) tell lies for the same reason. Not having been to the U.S.A, for many years, by choice, I can’t really say how true that is today but I doubt very much whether that has changed in the big cities, especially New York – surely the most confrontational of all cities. Their directness seems to be cherished and not considered rude or offensive as it would be over here.

Although things are changing in England, there is still a marked reticence about being ‘blunt’. It is largely a class thing, like so much else in the most class obsessed country in the world. Remember this is a country where people accept being pigeon holed, accepting a classification within one of the classes and the various sub groups. The only one not owned up to is ‘lower middle class’, as George Mikes noted, since this is socially unacceptable and is a class in which people are placed but never found.

Among the range of middle classes- the reluctant lower, the aspiring, the middle middle, the upper middle and those who prefer to be called ‘professional middle’ euphemisms are a way of life. Now we must never confuse euphemisms with political correctness, the language of bureaucrats and local authorities, who are so afraid of offending people that they risk farce in their rulings.

No, euphemisms are definable as figures of rhetoric used to say or convey something unpleasant or possibly offensive in a milder or less direct way. In short, less confrontationally. Do Thais use euphemisms as a way of being less direct? Certainly they usually avoid hurting peoples’ feelings, so they may have ways of saying something in a more oblique manner.

In their case I think it is done for purer motives. Where the American will be blunt, the English will be – to be blunt – more hypocritical. This is especially true of the middle classes and it was George Orwell who wrote that hypocrisy was a dominant aspect of that country. (He by the way coined the term the sinking middle class in, I believe, The Road to Wigan Pier; “We of the sinking middle classes may sink without further struggle into the working class where we belong and probably when we get there it will not be so dreadful as we feared, for, after all, we have nothing to lose but our aitches”).

So are Americans to be envied for that directness, that lack of subtle innuendo, which betokens a language much less rich than the one they inherited? For calling, to use a politically incorrect and now taboo phrase ‘a spade a spade’. Or should we envy the Brits who can avoid saying something in a hundred different ways, whilst thinking the truth? Or, perhaps, the Thais who avoid unpleasant truths in order to spare the feelings of others?

Of course, as the cliché goes, the truth will out. And we can skirt round the issue and call some one overweight when we know we mean obese. We can say that they drink a little too much when we think they are alcoholic. Say they are careful with money when we loathe them for being mean. Or say they mean well, knowing he or she is an interfering busy body. Sooner or later the ‘truth’ catches up with them. So perhaps to coin another cliché honesty is the best policy.

Day Tripper: By Heather Allen

Wiang Kum Kan, ancient city of Chiang Mai

When I was a child I always wanted to be an archaeologist. I was probably the only 7 year old that could not only spell the word but knew what it entailed. And while I ended up following a different dream, ancient cities still enthrall me. For those of a like minded nature, Wiang Kum Kam is a fascinating day trip just outside of Chiang Mai city.

The first capital of the Lanna Kingdom, often called the Lost Kingdom of Chiang Mai, it is believed to be the earliest historical settlement in Chiang Mai. Settled by the Mon people of the Haripunchai Kingdom, archaeology shows that it dates back as far as the 8th century as one of the oldest continually settled areas in Chiang Mai.

Its status as capital of the Lanna Kingdom was rather short as its low lying terrain left it prone to flooding so King Mengrai cast about for a better location with the current Chiang Ma city being the result. The city remained an important satellite town for the King but flooding hit the town so hard, it was buried, believed to be about 700 years ago.

The rediscovery came about in 1974 when the Fine Arts first started the dig. The area now encompasses 9 rai and includes structures of old temples and stupas.

Located 5km south of Chiang Mai, Wiang Kum Kam ( and various spellings) can be accessed by Route 106 (the Chiang Mai - Lamphun road) near the Ping River. (photo courtesy of Heinrech Damm)

Staying happy in Paradise - the Counseling Corner

by Richard L. Fellner


Armed conflicts are hard to process. Subconsciously they remind us of our own mortality and trigger a strong impulse to sympathize with either the aggressor’s or the victim’s side. After that, the position taken will rarely be corrected. A headwind will often amplify this, sometimes by suppressing or distorting new perceptions and information.

This momentum explains why so many individuals as well as international media and organizations had such obvious difficulties to name the violent aspects of the political protests that took place. An openly signaled sympathy for the proponents of democratic values by individual reporters would be justifiable - but having to read and hear terms like ‘defense’ or ‘justifiable anger’ even after arson and attacks against civilians took place, many of us were stunned by the noticeable partisanship and rationalization of the damage caused.

A dynamic we saw in the camp of UDD was just as disturbing. Many people inside the camp as well as many supporters outside were so emotionalized by the passionate speeches (which constantly alleged the government of having an intent to kill them), that when their leaders finally called to immediately stop the radicalization at the time of their arrest, it did not help anymore because the train was already at full speed. Not least because revolutionary movements often attract elements who join them not from political belief but rather for the pleasure of destruction and violence - a drive just waiting for the appropriate opportunity to unleash.

Live the happy life you planned! Richard L. Fellner is heading Counseling Center Pattaya in Soi Kopai and offers consultations in English and German languages (after making appointments at 0854 370 470).