Columns
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

Viagorous exercise?

The headline this week should be enough to get the interest of some of the older chaps out there. Correct? Unfortunately I can take no credit for the catchy wording, this was something I stole from our Miss Hillary, and how she knows about this, I dare not ask.

Now ‘exercise’ is something that is talked about, but most people equate this with gymnasiums. Some of my friends attend these sweat palaces on a regular basis, and if nothing else, they are getting some regular exercise at the same time. I too have tried them, but I am afraid that pedaling a stationary bicycle to nowhere does not hold my attention for long.

Unfortunately the commonest advice a doctor gives out at the end of the year is to lose weight and get some exercise. Was that part of the advice after your annual physical check-up? Very likely.

However, there seems to be very little real understanding of what exercise should consist of, how often, what type, how long and what about sex? However, getting a little serious, exercise will be good for you, provided that you pick a form of exercise that is not harmful for you!

Now I know that looks as if I have put my money on both horses in the race, but take that sentence at its face value. Enough research has been done to show that regular exercise is beneficial for everybody, in both the physical and psychological aspects, but, and it is a big ‘but’, all forms of exercise have relative bodily risks, and this has to be taken into account before you buy a pair of expensive jogging shoes and tackle a 10 km trot in the middle of the day. True stories - a medical colleague in Australia took up playing squash when he turned 50 and dropped dead on the court of a heart attack, and another acquaintance of mine turned 40, decided he wasn’t fit, bought a bicycle to ride to work each day and was run over by a bus.

I read an article that advised non-slippery shoes for the novice exerciser and suggested you choose appropriate exercise according to your ability. Never exceed your limit. Remember that it is not the harder the better. If you have acute medical problems (such as fever, or pain), stop exercising. If you have chronic medical conditions (such as hypertension, diabetes, ischemic heart disease and arthritis), seek advice from your doctor or physiotherapist beforehand. All of these I agree with. If you are happy to take your body to your medical advisor when it is sick, take it back to your doctor for advice on how to tone it up as well.

The form of exercise should be one that you enjoy, and it may be gymnasium work, or jogging, or walking, or swimming or something else reasonably vigorous. It should be such that you raise a sweat, but not to the point of dehydration! Do not wait until you are thirsty. Take appropriate breaks. Do not over-exert yourself. Forget about “powering through the pain barrier”. Leave that for drug-fuelled cyclists in France.

As well as the form of exercise, there is the frequency. At least three times per week, 20-30 minutes (or more) is necessary each time, to derive the maximum benefit. But always remember, if there is dizziness, fainting, shortness of breath, chest pain, vomiting, nausea or severe pain during exercise, stop exercising immediately and seek medical advice as soon as possible.

Now I did mention horizontal folk dancing and some of you have been impatiently reading, while nervously fiddling with your expensive packet of Viagras, Kanagras, Cialis and other lead-in-your-pencil medications (I draw the line at tiger willy). OK, what about sex? The advisability of this form of exercise when you have some chronic complaint (such as hypertension, diabetes, ischemic heart disease, etc.), should be part of the advice you get from your doctor beforehand. The danger of over the counter willy stiffeners is that you don’t get advice with them.

A fitter body means better sex. OK?

 

Here’s Brenda

Yes, I’m shy but look what a character I am! Give me a chance and I’ll show you how loyal, loving and fun I can be! I am 2-3 years old and so ready to find a loving forever home. You couldn’t ask for a more gentle, healthy little dog (actually mid-sized). I would be no trouble I promise, as long as you have time to feed, walk and love me. I am currently in a loving foster home but since they are leaving Chiang Mai and I urgently need to find a forever home. I would prefer a lady owner as I am nervous of men. Come on down and meet me – don’t be shy!

Do you think Brenda 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 www.carefordogs.org.


Heart to Heart  with Hillary

Dear Hillary,

As my computer was down, I used my husband’s lap top which he had left at home between trips. I clicked on his ‘favorites’ and was taken aback by the number of porn sites he has been visiting. Is this something I should worry about? Or has he tired of me (we have been married for 14 years)? He has been lusting after all these women dressed in lingerie and stockings, and I don’t even possess a pair of stockings in retaliation. My girlfriends said to just ignore it, all males like to fantasize and I should do nothing. I don’t know if they mean that, or have they got designs on my husband? This does upset me. What do you think I should do? I am worrying myself sick over it.

Marje

Dear Marje,

The first piece of advice I have for you is to stop snooping in your husband’s lap top. You may be married, but everyone, including spouses, is entitled to some privacy. The second piece of advice I am giving you is to stop discussing your private lives with your girlfriends. After all, how do you know that some of them haven’t got the lingerie and stockings already.

The reason there is so much porn available, and thousands of sites, is because your husband, and people like him, need some kind of outlet, or respite from the stresses of today’s living. For most men, it is just a fantasy, as your girlfriends said, but having said all that, if he is spending much of his salary on these sites, which can happen, let me tell you, Petal, then this viewing of porn has become an addiction, which may require some sexual counseling. Check the credit card entries, this may give you some idea of the perceived problem or otherwise, but be aware any entries from these sites will not state “Porno Pix Pty”.

Dear Hillary,

I am a middle aged woman from the UK and I have a Thai boyfriend who is a few years younger than me. OK, quite a few years younger than me, but we enjoy each other’s company and seem well suited to each other in personality. I’m not the one for wild drinking parties or drugs, and neither is he. He satisfies me in other ways too, I am sure you know what I mean. I enjoy him. However, when we go anywhere, like to a restaurant, I have to put up with people whispering behind my back, as if I have committed a crime or something, when these self same people are there with their very much younger Thai girlfriends. What’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander they say. Why do people carry on like this, Hillary? Do you know?

Jenny

Dear Jenny,

Anyone who dares to do something out of the ordinary gets disparaging comments from others. The same chaps who take their Thai girlfriends to the UK get the same treatment as you are getting now. “Trophy wives” is the label they get, so yours is a “trophy husband”. In most cases it is simply just jealousy, so ignore them and continue to enjoy your life and your boyfriend, my Petal. When you’re finished with him, you can always send him on over to me!

Dear Hillary,

I was in Bangkok last week, staying at one of the better hotels (I won’t say which one), and went to the hotel’s own disco. Long story short, I ended up having a few drinks with a young lady and invited her to stay the night with me, but as we came up from the disco we were set upon by the night staff who demanded I pay 1,000 baht for her to stay with me and also she had to leave her ID card with them. I have always believed that when you order a double-bed room, the second person was covered in the price. Is this not the current way in Thailand? I also believe it is not a good idea to leave your personal details with anyone, such as the Thai ID card, such as was demanded of my girlfriend. Is this normal, or was I just being ripped off? I did pay and she did leave her ID.

James

Dear James,

You were being charged a “joiner” fee, which is pretty standard in most up-market hotels. When you take someone in for the night, more hotel facilities are used (towels, soaps, etc.), so I suppose they can justify the fee. I have no idea whether that is the standard fee, but in general, the more expensive the room, the higher the fee. As far as the ID card is concerned, my Petal, be thankful that the hotel does this. What would you have done if your disco companion which you say was your “girlfriend”, whom you had known for a whole two hours, decamped in the middle of the night with all your valuables. And all you know is that her name was Lek. At least with the ID recorded the police do have a chance of finding your Lek from the 10,000 other Leks in Bangkok, remembering that Lek is just her nickname, not her name of the ID. This system is a safeguard for you, Petal.


Camera Class:  by Harry Flashman

The Twelve Commandments

I realize that the historic Ten Commandments have been popularized in some religions, but that does not stop me from proposing my 12 Commandments, as these are not rules for living, but merely rules to get better pictures.

While there are plenty of photography books for sale in the bookstores, most of those are of the genre, How To Photograph Mountain Lions or similar. (The answer is with a very long lens, don’t bother buying the book.)

So here are my 12 commandments, which if you follow them through, I will guarantee you will get better photographs. And get more fun out of your photography.

The first is simply to take photographs every day. Photography, like any sport, recreation or pursuit is something where the more you do it and practice it, the better you get. With memory cards and the like, it is no more expensive to shoot four as it does to shoot one!

The one major fault in most amateur photographs is taking the shot from too far away. From now on, make the subject the “hero” and walk in several meters closer to make the subject fill the frame.

Focusing! With modern auto-focus cameras the most obvious focusing problem is where the subject is off-center. The magic eye doesn’t know this and focuses on the central background, leaving your close-up subject soft and blurry. Focus on the subject and use the focus lock facility of your camera.

Tripods I mentioned frequently, but one of these will expand your picture taking no end. Camera shake becomes a thing of the past, and you will take more time to compose your shots.

Always carry a spare memory card. There is nothing worse than trying to delete on the run following the shot of a lifetime.

Keep your interest and pride in your work by making enlargements of your better photos. At around 80 baht for most places, this is very cheap and enlargements do make good presents at Xmas time too.

We all get lazy and it is too easy to end up just taking every picture in the horizontal (landscape) format. Make it a habit to always take at least two shots of each subject - one in the horizontal format and the other in the vertical. You can get some surprising results that way. Don’t be lazy - do it!

With color photography, which covers about 99.99 percent of most people’s pictures these days, the one major factor to give your skies and seas and scenery some color oomph is the use of a polarizing filter. Get one and use it every time the sun shines.

You will always miss some “classic” shots and regret it later, but you certainly will never get them if you don’t have a camera with you. With so many incredible photo opportunities in Thailand, you should be ready at all times!

To give your daytime shots some extra sparkle, use “fill-in” flash. Most new cameras have a little setting that will do this automatically for you - even with point and shooters. If you haven’t, then spend some time learning how to do it. It’s worth it when you see the results you get.

To give yourself the impetus to go out and take photos, develop a project and spend your leisure time building up the images. It can be flowers or fashion, cars or canaries, but fix on something and follow it through. It’s worth it, just for the fact that it makes you become an “enquiring” photographer.

Finally, at the end of every year, give the camera a birthday by buying it some new batteries. You won’t have a problem damaging the sensitive innards with neglected battery acid and the camera’s light metering system will work correctly every time. It’s cheap insurance.

Here is the list.
1. Take more shots
2. Walk several meters closer
3. Use the focus lock
4. Buy a tripod
5. Carry a spare memory card
6. Make enlargements of your better prints
7. Use different formats
8. Use a polarizing filter
9. Carry your camera with you
10. Use the flash during the day
11. Develop a project
12. Change the batteries


Money Matters:  Paul Gambles MBMG International Ltd.

Out with the Old and In with the New

MBMG Group were fortunate that, despite the recent troubles in Thailand, its affiliated portfolio manager, and managing director of award-winning MitonOptimal Guernsey, Scott Campbell, continued with his trip to Bangkok and presented his views to more than 150 attendees at a series of briefings across the city and in Pattaya.

Thailand’s volatile political environment combined with the incredible pressure that was building in the debt-ravaged Greek economy, prior to the riots and multi-billion dollar international bailout package, created an anxious backdrop that highlighted the palpable fears of local investors and raised the questions:

* Is the Western world going to be dragged down into renewed recession by the contagion of the sovereign debt crisis that looks set to consume Europe?

* What does that mean living here? Will the momentum of the Asian recovery be sufficient to outstrip the potential second fall of the West and how will domestic political risk affect the Thai economy?

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the three-time S&P-award-winning Campbell says that even though foreign investors remain bullish on the growth of emerging markets, Thailand might fail to capitalize on its strengths to become one of the best investment markets in Asia if politics continues to weigh on the economy.

The currency markets provide an indication that country risk has already affected Thailand’s performance and recovery over the past year or so. Despite complaints from local business chiefs and exporters, any suggestion that the central bank has been intervening in the money market to bolster the baht seems very unlikely given the very visible build-up of dollar reserves that have been generated by ‘selling’ baht. In reality, Thailand’s seemingly “strong” baht has actually underperformed the region’s other currencies by about ten percent.

“That is almost entirely down to the local political situation. 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,’’ according to Campbell, adding that the fundamentals for the whole Asian region are still very positive.

Campbell added, ‘’Asia, along with other emerging markets, will continue to be the best place for investment for the next 30 to 40 years. Over the past 10 years, western stock markets have done nothing while Asian stock markets have grown three-to-fourfold.’’

Thailand is certainly part of that developmental shift, but political uncertainty has dampened economic growth since problems arose in 2004, a point reinforced by observers such as Templeton’s Mark Mobius and John Sheehan of Global Markets Asia. The turbulence has not only slowed Thailand, it has enabled some other countries in the region to overtake South-east Asia’s second-largest economy in terms of growth. This can be seen by comparing the kingdom’s economic growth, foreign-exchange rates and stock market valuations with those of comparable economies in the region.

‘’If you take the superior GDP (Gross Domestic Product) growth rate of a jurisdiction like 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 be somewhere between US$30 billion and $40 billion higher than now,’’ says Sheehan.

Problems in Europe loom large on the economic radar, however. Even though Greece received the largest ever financial bailout package offered to a single country, it failed to yield the desired bounce in the markets. Despite the huge problems that Greece faces, its public debt, which is equivalent to about 125% of GDP, is a small proportion of the EU’s overall deficit and the fears that the contagion will spread to Portugal, Spain, Ireland and even the UK, are very real.

“Some people are predicting that in the long-term we won’t remember the problems of the last few years as a financial crisis, because that will be subsumed by the emerging sovereign debt crisis in Europe,” says Campbell.

He believes there is at least a 30% chance of the established Western economies being dragged back into recession by the problems in Europe and possibilities of a hollow recovery. Whether this will happen or not should become clear in the figures of major economies, such as the US, when they are published in the early second half of the year, with job creation and growth key indicators to follow.

Regardless of the situation in Europe, the clear fact is that Asian economies and other emerging markets will dominate the global markets for many years to come, a time when the former world powerhouses will continue their decline. Campbell says this is down to simple fundamentals and economic cycles. The Kondratieff Seasons (see graphic), a long-term economic model that essentially explains boom and bust, give a clear outlook on investment opportunities and asset and equity allocations. This combined with a look at population growth, development and demographics paints a positive picture for Asia.

‘’The region is exporting within itself. This has shown that Asia is much less dependent on the west than it was which is very positive. Asian demographics also are positive with the population distribution being similar to that of the United States Baby Boom era. An economy that has a bigger chunk of people at the bottom [age group] is in a much better shape than the economy that has bigger chunk of people at the top. India, for example, will progress through the baby boom stage and isn’t projected to reach the top heavy state that is starting to impact on the growth of the US today until 2050. In long term trends this is a theme very supportive of emerging markets growth for another 40 years or so.’’

“Of course, there will be business cycles, stock market crashes and credit crunches, but for the next 40 years or so, until the major Asian economies get top-heavy, the region will be the driver of global growth,” he adds.

This changing global dynamic is seeing other economic phenomena migrate from the West to the 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 but now, the situation is completely reversed.’’

Asian commercial property is particularly attractive in many cases with low gearing ratios and good yield carry. And while Asian growth may lead to higher interest rates, the strong carry differential will be partially protected by economic growth leading to higher rents and occupancy rates.

Campbell remains bullish on gold as one of the allocated asset classes and based on a number of technical and fundamental factors expects gold prices to ultimately rise to between USD2,000 and USD2,500 an ounce. Gold has been one of the asset classes that have helped Campbell to achieve exceptional outperformance over the last ten years; a period in which the Dow Jones Industrial average has fallen by around 30% and the gold price has increased almost fivefold from its lowest point to current levels of around USD1,200 an ounce.

From a personal investment point of view, expatriates living in Thailand need to have a balanced global portfolio, diversified across cash, gold, hedge funds and property. But they should also try to keep their regular costs and expenses covered off in Thai baht to reduce currency risk.

If you live in an emerging market and you have liabilities, costs and debts, you need to match those off in the local currency. If your expenses are in Thai Baht, they should be covered off in Thai Baht. The reason why people traditionally did it the other way round is because it made sense when the emerging markets were in a disinflationary cycle while the west was bullish - but now it is the other way round.

People who have investments and savings in western currencies would do well to hedge those risks by looking at strong Asian currencies such as the Singapore Dollar. Campbell actually manages one of the only global funds to hedge in Thai Baht and Singapore Dollars.

Despite the current global and local uncertainties, Asia and Thailand remain strong investment markets, says Campbell, “If you’re living in this part of the world it is a very positive thing. It is where all the growth and the change is going to be.”

What is the best way to avoid any pitfalls? Follow the Scott Campbell credo of multi-manager, multi-asset alpha allocation in the currency that best suits your individual needs.

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

Elephant and 71 Fragments

These two compelling movies make a fascinating ‘pair’ since they share common themes and yet approach their subjects (each is inspired by ‘random’ killings) in very different styles. They are the works of two of the finest directors working today. Each film can be viewed as a thriller, in the strict sense that one is witnessing a suspense movie and we are drawn into a world that is being completed before our eyes like a jigsaw. The last piece completes the picture.

Gus Van Sant’s movie won both the Palme d’Or and Best Director prize at Cannes and its superb cinematography also received accolades and awards. It is exceptionally elegant, uses time lapse photography, steadicam (hypnotically), long takes and a complex soundtrack.

Michael Haneke’s work is the more cerebral, with forceful images and far less movement. Its strength is in its editing and the sound track and I have no doubt that he is the most accomplished ‘craftsman’ working in world cinema today.

Like most of Van Sant’s work, Elephant was filmed in Portland, Oregon and its main concern is with teenagers (see also his Paranoid Park). The setting is a lavishly equipped high school, with youngsters who seemingly have ‘everything’. Many are good looking, well dressed, come from affluent families, enjoy relationships and can look forward to college and ‘freedom’.

But Van Sant’s prowling camera sweeps through the glossy building and exteriors, picking up random conversations, casual incidents, flirtations, arguments, the casual detritus of every day life - often from a variety of perspectives as the picture is gradually completed. This is a typical school day. Except that, as the film’s tag line states, it is not. Van Sant’s film is about loneliness, frustration, despair and a lack of communication. It is not about violence and like his fellow director he makes no judgment, except upon a society which allows and encourages the depiction of unthinking violence to go unchecked.

Haneke’s superior work creates its mosaic from numerous fragments and is also based on true incidents which he uses as the background to a portrait of a western society (in this case Austria) which is also willing to accept a sanitized view of violence. His film is more rigorous, more demanding and even more riveting to watch. As one commentator remarked, Bresson meets Hitchcock.

Both of these films are available from the DVD Film and Music shop at 289 Suthep Road (053 808 084) as are many other films by these two ‘magicians’ of the cinema. Haneke’s work is especially worth looking at beginning with the early films made in Austria and moving into his big international successes. Only the remake of Party Games should be avoided.


Let's Go To The Movies:  by Mark Gernpy

Now playing in Chiang Mai

The A-Team: US, Action/ Adventure/ Thriller – A big-screen version of the TV series, and which captures the superficial and noisy spirit of the original. A group of Iraq War veterans looks to clear their name with the US military, who suspect the four men of committing a crime – they were actually framed. Going “rogue,” the colorful team utilizes their unique talents to try and clear their names and find the true culprits. Starring Liam Neeson and Jessica Biel. Mixed or average reviews.

StreetDance 3D: (in Cinema 5, the relocated and larger 3D cinema) UK, Dance/ Drama – In order to win England’s Street Dance Championships, a dance crew is forced to work with ballet dancers from the Royal Dance School in exchange for rehearsal space. Directed by Max Giwa and Dania Pasquini; starring the always terrific Charlotte Rampling, Nichola Burley, Roy Winsor, and Rachel McDowall, and groups from Britain’s Got Talent. Generally favorable reviews. At Airport Plaza only.

Nang Takien / Takien: The Haunted Tree: Thai, Drama/ Horror – The latest ghost story to hit the big screen in Thailand, about the spirit of a suicidal garment-factory worker inhabiting the tree where she hanged herself when she couldn’t find her boyfriend. There’s probably a moral in there somewhere. Rated 18+ in Thailand.

Prince of Persia: US, Action/ Adventure/ Fantasy/ Romance – Some of the rather unique moves that you make in the video game this film is based on, such as running along walls at an angle to the ground, are duplicated here, much to my delight, as I enjoy the game. And there’s some sense of the game’s action and visuals. But I can’t believe how terrible the movie really is. It’s ruined for me by the editing of the action sequences, of which there are a lot. They’re all rapid-fire, and devoid of any narrative structure, giving only impressions of battle, with no idea of who is doing what to whom. It’s as though a fairly good film was re-edited by some people high on drugs, and the result can only be appreciated by those on the same drug. It would have to be a fast and jumpy drug, like methamphetamines or cocaine. Perhaps some of my readers would be willing to test this theory for me.

The film stars Jake Gyllenhaal, a quite luscious and appealing Gemma Arterton, an enjoyable villain in Ben Kingsley, and a lot of fun in the comedy of Alfred Molina. It’s an old-style Arabian Nights story, set in medieval Persia when a nefarious nobleman (Kingsley) covets the Sands of Time, a legendary dagger that allows its possessor to turn back time. Also in a Thai-dubbed version at both venues. Mixed or average reviews.

Sex and the City 2: US, Comedy/ Drama/ Romance – Following through on the hugely successful TV series and first movie, the girls this time take off to the United Arab Emirates – except they used Morocco instead. Critics have generally given it scathingly unfavorable reviews, some of the most hostile and outraged in recent memory. Rated R in the US for some strong sexual content and language; 15+ in Thailand. Airport Plaza only.

Poh Tak: Thai, Comedy – Directed by popular comedian-turned-director, Mum Jokmok, this is a comedy parody that explores lives in front of and behind the cameras of the Thai film industry. Features many of the regulars on Mum’s popular TV show. Top Thai film for past two weeks.

Scheduled for June 24

Knight and Day: US, Action/ Comedy/ Thriller – The film where Tom Cruise gets to show his chops again, after some absence. And early reports say this is a superior film in every way, with the old Cruise magic in place. And the magic of Cameron Diaz. Studio synopsis: “An action-comedy centered on a fugitive couple (Cruise and Diaz) on a glamorous and sometimes deadly adventure where nothing and no one - even themselves - are what they seem.” Directed by James Mangold, starring Tom Cruise, Cameron Diaz, Peter Sarsgaard, and the great Viola Davis who just last week won Broadway’s Tony Award for best actress in a play (Fences, co-starring Denzel Washington), the second time she has won that award.

The Karate Kid / The Kung Fu Kid: US/ China, Action/ Drama/ Family/ Sport – Stars a talentless kid who is only in films because his father is so powerful in the business, and is producing it. The kid is a spoiled brat, in my opinion, and if I could get away with it, I wouldn’t even acknowledge the film’s existence. Also stars Jackie Chan, and it was filmed in Beijing emphasizing tourism sites. Internationally the film tends to be referred to as The Kung Fu Kid despite its origins as a remake, because in fact what the kid does now is Kung Fu. Generally favorable reviews, which I can’t believe.


Bridge in Paradise : by Neil Robinson

This is another hand to plan the play on. You are sitting South. Your partner deals and opens one club. East passes and you bid one spade. West bids two hearts. North encourages with three spades and you end up as declarer in four spades. West takes three rounds of high hearts. East follows to the first two rounds and discards a low diamond on the third round. On the fourth round, West leads the nine of spades. After the three rounds of hearts, the North and South hands are as below. You need the rest of the tricks. Before looking at the full deal, what is your plan for making the contract? 

                       S: KQ104

                       H: -

                       D: -

                       C: AK10542    

S: ?                                            S: ?

H: J10                                       H: -

D: ?                                            D: ?

C: ?                                            C: ?

                       S: AJ72

                       H: -

                       D: KQ543

                       C: 6                     

I watched this being played. Without much pause for thought, declarer at table 1 took the next trick in hand with the jack. Then he ruffed a low diamond on board and cashed the ace and king of clubs, with both East and West following. Now he led a low club to get back to hand. He ruffed with the seven and East over ruffed. Contract down.

At table 2, the play followed the same line through the fourth trick. At trick five, declarer led the king of diamonds and let it ride without trumping when West did not cover with the ace. However, it was East who had the ace and won the trick. Contract down. Both declarers complained of their bad luck, but they were wrong—it was bad planning

At the third table, declarer paused to count tricks. He saw that, if he tried to set up his own hand, he would probably take only nine tricks. He could take the ace and king of clubs, three diamond ruffs on board, and four trump tricks in hand, if all went well. That is still one trick short of the ten he needed. Then, he saw a plan which had a good probability of making the contract. This was to use his own trumps to ruff clubs and try to set up dummy. He won the fourth trick in hand with the jack of spades and led a club to the ace. Now he led a low club back to ruff in hand with the seven. West followed, to declarer’s relief. Then he led a low trump to board’s queen. Both East and West followed and declarer knew he had made the contract. He ruffed another low club in hand, with the ace of trumps this time, to make sure there was no over ruff. Now he ruffed a diamond on board to get back there, and pulled the last trump with dummy’s king. The king of clubs pulled East’s last club and dummy’s two remaining low clubs then took the last two tricks. Contract made. This was the full hand, with North dealer and EW vulnerable. Would your plan have made the contract? 

                        S: KQ104

                        H: 983

                        D: -

                        C: AK10542              

S: 986                                   S: 53

H: AKQJ10                          H: 76

D: 1086                                D: AJ972

C: 73                                     C: QJ98

                        S: AJ72

                        H: 542

                        D: KQ543

                        C: 6                 

What the successful declarer did is a dummy reverse, setting up dummy, not hand. What is surprising is that dummy reverse plays can be difficult to see. If you were sitting North and playing this contract the correct play would be obvious. But, sitting South, players tend to focus on trying to deal with the losers in their own hand. Time and time again I have seen players (including myself) fail in contracts by becoming fixated on their own hand, when dummy should be the master. Particularly when dummy is strong, or has good trumps, it is well worth thinking about a dummy reverse.

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


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

Spanish Moss

Three typical gardeners, the author, Eric Danell, his wife Ketsanee Seehamongkol and Mika. The author wears a beard of Tillandsia usneoides taken from his garden.

Quite often when you visit an orchid nursery, you see a greyish mass of entangled beard-like branches hanging here and there. It looks like lichen, and some people would call such lichens”moss”. In fact, this is a flowering plant, of the same family as pineapple (Bromeliaceae). This is not evident until you look for the tiny green flowers, which are not always present. Its scientific name, Tillandsia usneoides, implies that it looks like an Usnea, which is a genus of sometimes garland-like lichens found in temperate, preferably oceanic, climate. The Spanish moss is native to the Gulf of Mexico, where it frequently covers whole trees, and it is a characteristic sight of the coastal areas of Louisiana and Mississippi. Like with Usnealichens, it spreads easily by fragmentation, i.e. the wind breaks off a section that blows away and gets entangled in a new tree. Birds are also fond of this plant, gathering it as nesting material, thereby also spreading it. Such plants which grow on trees, without extracting nutrients from the tree, are called epiphytic.

The reason why orchid growers keep it here in Chiang Mai is to keep it as an indicator of moisture. It quickly signals if the moisture is too low, by turning yellowish and dry. If it looks happy, i.e. greenish grey, then the moisture is usually OK for orchids too. Also, you will find it in floral designs, as it is a very easy plant to propagate in the tropics, and it has morphology different from most other flowering plants. In the USA alone, some 5000 tonnes of this plant is used in the floral design annually. It has also been used as a packaging material, and even as upholstery in the T Ford car seats. www.dok maigarden.co.th. www.dokmaidogma.wordpress.com.


Life in Chiang Mai: By Mark Whitman

A Concert at the Kad and a new book

And several things which I wish I’d never read

With the music scene relatively quiet in Chiang Mai at present (although I hear there will be several linked piano recitals starting in mid July) there is good news from the huge 5th floor Kad Theatre at the Central mall, Kad Suan Kaew. Their next presentation will be on Friday, July 2nd at 7.30 and from the programme details it looks a really fun event.

Presented by the Chiang Mai Philharmonic Band under music director Chaipruck Mekara it is titled Danzon. The theme is a various dance related works from different cultures, including Russia, the U.S.A. and Spain. The soloist in Arutanian’s Trumpet concerto is Jakapphan Chaiya and the other ‘guest ‘conductor will be Daniel Pittman, who always brings out the best in this wonderful band of young players.

Other works on the programme include A Jazz Suite by Shostakovich, Danzon no. 2 by Marquez and a selection of Broadway music. These and other lively pieces are designed to ‘keep you heart dancing’. Seats are just 100 baht for students and from 300 baht for us oldies. You can find out further from picking up a leaflet (or tickets) at the information desk at Central or by phoning 053 224444. Tickets will also be on sale at the door from 7p.m. It is a large and handsome venue so no problem if you turn up on Friday week. See you there.

A few months ago a friend – Sam Oglesby -took over this column just for one week. He wrote a delightful and nostalgic piece about the Chiang Mai he was then visiting and how he recalled it many years ago. Sam has recently published his second book simply called Encounters: A Memoir. And I’m pleased to tell you that it is available here at Chiang Mai’s premier bookshop, Back Street Books, just across from Thapae Gate, behind Starbucks and along from Boots the chemist.

The subtitle to the book, charmingly illustrated by Tobias Sugar, is Relationship Journeys from Around the World and it divides into 15 chapters giving a highly personal and invariably illuminating reminiscence of his time spent (mainly working) in many countries. Some of these are in Europe – Paris or Switzerland - or even back home in the U.S.A. but the bulk concern Asia.

His eventful life took him from Saigon to Thailand, from Sri Lanka to Indonesia and to other places including Libya and Japan where his father worked. These chapters are full of life, opinion and observation - the kind of observation and travel notes that come from living, loving, and working in a country not enjoying a holiday there. The book is an elegant publication in every sense and its 270 pages make for a fascinating journey.

That was enjoyable reading. Some recent nuggets of information, found in local publications, have been less edifying. Possibly my least favourite was a piece telling me that there is ‘a newly opened Cockfighting Learning and Exhibition Centre in Chiang Mai’. It claims to have ‘educational’ aspects (historical, an exhibition hall) and – can you credit this? – ‘a training centre, a fighting arena and 80 cocks which are used for demonstration fights’. So anyone interested in returning to the cruelties and barbarism of the 16th century will have a good time. I thought we’d moved on from dog fighting, bear baiting and the like. Sadly not, it seems.

A headline in a national newspaper informs us that ‘Abhisit rejects the possibility of reconciliation’. How sad, since there is great virtue – or should one say merit – in being magnanimous in victory and certainly Thailand needs all the ‘reconciliation’ possible. At the risk of re-using a favourite quote I would remind the P.M. of what King Pyrrhus said after winning a costly and bloody battle against the Romans at Heraclea: ‘Another such victory and we are lost’.

And lastly on a more frivolous note I see that there is a ‘Yorkshire Pudding Eating Competition’ soon to be held. All you can eat in an hour. How edifying. There’s a tag line to a local eatery which puts me off from trying what I am told is a good restaurant, simply by saying it is created by someone who likes to ‘eat and eat and eat’. Such information reminds me of those buffets which advertise their events and claim ‘Eat as much as you like’. Quantity not quality seems to count as in the ads for the ‘home of the whopper’. Yuck. When I read about such places I have a visual image, ‘Pigs at a trough’.


Day Tripper: By Jane Doh

Maesa Elephant Camp

You may have noticed the recent campaigning to raise funds for Elephants in Chiang Mai recently, so this week’s Day Tripper offers a great day out with the added benefit of helping local Elephants.  ’Day Tripper’ recommends a visit to Maesa Elephant Camp. 

Maesa Elephant Camp is set in the lush Doi Inthanon Mountains, but just half an hour from the city centre. The camp has earned a reputation for focusing on the wellbeing of Elephants, and you can observe and learn about this at the camp. Moreover, fun-wise, you can observe the Elephants taking a bath in the river next to the camp. Watching an Elephant take a bath may not sound like fun, but when you actually see it, it is really quite funny. They are ecstatic. Baby elephants attempt to roll over adult elephants. Adult elephants spray the babies. They will certainly have you laughing. Then, there is also the Elephant Show. The talents that have been taught to these elephants are really surprising. Such as dancing, playing football, and painting (paintings can be bought at the local shop within the camp). The mahouts (Elephant trainers) also demonstrate interactive skills with the Elephants, such as how to get on and off an Elephant and even how they get a massage off the Elephant with its trunk! Of course, you can also enjoy petting and feeding the Elephants. On top of all this, Maesa Camp offers various special activity days (which can be viewed on their website. See details below), and Mahout Courses which allow you the fantastic opportunity to learn how to ride, bathe, and give basic commands to the Elephants, and includes other interesting activities such as a Thai food cooking class. At the end you will also receive a Mahout Certificate as a reminder of your day. 

So, I hope you will take the opportunity to enjoy a day with one of Thailand’s amazing treasures: the Elephant.

To get there, travel south on highway 108 (Chiang Mai – Fang Road) and turn onto highway 1096 (Maerim-Samoeng Road). Follow the signs to Maesa until you reach Maesa Elephant Camp. Tel: 05320 6247. More details and location map can be found on the Maesa Elephant Camp website: www. maesaelephantcamp.com/ Show Times are 8am, 9:40am, and 1pm.


Staying happy in Paradise - the Counseling Corner

by Richard L. Fellner

A Connection for Life: Body and Psyche

All of us have heard of it - the ‘mysterious’ effects of the psyche on the human body. Indeed, latest studies show that we can imagine our constitution like the fuel pump in a car: its performance defines whether our ‘vehicle’ can drive with full force, if it starts to stutter - or in extreme cases even breaks down. Whether our soul suffers or groans will always affect its ‘life partner’: our body.

Heart and circulatory diseases, such of the digestive system, problems with spine and joints, but also fluctuations in hormone levels or neurotransmitter imbalances: psychological burden is often a contributing cause. Also, mental states seem to influence the incidence of atopic dermatitis, diabetes and sexual problems as well as on the progression of cancer, as recent metastudies illustrate.

But let’s look the other way now and ask ourselves: what can we do to make it easier for our body? Most of all, it is important to cut down on all forms of stress (even if purely psychological), addictions and bad eating habits, all of which are often associated with depression as well. Meditation and yoga are great to improve physical and mental balance. Counseling and psychotherapy can help to get rid of the ‘millstones of the soul’ - often surprisingly quickly - and thus relieve our bodies from the creeping loss of vitality and energy.

Richard L. Fellner is head of the Counseling Center Pattaya in Soi Kopai and offers consultations in English and German languages after making appointments at 0854 370 470.