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

Hello!... Hello! Echo!... Echo?

In medicine’s grab bag of diagnostic procedures, there is one called an “Echo”. This is short for Echocardiogram and is one of the procedures that can yield much information on the workings of the heart, with pictures produced by Ultrasound.

This type of ultrasound test uses high-pitched sound waves to produce the image of the heart. The sound waves are sent through a device called a transducer and are reflected off the various structures of the heart. These echoes are converted into pictures of the heart that can be viewed on a monitor similar to a TV screen.

The difference between an X-Ray and an Echo is that the X-Ray is a static picture, whilst the Echo shows dynamic ‘action’ images of the functioning heart. The former is similar to taking a photograph of your car engine, while the Echo is the same as measuring your car engine’s workings on a rolling road dynamometer.

The echocardiogram is used to evaluate how well the heart chambers fill with blood and pump blood to the rest of the body. It can also be used to estimate the amount of blood pumped out of the left ventricle with each heartbeat (called the ejection fraction). It helps evaluate heart size and heart valve function. Echocardiography can help identify areas of poor blood flow in the heart, areas of heart muscle that are not contracting normally, previous injury to the heart muscle caused by impaired blood flow, or evidence of congestive heart failure, especially in people with chest pain or a possible heart attack. In addition, Echo can identify some heart defects that have been present since birth (congenital heart defects).

There are several different types of echocardiograms, including the Transthoracic echocardiogram (TTE). This is the standard, most commonly used method of echocardiography. Views of the heart are obtained by moving the transducer to different locations on the chest or abdomen wall. This is a totally painless procedure.

Another is the Transesophageal echocardiogram (TEE). In this case, the transducer is passed down the esophagus instead of being moved over the outside of the chest wall. A TEE may show clearer pictures of the heart, because the transducer is located closer to the heart and because the lungs and bones of the chest wall do not interfere with the sound waves produced by the transducer. A TEE requires a sedative and anesthetic applied to the throat to ease discomfort.

The main reasons for carrying out an Echocardiogram are to evaluate abnormal heart sounds (murmurs or clicks), a possibly enlarged heart, unexplained chest pains, shortness of breath, or irregular heartbeats. It can also diagnose or monitor a heart valve problem or evaluate the function of an artificial heart valve, detect blood clots and tumors inside the heart, measure the size of the heart’s chambers, evaluate heart defects present since birth (congenital heart defects), evaluate how well the heart is functioning after a heart attack, and to determine whether the person is at increased risk of developing heart failure. It can also show some specific causes of heart failure, detect an abnormal amount of fluid surrounding the heart (pericardial effusion) or a thickening of the lining (pericardium) around the heart.

Echocardiography is a painless procedure. You will not be able to hear the sound waves, since they are above the range of human hearing. The gel may feel a bit cold and slippery when rubbed on your chest. The transducer head is also pressed firmly against your chest, but this is not uncomfortable.

There are no known risks associated with transthoracic echocardiography. You are not exposed to X-rays, radiation, or any electrical current during this test. However, there are some risks associated with transesophageal echocardiography, including the possibility of a tear of the esophagus, bleeding, and discomfort of the mouth and throat.

Unfortunately, Echocardiography may not be accurate in between 10 to 18 percent of people because of technical difficulties. These are found in people who are overweight, women who have large breasts, or people with lung disease.


Bruce again!

Urgent: A foster or permanent home for Bruce needed!

This gorgeous American Pitbull was left behind by his owners when they moved away. Thankfully neighbours called Care for Dogs to inform us of his plight. Bruce is very friendly with people, but very dominant with other dogs, and therefore would only suit a responsible home with a fenced in area, without children and other animals where he can rule the roost and fly solo. He is about 3 years old, had all his shots and was recently sterilised. Because of his dominant personality a life at the shelter will not be easy for him or other dogs so we would like to see him in a loving home as soon as possible. If you think Bruce could be the right one for you contact our shelter manager Colin (08 47 52 52 55) or our shelter assistant Jum (08 6913 8701) for more info or an appointment to meet Bruce!

Heart to Heart  with Hillary

Dear Hillary,

Last week the medical column in the Chiang Mai Mail had an article on ‘Viagorous’ exercise, and the doctor said he got the information from you. I didn’t know you were an expert in these matters. Would you like to tell us of your experiences? I am sure I will not be the only one to ask you!


Dear Vic,

Or is that Viagorous Vic? I think if you read the doctor’s column again, he writes about “Viagorous” exercise and says, “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.” If he doesn’t dare to ask, with the medical seal of confidentiality and all, how dare you to ask! Goodness me, Vic, I don’t even know you, let alone enquire as to your sexual predilections. However, if you read the item from last week again, he says, “Unfortunately I can take no credit for the catchy wording, this was something I stole from our Miss Hillary.” Not the information, Vic, but merely the catchy wording. Words are my business Vic, and catchy words in particular. I will accept your apology for your impudence, attached to a bottle of champagne (French preferably), and or a box of nice chocolates (preferably Belgian or Swiss).

Dear Hillary,

I am a young man, single and considered to be not bad looking and am here on a two year contract, so I’ve got lots of opportunities to enjoy myself here. My problem comes from one of the girls I met recently in one of the bars while I was out doing the rounds, as you do. Anyway, this girl rang me at work the other day and asked if I could come over and see her at the new bar she was working in. I did remember her from her previous bar but I was embarrassed as I could be overheard by my workmates when I was talking to her, so I just kind of fobbed her off. How can I tell her it isn’t a good idea to ring me at work in a crowded office? Any suggestions?


Dear Tim,

I don’t really care how long you are here for, you have broken the cardinal rule of bar etiquette, my Petal! It’s quite simple, if you don’t want a girl to ring you at work, then don’t give her your business card, silly! If you feel the need to chat her up on the phone just give her your mobile and tell her what hours to ring you between. The girl isn’t silly, she’ll comply. But will you? That’s the question. I doubt it. You’ll be writing to me next to tell me about how you’ve been ripped off by one of these ladies of the night, and what should you do. I think you should ask to be sent home. Thailand is not the place for silly young lads like you.

Dear Hillary,

Have you ever been driven out of your office by noise? They are doing renovations in my condo building, and there are teams of builders coming in every day with jack-hammers and it sounds as if he is drilling his way through to China. It is going on forever and it is giving me a giant headache. I can’t sleep in the afternoons and it has been going on for weeks. I have asked the condo management but they just say that it is only day time after 8 a.m. and finish 6 p.m. so it is OK. What can I do about this? Who can I complain to now, since condo management will do nothing? Is this normal in this country?


Dear Insomnia,

No Petal, I’ve never been driven out of my condo, because I work during the day. You are just lucky that you can spend all day in bed. It’s only daytime, so go for a walk along the beach instead of living holed up in your room like some sort of bear. If you can’t do that, then I’m afraid your stuck. All you can do is buy some ear muffs, or a Walkman or something like that. Don’t despair, they can renovate forever, can they?

Dear Hillary,

One of my friends from back home will be coming to visit next month, along with a couple of her girl friends, which are girls I haven’t met, but they would all be in their 50’s, and shocked me when they wrote and said they wanted to see a “naughty show” while they are here. Do you think it’s proper for me to take them to some of the more outrageous places, or what? I’m really blown away by this. I don’t want to appear as a prude or anything, but this is something I never experienced before. What do you recommend, Hillary?


Dear Prue,

There is nothing to worry about, my Petal. Everybody knows we don’t have naughty shows in Thailand. They’re against the law, just like prostitution. Remember that what they might think is a little “naughty” might be fairly harmless really. If you’re completely worried, get your husband to take them.

Camera Class:  by Harry Flashman

Dodging, Burning and Patching

Gustave Le Gray is not such a well known name as Daguerre, Nadar and Cartier-Bresson (mentioned a few weeks back). Some might even say he is forgotten, but not so. His work and what he accomplished and how he did it has definitely lived on after him. One of my favorite tomes is entitled “Techniques of the World’s Great Photographers” and Gustave Le Gray is awarded six times the space in the book compared to that given to Daguerre. He was not forgotten by that book publisher in 1981.

Le Gray is remembered, amongst many reasons, for the technique of “patching”. This is a way of ending up with a very pleasing photograph, by introducing new elements. This is similar to the still current techniques of dodging and burning, so a brief word on these first will not go astray; however, Le Gray’s technique is actually the forerunner of today’s ‘photoshopping’.

Back to dodging and burning. When a “hand” print was made, the technician controlled the intensity of light falling on the sensitized photographic paper after it came through the negative. In any negative, there will be areas that the photographer would like to see made a little darker, or lighter. Very often the sky lacks a little detail, so the technician will be told to “burn in” the sky and “dodge” the foreground. So while making the exposure of the photographic paper, the technician will give the sky area more exposure time (burning in), while holding back the foreground (dodging).

The end result of this technique is a scene with an “interesting” cloudy sky, rather than just a pale washed out one. So it is “enhancing” the print a little, but this is not photo fudging - the interesting sky was there to begin with, it is just that with the standard printing process you lose the clouds if you keep the foreground shadow details. The problem is the sensitivity of the film and paper, but the selective technique does get over this. This is not photoshopping.

Now pity poor old Gustave Le Gray. In the early 1850’s the negatives themselves were so insensitive that to get a negative which would show any details in the foreground subject(s), the skies were totally overexposed, so there was absolutely no cloud detail at all. You could dodge and burn as much as you liked - if it wasn’t on the negative to begin with, it would never appear on the final print. (This is why you should err on the side of overexposure, rather than underexposure. This was one of my early lessons in photography. If it is on the negative, you can reproduce it.)

However, Gustave Le Gray produced prints like the one with this week’s article, (which was exhibited in London in 1856). Superb seascape with details in the foreground and ominous skies with plenty of detail. How did he do this? The answer was a technique that Le Gray developed called “patching”. With his insensitive negative there was no sky detail, so what Gustave Le Gray did was to make exposures of “interesting” skies alone, and then doubly expose the print. One exposure was for the foreground, using its own negative, and the second exposure was for the sky, using the special “sky” negative.

This worked very well, as you can see with this week’s photograph, and you can see why Gustave Le Gray chose seascapes to do this with. Confused? Don’t be. The horizon line with seascapes is flat and well defined, so he could easily blank off the top and expose the sea foreground, then blank off the bottom of the print and expose for the second negative producing the clouds and sky. It is still possible to “marry’ two sections together, but the more convoluted the join, the harder it gets, that is why the seascape concept worked so well.

On course, today we can get computer programs to do this for us such as the ubiquitous Photoshop, but do not forget Gustave Le Gray - he did it first! And the Photoshop principle is exactly the same.

Money Matters:  Paul Gambles MBMG International Ltd.

Does more risk mean more money? Part 1

In these days of market turmoil and banks giving next to nothing to their clients who have savings accounts, more and more people are turning to their advisors and wondering how to make ends meet. The sad fact is that many advisory firms are just not capable of giving good quality advice and usually just recommend the old 70/30 split between equities and bonds.

If times are volatile, then tough, and one receives the usual platitudes explaining that the risk reward ratio is just not enough to achieve the required income or dividend. If a client is not prepared to take the risk then the less money they will have to spend.

Unfortunately, all this does is show the ignorance of the average advisor. There is a way whereby investors can receive, via a low risk strategy, the required amount of money to maintain and, maybe, increase the present standards of living they want. By adopting an alpha multi-manager, multi-asset allocation approach it is possible to achieve the goals required.

However, as we all know, even low risk investments can go down as well as up. One of the most important things to gauge when giving advice on how to set up this kind of investment is understanding the client’s ability to accept risk - both emotionally and financially. The former as it may cause sleepless nights and the latter because if things do not turn out well then the lifestyle to which they have become accustomed may not be sustainable.

As intimated above, the old-school type of advice has always maintained that there should be a constant split between equities and bonds and the former will always outperform all other assets over the longer term. This is just simply not true. If you invested in the Dow Jones 30 in 1928 you did not get your money back until 1954. This shows that it can be argued that equities by themselves, or being a major part of a portfolio, could actually lose the client money over a period of time. This is not theory but fact and if people realised it they would, obviously, not stand for it.

This then shows that Scott Campbell, the multi-award winning manager with MitonOptimal Guernsey, is absolutely correct in advocating a multi-manager, multi-asset alpha management approach to investments. It is vital that when constructing a portfolio it must be designed to produce in all circumstances. It is vital for clients that the portfolio is realistic and reflects the fact that future returns are never guaranteed and markets may perform poorly for many years.

To be continued…

The above data and research was compiled from sources believed to be reliable. However, neither MBMG International Ltd nor its officers can accept any liability for any errors or omissions in the above article nor bear any responsibility for any losses achieved as a result of any actions taken or not taken as a consequence of reading the above article. For more information please contact Paul Gambles on [email protected]

DVD of the Week: By Brian Baxter

L’Argent (Money)Dir: Robert Bresson (1982)

L’Argent, Bresson’s final masterpiece, has the unusual distinction of having a ‘synopsis’ provided by its director: “A small transgression provokes a vertiginous avalanche of Evil until the forces of Good arrive”. Make of that what you will. I have the seen film countless times and freely admit that the second part of that comment has an element of mystery, as does the film’s final image.

The story is taken from a short work by Tolstoy (The False Note), which was filmed successfully as a silent by Marcel L’Herbier. It tells of a young man who is wrongly accused of passing counterfeit money. Bresson updated it to modern day Paris and it begins with a teenager receiving what he regards as an inadequate allowance from his stern father. Beguiled by his friend, he later passes counterfeit notes at a shop, which are in turn passed on in payment for an oil delivery.

Yvon, the dreamy and handsome worker who accepts the payment is subsequently accused of the crime of deliberately passing the notes. Lacking the sophistication of the bourgeois youngster or the conniving shop keepers, he passively accepts his fate. The French judicial system moves into action and the victim is sent to prison.

Bresson’s avalanche of Evil has begun and we watch Yvon’s descent as he succumbs to a society obsessed with money and property at the expense of human beings. Yvon, like Mouchette or Balthazar and other Bresson characters is tossed like a leaf in a violent storm. Whilst in prison his daughter dies, his wife leaves him and he attempts suicide. He is finally released to a life of crime. Nothing very original there, one might argue. But then an act of kindness – of Good – seemingly rescues him. In the film’s final and greatest section he is taken into a household. The terrible outcome of this action I will not reveal.

This is Bresson’s most rigorous work. It lacks the compassion of, say, A Man Escaped or Pickpocket, the wonder and beauty of Lancelot du Lac and the majesty of Au Hasard, Balthazar but it is beyond doubt one of the great and most perfectly achieved works in the history of cinema. No shot is superfluous and the film tightens its grip on the spectator like a vice. The ‘action’ progresses with steely elegance, elliptical, mysterious, building like a wonderful canvas being created before our eyes.

It is visually very beautiful, with its dark autumnal colouring, and the soundtrack – devoid of music except for that integrated into the action – is complex and beguiling. The film – at around 80 minutes- is a miracle of compression and several individual sequences are as perfect as anything which even this director has achieved. These include a scene with the father of the house playing the piano( Schubert) which reveals all the tensions implicit within the family, another where the hard pressed woman who has rescued Yvon speaks of his life and limited expectations. Plus of course the astounding climax to the film.

To be honest this is one of the director’s bleaker works, as misanthropic perhaps as his Le Diable, Proablement or any film by Michael Haneke. Many French people at its Cannes premiere, which I was lucky enough to attend, showed their dislike of its critique of their alternative ‘god’, money. It was denied the Palme d’Or, which it richly deserved, and Bresson declined an invitation to accept a lesser award. Instead the great Russian director Andrei Tarkovsky accepted on his behalf. Bresson – then nearing 80- did not make another film.

Most of the 13 films which he directed over a period of some 40 years are available at the DVD Film and Music Shop, 289 Suthep Road. His book Notes of a Cinematographer is still in print.

Let's Go To The Movies:  by Mark Gernpy

Now playing in Chiang Mai

I Love You Phillip Morris: France/ US, Comedy/ Drama – A bit raunchy in its language at times, and a theme that won’t please everyone, but I think it’s a terrific love story, even if it dare not speak its name. Well, they do speak its name here – in fact they shout it from the rooftops, and in the jail cells. It’s the story of a scam artist (Jim Carrey) and his love for Phillip Morris (Ewan McGregor), with whom he fell in love during a prison sentence. If you have mixed feelings about Jim Carrey, give him a break on this one. He’s really good. Rated R in the US for sexual content including strong dialogue, and language. Generally favorable reviews. Major Cineplex only, and started with only two showings a day. Very highly recommended. Don’t miss!

StreetDance 3D:] UK, Dance/ Drama – I really enjoyed this! It blended break dancing with classical ballet in some very interesting ways, experimenting in choreography, in cinematography, in use of 3D, in music, and in dancing. 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. With the always terrific Charlotte Rampling as a ballet school administrator, and groups from Britain’s Got Talent. The dance sequences are impressive, the dancers really quite good. Generally favorable reviews. Airport Plaza only.

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 he is charming again in every way, with the old Cruise magic in place. And the magic of Cameron Diaz. They play a fugitive couple on a glamorous and sometimes deadly adventure where nothing and no one - even themselves - are what they seem.

The Karate 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’s a spoiled brat, 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. Generally favorable reviews, which I can’t believe.

That Sounds Good / Rao Song Sam Khon – Thai, Romance/ Comedy – A romance-comedy that follows the journey of two girls and one guy, and how they form a complicated love triangle on their journey through three countries: Thailand, Laos, and Vietnam. Directed by Leo Kittikorn, responsible for such items as “Ahimsa: Stop to Run”, and “Saving Private Tootsie”. May only be in Thai.

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.

Prince of Persia: US, Action/ Adventure/ Romance – 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. 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. 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, and there’s some sense of the game’s action and visuals. Vista also has a Thai-dubbed version. Mixed or average reviews.

Scheduled for July 1

The Twilight Saga: Eclipse: US, Fantasy/ Romance/ Thriller – The gang is back again! In this episode, Bella once again finds herself surrounded by danger as Seattle is ravaged by a string of mysterious killings and a malicious vampire continues her quest for revenge. In the midst of it all, she is forced to choose between her love for Edward (Robert Pattinson) and her friendship with Jacob (Taylor Lautner) – knowing that her decision has the potential to ignite the struggle between vampire and werewolf. With her graduation quickly approaching, Bella is confronted with the most important decision of her life.

Toy Story & Toy Story 2 (3D): US, Animation/ Family – A double-feature yet! Two of the best films of the 90s, in a lot of people’s opinion, are here gussied-up in 3D – nothing gimmicky, just a little added depth. It’s probably not necessary, but it allows you to see these two terrific Pixar films in a theater with an audience, like you should.

Bridge in Paradise : by Neil Robinson

The rule of eleven can be very useful in no trump. Many players know the rule, but somewhat fewer actually make use of it. It applies when the original lead against a no trump contract is fourth highest of a suit (and most people do lead fourth highest of their best suit). Then you subtract the opening lead from eleven. The result is the number of cards higher than the original lead held by the three other players. For example, if the lead is the six of clubs, then there are five (eleven minus six) cards higher than the six in the three other hands. This information can be very useful for the partner of the leader and/or for declarer. The deal below illustrates how declarer can use the rule. Next week will be an example of when defenders can profit by applying it.


Imagine you are sitting South and are declarer in 3N. West leads the five of hearts. You subtract five from eleven to find that there are six cards higher than the five in the other three hands. You can see five of these, three in dummy and two in your own hand. So East only has one card higher than the five. You duck in dummy. East plays the jack and switches to a low spade. You win the ace of spades. Now you can lead a heart towards dummy and cover whatever West plays, confident that East cannot beat whatever you play. Say West plays the eight of hearts, then you win the nine and play four rounds of clubs, ending in hand. Now you finesse in hearts again, cash the ace of hearts and lead a low diamond to the ace. You have nine tricks for the contract, three hearts (thanks to the rule of eleven), four clubs and the aces of spades and diamonds. More on the rule of eleven next week.

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

MAIL OPINION : By Shana Kongmun

Potholes, traffic lights and cross walks

Chiang Mai is a lovely city, and apparently the burial of cables which is planned to start in August (fingers crossed) will make the city even lovelier. What it does need is some kind of comprehensive upgrades for the roads, the traffic lights, the cross walks and more. A reader told us of her fruitless attempt to get something done about the lack of traffic lights on Nawarat Bridge. It’s unknown what the delay is but surely the City is working as fast as possible to get this potentially dangerous intersection safe again.

Other hotspots include the crossing at Tha Pae. Woe betides the unwitting tourist trying to cross at that point as the cars and motorbikes whip around the curve. Best to look both ways about 6 times and scuttle across as fast as possible so as to not get run over. City officials really need to seriously consider a pedestrian cross walk with traffic light at this point. As one of the City’s premier tourist spots it behooves us all to not run our guests over.

Spots like these abound across the city, whether known, unknown or just not bothered, it would be great if the City could be given a shopping list of sorts. So, in that light, we encourage readers to send in photos of dangerously broken pavements, potholes big enough to swallow a Yamaha Dream, broken traffic lights and dangerous intersections or crosswalks. These photos will not only be published in the paper but also attached to a list that will be presented to the Mayor on a regular basis. I can just see the weekly press conference now, “Oh Mr. Mayor, just one more thing… or rather, a few more things.”

We all live in this city and its time we all took a proactive approach towards its improvement. So, get out there and start snapping! Be sure to include time and date as well as exact location of the killer potholes and intersections so that the authorities can be given as complete information as possible. [email protected]

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

How to become acclimated to a tropical climate

Sometimes I fear people do not live in their tropical country, they observe it from indoors. A lifestyle in an air-conditioned home, transportation in an air-conditioned car, work in an air-conditioned office and shopping in an air-conditioned plaza unfortunately prevents you from seeing the wonders just around the corner.

How can you gradually acclimatize your body to tropical heat, so that you can work in your garden with a big smile, even in the hot season? First of all, begin spending a few hours outdoors every day in the cool season. The gradual increase in temperature will not shock your body.

Practice walking slowly like the Thai people do. At the Dokmai Garden restaurant we have foot paths with stones at a distance forcing you to slow down and walk like a Thai. It is actually quite relaxing when your body is full of adrenalin. If you walk slowly you can work outdoors all day long, like the Thais. If you run like a Swede, you get exhausted by 9 a.m. (we are used to running, not only to be efficient, but to keep warm!).

Other ways of adapting is by drinking plenty of water frequently, and to take a 1-2 hour break around noon. Most animals sleep this time of the day, and so we should too or at least sit down with a book or simply wander about in the garden with a glass of refreshing juice and some clinking ice cubes.

A thin cotton bathrobe is perfect clothing if you do not work or expect guests. Long sleeves, a hat and sunglasses are also important for sun protection.

The aim is to be acclimated, where you are free to work as much as you want in your garden, and free to go to the forest without fainting. Becoming a part of your garden is a pleasure, and you will see flowers you never knew you had, if you spend time outdoors during the hot wildflower season. www.dokmaidogma

Life in Chiang Mai: By Colin Jarvis


I must be honest with you. I am an atheist. I do not believe that there is a God. However, I have found the Muslim and Christian religions have much to teach us about how to lead a good life. However, by far the most appealing philosophy to me is that proposed by Buddha, some two and a half thousand years ago.

I try to follow the teachings of Buddha and suppose I consider myself a Buddhist. As such, I am happy for anyone to follow any philosophy or religion they wish, providing they do not harm or disparage other people for their beliefs.

I find the Buddhism, as practised in Thailand, both fascinating and very interesting. It is a wonderful mixture Hinduism, Buddhism and Animism. I am happy to take part in the ceremonies at the Temple and am encouraged to do so by those monks that I have come to know.

We recently had house blessed but before this could take place various ceremonies had to happen in order to keep the ghosts away. A few weeks ago, I went down to the river with my mother in law and we collected a bag full of stones from the riverbed. We then took these to the Temple where a monk blessed them. On returning to my parents in law’s house we scattered the stones around the grounds, again to keep the ghosts away.

Now I do not believe in ghosts. I cannot see there is any scientific explanation for them and, of course, I have never met one. The philosophy I follow in life expects me to allow other people to believe in ghosts should they wish to do so and I am quite happy to accept this. Consequently it would be very wrong for me to say to anyone, especially you the reader that you should not believe in ghosts. If you do believe in them, I do not feel you are stupid, ignorant or indeed have any view about you other than you have a belief that I do not share, in the same way that you might be a Christian, Muslim or have any other belief that I do not espouse.

And this has caused me a problem. My stepson, a 14-year-old, believes in ghosts. He used to share a bedroom with his elder brother. When they moved into our new house, each of my stepson’s had their own room. They were thrilled until the 14-year-old tried to sleep. He was scared that the ghosts were going to come and visit him..

What could I do? His schoolwork was suffering, as he was not sleeping properly. Should I try to persuade him to my point of view that ghosts do not exist? To do so would be against the philosophy by which I try to live my life. Should I lie to him, pretend that I did believe in ghosts, and that they did not frighten me? Again I could not do so. If I am to show true tolerance to other people’s beliefs I must allow him to believe in ghosts but somehow find a way of making him feel more relaxed.

Ghosts are a major feature of Thai culture. I understand that this belief goes back to the original animism where ghosts and spirits inhabit almost everything. Such a belief actually encourages consideration for the environment, which has to be seen as a “good” thing.

My solution? I explained to my stepson that although I did not believe in ghosts I was open-minded and would rather like to see one. I told him that if he could arrange for me to meet one I would give him 10,000 baht. He is now sleeping very well as he is now actively looking for ghosts, and not finding them, rather than passively waiting in terror for them to turn up.

I really do not know whether I have done the right thing though I must confess that I would be very happy to have to hand over 10,000 baht, I think.

Day Tripper: By Jane Doh

Chiang Mai University Lake

Just a short one for this week. Not exactly a day-trip, more of a short-visit trip, but worth a mention. Chiang Mai University may not seem like a location one would think of for a “trip”, but lurking within its grounds is a rather beautiful lake.

It’s a great place in the early evening for a bit of people watching and for its relaxing atmosphere. Early evening brings with it cooler air, joggers, dog walkers, couples, and friends enjoying snacks together. A quiet buzz hovers over the area as people come and go. A bit of laughter, a bit of chatter, and the sounds of happy dogs panting as they pull on their leash. Watching the sky colour change on a clear evening as the sun sets is my favorite part of the whole experience. I recommend buying a drink and a snack and sitting down to watch the sunset, whilst you soak up the atmosphere. Daytime is nice too of course, but early evening is, in my opinion, the very best time to enjoy the sights and sounds CMU Lake has to offer. Hope you enjoy!

How to get there: Go through the Huay Kaew Road main CMU gate entrance (not the Suthep Road entrance). Turn right at the main junction (on campus) and find a parking space (next to the park/tree area). You should see a walkway leading upwards just across the road from the parking area. This takes you directly to the lake.

Staying happy in Paradise - the Counseling Corner

by Richard L. Fellner

Caught in the stalemate

Presumably many of you, like myself, were shocked by the recent events in Bangkok, and we can only hope that by the time you read this article, the situation has already relaxed.

During the previous weeks it was hard to ignore how little knowledge about modern strategies of conflict resolution seems to exist in this country. According to F. Glasl’s 9-stage model of conflict escalation, the country is already trapped in a ‘lose-lose’ stage: there is only one other level of escalation remaining now, ultimately aiming at the physical destruction of opponents - if necessary, at the price of self destruction... Needless to say who would have to pay this price in a national crisis.

For organizations or in couple therapy, it is state-of-the-art to involve an external party to resolve insolvable and chronic conflicts or a hardening of the situation. Such a consultant or mediator will take a neutral position and attend and support a process of de-escalation and reconciliation. In a catch-22 situation like the current one, however, it requires either a powerful outside party or one of the conflicting parties to involve a mediator! Let us hope that our politicians succeed in finally doing that - ideally, as discreetly as many couples do it when they need help, instead of arguing in front of TV cameras, as we have recently experienced.

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.