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

Tips from the Podology Center

The Doctor's Consultation:  by Dr. Iain Corness

Elixir of Youth recipe next week!

I have just returned from the UK, where I went to see my dear old Mum, now aged 93 and in a care home. Before I went I picked up a medical textbook and opened it at the section called ‘Geriatric Medicine’ and what a depressing start to the day that was! Gloom, doom and disaster! However, the picture is not really as bad as all that, so I thought that this week I would go through the aging process, and then what we can do about it. The recipe for the elixir of youth is not enclosed as I am still trying to perfect it, but instead, some ways you can stay feeling ‘young’ while waiting till next week!

Let’s begin with the depressing news that you have actually been going downhill since the age of 14 (mentally) and from the age of around 30 (physically). That bar-room ditty that relates to what you used to do all night, now taking all night to do, can be too close to the mark for some of us. But don’t despair, help is at hand (no pun intended).

The book suggested that the aging of our individual organs is influenced by diet, environment, personal habits and genetic factors. Read that again - did you notice that three of them (diet, environment, personal habits) are actually under our control, so the angle of the slippery slide can be changed. Good News number one.

The physiological changes associated with aging do include an increase in body fat, a difficulty in reading (called presbyopia) and a clouding of the optic lens (called a cataract). Glucose metabolism goes a little awry as well, as we get older. In the lungs, the elasticity goes out of the lung tissue, meaning that the lungs don’t absorb the oxygen as well as they should.

It doesn’t end there. This elasticity thing gets increasingly important. The arteries become less elastic too, so the heart has to pump harder to force the blood around, increasing blood pressure and enlarging the heart.

Then the liver doesn’t cope as well with the toxic chemicals we meet as it used to, and the bowel gets a little lazy as well, leading to constipation. For men, the prostate slowly enlarges and makes it difficult for the bladder to empty properly, so you have to get up to pee a few times a night. The awful statistics are that 50 percent of all men will have some degree of enlargement by the time they are 50 years old, 60 percent by 60, 70 percent by 70, and you don’t have to be Albert Einstein to do the maths by the time you are 100.

Finally, the brain shrinks and you begin to forget things, “I’ll never forget what’s-her-name” being a real problem! You lose the recent memory first, and then the long term memory second.

So what to do? The main thing is to make sure your organs get enough oxygen to work properly. Oxygen gets into the blood via the lungs. Clogged air sacs in the lungs is a big problem. Answer? Stop smoking - immediately, and get some exercise every day, so that you start to use the lungs, and their capacity, again.

Now we have some oxygen back in the blood we have to circulate the magic red fluid. Cholesterol build-up in the arteries produces blockages. Reverse it by lowering cholesterol in your diet. You do this by decreasing animal fats and increasing vegetables. That’s not too difficult either, is it?

Now the sugar problems. Another one with an easy fix - cut out all the ‘extra’ sugar in your diet. You don’t have to use sugar in your coffee, and chocolates should be a very occasional indulgence only.

The liver? The main toxic substance it has to deal with is ethanol, otherwise known as alcohol. Give the liver one day a week to recover. That’s your AFD (alcohol free day).

So look at the three items again under your control - diet, environment, habits. The answer to aging is there. Begin with cigarettes, body fat, alcohol of all types and fancy foods. It’s a start.


Meet Sunshine

Hi, I’m Sunshine. I know I may not look like the handsomest dog in the shelter but I certainly feel like it! I think my snaggle tooth gives me character and makes me look distinguished – but what’s important is what you think? I am small but they tell me size doesn’t matter a jot – though I hate to use such a word, they tell me I’m cute. They’re probably right too! I’ve been sterilised, given all those blasted shots and am now ready to be taken to the right home for some cuddling, grooming and fussing. Is that too much to ask? We at Care for Dogs don’t think so. ADD A LITTLE SUNSHINE TO YOUR LIFE! Contact the shelter English (08 47 52 52 55) or Thai language (08 69 13 87 01) to make an appointment to meet him.

Heart to Heart  with Hillary

Dear Hillary,

Greetings! Ever since I laid my foot to Thailand 5 or 6 years ago, I have been an avid reader of your column. I’m an Asian foreigner contract worker in Thailand then, but when my contract ended and moved to another country I kept the paper’s website and kept myself updated from your column. Over the years of reading your columns, it still humored and amazes me of the different stories and revelations. But above all, as most of the stories I read are the few men who were able to find their partners and knowing Thai women, well the relationship was a happy ending after all! The thought crossed my mind of going back to Thailand, this time not for work but for a partner... It sounds ridiculous, but I’m not getting any younger and the fact that I’m a woman! Well Ms. Hillary, I bet this is the most unusual letter you’ll ever read, cause this time its a woman’s search for a partner... wish me luck Ms. Hillary!

Lost Angel

Dear Lost Angel,

I’m sorry to disappoint you Ms. Lost Angel, yours is not the most unusual letter I’ve ever read, but back to your situation. You need a partner, and I can assure you that you will never be lonely in Thailand, no matter what your needs in a partner entails - and you haven’t really told me much about that, have you? However, the simple fact remains for all people who come to Thailand looking for partners, if you choose from the commercial end of available partners, you will get what you pay for. A ‘mia chow’ or ‘rented wife’. “Love”, devotion, commitment are qualities you generally won’t find there. As in any relationship (m-f, m-m, f-f) go slowly, Petal. Go slowly! It is a dangerous battleground you are traversing.

Dear Hillary,

I had no idea my letter would post so soon or even at all. Just to follow up we made it to Bangkok the night the curfew was lifted, spent a few days with my wife’s family and within 3 days we moved into a condo in Pattaya. All is well. While advice is your job, I’d like to say to your readers who have suffered in every imaginable way, a farang can never know everything Thai. Those who for whatever reason refuse to use common sense, and allow a certain body part to dictate their lives assures you will always have material.

Take Care,
Les and Lawan

Dear Les and Lawan,

Thank you again, and I do take care! That is certainly timely (and timeless) advice for those who read this column. Unfortunately “common sense” is an oxymoron, as it isn’t too “common”, is it? I’ll leave it to the gents loaded with Vitamin V to work out just to which “certain body part” you are referring! Enjoy your new condo.

Dear Hillary,

I was drinking with my mates the other morning and a Thai friend suggested that I needed a tattoo to look more manly. Well, at 4 in the a.m. you’re not at your best so I went with him for the tat. I told him I wanted a heart with “I love MOM”. I got the tattoo finished and woke up and went home. When I awoke I admired my new tat in the mirror and was shocked to find “I love WOW” on my arm. I showed it to my ‘friend’ Nok at the bar and she is very mad at me and wants to know who “Wow” is. She is looking for her. I think the answer is to change the name of Chiang Mai, which no one can pronounce, to WOW City. It is more descriptive and would get me out of trouble.

Singha Jerry

Dear Singha Jerry,

“Get you out of trouble”? Impossible, my sweet potato. Trouble is your middle name, and always has been. I will get one of the girls to tell your friend Nok that there is a Wow who has a bar in Jomtien. She should take along a video camera, the meeting could be interesting. You were certainly very lucky to find a friendly tattoo artist at 4 a.m., and ones that administer general anesthetics are even more rare. Or did you use several gallons of Singha beer as the anesthetic? Or was that as the alcohol swab to clean the skin before the ink was applied?

Dear Hillary,

Just a quickie. I want to send a girl I met last time I was up on holidays some money for her birthday just before Xmas later this year, but I’ve been told that it’s not too safe sending money by post. As I won’t be back in Thailand till around March/April next year, it is a bit late to bring it over myself. What’s your suggestion? The safer the better.


Dear Jack,

That is nice of you, but your little lady friend will soon tell you the best way, if you haven’t worked it out before Santa comes down the chimney. You don’t post it, you transfer it to her bank account, and she will have one, believe me! Posting is a no-no!

Camera Class:  by Harry Flashman

Have you read your instruction manual?

After using many different cameras over far too many years, I have become a little blasť about instruction manuals. After all, the technical side of photography involves manipulating shutter speed, aperture of the lens and focusing. It really should not need much more than a few pages to cover that.

However, with the digital evolution and the advent of LCD’s and drop down menus and other electronic trickery, it has become necessary to once more study the instruction manuals (and I have to admit I have not read my new one from cover to cover)!

But instruction manuals are not new. A few years back now, I was given a book by Jan Olav Aamlid called How to make good pictures - a book for the amateur photographer. Published by Kodak Limited in London, the book had 170 glossy pages and the price was one shilling!

Unfortunately, there was no date in the book, but looking at the photographs printed in it, I would put the date at around 1920.

Things have changed photographically too. Before the world developed that wonderful little pop-up flash on your compact camera, that “knows” it has to come up when the light levels are low, Kodak were offering the Amateur Flashlight Outfit for those who would brave the dark. I quote from our one shilling book, “The procedure is simple. The powder is crushed and mixed as indicated, then the taper is fixed in position at one end of the tray. When ready to make the exposure, the taper is lit and the lamp slowly tilted until the powder falls on the flame.” The book goes on a couple of pages later, “When more than one flashlight picture is to be taken, the windows should be opened between each flash to free the room thoroughly from smoke, otherwise all the pictures after the first few are liable to have a slightly ‘foggy’ appearance.”

Further advice to the amateur with his flash powder and taper include, “If the room is darkened the sudden flash of light so strains the eyes of the sitters that it almost invariably gives them a staring look, but if the room is already illuminated by gas or electricity, the strain is not so great and the eyes will have a natural expression.” I would imagine that sitting in a closed room with some lunatic with crushed flash powder and a lit taper would make anyone stare a little! Yes, we certainly get it easy these days.

There is one complete chapter on photographing interiors, with exposure times quoted around the 10 minute mark. They do caution, “If time exposures are made with the camera held in the hands, the pictures will be blurred.” The mind boggles at a hand-held 10 minute time exposure!

However, it does have some very pertinent facts. With portrait photography, the book suggests, “As an example, take a young man with too prominent ears; it is obvious in this case that the full face would be displeasing, so turn the face slowly away from the light until the ear nearest the light disappears from the line of sight.” The book also says that if this still does not fix the problem, get the young man to rest his head on his hand and hide the appendages that way!

For me, the best part of the book was in the first few chapters where the basic principles of photography were explained in detail, even showing the differences between different manufacture of lenses. Exposure control is well documented, and the amateur photographer who followed this book through to the end would have no longer been a true “amateur”.

In those halcyon days, the budding photographer was also his own darkroom assistant and much of the book is devoted to D&P (Developing and Printing) and how to avoid the traps and pitfalls. For those of you who have dabbled (or rather dipped and dunked) you will agree that it does give another dimension to picture taking, one that has all but disappeared these days, with the advent of the digital camera.

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

The Taking of Power by Louis XIV by Roberto Rossellini

Great film directors are like the finest magicians. What they do is both ‘inexplicable’ and – often – seemingly very simple, yet enthralling. One such magician of the cinema was Roberto Rossellini who came to fame with his first masterpiece Rome, Open City (1945). He was the most significant of the neo-realist directors and Italy’s greatest. He developed into the first ‘modern’ director of the post war years, although he never lost his instinct for neo-realism, which in this portrait of the court of the Sun King is never far away. There is an immediacy, a sense of heightened documentary to it that blends with the historical perspective.

What is so amazing about Rossellini is the seemingly effortless way he presents his ‘story’. His films have clear narratives, recognisable characters and a deep sense of place and history. At their best (Rome..., this movie, Germany, Year Zero, Voyage to Italy) they make a very direct appeal to the viewer. There is no artifice here, just great art, full of movement and grace. The visual impact owes much to paintings of the period, but this is no tableau vivante.

Criterion Video has recently re-issued Louis with some intriguing extras, interviews and so on. The colour restoration is good and the film is sumptuous to look at. It is a film that flows like a wide clear stream, mostly calm on the surface but teaming with life whilst meandering over ancient rocks and surfaces where ‘reality’ is discovered by Rossellini’s relentless and probing camera.

It begins with some exterior shots and conversations between French workers who are openly critical about the state of France, which is – or was – governed by the dying Cardinal Mazarin, leaving no apparent successor as the most powerful figure in the country. Louis, the King, although young, has been on the throne for 17 years. He is dominated by his mother who seems to despise him. We do not meet Louis until about 20 minutes into this quite short work, and only then as a shy hesitant youngster who is in awe of his friend Mazarin – the wealthiest man in Europe.

After the death of Mazarin, the 22 year old Louis makes an astonishing decision. This playboy King, indulgent, plump, foppish on the surface, decides to assume full sovereignty, controlling finance, government affairs, re-aligning positions of authority and manipulating the noble courtiers, who eventually become his ‘servants’.

He becomes the Sun King, citing the fact that all nature depends upon the sun for life and growth. Power indeed.

We follow the King’s ‘plans’ as he – helped by Colbert, a merchant and Mazarin’s former aide, impoverishes the Court by insisting that they dress as expensively and flamboyantly as he does. He rebels against his mother, accepts the revolutionary advice of his new right hand man (despised and underrated by the noblemen) to help the peasants by lowering their taxes and diminish the power of the bourgeoisie. Along with his revolutionary ideas he embarks on ever greater self aggrandisement (Versailles is the most tangible outcome) so as to make the rest of Europe in awe of him and France. He decides that the King must become ‘the animator of all enterprises’. Above all he must never allow another period of civil war.

The film culminates in a solo banquet for the King, watched by the entire court. Louis enjoys course after course, lavishly prepared and brought to him by a team of people, and served to him by his brother. We learn that just as he has a different servant for every item of clothing and every aspect of his life, so he has an individual responsible for every aspect of his food – for the lettuce, the peas, the eggs and finally an entire procession to introduce the 14th course, brought under lock and key only to be abandoned.

The extraordinarily fluid scene – a metaphor for an unsustainable life style - ends with the King walking in his magnificent gardens and then deciding to be alone: a scene unique in this exquisite film. After taking off some of the many exterior garments, he sits at his desk and muses over the notion of authority which stem from something beyond ‘both dignity and merit’. Even so in his solitary state he begins to wonder what will be the outcome of his actions, acknowledging that - in the final words of the film - ‘neither the sun nor death can be gazed upon fixedly’.

Although the film can only be appreciated as a whole there are many scenes which are outstanding, besides the ‘banquet’ and a lyrically filmed hunt. The scene just before he enters the chambers of the dying Mazarin, as the camera swirls around him in moment of confusion. And the ‘documentary’ style, dialogue free arrest of the overly ambitious Fouquet, which harks back in style to his earlier neo realist films. Amazingly this majestic film was financed by French television and shot quite quickly on a modest budget, demanding great technical wizardry from its director and designers, in both the court and the exteriors outside Paris and ‘Versailles’ ( painted mirrors were one secret).

The film is a work of genius, of radiant beauty and Bach-like mathematical precision. It was made when Rossellini was at a low ebb critically, financially and with the public. It revived his career leading to a decade of intense creativity with further biographical films, such as Socrates, Pascal, Augustine and others.

For the actor, Jean-Marie Patte, who played Louis, it was a one off. He was plucked from obscurity, Bresson style, for his demeanour and grew into the role under Rossellini’s direction, becoming bolder as the film progressed. He returned to the same obscurity as a clerk and dabbler in theatrics. He is the extraordinary and seemingly passive centre of the film, around whom all the sycophancy and masquerading take place. If he were not the Sun King, Player King might be an apt title.

If I were asked the impossible- to list ten of the greatest films of all time - then The Taking of Power by Louis XIV would certainly be among them. It deals with bombast, the trappings and meaning and effect of power. It vividly presents a portrait of a bygone age (17th century France). It is a riot of colour and flouncing aristocracy. It is comic yet deadly serious. And the outward appearance is one of the utmost simplicity. Film making that is unadorned, unostentatious and without any of the frills that Louis adopts. A masterpiece.

(Available from the DVD Film and Music Shop at 289 Suthep Road, Chiang Mai).

Let's Go To The Movies:  by Mark Gernpy

Now playing in Chiang Mai

Letters to Juliet: US, Comedy/ Drama/ Romance – Starring the great Vanessa Redgrave, along with Amanda Seyfried and Christopher Egan. A young American travels to the city of Verona, home of the star-crossed lover Juliet Capulet of Romeo and Juliet fame, and joins a group of volunteers who respond to letters written to Juliet seeking advice about love. After answering one letter dated 1951, she inspires its author to travel to Italy in search of her long-lost love, which brings a love into both these women’s lives unlike anything they ever imagined. Mixed or average reviews, but I had a fine time. It was a true joy for me to watch an actress of such overwhelming power as that of Vanessa Redgrave: she simply takes command of your emotions and invites you on a fascinating journey. And you trust her with your emotions because you feel that she will treat them with respect. Don’t miss this opportunity to see our greatest living actress in action. Not a great part, but she makes the most of it, as though she simply has no time to waste.

Predators: US, Action/ Adventure/ Sci-Fi/ Thriller – I enjoyed this! Of its type, I thought it quite superior. I was impressed by the fun the actors seemed to be having with their characters (Lawrence Fishburne especially giving a deliciously-chewed performance!). I thought the photography was striking, the mood nicely tense and forbidding, and the music fascinating! I’m not a particular fan of this sort of action film, but I found it quite entertaining. Starring Adrien Brody, and directed by Hungarian filmmaker Nimrod Antal (Kontroll). Rock-solid, old-school thrills. Mixed or average reviews.

Toy Story & Toy Story 2 (3D): US, Animation/ Family – Here shown as two completely separate movies, splitting in two the double feature that has been playing elsewhere in Thailand as well as around the world. You get a tiny discount by buying a voucher for both for 399 baht – either one baht or 41 baht depending on the day, but your best bet is to go on Wednesday when most everything is discounted, and you can get a regular seat for these 3D films for 130 baht each. The two films have gotten extraordinarily high praise, originally and on this go-around, and I highly recommend you see them. I just saw Toy Story 2, and I loved it. Reviews: Universal acclaim.

The Twilight Saga: Eclipse: US, Fantasy/ Romance/ Thriller – The pack is back again! In this episode Bella (Kristen Stewart) once again finds herself surrounded by danger as Seattle is ravaged by a string of mysterious killings. In the midst of this, she is forced to choose between her love for Edward (heartthrob Robert Pattinson, a vampire) and her friendship with Jacob (heartthrob Taylor Lautner, member of the Quileute Wolfpack) – knowing that her decision has the potential to ignite the struggle between vampire and wolfpack, and a tissy fit between fans of each. Mixed or average reviews. The Vista version is Thai-dubbed.

Bitter/Sweet: US/ Thai, Comedy/ Romance – An uptight executive for a US coffee company is sent on a buying trip to picturesque Krabi, where he meets the daughter of growers in the region. Has been called “barely watchable” and “an embarrassment.” In Thai and English with subtitles as needed. At Vista only.

Knight and Day: US, Action/ Comedy/ Thriller – The film where Tom Cruise gets to be charming again, after a considerable absence. And he is, with charisma to spare. It’s pleasantly amusing, as much a cute rom-com as an action flick. Mixed or average reviews.

The Karate Kid: US/ China, Action/ Drama/ Family/ Sport – Even worse than I had imagined. Filmed in Beijing emphasizing tourism sites which the Chinese required; turns out that’s the best part. Generally favorable reviews. Thai-dubbed at Vista.

Scheduled for July 15

Inception: US/ UK, Drama/ Mystery/ Sci-Fi/ Thriller – Has garnered a raft of ecstatic reviews, and sounds at the very least like a not-to-be-missed event. Starring Leonardo DiCaprio in what has been lauded as another outstanding state-of-the-art acting job. It’s written, directed, and produced by Christopher Nolan, so it’s his baby entirely, and it’s been called a worthy successor to his memorable Memento. About controlling a person through messing with his dreams. Early reviews: Universal acclaim.

Despicable Me (3D): (rescheduled) US, Animation/ Family – This first film from a new animation shop set up at Universal captures much of what one likes about Pixar cartoons, but with a bit of a European sensibility. Though it’s an American story, it was a Spanish animator’s idea, and realized by a French animation house. It’s funny, clever, and filled with memorable characters, all about a super villain, voiced by Steve Carell, who is planning the biggest heist in the history of the world: he’s going to steal the moon. Three little orphan girls challenge his plans.

Bridge in Paradise : by Neil Robinson

In this symmetric deal, nine tricks can be made in notrump by any declarer. The deal was discovered by John Beasley, and reported in “The Games and Puzzles Journal” in 1988. I am indebted to Martin Bagnall for bringing it to my attention.

Given the symmetry of the deal, we only need to analyze one declarer, so let us look at South. Fundamentally, the problem for the defense is that even though they can set up either diamonds or clubs with one lead of the suit, both suits are blocked, and there is no immediate entry to the hand that is set up. Isn’t declarer similarly blocked? Yes. But look what happens to the deal when West leads a low club. North pitches a spade, and South wins the trick in his hand, then leads a low spade to the ten, East winning the jack, leading to:

E-W’s clubs are blocked, and West at the moment has no entry. What does East lead here? When N-S get back in, they have seven spades and the A, along with the K from the first trick. But at this point the defense can only take two clubs and the A before surrendering the lead.

But what if West led a diamond? Then North covers, and, whatever East does, South pitches a heart. Now, South only needs to lose one heart to take seven heart tricks, plus a diamond and a spade. Finally, if West leads a heart, he lets East pitch a club to begin an unblock, but he does nothing to set up any of his own suits. Instead, he has blown his heart stop. Declarer just wins three hearts (the hearts are still blocked) and plays a low spade to the ten, and East is forced to win, leading to this position:

Whatever East/West pitch on the three hearts and a spade, all they can take when East gets in is their diamond and club aces, and then when declarer gets back in, he takes the ace and queen of spade and five hearts, along with the first three hearts (if the defense takes the A, North must pitch a heart, but then South’s K becomes good).

What is happening here?

Each side has two suits they might try to set up. In order to set up and run a suit, they need to lose a trick in the suit, and then either pitch a card from the Q-10-9 holding to unblock the suit, or lose the lead again to set up an entry to the long suit to make up for the blockage.

Now, when West leads a club, he does the first step - losing the mandatory club trick. But the club also lets North pitch a spade, so both sides take a step towards their respective goals. When North leads a spade to lose to East, West gets to pitch, but he holds the Q-10-9 in diamonds. If he pitches a diamond, East/West have taken one step towards establishing diamonds and one step towards establishing clubs, while North/South have taken the two steps needed to establish spades. The only problem with all this is that I cannot imagine a bidding sequence in which any hand actually reaches 3N and is allowed to play there!

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

Backpacker tourism in Chiang Mai

The number one topic of discussion among business owners in Chiang Mai is, of course, the dismal low season. While low is expected, lower than low is worse than most people’s worst business nightmares. Unless, of course, you go to the Tha Pae Gate area and frequent some of the backpacker popular venues. Last Saturday night saw quite a few large groups of young people wandering about, eating, drinking and generally having fun. Granted, they took up all the seats at the place I had intended on eating at, but they can’t be begrudged that so long as they are spending some money.

I know it’s a very popular past time to revile backpackers as unwashed, smelly, and cheap but in this group of well dressed, clean youngsters not a hippie hair was in sight. Sure, they are young, and yes, they are on a budget but in a town that sees very few tourists who are we to push away those few who are visiting? I know that the backpacker destinations of the South are also doing very well, again they are young, they are on a budget but they are there which is more than can be said for the average package tourists who seem to be rare creatures these days indeed.

Australia ran a widely known survey 7 years ago, about the economies of the backpacker destinations and the results, while not popular with many, were irrefutable, backpackers stayed longer, were more likely to return in the future and in the end, spent more money locally than the average package tourist. The backpacker today is not the hippie backpacker of the past. Most are either gap year kids seeing the world before they start University, newly graduated University students seeing the world before they start off on their careers, or those who have just worked and saved for a few years for the trip of a lifetime. And often, these very same young backpackers come back a few years later. Usually with more money, sometimes with a husband or wife in tow, and later, with their families as well. To discourage them as youngsters is to lose them as they grow older as well.

Australia has done very well attracting the young, backpacker with attractive visa options and ease of entrance. Even Fiji has been working on promoting itself as a backpacker destination. Thailand, alas, has not been quite so friendly. With a 15 day visa at the border limiting travelers’ options, it seems unlikely that extended stays will take place in Thailand by people who have flexible itineraries.

While certainly not advocating exclusivity on backpackers, it seems to me that exclusivity on any one kind of tourist is also a bad idea. Everyone should feel welcome in Chiang Mai and in Thailand.

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

The world’s smallest flowering plant

During the rainy season the markets are full of fresh fruit – a feast for the eye and the tongue. Another plant that has come into season is ‘Asian Watermeal’, khai nam (Wolffia globosa, Lemnaceae/Araceae). It is the world’s smallest flowering plant, and native to Thailand! In a market situation, you will see an old lady scooping up a light green paste in plastic bags. If you buy such a bag, and empty it in a terracotta pot of water in your own garden, you will see many individual, but tiny, green objects floating on the water surface. Each green object is one individual plant. Since it has no roots, stems or leaves, such a structure is called ’thallus’. This flowering plant mostly propagates by division, like yeast or bacterium. Its continuous growth demands a high enzymatic activity. Enzymes are proteins, and indeed the watermeal contains 30-40% protein. The watermeal is therefore a most important protein source for any vegetarian. In some rare occasions, usually when nutrients are depleted, or when there is a change in temperature or a drought, flowers will be formed. These are so tiny (0.3mm), that you need a dissecting microscope to see them. Each flower contains only one stamen and one pistil, no petals. They are colourless. Each flower only produces one seed. The seed is a way of surviving a harsh environment, such as drought. This flower shows that it is not an alga, which is a primitive plant without flowers. The Wolffia is a highly reduced form of an Arum. It prefers nutrient-rich waters, which should be still, not moving. How do you cook it? One way is to boil the watermeal in water, adding anchovy, fish sauce and leaves of Acacia pennata (cha om) or Hoary Basil (Ocimum americanum, ’Manglak’). If you know about another good recipe, please let us know!

Life in Chiang Mai: By Colin Jarvis

Where Do You Come From?

At least once a week I am asked “Where do you come from”? I always answer Hang Dong, unless I am in Bangkok, in which case I answer Chiang Mai. After all, this is where my family and I live and where I expect to spend the rest of my life. Hang Dong is my home.

This answer usually produces a quizzical look on the face of the questioner. “No” they reply “Where are you FROM”? What exactly do they mean? Do they want to know my nationality, do they want to know where I was born, or do they want to know where I have spent most of my life? The answer is different in each case.

My reply gives me the opportunity to expand on each of the three possible answers which are guaranteed to leave the questioner confused and possibly wishing they had never asked the question in the first place.

Of course, all they are really doing is trying to make polite conversation. Any answer I give is unlikely to provide them with any useful information and as a peg on which to hang future conversation replying Hang Dong is as good an answer as any, better in fact.

But let us look at this question in a little more depth. If two identical twins were separated at birth and one brought up in Dallas, Texas and the other in Bangkok I am sure they would grow up to be very different people. Where we grow up; the culture, the people we associate with, the education we receive, the TV programmes we watch, the food we eat; they all help us develop in a particular way. Our environment helps make us what we are or what we are to become.

If we know where someone comes from we can assume a great many things about them. We can put them in an appropriate box in our mind and this helps us with our social interaction.

So what my questioners are attempting to do is to put me into a mental box so that they can make assumptions about me, my personality, character and likely behaviour. In the case of retailers, no doubt they will also make an assumption as to how much I am going to spend.

I don’t know about you but I, personally, do not like other people putting me into mental boxes. I like to think I am unique but I am sure it is not really true. I am sure my dislike is more a matter of ego and pomposity rather than a real concern for better understanding.

Understanding where someone comes from can give us an insight into the person they are. It can be a very useful shortcut to smooth social interaction. If I know you are from a different culture it is easier for me to forgive your social gaffes. If I offer you food I am likely to check to make sure it is food you can eat.

Putting people in boxes can give us an insight, providing they have spent most of their formative years in one place. So the question “Where do you come from?” is a good one. It is better than asking where were you born or what nationality are you, as it does actually give one a better insight into the other persons likely needs and wants.

I suppose I should really answer the question by replying “UK”. This will allow the questioner to put me in their mental box that is most likely to be helpful to them. Answering that I was born in London, brought up as a Scot, and lived most of my life in America, Southeast Asia and many different places in Europe is more likely to confuse them rather than clarify their mind. However, to me, Hang Dong is where I am from. For the first time in my life I feel I am actually home. Everywhere else was simply part of a journey to arrive here. Unless I say I am from Hang Dong I feel I am letting the village down. I like Hang Dong, I am proud of Hang Dong, I feel happy and content when I am in Hang Dong. If I pretend I am from somewhere else I feel guilty, I feel I am telling a lie.

It is no good, if asked the question, I am going to have to say Hang Dong, unless I am in Bangkok, in which case I will say Chiang Mai.

Day Tripper: By Heather Allen

Phrae is a sleepy traditional old town

The home of the last Jao Luang of Phrae.

Phrae is well known for its many temples, and as one of the oldest cities in Thailand, they certainly abound. Tradition has it that Phrae and Nan were ruled by two brothers, when they met to divide the land between them, one brother rode a horse, the other a buffalo to the meeting point. To this day, the seal of Phrae has a horse, and that of Nan a buffalo.

Wat Phra That Cho Hae in Phrae is one of the many temples that abound.

Located about 4 or 5 hours drive from Chiang Mai, it may be a bit longer than a day trip, but if you leave early in the morning, its certainly doable in one day. However, given the abundance of temples, the museum at Wat Luang, the many beautiful old colonial era homes and the Seri Thai museum there, you may want to spend the night and head out to Mae Yom Park the next day, the last remaining reserves of the huge teak forests that used to cover Phrae.

The Seri Thai museum is quite interesting as it houses many old World War II relics and covers the history of the Seri Thai movement in Thailand during the war. But the gems of Phrae have to be the Vongburi house and the house of the Khum Jao Luang. Belonging to the last Jao Luang or Royally appointed ruler of the city, this beautiful old teak houses has been beautifully restored and boasts colonial era architecture.

Phrae can be reached by heading to Lampang, along Highway 11 after Lampang, turn onto Highway 101. Alternatively, the train stops at Den Chai from Chiang Mai but you would have to arrange transport once you arrived there. Its about 280 km.

Tips from the Podology Center

by Dirk Weeber-Arayatumsopon

Sweaty feet

A problem common among expats and Thais alike in the heat and humidity of the tropics is the perspiring foot or Hyperhydrosis and some hints on how to overcome this embarrassing problem.

The perspiring foot stems from an overreaction of the perspiratory glands caused by chronic discomfort, too spicy food, coffee or tea, nicotine or alcohol or onions, wrong shoes and bad hygiene.

It’s not always easy to accept advice but to avoid smelly feet its necessary! Stop smoking, drinking alcohol and don’t eat spicy food at all. Bathe your feet every evening before you go to bed in lukewarm milk with 4 tablespoons salt. A peeling would be good from time to time. Honey and salt mixed together gives a perfect skin peel and it is easy to produce yourself. You can also spray your feet with 70 % disinfection with alcohol inside or with 3 % hydrogen peroxide every morning and every evening.

Change your socks a few times a day, best to wear only pure cotton socks or the so-called toe-socks where each toe has an individual cover. Never wear shoes without socks

Lemongrass spray helps to get rid of the smell.

If you continue to have this problem even after taking these measures you should try treatment with Iontophorese, electroimpulstherapie, Botox injections, partly numbing of nerves or special medication. In some cases bath salt with aluminium-chlorate and cr่mes and sprays will help.

Dirk Weeber-Arayatumsopon works at the Podology Center in Bangkok and Chiang Mai and treats all kind of feet problems. More info at: