Vol. IX No. 30 - Tuesday
July 27 - August 2, 2010



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by Saichon Paewsoongnern


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

The Doctor's Consultation:  by Dr. Iain Corness

Dengue Fever - once more!

Aedes aegypti, the mosquito which carries the Dengue virus is here again. With a vengeance.

At the time of writing this column, there are five westerners in my hospital with Dengue Fever. This is not an isolated group that caught it from drinking out of damp glasses in the same bar. The actual figures for Thailand are 32 deaths and 29,432 cases so far this year. Last year, there were 180 cases in Northern Thailand alone and 10 fatalities. That’s more than died from the dreaded SARS epidemic that had people cringing in their homes afraid to go out without a gas mask.

So, despite my previous pleas (and those of the Public Health Department), Dengue Fever and its potentially fatal variant, Dengue Hemorrhagic Fever (DHF) is still with us. The latest figures have now prompted me to repeat my advice on this subject. If you remember reading about it before, I apologize, but the subject matter is very important. This is an important ailment that can be avoided.

However, first you should understand a little more about Dengue. It was first described in 1780 by a Benjamin Rush in Philadelphia (so it didn’t start here) when the name Break Bone Fever was applied, with the symptoms of pain in the bones and rise in temperature. The name “Dengue” came in 1828 during an epidemic in Cuba. The new name was a Spanish attempt at a Swahili phrase “ki denga pepo” which describes a sudden cramping seizure caused by an evil spirit! Let me assure you that the local brand of Dengue Fever owes nothing to spirits, evil, bottled or otherwise.

Like Malaria, the virus is carried by mosquitoes, this time by one called Aedes aegypti. The virus itself is related to Japanese encephalitis, Murray Valley encephalitis and Yellow fever, and there are four “serotypes” or subgroups of it.

The mosquito lays its eggs in water containers, preferring the clean water found in water tanks and pots, in the saucers under pot plants and even under the pet’s food dish. Inside discarded car tyres is another favorite spot. These mosquitoes are not of the adventurous type and feed during the day and spend their time within 200 meters of their hatchery. Consequently, the eradication of any local breeding areas becomes very important towards maintaining your own health, as you can see. Keep your home free from lying water for a radius of 200 meters and you’re looking good!

Simple Dengue (if you can call it that) has an incubation period of around four to seven days and then the full blown symptoms of high fever and headache begin. The headache is usually behind the eyes and is made worse by eye movement. From there the pains progress to the limbs with acute muscle pains, which gave it the old name “Break Bone Fever”. Interestingly, some patients complain of a metallic taste in the mouth. (Please don’t ask - I have no idea why!)

On the other hand, Dengue Hemorrhagic Fever (DHF) can certainly be fatal! It appears that Serotype 2 may be the culprit here, but does not usually produce DHF unless you have been previously bitten by types 1, 3 or 4. In addition to the symptoms of Classical Dengue the skin begins to bruise very easily as the blood hemorrhages into the skin. Children are also more susceptible to this than adults. This also becomes much more of an emergency and is best treated in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) of your favorite hospital.

With our ability to treat the viral ailments being very limited, the defense against the Dengue virus lies in the preventive measures. The other precautions are to wear long trousers and long sleeved shirts, especially at sun up and sun down, when the mosquito is at its most ravenous. The other factor to remember is “D” for Dengue and “D” for DEET. DEET is the magic ingredient in mosquito repellents, so when you go to buy some, check the label - if it has DEET, then get it. And then remember to use it!

 

Spotty

Hi! I’m Spotty. I am a lovely little girl of 1-2 years old with a perky personality and lots of love to give to the right person. I have charming little spots all over my paws and bright intelligent little eyes. I am healthy, sterilised and have had all my shots too! A perfect choice for any family with or without children or other dogs. I’ll be waiting for you here at Care for Dogs shelter. Call me and I’ll come running!

Contact the shelter English (08 47 52 52 55) or Thai language (08 69 13 87 01) asap to make an appointment to meet her, email: [email protected] or visit the website for further info www.carefordogs.org.


Heart to Heart  with Hillary

Dear Hillary,

There’s plenty of places for men to enjoy the company of the opposite sex around here, but where do ladies go for company? I’m not looking for a long term commitment, but just some fun evenings. I’m English and all I want is some good conversation, a couple of drinks and no heavy stuff. Is this possible, or am I looking for something that isn’t there?
Mandy

Dear Mandy,
I think you are confusing your aspirations with the local capabilities, my Petal. You are in Thailand. The people here all speak a language known as pasa Thai. The number of Thai males working in the bars who can actually converse in English would be very small. For that matter, the number of ladies working in the bar that can speak good conversational English is also very small, after you get past “Hello sexy man. Sit down please. Buy me cola?” I am sure that many of the ‘boy bars’ and nightclubs could offer you drinks, some fun evenings with no commitment, and the ‘stuff’ gets as heavy as you (the customer) wants. However, remember you pay for the fun, just as you do in any bar in Thailand. The staff are ‘professional’, if you know what I mean.

Dear Hillary,
About the guy with bad breath: Many times persistent bad breath is caused by bacteria on the tongue. He should brush his lady’s best friend before retiring and then a quick mouthwash in the a.m. would solve his problem.
Your fan,
Utah Ken

Dear Utah Ken,
I see that with your interest in this problem, you must be a cunning linguist. Clever you! I’m sure that after this news the sufferer will already be at it, toothbrush in hand and mouthwash beside the bed for the morning, with spittoon handily placed. I wish him luck.

Dear Hillary,
When you meet someone and you know they are the right person for you, it doesn’t matter whether they work in a bar or work in a university. That’s it, they are the one. You are in love. You go on a lot about finding good Thai women, but they are really all the same, so don’t keep on about it. If your girl comes from a bar, just enjoy and ignore the advice from silly old people like Hillary.
James

Dear James,
What a silly mixed up young boy you are. You are not describing “love” to me, Petal, you are describing infatuation. You are ignoring the fact that girls who work in the bars frequented by foreigners are in it for the money. Nobody forces them to work there. They are there to get the money out of the foreign purse. So if you put yourself in that environment (sorry about the big words, darling, but you can look it up later), undoubtedly a young inexperienced male like you will fall “in love” with a lady from the bar. It has been said many times, and this is not a Hillary original, but you can take a girl out of the bar, but you can’t take the bar out of the girl. However, as you say, “just enjoy”, but do listen to the advice from this silly old person. I have seen more than you have, many times over.

Dear Hillary,
Is possible that a letter from Germany are not arriving the receiver or right target? I meet a nice Thai girl in the last holiday and the friendship between us are deepens already. I write in the such time several letters to my girlfriend and she write to me back. And we have no problems until now. The last letter I write on May but no answer. Inside the letter 1,000 baht and some picture of me. I ringed to my girl at the bar but she said there is no letter coming from me. What will I do? Your newspaper are my only help for my Heartbreak Situation. I talk with other people who are stay in Thailand before and they talk to me that some girls just lying. But I am really desperate and I only want to know what is true or not, because I love she very much. Have maybe somebody of the Post staff stolen the letter or anybody else? So now I want to know your meaning about this sadden situation. I am thank you and I looking forward of an answer of you to me.
Heartbroken Helmut

Dear Heartbroken Helmut,
Unfortunately I have heard from many people that letters containing money go missing. The answer is to disguise the fact that there may be money in the letter by putting it inside a card or a small magazine. That way when the letter is held up to a bright light you cannot see the money inside, but there are other ways of sending money over here which are much safer too. Your girlfriend at the bar will know them all, or her friends will. Perhaps it might be better to save your money so that you can get over here more often. I don’t think your girlfriend is lying. For 1,000 baht, no. For a million - well that’s another story.


Camera Class:  by Harry Flashman

Is this the end of the SLR?

A few years ago now, I not only wrote about the so-called ‘Bridge’ cameras, but I bought one as well. A still camera that could go from 35 mm to 410 mm, all in one lens. Image stabilization, instant image display, and even limited video performance and all the usual bells and whistles. Apart from a shutter delay which makes sports action shots difficult (but not impossible) and an on-camera flash which has about as much fire power as the average match, I have been very happy with it. However, the DSLR group continues to be the best seller.

This was radical at one time!

But all that is going to change, as has been demonstrated by Canon at the World Expo 2010 in Shanghai, with their provocatively named “Wonder Camera” concept. This camera was the star of the show as far as photography was concerned, and was Canon’s idea of what your camera will be like in 20 years time, and its capabilities.

It was not a ‘super DSLR’, in fact, quite the opposite, being more akin to today’s bridge cameras, but even more close to a video camera idea with still image capture.

The lens capability exceeds my 35 - 410 mm by far, with this concept camera going from macro to 5,000 mm with the one lens. With our current technology, even if we could make a 5,000 mm lens, it would be the size of a small bazooka, and weigh something that it would take a top ranked weightlifter to take out of the camera bag. And it would need a camera capable of 1/5000th of a second shutter speed to provide a reasonably sharp image. And it would be necessary to mount the camera on a tripod similar to the Sydney Harbor Bridge. With our current state of the art equipment, it would require several lenses.

What makes this camera even more amazing, is that it is claimed that a tripod is not necessary - you can hand-hold at 5,000 mm and the camera’s image stabilization system keeps everything sharp. That is certainly way beyond the ability of any of the current image stabilization systems in use. Canon admits that this is not currently possible, but Canon believes that within 20 years it will be. With the advances in phone technology in the past 20 years, this does not take too much of a leap of imagination, does it?

So far, I have been just looking at this concept as an extension of a bridge camera, but that is not correct either. It is actually a very high resolution video camera, which allows for very high resolution still image capture.

We are told that everything in the frame is kept in focus, and so any still image is also in focus, and that includes just using part of the screen image. Currently we do have still image capture but it does not give sharp quality images. But then, Canon says that in two decades, they will have the technology that will be able to do it.

The concept camera also shows no buttons or dials and instead, looks to be operated by a large touchscreen, which is only radical through its size.

This new concept is then not a DSLR, nor is it a bridge camera. In many ways, it is more akin to a television broadcast camera in its zoom capabilities, but without the need for a lens the size of a bazooka or a video style tripod. Canon, however, are suggesting that this will be a consumer level camera, which would mean that the SLR concept will not continue. When one ‘super’ lens will do the job of several, who will stick to the old SLR systems?

What has to be remembered, however, is that this camera is still just a concept. The abilities demonstrated at the World Expo 2010 in Shanghai does not mean that Canon can do everything the concept hinted at. By leaning heavily on current technology and mating it with WiFi capture, it is then possible to simulate what this concept might be able to achieve in two decades. The future looks exciting.


Money Matters:  Paul Gambles MBMG International Ltd.

Can the Past help with the Future? Part 1

Books of quotations are full of it:
- “The only unknown is the history that you have not yet read” – President Harry S. Truman
- “It is my experience of the past that unveils the future to me” – Napoleon
- “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it” – George Santayana
- “If men could learn from history, what lessons it might teach us!” – S.T. Coleridge

As regular readers of this column are well aware, I do believe in history and that you can use it to help with the future. Yes, people like me always cover their backsides with such statements as, “Past performance is not a guide to future performance and the value of investments can rise as well as fall.” This will usually be found stuck away in the small print of any financial brochure as well.

However, without doubt, financial markets are cyclical and if you read about what has happened before in economic history then you can learn from it.

For instance, there is a good argument to be had by stating that America is now where Britain was one hundred years ago. Back then Britain ruled the waves and thought it was king of the world’s financial markets. The United States thinks the same today. However, no empire, whether military or financial lasts forever - just as the Romans or Lehmans did not.

However, when compared to Great Britain, the United States of America is a young country, and like all of those with the exuberance of youth does not to pay much attention to the lessons of history. This is a shame. They would learn a lot. Yes, it would be difficult. Yes, it could be brutal. But it would be worth it. As stated above, no power goes on in perpetuity. Countries and companies along with those that run them can become fat and lazy. Discipline goes out the window and they look for a quick fix to make everything look right. As Bill Bonner put it recently, “Economic and political vulnerability go hand in hand. Remember, without a strong economy, a nation’s international standing, standard of living, national security, and even its domestic tranquility will suffer over time.”

Some Americans suffer from the same blind ignorance and arrogance that us British did a hundred years ago when we thought the sun would never set on the empire. Well, we got that well wrong and, unless there is a radical change of thought this will happen to the USA over the next decade or so. Actually, you only have to go back less than twenty years to see the demise of one economic system and that was the end of the Soviet empire. There is constant evolution in this world and we must face up to change or perish by not doing so.

We know the world of finance and running businesses can be vicious. Like countries and empires they come and go as well. Just look at the companies which were in the first Dow Jones index in 1896. There were a dozen of them and, it was believed at the time, they would be operating until the end of days. Well, 114 years later, only General Electric remains. If America cannot learn from this then what can it learn from? They will go the way of Rome, Britain and all the other global powerhouses of the last two thousand years.

To continue with the comparison between the UK and the US, at the start of the 20th Century, Britain was seen as the only real global superpower and, because of this, was expected to be the world’s policeman. It was happy to fulfill this role until World War I came along and basically bankrupted the country. Fortunately for the world the US was there to step into the breach and has continued to be the benign protector ever since - although some do say that comes at a pretty steep price. The question is though, for how much longer? Britain’s role came to an end due to exterior forces. Maybe the US can better be compared to Rome which eventually collapsed for various reasons such as sloth, decline in moral standards, an army and navy no longer capable of doing its job, loss of control of its national borders and the complete disintegration of fiscal control by the senate (government). Does this sound familiar?

More comparisons are there for all to see if they would only look at them. A world power which relies on another nation or nations for its financial well being is prone to vulnerability. This can be seen when the UK and French went into Suez in 1956. The then Soviet Union said it would come in on the side of the Egyptians thus turning a local affair into a potential Third World War. America did not want this and as they still controlled the large majority of both British and French foreign debt told the two countries to withdraw because, if they did not, the US would sell off its holdings in their currencies which basically meant they would be worthless. Britain and France got out of Egypt as quickly as they could.

Whilst it is true that the US Dollar has never been threatened in such a way, it has become more and more vulnerable over the last twenty years with Middle Eastern countries and China buying the Greenback in quantities that has never before been seen. If they all decided to sell at the same time this would inevitably mean a massive exodus from the US Dollar on a global basis. This, in turn, would lead to a huge drop in its value as well as much higher interest rates.

America may well cope with this scenario if it ever actually came to pass. After all, it has coped with the Great Depression of the 1930s, the oil problems of the 1970s and what happened only a couple of years ago. The question lies in will they be able to deal with any future challenges.

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 Story of Floating Weeds and House of Bamboo

By chance I saw these films – set in Japan – within a day of each other. The Story of Floating Weeds directed by Yasujiro Ozu is in black and white, silent (Ozu, like Chaplin, remained ‘silent’ for years after the arrival of sound cinema) and is completely indigenous and rooted in tradition.

Samuel Fuller’s movie, House of Bamboo, is in CinemaScope, vividly shot by the fine cameraman Joe McDonald and combines a travelogue view of Tokyo with a mixture of social observation and gangsterdom in a post-war, post A-bomb world.

Ozu was one of cinema’s great masters: calm, reflective –with hints of melodrama – often humorous and affectionately concerned with the family and relationships, yet always with an unsentimental, critical eye.

Fuller was brash, tough and a journalist by training and inclination: a maverick who worked incisively with modest budgets in classic genres such as westerns, thrillers and social dramas. He too, was often highly critical of the society around him.

The first version of ‘Floating Weeds’ (Ozu remade it in a longer version, in colour in 1959) is neatly constructed as a circular narrative. It opens with a group of travelling actors arriving by train to a semi rural community. They have a hard time financially (thanks to heavy rain) and emotionally – not least because of the selfish and wayward behaviour of the ‘master’ of the troupe. In a final sequence they disband and a few of them find themselves on a train together, heading for a new town and possibly a new beginning. In the marvelous central section two love stories, one past, one present, are movingly intertwined.

Ozu positions his camera at around eye level for someone seated on the floor, Asian style. His characters move in and out and across the frame and shot. They are never followed; there are no pans or zooms, no changes of lens. A delicate rhythm is created by his precise but never clinical editing and by the control of movement. There are just two short tracking shots in the whole work and these have an almost overwhelming impact as a result of their ‘surprise’ value. These and the occasional exteriors create a relief from the claustrophobia of the internal settings.

The style is deceptively simple but is enhanced by the ‘quirky’ framing of images, with figures often seen only partially in a manner later called ‘Bressonian’. Ozu’s cinematic vision is very pure and possibly unique. Certainly it is unmistakable.

Fuller was fairly recognisable too. He opens his story brashly, observing in medium long shot the robbery of an army supply train, during which Japanese guards are hurt and an American soldier is killed as Mount Fuji looms in the background. The American army sends for an undercover agent (Robert Stack) who infiltrates a gang, led by the suavely menacing Sandy (Robert Ryan).

The agent soon supplants the former ‘right hand man’- to the latter’s fury – thanks to Sandy’s closet gayness. Stack is even made to look like his handsome, blond rival and is taken into the boss’s home (with his Japanese girl friend, after all this was the mid fifties).

Basically it’s cops and robbers material, with many brilliant scenes (notably the execution of the former favourite as he bathes in a large wooden tub: Sandy’s bullets create holes which leak water as the body leaks blood). The film was the first made with co-operation from the Japanese government and Tokyo city and this accounts for lavish exterior shots, colourful shows and even the dramatically staged, if fanciful, final shoot out over Tokyo rooftops.

Stylistically these films have nothing in common, but they are fascinating in showing the extremes of ‘cinema’: one subdued, meditative, the other bravura, impetuous, to tell their simple stories on which are pinned distinct visions and very different emotional responses. In their distinct ways each director was a true original.

Ozu made some 50 films between 1923 and 1962 and was more highly regarded abroad than in Japan, especially in the U.K. He died aged 60 in 1963 and his films continue to be widely available.

Fuller directed fewer movies, but also acted in many. He too enjoyed a greater reputation abroad –especially in Europe – than in the U.S.A. and left there after the vitriolic response to his anti-racist film White Dog. He worked in Germany and France where he had long been lionised. He died aged 85 in 1997.

The films, available from the DVD shop at 129 Suthep Road, make an amusing double bill. Watch the Ozu first, early afternoon and then enjoy a period of reflection over green tea. Follow after a decent interval with the Fuller, after which you’ll deserve a stiff dry martini. Then head down to Rico de Rica in Soi Five off Nimmanhaemin Road for a superb Japanese dinner to round off a perfect day.


Let's Go To The Movies:  by Mark Gernpy

Now playing in Chiang Mai

Inception: US/ UK, Drama/ Mystery/ Sci-Fi/ Thriller – I’ve seen this film a second time now, and it makes more sense, but I still have a ways to go. I think this movie will stand up to repeated viewings over the years, with more insight into it each time around. And yes, it is worth the effort. But it’s also an action flick, with car chases and gunfights, and you can enjoy it on that level without worrying about the puzzles. But it is full of puzzlement and mazes, and very challenging on that level. It has garnered a raft of ecstatic reviews from those attuned to Christopher Nolan’s brand of mind games, such as his memorable Memento, and for his fans this is certainly a not-to-be-missed event. Already there are huge discussions online about just how much of the film is actually a dream, and wild arguments about whose dream it is. Or if various different people are dreaming different sections. Starring Leonardo DiCaprio in another in his string of outstanding state-of-the-art acting jobs. It’s written, directed, and produced by Christopher Nolan, and he was given all the money he needed, so it’s just what he wants it to be. That in itself is remarkable in this day and age. Highly recommended! Generally favorable reviews.

Despicable Me (3D): US, Animation/ Family – I found it completely delightful! And so did the audience I was in. If you like animation, don’t miss it. It’s a complete surprise and has a voice all its own. It’s frequently laugh-out-loud funny, as well as clever, and filled with memorable characters, all about a super villain, voiced by Steve Carell, who is planning to steal the moon. Three little orphan girls challenge his plans. Whatever you do, don’t miss the ending credits. For awhile you will see some of the most fun to be had with 3D, as the minions of the film try out this trick and that. Generally favorable reviews. In 3D at Airport Plaza, 2D and Thai-dubbed at Vista. 3D is really the only way to see it.

The Sorcerer’s Apprentice: You remember: A sorcerer leaves his workshop in the hands of his apprentice, who gets into trouble when the broomstick he’s tasked to do his chores for him somehow develops a mind of its own. That’s the plot of the segment in Walt Disney’s Fantasia which is the origin of this movie. Apparently the idea was Nicolas Cage’s, who wanted to make a feature length movie based upon the Fantasia segment. The cast consists of Cage as Balthazar Blake, a sorcerer and computer simulation expert, based on the magician Yen Sid portrayed in Fantasia; Jay Baruchel as an average college student who becomes Blake’s apprentice – he is based on the character played by Mickey Mouse in Fantasia; and Alfred Molina as an evil magician. Mixed or average reviews.

Predators: US, Action/ Adventure/ Sci-Fi/ Thriller – I did enjoy this! I thought it a quite superior film of the action-adventure type. What really impressed me was the fun the actors seemed to be having with their characters. 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 film, but I found it quite entertaining. Mixed or average reviews.

Scheduled for July 29

The Last Airbender: US, Action/ Adventure/ Family/ Fantasy – Generally unfavorable reviews. I can’t believe the disappointment this is turning out to be! I was so looking forward to this, because the source material is brilliant and powerful and hugely popular; and also because I really want M. Knight Shyamalan to have another success, and not be just a one shot director. With this marvelous story and this young boy, I was hoping for something as truly good as his first film, which also starred a young boy, The Sixth Sense.

Alas, it’s not to be. I have just seen this on DVD (not in 3D) and I have to agree with the reviews, which are some of the worst in recent memory. It really is an incomprehensible, ugly mess. A part of the problem might be that at the last minute at the studio’s demand the film was shortened by 25 minutes or so, and hastily transformed into 3D by a post-production process of questionable quality.

I am really fond of the source material: the 61-episode American animated television series on Nickelodeon, titled Avatar: The Last Airbender. That series, and this film, are set in an Asian-influenced world of Chinese martial arts and element manipulation, especially drawing on aspects of traditional Chinese and Japanese culture, and on Indian religions.

This hugely successful Emmy Award-winning series is now being shown here on Thai TV in four five-episode marathon sessions each week, and I’m hooked on it. See that instead of this film.


Bridge in Paradise : by Neil Robinson

Last week I talked about when to bid if you have a very weak hand and your partner opens 1N. If you have a bid that will get you into a low level trump contract with a fit between the hands, then you must bid. Last week’s hand contained one point and five hearts. With such a hand, you are not “too weak to bid” but “too weak to pass”. You bid 2D to get your partner to transfer to hearts and then pass 2H. You are much better off in a heart contract than having your partner struggle in an unmakeable 1N. This week’s hands are more of a challenge. Imagine you are sitting North. You are vulnerable against E-W non-vulnerable. East deals and passes. Your partner opens 1N and West passes. What do you bid with hand A or hand B?

With hand A you have no bid and must pass. It does no good to transfer to hearts with only four of them. Your partner may only have two, in which case it is likely to be even worse than struggling in 1N. Hand B, on the other hand, is quite different. It is the classic trash Stayman hand. You have three four card suits, spades, hearts and diamonds and a singleton club. You desperately want to find a fit with one of the three suits. So you bid 2C, intending to pass whatever partner bids. With any luck, partner will have a four card major and you will end up in an eight card fit. With an eight card fit you have a decent chance of making a two level contract even with fewer than half the points between the two hands. At worst, partner will bid 2D, denying a four card major. Then you have to pass, keeping your fingers crossed that partner actually has some diamonds. But this is likely, given the absence of a four card major. Here is the full deal opposite hand B:

You are pleased to hear your partner bid 2H and pass happily. Playing 2H with only 17 points between the two hands is no walk in the park, but a lot better than trying to make 1N. In no trump the likely lead is a low diamond. The defence would take four diamond tricks, three spades (with the right switch), two hearts and maybe a club. This translates to three or four down and 300 or 400 points to E-W. In a heart contract the most the defence can take is three diamonds, two hearts and a spade for one down and a much better result for you. If the defence slip up (and defence is always difficult), then the contract may be made, for a really good result for your side, and all thanks to a trash bid. Next week, more trash bids!

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

New book on pests and diseases in Thai gardens

Pisuth Ek-Amnuay, Plant Diseases and Insect Pests. Siam Insect Zoo (2010). 592 pages. Richly illustrated. Thai texts with English and scientific names.

Khun Pisuth Ek-Amnuay is one of the very few learned scholars who takes pride in sharing his experience with people outside the specialist world. Insect books are important to create an interest and admiration for Thai nature. Many people in their home gardens wish to contribute to a thriving landscape, rich in biodiversity. Unfortunately, finding knowledge is very hard for somebody who does not have access to university libraries. Pisuth’s passion for insects has resulted in two previous books in English, one on Thai butterflies and one on Thai beetles. This third volume is most welcome, as it deals with pests and diseases commonly found in Thai gardens. For an English reader, one can simply consult the book’s host index, for example Litchi, go to page 302 where many of the pests are illustrated and then note the scientific names. As soon as you have the name, you have power over the beast! Googling the scientific name will give you management suggestions in any language you prefer. Some of the scientific names are not correctly spelt, because it is hard to find a proof-reader who knows Latin and entomology. However, Google usually proposes alternative spellings. If you do not know the name of your plant, browse the sections ’Rice’, ’Vegetables’, ’Fruits’, ’Field crops’ and ’Orchid & Ornamentals’. Within each section, the pests are listed in alphabetical order based on the English names of the hosts.

As Chiang Mai is a centre of culture and science, the publisher Siam Insect Zoo is in fact located in Mae Rim. Take the Samoeng Road towards the Mae Sa valley, but already at the Monkey School you turn right (north). The Siam Insect Zoo is run by Pisuth’s son Suttha. This is a rare attraction based on passion, a must-see for anybody interested in learning more about the surrounding nature. For more information, visit www. malaeng.com. www.dokmaigarden.co.th. www.dokmaidogma.wordpress.com.


Life in Chiang Mai: By Colin Jarvis

Return To Silom

Last month I told you about the hotel, watch repairer, restaurant, massage parlour and sock lady that I knew in the Silom area of Bangkok. I was quite worried about them all as they had been overrun by the red shirts. Would they be able to survive both as individuals and as businesses?

A few weeks later I made a short visit to Bangkok and stayed in my usual hotel. There were no obvious signs of damage although, apparently, the red shirts had used the small soi, in which the hotel is situated, as a short cut between barricades. Of course, the number of residents was virtually nil during the four weeks of the occupation. This is a serious blow to the hotel, which is privately owned, as the turnover in this period represents about 12% of annual turnover. How many of our businesses would survive if we suddenly lost 12% annual turnover?

The sock lady was nowhere to be seen. It is a shame as she sold exceptionally good socks at a very low price and I could do with some more. However her business is eminently portable and I hope she has found a new pitch somewhere else in Bangkok. With luck I will bump into her before I have to resort to darning.

The watch repairer, on Saladaeng station, has disappeared. His little aluminium framed shop is no longer there. All that remains are some marks in the floor where the shop used to be. A tooth missing from the mouth of station commerce. Perhaps he was able to relocate; perhaps his little shop was commandeered by the red shirts or perhaps simply smashed. I don’t know but I wish the man all the luck in the world as he was a diligent, honest tradesman.

The little restaurant and the place where I go for a foot massage are still in business, just. They both hope to receive some financial support from the government but it will not really cover their losses. The massage parlour is in real trouble as they have not only lost the custom over the period of the occupation they have had to resign themselves to the fact that very few tourists will be coming to Thailand this summer. It is tourists that provide them with the majority of their income.

All these peoples’ lives and dreams have been seriously affected by the events over the past few months. Unless they were injured during the demonstrations I am sure they are all fine and will, no doubt, survive. Thai people seem to me to be the most resilient people I have ever come across. If something goes wrong they simply do something else and get on with their lives. An attitude I feel we could all learn from.

There is very little evidence of damage in Bangkok. This is partly because on two separate occasions, the people came out to sweep and clean the streets and to plant new trees and shrubs where they had been damaged. The cleaning was sponsored by a cleaning company that provided the chemicals and many of the brooms, brushes and other equipment needed. I have not managed to find out who instigated the planting, whether this activity was indeed organised by a commercial organisation or was simply a spontaneous activity by local people, it matters not a jot. The fact is that a major cleanup took place very quickly and has expunged the evidence of almost two months of idiocy.

There are, of course, signs of the demonstrations, particularly as a result of the fires that were set on the last day. Perhaps the most spectacular is the Zen part of the Central shopping centre by Siam station. Demolition has already started and no doubt the new building will be functioning again soon. I doubt that the planning procedures take as long here as they do in Europe and America and Thai construction can be very quick indeed. I think there is also a part of the Thai character that will wish to remove the reminders of recent events as quickly as possible.

The demonstrations caused havoc and great damage to the country. Whether they actually achieved anything History will have to tell us later. What is true is that the Thai people have recovered incredibly quickly. They seem to be determined to put the problems behind them and to get on with business. I am not sure whether the attitude is one of fatalism or positivism but whatever it is, it seems to work.

Bangkok seems to be as relaxed as normal, that is as far as it can be and I felt as safe there as ever I did. Things seem to have returned to normal except I may never see my friends the sock lady and the watch repairer again. I will be able to stay in my normal hotel and hopefully eat in my favourite local restaurant and have my feet massaged, but there are no guarantees.


Day Tripper: By Heather Allen

Mae Sa Valley

A short drive away, Mae Sa valley has orchid farms, botanic gardens, and the beautiful Mae Sa Waterfalls. And with the rain we have been having, there should actually be plenty of water in the falls now.

I first went to Mae Sa years ago on a road trip with some friends. I love anything gardening related so insisted we stop at each and every little orchid farm along the way. I even bought those little orchid seedlings in a whiskey bottle but suspect I broke the bottle open too soon (sometimes my expectations can be rather high) as my little orchidlets never thrived. I’ve always wanted to give it a try and now, with the advent of all information available on the internet (alas my original whisky bottle had no growing instructions) may have better success with the bottle of plantlets.

In addition to the Waterfalls, Mae Sa is also home to the Mae Sa Elephant Camp (yes more elephants on the travel page it seems) that offers elephant riding and an exhibition hall, the Snake Farm where you can watch a snake show, touch a cobra or hold a giant python. Additionally there is the Mae Rim Monkey School, the first in Northern Thailand, if you want to see macaques in action, this is the place to go.

Finally, another garden lovers delight, the Queen Sirikit Botanic Garden. At the edge of the Doi Suthep National Park, it was established in 1994 and offers not only beautiful and diverse plants to look at, but educational opportunities as well with visits for kids and a taxonomist course held annually. Contact the botanic gardens if you are interested.

The Queen Sirikit Botanic Garden has walks through various climbers, medicinal plants and waterfalls in addition to the many greenhouses with desert plants, tropical rain forests, orchids and water plants.Open from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. it’s a bargain at 40 baht for adults and 10 baht for kids.

To get to Mae Sa, drive South on Highway 108 to Highway 1269 at about the 16 km mark. Simply follow the signs, its not far!



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