The Doctor's Consultation: by Dr. Iain Corness
Check-ups at a bargain price
Many people work on the principle that they would rather
not know about any underlying or sinister medical conditions they may have.
After all, we are all going to die one day, aren’t we? I have always said
that despite all advances in medical science, the death rate will always be
the same - one per person!
However, check-ups are inherently involved in that
important feature called the Quality of Life. Longevity alone, with no
quality, just isn’t worth it in my book. Or yours, most likely, otherwise
you would not be reading this column.
The guiding principle behind check-ups is to find
deviations from normal health patterns at an early stage. Early enough that
the trend can be reversed, before damage has occurred. Examples of this
include Blood Pressure (BP), a significant factor in poor health in the
future if unchecked now. High BP can affect many organs in the body, not
just the heart. But an elevated BP generally gives no warning symptoms.
Another example is blood sugar. Again, it requires sky-high
sugar levels before the person begins to feel that something might be wrong.
And by then the sugar levels have affected vision, the vascular system and
many other systems, all of which can decrease your quality of life in the
future. Amputation of a limb is a common result of unchecked blood sugar
levels. A situation that nobody would wish for themselves, I am sure.
Respiratory conditions also rate high on the list of
medical events that can decrease your quality of life. Yet the majority of
these can be found early, and treated successfully.
Cardiac conditions and abnormalities, be that in anatomy
or function, can also very adversely affect your quality of life, but are
very easily found during a routine check-up. Various blood tests and an EKG
can show just how well the cardiac pump is functioning, and how well it will
continue to function in the future. The inability to walk more than 50
meters certainly takes the fun out of shopping, yet this can be predicted -
if you have some serial records!
Another of the silent killers can be discovered in your
lipid profile, with Cholesterol and its fractions HDL and LDL, being
intimately connected with your cardiac status. Again a situation where
detecting abnormalities now can mean that you can get through the deadly
50-60 year age bracket in the future with clear coronary arteries and a
clean bill of health.
There are actually so many of the conditions that can
affect your enjoyment of the future that can be discovered early. Renal (kidney)
function and liver function can be monitored through an annual check-up, as
can prostate size (indicated by the PSA blood test) or breast tumors (by
If you are under 40 years of age, and think you are in
good health (non-smoker and moderate drinker) then every two years will be
fine. If you are older than 40, then make it an annual event. It is good
‘insurance’ for the future.
And what degree of check-up should you go for? If you are
in tip-top health and previous check-ups have been normal, then go for the
simple screen - however, if you are a smoker, or have some previous results
outside of normal, move up a notch to the more comprehensive tests. I would
also suggest that if you are over 50, look for the more detailed check-ups.
Lovely girl looking for a home
Meet Kate. This sweetheart is very playful and affectionate. She’s
around 3-4 years old and has a lovely golden fluffy coat. She loves
attention and also just enjoys sitting quietly. Contact the Care for
Dogs shelter English (08 47 52 52 55) or Thai language (08 69 13 87
01) to make an appointment to meet her. www.carefordogs.org
Heart to Heart
Does anyone else have the same problem as me? A
farang wife, yes I know I brought sand to the beaches, but she has to do
a visa run every few months - and she forgets. She is a very independent
woman and won’t let me take charge of keeping the visas current. Only
problem is I end up having to pay for over-stays and that’s getting
expensive these days. What do you recommend I do?
Vic the visa runner
Dear Vic the visa runner,
This is very easy to fix. Give her the independence she want, let her
arrange her own visas - and let her pay for her own overstays. If she
does it too often she will get deported as well, so you might kill two
birds with one stone here.
I am trying (with little success) to persuade my wife that we should
consider selling up our house in England and move to Thailand or at
least consider this as an option when we retire (and that’s now 66). We
normally come to Thailand twice a year for holidays. My wife is a demon
for sunbathing and I have caught the golf bug, so obviously Thailand
suits us both. My problem is persuading “she who must be obeyed” that a
permanent move to Thailand is an excellent idea. She is of the opinion
that she would soon get bored and there is little else for her to do
other than laze around by the pool or on the beach. Can you offer any
advice on how to persuade her that a move to Thailand would not
necessarily be boring? Any advice or ideas on how to persuade my wife to
move would be gratefully accepted.
In a previous column you were asked about why there
were so many golf tourists in Thailand. You quite rightly pointed out
that there were many wonderful courses and they were considerably
cheaper than elsewhere in the world. You forgot to mention the wonderful
smiling caddies who just carry on smiling no matter how bad you play. It
really is a golfing paradise.
Dear Golfing George,
UK or Thailand? It’s a lay down misere, surely! However, let me look at
what could be keeping her in the UK. With us women folk, Petal, there
are often hidden agendas that you men just do not realize or even
consider to be important. There may be more to it than ideas of boredom.
What about these for starters? Children? From your letter I presume that
retirement isn’t all that far off, so they should all be grown up.
Grandchildren? Perhaps. Her own parents? The security of having the
house in the UK versus the “uncertainty” of life and ownership of real
estate in Thailand? These are all issues that you should explore. As
regards boredom, ask any of the members of the various ladies clubs if
they are bored. Run off their feet more likely. I suggest that next time
you come over on holidays get your wife to contact them and see where
that leads. You will find the listings in this newspaper.
I am working in the Middle East and I come here regularly for many weeks
at a time. On these trips over here I generally find that there will be
a very suitable young lady who will indicate that she would like to take
care of me, and a suitable (financial) arrangement can be entered into.
The problem is one young lady is trying to tie me down. How do I get her
to understand that this is not a lifetime relationship, just a few
weeks, and when I go back to work I will want her to leave the condo and
take all of the things that she has managed to bring over in the last
Dear Sandy Sam,
You have just found out that you can’t have your cake and eat it too!
She has been taking care of you, so now you must take a little care of
her and her feelings. Now is the time to spell it all out, my Petal.
Tell her to take her things and go - but sweeten it with a suitable
I don’t know if you answer ‘food’ questions, but here goes anyway. I
have seen people eating what looks like an egg ‘parcel’ with meat inside
it. They cook it in the wok and fold the egg over like wrapping a flat
square object. What is it? And would it be too spicy for someone like me
who is a little afraid of spicy food? I really do want to try but I am
just a little afraid to go in and point!
Dear Spicy Sue,
I am sure you are referring to a Thai omelet, called ‘kai yat sai’.
Generally it is pork based, but you can get chicken as well - ask for
kai yat sai moo (pork) or kai yat sai gai (chicken). When it
comes to the table it will have a little bowl of red ketchup - but
beware, it is chili, not tomato! Around 50 baht at most food carts.
by Harry Flashman
Circles of Confusion - or Confusing Circles?
Circles at the
There is a photographic term called the Circle of Confusion,
which is really just an optical one - but still confusing.
With Circles of Confusion you must first understand
that light is reflected off any subject in all directions. Your camera
gathers all the light rays from each point on the subject which are
reflected toward the camera and fall within the circle created by the
opening of the diaphragm. Think of this as a cone of light which has its
apex at the point of reflectance on the subject and it’s circular base
in the diaphragm opening.
In turn, this cone of light is focused on the digital
sensor “film” plane in the camera. If the lens is doing its job
correctly, then each point reflected from the subject becomes a sharp
point in the camera.
Now this is where it all gets a little tricky. If,
for example, the lens cannot keep the exact focus point on the sensor
“film” plane, some areas will have the points recorded as circles, and
these can be known as Circles of Confusion. This is also known as
‘spherical aberration’ and cheap lenses will show this far more than
expensive lenses which have many lenses as a combination, with lenses
selected that counteract aberrations in each element. In this situation,
the circles should also all be of the same size. These are also known as
This is also tied up in ‘sharpness’ or ‘softness’, as
if there are many (very small) circles this appears in the final
photograph as an in-focus print.
Adding to this confusing situation is the fact that
the diameter of the circles relates to the diameter of the aperture. A
small aperture, like say f22 produces small circles, so the
photograph appears “sharper”, while a large aperture, such as f4,
produces larger circles and so the photograph is ‘softer’. This is why
small apertures should be selected when looking for ultimate sharpness
in a photo. This would also mean that the circles should be of the same
size, as they are related to the aperture.
Now I have included two illustrations of circles in
these photographs, which may, or may not be circles of confusion. They
were taken with a Samsung compact with 12 MP and the event was a
religious ceremony in Isaan. Note that the circles vary in size, and
some are overlying the physical subjects.
According to the Buddhist belief, many spirits were
called to the event and believers are happy to ascribe the circles to a
visitation by spirits not visible to the naked eye.
Similar shots, taken at night with the same camera,
but at a different location do not show the circles.
So what have we got here? Blur circles? Circles of
confusion? The spirit world encircling us? I am interested in your
Money Matters: Paul Gambles
MBMG International Ltd.
In many ways, you can test the mettle of an investor by
seeing if they put their money where their mouth is. Dr Mark Mobius, legendary
investor and president of Templeton Emerging Markets Group, recently proved his
ability to do so when my business partner, Graham Macdonald, and I interviewed
him on stage at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand.
“We should have been open here months ago,” Dr Mobius said,
referring to Templeton establishing an office in Thailand for the first time.
“But our office was burnt down during the riots.”
But did those tumultuous events in May dent his confidence in
Thailand as an investment market? “Not one bit.”
While many an investor or fund manager likes to present a
front of being tough, uncompromising and bullish, Dr Mobius’ comments were not
born from brash bravado, but were the product of his more than 40 years of
investing in emerging markets. He set up the world’s first emerging markets fund,
the Templeton Emerging Markets Fund, in 1987 and was active in Thailand before
the SET had been established and the Bangkok Stock Exchange was little more than
a chalk board in a private office.
Knowledge, experience and time are probably the three most
important skills or resources that are needed to successfully manage an
investment. But most people lack one or more of these due to the demands of
everyday life. After all, they have jobs to do, families to care for and face
other demands which prevent them from having the time to look after their own
investments properly. That is why statistics show that allowing a professional
fund manager to take care of your investments is more effective than trying to
do the job yourself, with the caveat of doing your homework first and selecting
a competent professional with a good track record.
However, the biggest obstacle to making personal investments
which yield solid returns, even when using a fund manager or financial planner,
according to Dr Mobius, is the psychology of the non-expert investor.
Bull markets typically last longer than bear markets, but
most individual investors decide to sell when their stocks have already suffered
a crippling collapse and are sluggish to re-invest, only bringing themselves to
do so when the ability to make a profit has been severely eroded.
Such problems exist even when a close relative is a leading
fund manager. “I was on a trip back to New York and I went round to see my
brother and his wife,’’ said Mobius. “I knocked on the door, from behind it my
sister in law asked ‘Who’s there?’ She’d bought into my emerging markets fund in
1993 but had seen her investments suffer in the crash of 1994. Anyway, I said
“I’m not opening the door until you tell me how to get my
“I told her, ‘If you open the door, I’ll tell you how to get
your money back.’”
“She put the chain on and opened the door. I said, ‘Buy
more.’ She slammed the door in my face.”
The point of the story is that often the best way to profit
from investments is to act counter-intuitively, but most individual investors
lack the knowledge or the nerve to do so. Which is why, more often than not, it
is better to leave the job to the experts.
Mobius has some other simple guidelines for making sounder
investments: never borrow to invest. It is always better to be patient and save
until you have enough capital to make a play, and to remember that “no market is
safe”. But while these suggestions are based on more conventional wisdom they
are too often ignored by both professional and layman alike.
Emerging markets may offer the best potential for growth.
Often, at times, more than double that of developed markets, but they are also
vulnerable to their own crashes and business cycles. Greece, for one, has gone
through the cycle of moving from being an emerging market to a developed one,
when it joined the EU, only slipping back into emerging status when the
sovereign debt crisis took the country in its grip earlier this year.
Frontier markets, such as Kazakhstan and Nigeria, which may
seem like a horrendous risk, offer significant first-mover potential for
investors who are able to conduct fertile and proprietary research in what are
essentially virgin markets.
While derivatives - the darling of the ‘noughties’ investment
world - are currently valued at US$600 trillion, almost ten times more than
global GDP, maintain the ability to unleash new tidal waves of volatility.
We also now live in a world where the possibility of an
emerging economy, China, overtaking the world’s largest economy, the US, is a
Unless, in this era of Black Swans, financial shockwaves and
shifting economic power, you have the time to monitor your investments on an
hour-by-hour basis, have the nerve to lead the crowd, buck trends and buy when
all else are selling, perhaps its better to find a professional who does. To
make sure you are extremely confident of your money being looked after well then
also make sure you go with a multi-asset, multi-manager alpha fund with high
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
Shane (1953) Dir. George Stevens and Day of the Outlaw (1959) Dir. Andre de Toth
two absorbing westerns are as alike thematically as they are different in
style, execution and budget. Both are memorable examples of the genre that
has -understandably – been uniquely ‘American’ and which in earlier days we
used to call cowboy movies, until they grew up in the late 1930s. Here we
have the tried and trusted themes of good vs. evil, wonderful locations and
the crucial note of redemption by the films’ heroes. No great originality
there, which is one of the wonderful characteristics of the genre. There are
probably only half a dozen ‘story lines’ – the rest is up to the director
and his crew. Just how well he upends the clich้s is the crux of the matter.
Both these movies do a first rate job of putting life
into the basic story of the rivalry between older established ‘land and
cattle barons’, who resent the intrusion of homesteaders or ‘newcomers’ to
the west. The best film on the subject is Henry King’s Man Without a Star,
with Kirk Douglas, but those under discussion are also pretty good. This is
through a combination of excellent casting, superb cinematography and
authentic locations. A major difference is that Shane had a big budget (over
3 million dollars) and colour and big name actors and one of Hollywood’s
prestige directors. Day of the Outlaw has fine mono photography by Burnett
Guffey, less ‘starry’ names and is altogether bleaker and tougher in the
style we associate with de Toth who made gritty and tough films, although he
was most famous for the first 3 D film, House of Wax – an odd choice as
director since he only had one good eye and never saw the completed 3D
Shane is much more glossy and sentimental and develops
the crucial sub plot of the romance between two of the central characters,
common to the movies. In both cases the women are married and attracted to
the ‘hero’ and it is part of the moral tone of the works that temptation is
resisted. Shane is the more appealing of the two films, despite being a
little overlong and having at least one redundant fight scene and a very
over emphatic musical score. This is partly because of the actors (especially
Jean Arthur as the wife) and the film’s extra ‘viewpoint. The action is seen
through the eyes of little Joe, played by Brandon de Wilde in only his
second screen role (plus a little tv work). He was arguably the best child
actor of the period (or ever?) and is used very sympathetically to ‘comment’
on the complexities of the action. Stevens directs with great assurance,
unsurprisingly given his vast earlier experience and this is one of his best
later movies. Charles Chaplin thought Stevens’ A Place in the Sun the finest
American movie ever made – but he was judging it on the scathing attack it
made on the social and class criticisms, derived from the novel and on his
growing hatred of the country which made his fame and fortune.
Andre de Toth was never sentimental, but a director who
made tough low budget films, often on locations or in city streets. The
strongest single quality to this western is the wonderfully depicted bleak,
deadly cold and snow bound environment: a lonely little town which is
invaded by a group of outlaws on the run from the cavalry. The film is full
of menace and has a remarkable last third as the anti hero (Robert Ryan)
leads the men away from the town into the thick snow to the likely deaths of
all concerned. He is willing to sacrifice his life as is Shane (Alan Ladd)
to save his new found friends. It’s a pity that feeble television versions
of westerns ruined the genre and brought it to near extinction. Women are
said not to enjoy the genre, finding it too ‘black and white’ in its themes,
but for those of us who grew up relishing every aspect of these movies their
demise has always been regretted. Still luckily they date far less than
other films, since they were inevitably set in a long gone period. These two
films stand up remarkably well and are worth watching. They and many other
‘cowboy’ films are available at the DVD Film and Music Shop, 289 Suthep
Let's Go To The Movies:
by Mark Gernpy
Now playing in Chiang Mai
Charlie St. Cloud: US/ Canada,
Fantasy/ Romance/ Drama – Starring Zac Efron as Charlie, a young man who
survives an accident that lets him see the world in a unique way. Overcome
by grief at the death of his younger brother, he takes a job as caretaker of
the cemetery in which his brother is buried. Charlie has a special lasting
bond with his brother though, as he can see him. Charlie meets up with his
brother (Sam) each night to play catch and talk. Then, a girl comes into
Charlie’s life and he must choose between keeping a promise he made to Sam,
or going after the girl he loves. Generally unfavorable reviews.
Skyline: US, Sci-Fi/ Thriller – A group of friends are
awakened in the dead of night by an eerie light beaming through the window.
Like moths to a flame, the light source is drawing people outside where they
suddenly vanish into the air. It’s soon discovered that an otherworldly
force is swallowing the entire human population. With a cast of relative
unknowns and shot independently of any major studio, this film is very much
the vision of its two creators, the Brothers Strause (Colin and Greg) who
have provided visual effects for Avatar, Iron Man 2, and seemingly
every other big-budget production released over the past decade or so. It
looks at first glance like an exceedingly well-crafted movie with a new
level of special-effects work.
Paranormal Activity 2: US, Horror/ Thriller – I’ve
seen this, and if you’re up for another “found amateur film” where you’re
asked to believe these things actually happened to regular people who just
happened to tape them, then this film will offer a few really off-the-wall
scary moments, when you least expect them. And you’ll be asking yourself
what did you really see happen in the last few minutes. Mixed or average
Due Date: US, Comedy – A father-to-be, played by
Robert Downey Jr., is forced to hitch a ride with a college slacker (and
aspiring actor) on a road trip in order to make it to his child’s birth on
time. Rated R in the US for language, drug use, and sexual content. Mixed or
Nov 18: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I:
UK/ US, Adventure/ Fantasy/ Mystery – The first of the two-part conclusion
to the series; Part II due in July of 2011 – both directed by David Yates,
who has directed the last two Harry Potter films. Both of the concluding
movies (Part I and Part II) will be shown completely in 3D and in IMAX 3D.
Nov 18: Fair Game: US, Biography/ Drama/ Thriller –
Director Doug Liman’s fact-based drama of former U.S. ambassador Joseph
Wilson; his wife, Valerie Plame Wilson; and the events of 2003, when her
identity as a CIA operative was leaked after her husband wrote an op-ed
piece criticizing the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Generally favorable reviews.
Nov 25: Let Me In: UK/ US, Drama/ Fantasy/ Horror/
Romance – A bullied young boy befriends a young female vampire who lives in
secrecy with her guardian. Chloe Grace Moretz stars as Abby, a mysterious
12-year-old who moves next door to Owen (Kodi Smit-McPhee), a social outcast
who is viciously bullied at school. In his loneliness, Owen forms a profound
bond with his new neighbor, but he can’t help noticing that Abby is
decidedly weird! Rated R in the US for strong bloody horror violence,
language, and a brief sexual situation. Generally favorable reviews.
Nov 25: The Social Network: US, Biography/ Drama/
History – By David Fincher (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Zodiac,
Panic Room). A terrific film in my opinion, though I think the main
protagonist an ugly, amoral being who I would want to have nothing to do
with. I think what comes off the worst in the film is Harvard University –
including its president. Makes me feel rather happy I didn’t end up going
there. Bunch of spoiled juvenile snobs! Anyway, the film is about the
founders of the social-networking website, Facebook, and the main instigator
is a person nobody would want to be friends with. Yet he founds a gigantic
enterprise based on friendship! No, wait! It’s not friendship – it’s fake
friendship! Well, that explains it. Reviews: Universal acclaim (based on 42
They thought this film was the one to beat at Academy Award
time, until it opened to tepid response. Now the field seems wide open. But
see this mesmerizing film for its portrayal of the type of person you
apparently have to be to succeed in the world of internet marketing. You
won’t be pleased, but you will be gratified at some of the turn of events.
Excellent performances, and a very unsettling one from the lead.
Nov 25: Unstoppable: US, Action/ Drama/ Thriller –
Exciting thriller starring Denzel Washington taming a runaway train.
Bridge in Paradise :
by Neil Robinson
double of a 3NT bid has a variety of possible meanings, depending on the
bidding that has gone before. If one of the defenders has bid, then the
double says to go ahead and lead the bid suit. If the defenders have bid
different suits, then the double tells partner to lead the suit bid by the
doubler. But what if neither defender has bid? In this case the double says
that I have a strong suit and instructs partner to put away his normal lead
and instead try to find that suit. Often the doubler wants dummy’s first bid
suit (if any) led, but it is up to the leader to work out what is going on.
This deal from the 2010 European Championships is a good example of the
value of such a double. South dealt and both were vulnerable.
The bidding is shown
below. At Table 1, East passed. West led the jack of clubs. Declarer won
with the king. In spite of being wide open in spades, declarer looked for a
way to steal two tricks in hearts (to go with his four diamond tricks and
three clubs). Declarer led the jack of hearts, reasonably ducked by West,
then led towards the queen. Again, West ducked. Now declarer switched to
diamonds and took seven tricks in the minors to go with the two heart
tricks. Nine tricks and game made for 600 points to N-S.
South West North East
1N P 3N All pass
At Table 2, East
looked at his impressive spade suit and doubled, hoping partner would
realise what he wanted and lead a spade. In fact, West did not lead a spade,
since he was unsure what was East’s suit. Reasonably enough therefore, he
led the ace of hearts to take a look at dummy. As soon as he saw dummy and
East’s discouraging heart, he knew what to do. He switched to the king of
spades. East gratefully overtook with the ace and the defence rattled off
the first seven tricks, to take the contract down three doubled for 800
points to E-W, a swing of 1400 points entirely due to an astute double.
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]
MAIL OPINION :
By Shana Kongmun
Loy Krathong and the vagaries of tourism
The TAT recently announced that the
upcoming Loy Krathong festival is expected to bring in 1 billion baht in
revenue and that the 5 star hotels are reporting an 80 percent occupancy
rate for the period. Bookings for all accommodation are up 70 percent,
according to Chalermsak Suranant, the head of the TAT for the North.
And while the success of Loy Krathong is a wonderful
thing, I do hope that efforts are being made to make sure that the
visitors continue to return and that the middle of the high season is as
successful as the start of it. Chiang Mai, like much of the rest of
Thailand has suffered from the lack of tourists. Not just due to the
political unrest but the ongoing economic problems that so many
countries are suffering. Add in a strong baht, and for some tourists,
Thailand is priced out of reach as an affordable destination.
Additionally, the reverberations of the strife in May
continue to knell around the world, with a friend telling me recently
that when she told her friends she was coming to Thailand in October
they warned her to be very careful. “Is it safe after everything?” was
the major concern. She assured them it was fine, and made her trip, had
a wonderful time as she always does and returned home unmarred. Let’s
hope that the trend continues for everyone’s sake and that the tales of
the successful visitors can outstrip those of fear.
The recent Chiang Mai Creative City Logo competition
involved discussions with various local businesspeople and the despair
that so much of Chiang Mai’s economy is dependent on tourism. The hopes
that the economy can be diversified into other areas and thus giving it
a broader base cannot be encouraged strongly enough. An economy
dependent solely on tourism is one dependent on the whims and vagaries
of the changing trends, fashions, and of course, political realities
that can occur and one that will suffer when the number of travelers
drop for whatever reason.
Here’s hoping that Chiang Mai people can pull
together and help propel the city into the future while never forgetting
the past that makes it so unique.
How does your garden grow?:
By Eric Danell,Dokmai Garden
Your garden as a source for making jewelry
It is well known that the Thai jewel beetle,
Sternocera aequisignata (Buprestidae), is used for making jewelry. This
large and metallic green beetle is especially attracted to Manila tamarind (Pithecellobium
dulce, ma kham thet) and Albizia (phruek).
Growing such trees will provide you with blossom, shade,
fruits, nectar feeding birds and even these flying jewels. Many seeds are
used for making necklaces and bracelets, such as the black and heavy seeds
of the Indian Shot (Canna indica, sa khu mon), Jobs tears (Coix
lacryma-jobi, dueai) and St Thomas’s bean (Entada rhedii, saba).
A more advanced method is to plate seeds, fruits, flowers and leaves with
gold or silver. The Chiang Mai company ’Royal Orchid’ focuses on new and
brave design, but unfortunately most of their masterpieces are aimed at
export. Since we live in Chiang Mai, we are blessed with their outlet at
Airport Plaza, and Royal Orchid’s garden lover Victoria Nimmanahaeminda has
also supplied the Dokmai Garden shop with the latest Bauhinia design in
silver. If the readers of the Chiang Mai Mail are interested, we should be
happy to consider suggestions for native Thai seeds or flowers to be plated
with silver or gold. Another interesting design is the mix of wood and
precious metals. The avant-garde designer ’Lotus arts de vivre’ has splendid
products at their shop at Four Season’s Hotel north of town. For example
there are rings made of iron-hard black ebony wood (Diospyros spp,
there are no Thai names for genera) adorned with stones and metals. More
ephemeric products are the classical Thai flower garlands, usually composed
of Michelia flowers (champee or champaa) and giant milkweed flowers (Calotropis
gigantea, rak dok). Both of these plants are monsoon plants, and hence
very well adapted to the Chiang Mai climate. Something home-made, from your
own garden, could be a nice Christmas gift. www.dokmaigarden.co.th.www.
Life in Chiang Mai:
By Colin Jarvis
From Hampton Court to Hang Dong
If you have been reading my column in the Chiang Mai Mail
over the last six months you might have wondered who I am. I thought I would
take the opportunity to tell you. I was born in London, near Hampton Court,
shortly after the war, into a world of candlestick telephones, nicotine
stained ceilings, public transport, grey clothes, virtually everything on
ration and the biggest freeze in living memory.
author and his puppets1
For the first 11 years of my life I was a typical,
short-trousered British schoolboy. I earned extra pocket money by singing at
weddings in the church choir and delivering newspapers. At school, when I
wasn’t being beaten by the big boys I was being beaten by the teachers. Food
was usually grey, stodgy and tasteless.
Then, one day, a wonderful thing happened. My father, who
worked for Shell, was transferred to Singapore.
Suddenly I was confronted with colourful clothing,
amazing music, hundreds of different religions and food that actually tasted
of something. I fell in love with Southeast Asia and have only ever felt at
home here despite having lived and worked in North America and throughout
Europe. But that attraction is not the reason I now live in Hang Dong.
10 years ago I was asked to produce a conference, at
Warwick University, for senior managers of an international courier company.
These managers came from all over the world and, providing they achieved
their objectives, would also meet each other again on the annual company
trip which, that year was to be in Thailand. I was asked to create some
excitement about this trip. I built a Thai village in the dinner reception
area and peopled it with dancers, chefs, fruit carvers, woodcarvers,
musicians and most important a bar selling Singha beer.
The dancers and musicians had never met before and during
the rehearsals and the conference itself they discovered a desire to produce
a show of classical Thai dance and music. I was asked to produce the show
and, as one does in such circumstances, I instantly went out and rented a
West End theatre. The first show was “Manora” which was followed, two years
later, by the “Ramakien”.
Luckily, the shows were a great success and I learnt to
appreciate Thai culture and the quality of the people I was working with.
Feeling that other Westerners would enjoy Thai culture I
helped form the Thai Dance Academy to formalise the training of classical
Thai dancers in the UK and the Thai Arts Foundation which had the objective
of bringing Thai culture to non Thai people throughout Europe.
In 2002 the Thai Dance Academy performed in Bangkok at
the request of the Ministry of Culture. I found myself becoming more and
more involved in the Thai community in the UK and arts organisations in
Thailand. Eventually I found I was spending as much time in Thailand as I
was in the UK and felt that I should bow to the inevitable and find a way of
living in this great country.
The Thai Dance Academy has revisited Bangkok several
times and recently, at the National Theatre, during a performance organised
by the Ministry of Culture I was presented with two Joe Louis puppets in
recognition of my contribution to promoting Thai culture in the West. They
now live happily with me in my home in Hang Dong, as you can see.
There is no point in my trying to promote Thai culture in
Chiang Mai. There are plenty of others who can do it better which is why I
now write for the Chiang Mai Mail well, you’ve got to do something haven’t
Day Tripper: A trip to Pai
A trip to Pai should be on the cards for everyone, its
not as far as one would think (about 3 hours one way, so perhaps best to
stay overnight) and the road to Pai is scenic although full of twists and
turns and perhaps not for the faint of stomach.
The first stop on the way should be the Pong Dueat Geyser
on route 1095, it’s a good place to stop off and bathe in the hot springs,
or check out the geysers.
A stop off in Huay Nam Dang National park for a quick
view of any of the scenic viewpoints is also a nice little detour.
Then there is the WWII bridge which can be busy during
weekends, holidays and in the high season. Legend has it that it was built
in 1942 by the Japanese using forced labor in an effort to create a highway
for shipping weapons and troops into Burma. However, it appears to have been
seriously renovated in the 1970s and some doubts remain as to its real
origins. However, still an interesting stop off point just 4 kilometers
Pai Canyon is another beautiful spot to stop, just before
you hit the bridge, with a steeply eroded cliffs dropping dramatically 20
meters and dry pine forests.
Pai has a few wats worth visiting, Wat Nam Hu (Buddha
Water) contains a sacred Chiang Saen Buddha image whose topknot can be
opened and hold holy water. Wat Phra That Mae Yen is on the hill and the
long stairs are worth the effort to climb as the view over the valley is
top tourist attraction is, of course, the waterfall, Mae Paeng Waterfall is
a gorgeous sight, but be warned, very popular and it can be very crowded on
the weekends. Another popular attraction is the Chinese village on the
outskirts of Pai, one of three Chinese villages in Thailand, Shandicun
village has a small population of ethnic Yunnanese, hill tribes and a few
remaining former Nationalist Chinese refugees. With the unique human ferris
wheel, old Chinese architecture and a sampling of Chinese food, well worth
the trip out of town.
In Pai a few recommended places are Baan Benjarong, Na’s
Kitchen and Nong Beer to stop and have some food and drink.
Getting there, there are regular aircon minibuses out of
Chiang Mai, minivans, an old creaky bus, or you can fly. Alternatively, if
you have your own transport, head out of town on Highway 107 and turn at
Route 1095 to Pai.