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

MAIL OPINION

How does your garden grow?

Life in Chiang Mai

Day Tripper

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 mammogram).

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  with Hillary

Dear Hillary,

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.

Dear Hillary,
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.
Golfing George

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.

Dear Hillary,
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 two weeks?
Sandy Sam

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 financial donation.

Dear Hillary,
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!
Spicy Sue

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. Enjoy!


Camera Class:  by Harry Flashman

Circles of Confusion - or Confusing Circles?

Circles of confusion.

Circles at the Buddhist ceremony.

There is a photographic term called the Circle of Confusion, which is really just an optical one - but still confusing.

More circles.

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 ‘Blur circles’.

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 response.


Money Matters:  Paul Gambles MBMG International Ltd.

Psychological investing

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 ‘It’s Mark.’”

“I’m not opening the door until you tell me how to get my money back.”

“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 distinct reality.

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 liquidity.

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

These 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 result.

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 Road.


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 reviews.

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 average reviews.

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 critics).

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

A 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

                                                       (Table 1)

                                                       Double

                                                       (Table 2) 

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. dokmaidogma.wordpress.com


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.

The 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 you?


Day Tripper: A trip to Pai

By Ed Burt

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 outside Pai.

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 quite scenic.

Pai’s 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.