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

The fun that comes with getting older

I celebrated another birthday last week. “Celebrated” is probably the wrong word at my age. “Cried” would probably have been more appropriate as one watches the years tick by and you are left wondering just how many more are left. Despite everything, you cannot live for ever. Probably a good thing as a world populated by centenarians would be a trifle daunting and overcrowded too.

As part of the “celebrations” I looked at the statistics in the hospital as far as in-patients were concerned. Well over 50 percent of those lying in a bed were over 60 years of age. Would I be next? The down side of getting older, perhaps? And many of them had brought the problem on themselves, unfortunately. Unchecked hypertension leading to a stroke is regrettable. Unchecked blood sugar leading to the amputation of a limb double ditto. Lung cancer after a lifetime of smoking triple ditto. With some preventive maintenance in the form of regular check-ups many of these in-patients could have avoided hospitalization.

However, as we get older we have to learn to accept some restrictions in our daily living, as well as some unwelcome additions. I have found that after sitting at my desk for a while and then getting up, the first few movements are more staggers than steps until the knees start working again. I remember what a fast runner I was, indeed a schoolboy champion, but these days I want to ignore that I get breathless after 50 meters and the legs give out, and the pace is certainly not that of a 16 year old athlete.

I have found that I can easily use the stairs to ascend one floor, but two floors produces painful upper thighs. Physical restrictions such as these destroy my self delusions that I could easily out-run my children over 100 meters. It isn’t really fair, is it?

I mentioned additions that aging brings to the lifestyle. One is having to get up at least once a night to have a pee. Twice if I have been silly enough to have several drinks before bed. Another is the reading glasses that I need to read the newspaper, or even the computer monitor. I have to buy shirts with a pocket, just for carrying spectacles as I am too vain to wear them on a string around my neck. I don’t really want to advertise the fact that I am over the age of 40 (and a couple of decades on top of that as well). It is also necessary to have several pairs, spares in every office and another for home and another in the car, as like the American Express advertisement says, “Don’t leave home without them.”

Many years ago, when I was trying to deny I really needed glasses I took a young lady to dinner at an Italian restaurant. Finding that the dimmed lighting made reading the menu impossible, I gambled on a minestrone soup and a scallopini al limone. The waiter looked impressed and carefully recorded my choices, only to return a couple of minutes later saying, “The chef would like to know where you saw the minestrone, because it isn’t on our menu.” My deception was uncovered. My age revealed and my chagrin made public.

I was out in a car the other night, driven by a friend of similar age to myself. Before crossing Sukhumvit Road he wound down the tinted glass driver’s side window. “I find I am having trouble judging distance and speed of oncoming traffic at night, but it’s better with the window down.” I commiserated with him as I do exactly the same, signs of early cataract formation in us both. Getting older isn’t all beer and skittles.

However, getting older still beats the alternative! So what can you do to remain “young”, well as young as possible? Try to avoid the excesses of life and living. It is indeed the middle way is the best way. Try to avoid getting overweight, and check your weight on the same set of scales each week. If you are getting heavier, restrict the intake for a few days.

No secret formula - just the middle way.


Family friendly dog looking for a forever home

Introducing Erin. This sweet young lady is 2 years old and is very friendly and calm. She gets along well with everyone – people and dogs. She has a lovely silky black coat and is medium-sized. Just look at that beautiful face! Contact the shelter English (08 47 52 52 55) or Thai language (08 69 13 87 01)Email: [email protected] to make an appointment to meet her. Visit the website

Heart to Heart  with Hillary

Dear Hillary,

These women here are strange creatures. Hot as hell one day and damn icebergs the next and I have absolutely no idea what brings it on. Had a couple of live-ins and I’ve had to give them both the door. Is there some way of finding out what these girls are like before you get too far into the relationship? It doesn’t seem to matter how much salary you pay them, if they get in a snit, that’s it.

Dear Mike,
You are certainly all heart, aren’t you. Pay “them” a salary and you think you own the woman and how she feels. What sort of relationship is that, me Petal? Your “live-ins” are merely “rented wives” (mia chow) and they have no compulsion in leaving, generally by being non-communicative, after which you will have to “buy” them out so they will leave. Mike, you’ve met your match, and you are getting what you deserve. Maids get salaries, partners are not maids, and it is time men like you realized the difference. Any woman who is willing to be your live-in is not trying to impress you. It is a straight out financial arrangement, and the contract can be broken by either side - but if you say it’s over, then you will pay again! Get out of the financial arena and find some nice genuine Thai women who would like to share their lives with you.

Dear Hillary,
I met a beautiful tall girl in a bar whose family buffalo was very well, her brother doesn’t ride motorbikes and her mother is in A1 health. What should I look out for as the next step?

Dear Amazed,
Check the Adam’s apple.

Dear Hillary,
It hurts me to think of you at Xmas, all alone with no chocolates or champers. These people who knock you should remember all the fun you give us each year. I won’t be back till the New Year, but I’ll bring you back something for sure.

Dear Jim,
It makes it all worthwhile to find that there are some really nice men out there who appreciate what I do for them. Advice and few smiles can change the day for you. Champagne and chocolates changes my day and puts the smiles on my face!

Dear Hillary,
I have been going out with a wonderful Thai girl, a proper young “lady” not a bar girl, and we have become quite serious and I am now looking into the future. Everything seemed to be going along very well, although we did have some problems, just caused by communication problems (as I can’t speak Thai). The other night she dropped the bombshell. “My mother tell me I must marry Thai man.” Just like that! Hillary, is this a common thing in Thai families? Does her mother have that much power that she can dictate what her daughter does, and even the choice of husband for her? Surely in this 21st century Thai girls are not stuck with arranged marriages, and if they are, what can a farang do in this situation?
Devastated Dave

Dear DD,
Does her mother have that sort of authority? Yes, Dave, in a traditional Thai family she certainly does. It may be the 21st century for you, Dave, but in Thailand it is the 26th century and despite the extra 500 years, the traditional ways are still very strong. Thai people believe in the need for family members to look after each other and her mother is merely looking after her daughter in the traditional way. You are from an alien culture, Petal, and even if your Thai lady is well versed in the ways of the modern international world, the traditional values will still be held by the family. Have you stopped to consider that perhaps the Thai man may have already paid a dowry to the family? In the case of a well educated girl this could go as high as two million baht. What can you do? You can either keep in there and hope, or call it quits now before you get in too deep. However, you should sit down with your girl and discuss it first.

Dear Hillary,
Have you seen all the pedestrian traffic lights on Beach Road? There are 16 of them and nobody paid a blind bit of notice to them, so now they have chaps with flags complete with a whistle who jump out in front of the speeding minibuses. I have checked the flag material and it is plastic and no match for the vehicles. Pedestrian crossings are all very fine, but 16 on Beach Road?
James Wilson

Dear James,
When they first went up outside the office, I thought they had done it just for me and I was thrilled. Then I found they were everywhere! Unfortunately James, my column is not going to take your case very far. Being threatened by a baht bus belting through the red lights really isn’t the stuff of heartbroken lovers, but I do understand your annoyance. Instead of protecting the tourists, who will imagine that the traffic will stop, it puts them more in danger. Send your letter to City Hall, my Petal.

Camera Class:  by Harry Flashman

Photography for Retirees

Getting older has some down sides, I think everyone would agree, but to make the twilight years more fun, is most important. That is what keeps you young. After all, look at Grandma Moses, who in her 70’s took up painting and became a world celebrity. You can do the same with photography, and you don’t have to wash out the brushes afterwards!

Photography is actually an excellent pastime for the senior members of your family. They have the time to indulge themselves, they have endless grandchildren to photograph growing up, and it gives them something to keep themselves active. A most important part of growing old(er).

Photography is something that can be picked up and put down at will, it is not too physically demanding, and modern cameras can assist in some areas where age has taken some toll. And the end result is something that can give them great joy, be that award winning sunsets or just pictures of the grandchildren.

So what camera should Granny get? The first pre-requisite is autofocus (AF). There are many reasons for this, but since sharp focus is necessary for a good final print, why not let the camera do it for you, when sharpness in vision is something that becomes very problematical as you get older. Since most people need reading glasses by the time they are 45, and at least half the population has mild cataracts by the time they are 60, AF is the way to go! Provided you can point the camera in the right direction, the camera will do the rest.

Another problem often associated with aging is stiffening of the fingers. This can make it difficult to operate the small buttons on some of the very small pocket compacts. Before settling on any particular camera, you should make sure that the senior in your household can operate the equipment.

Now I have never been a great advocate of zoom lenses, but they do have their place, and especially with senior photography. Zoom lenses save you having to go the distance. Is it just too much of a hassle these days to walk up to distant objects to get close-up details? Then a zoom lens will do it for you. With a zoom lens it is no problem at all to get a close-up, a wide angle and a distant shot from the same camera position. Maybe an autofocus digital compact camera with an inbuilt zoom lens is just the camera for you. Just push a button to make the zoom bring the subject closer or farther away.

As we get older, we are also more prone to the shakes. Today’s digital cameras can even compensate for the tremor, with anti-shake technology. I do recommend that you look for this feature when making your choice. This feature, often called Optical Image Stabilization makes photography for seniors even easier.

Today’s camera manufacturers have taken the tears out of flash too. Almost all new cameras have their own in-built flash which comes on when the light levels are too low, will set their own flash power and give you perfectly lit indoor night shots every time. You can even use the in-built flash during the day to give your photos just a little extra sparkle.

So which camera should you choose? Look for suitable AF digital compacts with built in zoom, anti-shake technology and auto flash and a large LCD panel so you can review the images. I would look at a camera from the major manufacturers, both photographic and electronic. We purchased a Samsung the other day, compact with 12 MP and all the rest of the electronic features we look for today. It was under 10,000 baht.

Pricewise you are looking at spending something around 10,000 baht. Avoid the overly expensive ones. The main features you are looking for are as above, but the most important is whether it feels good in your hands. The choice is yours.

So there you have it, Grey Power. There are cameras available now which can get you into photography! If you once had the ‘photographic eye’, then that ability is still there. Enjoy!

Money Matters:  Paul Gambles MBMG International Ltd.

Gold - why it should be part of your portfolio

Gold went through USD1,300 in September as poor US economic data led to a mini panic and people fleeing to safer havens as the fear of deflation reared its ugly head again as it looks as though the Fed will revert to that wonderful phrase of Quantitative Easing, a.k.a. printing money like it has gone out of fashion.

The yellow metal was also helped by the fact that the consumer is not a happy chappie at the moment and is the unhappiest he/she has been for over a year. This is good for gold as unhappy people look for what they deem to be a safe haven.

In its latest report, HSBC states that, “Currency intervention … by the Bank of Japan, political pressure on China from US to allow more exchange-rate flexibility, declines in consumer sentiment, and data showing significant wealth destruction make a powerful cocktail of reasons for gold to go higher. Prices may correct, we believe, if the 21 September Fed meeting does not usher in QE, but we see no reversal of the long running gold rally.”

There are other reasons to look to gold. As I inferred in the first paragraph, the West has taken on huge amounts of debt to try and keep their economies afloat. This problem has not gone away, as can be seen by what has happened in America. It has spent trillions of dollars in trying to stimulate the economy and the job market is getting no better.

We should also take into account central banks. They are not selling at the moment but buying it in ever increasing amounts. India bought 200 metric tons from the International Monetary Fund at the end of last year which is only a start apparently.

Ten years ago, China had less than 400 metric tons of gold. It now has over 1,000. This is a percentage increase of over 160% in ten years. It is head and shoulders above most countries when it comes to importing gold. Last year China was said to have gold reserves of nearly 34 million troy ounces. This may seem a lot but the Chinese are still at a very small 1.7% of the entire foreign exchange reserves. To put this into perspective, if China wants a gold reserve of say ten percent then it would have to buy well over 6,000 tons of gold or almost two and a half times the total worldwide annual productions of the precious metal. It has to import because if it just relied on its domestic mining facilities then it would take two decades to achieve.

On top of this, the Chinese government has actively encouraged people to invest in gold directly. Over the last year, the demand for gold was over 530 tons. This is not just due to demand by jewelers but, more importantly, investment. Compare this with what happened just a couple of years ago when only 17 tons were purchased.

Also, in August, China brought in major reforms for the gold market. Foreign coins can now offer their gold coins at the Shanghai Exchange and more banks are being allowed to bring in gold from overseas whilst, at the same time, more domestic gold based investment products are being brought into the marketplace. Because of all this the demands of Chinese investors will be felt all over the world.

But it is not just the Chinese and Indians who are buying gold. The global foreign exchange reserves have increased greatly over the last few years and, as of a few months ago, were at over USD8 trillion whilst the gold reserve ratio has gone down significantly over the last thirty years. As Dr. Martin Murenbeeld, chief economist for Dundee Wealth Economics has pointed out, “Investment demand in the second quarter of 2010 more than doubled compared to the same period in 2009, and accounted for more than half of total global demand. Investors bought the most gold since the first quarter of 2009, at the depths of the Great Recession.”

The gold bull market has been a slow and steady one and, therefore, there is no sign of a bubble. Apart from a couple of instances there have been no massive price spikes that are typical with ‘bubble’ scenarios. Also, there is a big factor which has not been relevant before and that is we are now seeing a lot more people in the developing markets being able to actually afford gold as a middle and affluent class is growing all the time. In the past, people in these countries have usually reverted to gold to store their wealth.

As regular readers of this column know, I am a great believer in history and economic cycles. If we go back over the last couple of hundred years then the shortest gold cycle has been ten years. This present gold bull market started in 2001.

Another reason for gold increasing in value is that the world’s mine production is around 2,500 metric tons. This is about twenty five percent more than it was twenty years ago but the net mine supply is less than it was in 1990. Poor Research and Development over the last couple of decades means that supply will continue to be hampered. This is also due to the fact there has been an increase in scrap supply and lower quality discoveries along with higher replacement costs. Over the last twelve months the demand for gold has gone up 36% but supply has increased by only seventeen percent.

The world’s economic and political situation is not helping either. Gold usually performs well in times of trouble and we certainly have this now with the euro teetering on the brink of disaster, the US dollar not far behind. Without doubt it has benefitted from the woes of other countries over the last few years but it has to be remembered that over USD10 trillion is expected to be added to the American debt burden over the next ten years and the country’s trade imbalances are massive. These problems do not do the US dollar any favours and support the safe haven status of gold over the long term.

Finally, do not forget the continued wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. On top of this you have the possibility of Iran and North Korea developing their own nuclear weapons.

Gold loves these conditions and people love gold. Make sure you do too.

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 Movies of Howard Hawks

‘Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication’. Leonardo da Vinci.

The Lumiere Bros. premiered the first film, in Paris in 1895. Just months later, Howard Hawks entered the world. He began his career in the movies in 1917, aged 21 and worked steadily and independently (never under contract to a studio) until the demise of the Hollywood that had allowed his genius to flourish. He died aged 81 in 1977.

His apprenticeship was ideal: first as a production assistant, an occasional writer, second unit director and assistant director and from the mid –twenties as a director of low budget silent films – his last being as late as 1929 with Trent’s Last Case, filmed without dialogue despite the introduction of sound in 1926.

Hawks amassed 22 producer credits, 25 (often unacknowledged) writing or story credits and 47 as a director. His first film of note was The Crowd Roars, a racing drama starring James Cagney, which was also made – as was not unusual at the time – in a French version, starring Jean Gabin but with another director. This was closely followed by Scarface, with Paul Muni outstanding as the gangster. Although in thrall of German expressionism and an example of early sound films, it displays Hawks’ assurance and provocative talent (censorship and studio interference held it up for almost two years). The brilliant Twentieth Century (1934) confirmed his talent and this – the second screwball comedy to be made in Hollywood and arguably the best – led to a long and prosperous career.

It is difficult, perhaps impossible to think of any other director who excelled at so many genres. Hawks helmed action movies, comedies, gangster and noirish detective films, dramas (To Have and Have Not), satire, westerns (Red River) and even an historical epic. To all these he brought his deceptively simple style, reliant on a mid-shot viewpoint, seamless editing, brilliant dialogue (he worked on the scripts before shooting began) and a sense of rhythm and pace that belongs to only the greatest film makers. He was a story teller (the best ever according to Quentin Tarantino) and the most agile and artful director (but never arty) in the business. Jean –Luc Godard described him as the most cinematic of American film makers (along with Hitchcock, who was, anyway, British).

Wisely he surrounded himself with the finest collaborators, especially writers, cameramen and actors, some of whom he treated in the same cavalier manner as Hitchcock notoriously did. Often they gave their best screen performances under his direction, notably John Wayne, Rosalind Russell, Lauren Bacall and Muni. Also outstanding were Cary Grant, in four films, John Barrymore, Katherine Hepburn (who learned comedy on Bringing Up Baby), Gary Cooper, Kirk Douglas, Montgomery Clift, Humphrey Bogart, Richard Barthelmess and the enchanting Carole Lombard who was killed in a plane crash not so long after the success of Twentieth Century.

Hawks thrived on complex relationships, male-female and male bonding (Rio Bravo), heroic action (Sergeant York), provocation (Monkey Business), sexual innuendo (The Big Sleep) and above all ‘a good story’. He defined a good movie as one ‘having at least three good scenes and no bad ones’ and would certainly not have agreed with Godard who suggested that films should have a beginning, a middle and an end – but not necessarily in that order.

His technique was unflashy (I can’t imagine his reaction for such pseudo nonsense as Inception) and without trickery or special effects. They adhere to Leonardo’s maxim completely: they are sophisticated in the true meaning of that misused word, being complex, refined, subtle and worldly -wise. This is what makes them timeless and gripping and fun, all the way from Scarface to the later westerns.

There is a mistaken belief that he worked quickly (possibly because of the breakneck speed of some of the dialogue and his refinement of overlapping speech) or that he allowed improvisation. True he accepted some late dialogue changes and even some ‘business’ (Bogart’s hat scene in The Big Sleep), but improvisation by its nature contradicts cinema: the camera observes, records and once a final take is registered, nothing can change that except the crucial process of sound and picture editing, which brings the captured images to life and meaning. He worked slowly, often to the annoyance of the money men and with complete control.

Hawks was greatly admired by French film critics and some British (notably Robin Wood) and by directors including Godard, Eric Rohmer and Jacques Rivette. Sadly tinsel-town failed to recognise his talent, although he kept working steadily and along with Cary Grant he only received an Oscar for his life time achievement, never for an actual film. So much was awards!

The films stand up amazingly well (not all of them of course) and many are available on DVD to buy or to rent from the DVD Film and Music Shop at 289 Suthep Road, Chiang Mai. Try His Girl Friday or my personal favourite Only Angels Have Wings and you’ll get hooked. Only Angels stars Grant in a complex role, more severe than usual, Jean Arthur (who did not get on with Hawks), Bathelmess and Rita Hayward and the wonderful Thomas Mitchell. It epitomises Hawks’ style and themes: relationships and romance (fraught), heroics and derring-do, loss, suppressed emotions, male bonding and action and redemption – all within a tightly told narrative. Watch it and sigh for the long-gone heyday of Hollywood and a director at the height of his powers.

Let's Go To The Movies:  by Mark Gernpy

Now playing in Chiang Mai

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I: UK/ US, Adventure/ Fantasy/ Mystery – Events caught up with me last column regarding Harry: I said it was to be shown completely in 3D. Well, as you know by now, the post-production process to change the 2D film into a version of 3D did not work out well, and at the very last minute the studio scrapped the idea for this film – though apparently they are still thinking of it for the second half of this film scheduled to come out next July. Both parts are directed by David Yates, who directed the previous two Harry Potter films. Your average 2D to 3D conversion can turn out very badly indeed, and I’m glad they kept to some standards in refusing to allow this noble series to have an ignoble end due to a muck-up in the rendering of 2D into something approaching 3D. As it stands, the film has some stellar performances by a grand panoply of British character actors, and the three leads have matured quite satisfactorily. It feels like a preparation and build-up to the final earth-shattering conflict between our heroes and the forces of evil and darkness, to come in the final film, but how could it be otherwise? It is dark, with a hidden menace pervading everything, but it has to follow the book – how could it not, at this stage of the game? There is, all in all, much to enjoy as a film in its own right. I particularly enjoyed the return of Dobby, and was even quite moved by his story.

Though not 3D, there is a digital version showing at Airport plaza. Some people, certainly not all, think digital is better than the usual film process. Whether it is for you is for you to decide, and if it is worth the extra price. I think it’s marginally sharper and brighter. There is in addition a Thai-dubbed version at both locations, though of course you then give up all the carefully crafted vocal work of the original actors. Generally favorable reviews.

Neither Fair Game:US, Biography/ Drama/ Thriller, nor Let Me In:UK/ US, Drama/ Fantasy/ Horror/ Romance, showed up when scheduled, though they may come along later. If they do appear, see them.

What did show up was 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 not want to have anything to do with. The film is about the founders of the social-networking website, Facebook, and the main instigator is a person you would not want to be friends with. Yet he founds a gigantic enterprise based on friendship! Or maybe fakefriendship! Reviews: Universal acclaim. Certainly in the running for the next Academy Award. At Airport Plaza only.

Oceans: France/ Switzerland/ Spain, Documentary/ Drama – Absolutely brilliant and beautiful – a must-see movie if there ever was one. An ecological drama/documentary, filmed throughout the globe. Part thriller, part meditation on the vanishing wonders of the sub-aquatic world. Generally favorable reviews. At Vista only, in French with English and Thai subtitles.

Unstoppable: US, Action/ Drama/ Thriller – Exciting thriller starring Denzel Washington taming a runaway train. Seems everybody is enjoying this one, as though just waiting for another good “runaway train” movie! Generally favorable reviews.

Skyline: US, Sci-Fi/ Thriller – An eerie light draws people outside where they suddenly vanish into the air, and it soon becomes clear that an otherworldly force is swallowing the entire human population. With a cast of relative unknowns and shot independently, this film is very much the vision of its two creators, the Brothers Strause (Colin and Greg) who have provided visual effects for seemingly every big-budget production released over the past decade or so. And these effects are really superb, setting a new level of special-effects work. But the dialogue and the plotting are really bad. I mean, probably the worst I’ve ever experienced. Generally unfavorable reviews.

Paranormal Activity 2: , Horror/ Thriller – Another “found amateur film” of “real events” offers some 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.

Dinner for Schmucks: , Comedy – Apparently not as bad as you would think. A rising executive finds out that his superiors at work regularly host a dinner celebrating and mocking the idiocy of their invited guests, and he then runs into a man who would be the perfect guest: An extraordinarily stupid man who possesses the ability to ruin the life of anyone who spends more than a few minutes in his company. Starring Steve Carell and Paul Rudd. Mixed or average reviews.

Bridge in Paradise : by Neil Robinson

This column had printing problems before and the hand diagram was scrambled, with the result that it was incomprehensible. I hope that it makes more sense this time around. The deal comes from a Bridge Club of Chiang Mai coaching session. South dealt and East-West were vulnerable. The question is how to bid it.

The bidding that actually occurred at the session is shown above. You may well think that is perfectly reasonable bidding and ask why the deal is of any interest. One reason is that N-S can make a five diamond game, but stopped at only the three level. West will probably lead the jack of hearts, partner’s bid suit. Declarer wins this and pulls one round of trumps, noting the fall of the queen. This indicates a 4-1 split and means that West has a natural trump trick. If West ruffs therefore this will cost declarer nothing, because any ruff will be at the expense at a natural trick. Consequently, declarer switches to clubs so as to be able to ruff a club on board if necessary. When West wins the ace of clubs he cannot afford to lead trumps, because this gives up the natural trick. He will probably lead a spade which declarer ruffs. Declarer continues playing on clubs, ruffing the fourth round on board, and now pulls two more rounds of trumps and plays out high hearts. In total the defence can score no more than one trump and the ace of clubs.

Declarer’s game is not the only one that can be made. East-West can make four spades, played by East, against any likely defence. South, being void in spades, is unable to lead a trump to cut down on ruffing on board and will probably lead a high heart or club. The third round of hearts will be ruffed on board and the defence will likely take only two hearts and a diamond before declarer’s hand is set up.

So here is a deal where both sides can make game, but not bid them! I cannot see any reasonable way for North-South to bid their five diamond game and I certainly cannot see how East-West can find their four spade game, particularly after North bids spades. So how would you bid the deal in such a way as to find the available games?

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

MAIL OPINION : By Shana Kongmun

HM the King’s Birthday

This year we see HM King Bhumibol Adulyadej turn 83 and I am sure that all of us here join me in wishing him a very happy day as he has certainly earned and deserves it. I recall when I first came to Thailand and watching the evening news and being astonished that the Royal news was broadcast nightly. A full half an hour filled with the very busy doings of the King, the Queen and the Royal Family. The good works the King and the Royal Family do on a daily basis never ceases to amaze me. The selfless devotion of a King that has spent his entire life in service of his country and his people is something Thailand is very proud of and rightly so.

Countless are the Royal Projects around the country that have been initiated by the King or by a member of the Royal Family that have benefitted people living there. From the flood control that HM the King initiated in the South after the massive flooding in Hat Yai years ago and that saw the flood waters in Hat Yai drain off in a record manner this time, to the crop substitution programs that have seen hilltribes villagers replace their illegal opium crops with cash crops like strawberries, flowers and more and allow them to support themselves not only in a legal manner but one that is more sustainable as well.

Years ago, I saw a notice in the Bangkok Post for a sale of Mudmee silk from one of the Queen’s projects. I knew then I had to get some to take home for my mother. Off I went to the Palace for the sale to find piles of beautiful handwoven silks on tables inside the Palace grounds. What a surprise that was for me. I wrestled with a well dressed and coiffed Thai lady for a lovely piece of brown and blue Mudmee. I was so proud to take that silk home to my mother and tell her the story of how it was the Queen’s project, designed to help women in the North East market their wares without the problems of middlemen taking all the profit.

Sadly, my mother never had a chance to turn piece of silk into something beautiful, but, I have it now and will have it made into something I can wear not only in her memory but in honor of the Royal Family and all the good works they have done for the Land of Smiles.

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

See your garden from space

Google Earth is free software that can be easily downloaded from It contains satellite pictures of the Earth. The resolution is so high you can see your tool shed and your car. This fantastic program allows you to pinpoint your garden, your favourite excursion destinations and friends houses abroad. You can save each destination, so that if you click on one destination, you will fly in from space, very dramatic. Then, if you click on another saved destination on another continent, you zoom out, fly over-seas and zoom in again. Each picture tells you longitude and latitude, the elevation and from what altitude you observe Earth.

When using the program to find your way around, you do exactly like the birds. Look for major landmarks such as roads or rivers, and then you home in. Probably this is how my Red-throated Fly-catcher found his way back to his corner at Dokmai Garden, after spending the summer in China.

Unfortunately, the satellite images for Chiang Mai are a bit fuzzy as compared to crystal clear images of Sweden. Also, the Chiang Mai terrain looks terrible. The teak plantations cannot be seen as the trees are leafless, while individual longans can be spotted easily. The reason for the fuzziness is probably the smog of the hot season. Taking pictures in the rainy season would not work due to clouds. I guess the best time for taking fair pictures here would be in November.

So, what can it be used for, apart from being fun entertainment? You get a fair picture of surrounding terrain, to understand rain patterns and water ways, which are important to know for a gardener. The 1:50 000 maps are rare in Chiang Mai, and quite obsolete. This system is much better (and free). You may also see where the evergreen areas are, in case you wish to hunt for seeds of special plants. Finally, the program clearly shows the only environmental problem on earth – overpopulation! www.

Life in Chiang Mai: By Colin Jarvis

A New Beginning

Well it’s over, Loy Krathong that is. The explosive bangs have died down, the Moo Baan karaoke singers are silent once more and the night sky is virtually empty of moving lights. The decorations will remain until 2011 and soon Thai friends will start wishing us “Have a good Happy New Year”.

Loy Krathong is the start of the cool season, a season of blue skies and dust. It is a time of friendly parties and the romantic floating of Krathongs. Actually, nowadays I find floating Krathongs terrifying. Someone once told me that when my wife and I float our Krathongs together they will tell our fortune. If they float towards each other we will be together for another year but if they float apart we had better start looking for another partner. Frankly, I don’t want to start looking for another partner, I am very happy with the one I have got and I was very relieved that when we floated Krathongs this year they did come together. Mind you I gave mine a bit of a push.

This year we were extremely fortunate in that we were offered seats, opposite Panthip Plaza, to watch the big parade through Chiang Mai. We were on the other side of the road from the judges and so as each team of dancers came past they performed directly in front of us.

The paper palaces and floats were outstandingly good. So much effort is put into producing these spectacular constructions that it seems a shame that they will be destroyed and cannot be put on permanent display. I felt extremely privileged to be able to sit down and relax and enjoy this activity instead of having to stand on the pavement, as usual, and be jostled by the rest of the crowd.

We also spent a wonderful evening with some friends who run a training establishment in Hang Dong. After a delicious meal we floated our Krathongs on their lake. The lake is full of catfish and the Krathongs were made of environmentally friendly bread. The catfish erupted and although there were some 30 people placing their Krathongs there was never more than one candle burning at a time. I wonder what the catfish felt about the candles.

A friend of mine in America Facebooked me the other day letting me know that he had finally put up his Christmas decorations. I was able to send him pictures of our decorative lights and point out to him that Thailand is far more efficient as these lights will do for Loy Krathong, Christmas and Western New Year. I might even leave them up for Songkran.

This season of the year, with it’s plethora of celebrations and parties, is a delight. Virtually non-stop bonhomie for almost 2 months and the great thing is I don’t feel that Christmas has come too early.

And speaking of Christmas, and do you know what it celebrates? I have been asking a number of Thai friends and, since they are not Christian they do not understand the background and they normally state that, “Christmas is the Festival where you give presents”. I suspect that this statement works as well in New York and London these days.

The point about these festivals is that, for hundreds of years they had indicated a change in the seasons. Human beings, throughout the world, use these periods to refresh themselves and think about a new start in life. It is a time when all the bad things that have happened in the previous year may be forgotten and it is a time when we can look forward to the New Year with optimism. Three times a new beginning in fact.

Day Tripper: A trip to Chiang Dao

By Heather Allen

A friend recently extolled the beauties of the Chiang Dao area, telling me he often goes there for weekends, exploring off the beaten path and enjoying the beauty of the forests and caves.

Chiang Dao is on the way to Fang only 72 kilometers north of Chiang Mai. The most famous aspect is the complex of caves that have been said to extend more than 12 kilometers into the mountain in interconnected caverns. The longest one open to the public is Tham Mah which is over 7300 meters long with Tham Phra Nawn and Tham Seua Dao containing Buddha images and so are lit with electrical lights but others can be viewed with the aid of a guide and some lanterns.

Wat Tham Pha Plong is at the end of the road that goes past the caves and is a small temple with a cave that is surrounded by the lush forests (green at this time of year!). And while there are 500 steps to reach the top, the view is worth the climb. Wat Tham Pha Plong was the home of respected monk and teacher Luang Pu Sim Buddhacaro who died in 1992 and whose relics still remain in the Wat he helped to found.

The area is full of activities, with rock climbing, white water rafting, and trekking, where one can visit area hilltribes villages. The town of Chiang Dao offers interesting markets, with the hilltribes coming into town every Tuesday to sell their wares. Further up the road are the beautiful waterfalls of Sri Sangwan, about 20 kilometers north.

Chiang Dao Nest is the most well known place to stay but for those who aren’t afraid to rough it a little, Malee’s next door is also quite popular. Chiang Dao is accessed from Chiang Mai via Highway 107. You can make a day trip out of it, or do as my friend, and make it a weekend.