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

Christmas Disease - a medical celebration?

Christmas Disease has nothing to do with Christianity, Santa, mangers, three wise men and a bottle of myrrh. But it has everything to do with Stephen. And not St. Stephen but Stephen Christmas, that is.

Stephen, a young British lad, was the first patient with a bleeding tendency recognized to have a different form from “classical” haemophilia (or hemophilia if you come from the right hand side of the Pacific Ocean).

His condition was studied by researchers Biggs, Douglas, and Macfarlane in 1952, who discovered that young Stephen was missing a different coagulation factor than the more usual one (which is known as Factor VIII). They named Stephen’s missing factor as Factor IX, and his condition became known as Christmas Disease.

Just to confuse the issue, we also call Christmas Disease by other names, including Factor IX deficiency, haemophilia II, haemophilia B, haemophiloid state C, hereditary plasma thromboplastin component deficiency, plasma thromboplastin component deficiency, and plasma thromboplastin factor-B deficiency. There’s probably more, but Christmas Disease has a much nicer “ring” to it. (Probably “Jingle Bells” at this time of year!)

From the diagnostic viewpoint, it is very difficult to differentiate between classical haemophilia and Christmas Disease. The symptoms are the same, with excessive bleeding seen by recurrent nosebleeds, bruising, spontaneous bleeding, bleeding into joints and associated pain and swelling, gastrointestinal tract and urinary tract haemorrhage producing blood in the urine or stool, prolonged bleeding from cuts, tooth extraction, and surgery and excessive bleeding following circumcision.

Christmas Disease covers around one in seven cases of the total haemophilia incidence and is around 1/30,000 in the general population. This disease is also male dominated, being called a sex-linked recessive trait passed on by female carriers. This means the bleeding disorder is carried on the X chromosome. Males being of XY make-up will have the disease if the X they inherit has the gene. Females, who have XX chromosomes, are only carriers if either X has the bleeding gene.

Haemophilia has been noted in history for many years, and Jewish texts of the second century A.D. refer to boys who bled to death after circumcision, and the Arab physician Albucasis (1013-1106) also described males in one family dying after minor injuries.

In more recent history, royal watchers know that Queen Victoria of Britain’s son Leopold had haemophilia, and that two of her daughters, Alice and Beatrice, were carriers of the gene. Through them, haemophilia was passed to the royal families in Spain and Russia, leading to one of the most famous young men with the disease, Tsar Nicholas II’s only son Alexei.

In the 1800s physicians thought that the bleeding occurred because of a structural problem in blood vessels. In 1937 a substance was found in normal blood that would make haemophilic blood clot, which was named “anti-haemophilic globulin.”

In 1944 researchers found in one case that when the blood from two different haemophiliacs was mixed, both were able to clot. Nobody could explain this until 1952, when the researchers in England realized there were two types of haemophilia. They called his version haemophilia B, or “Christmas disease,” and the more prevalent kind haemophilia A, or “classic haemophilia”.

With the discovery of A and B types came the realization that there must be different types of “anti-haemophilic globulin” involved in the clotting process. Names were assigned to these various “coagulation factors” by an international committee in 1962. Haemophilia A is a deficiency of Factor VIII, and haemophilia B is a deficiency of Factor IX.

Once it became clear that haemophilia was caused by a deficiency of a coagulation factor, replacement of the missing factor became the method of treatment. In the early 1950s animal plasma was used. By the 1970s, coagulation factor concentrates made from human plasma were available, and by the 1980’s we could guarantee that it was HIV free. It has been a long road since Stephen Christmas.


Meet Leo

This handsome male is 4 years old. He is a well-framed larger breed that loves walks and activities. He is very friendly, has a lot of energy and would make a great family dog. He would do really well with another doggie friend or friends to join him in the fun! Many of our volunteers have fallen for Leo, so best snap him up quick! Contact the shelter English (08 47 52 52 55) or Thai language (08 69 13 87 01) or Email: [email protected] to make an appointment to meet him. Visit for further info.

Heart to Heart  with Hillary

Dear Hillary,

A few weeks ago I told you of a ‘rescue’ that a group of us performed for what we considered was an exploitative situation. You scolded us, as amateurish meddlers; at first we dismissed your comments, but after a while we came around and recognized your point of view and we have chosen to try to help her, as much as she would like, to restart her life.

The stolen car had a happy ending. After two weeks the police had not been able to help. On a whim, I went to the leader of the local motor bike taxi group that lurk outside her apartment, showing him pictures of the guy and the car and offering a reward for any help. One of his boys had taken the guy to another apartment block a couple of times. It took them just under an hour to find the car.
The Rescuers

Dear Rescuers,
Thank you for seeing my point of view in the unfortunate situation you described a few weeks ago of the Thai lady being taken advantage of by a farang boyfriend and her car misappropriated. You have shown admirable nous and the local motorcycle taxi push is always a good place to start when you need information on anyone’s movements. A few baht well spent at the street corner can certainly yield big dividends, Petal.

Dear Hillary,
I hope you get this before Christmas, as I would like to thank you for all the fun you have given the boys over here all year. Sorry I can’t tell you where we are classified information. And sorry I’m not coming over to Thailand this time, but I promise I will bring some goodies with me in March 2011. The guys who don’t deliver annoy me, so I suspect they must annoy you too. Never mind, chin up and chest out. See you next year.

Dear Martin,
I’m not so sure about this “chin up and chest out” advice, it’s probably all a bit too late for that, but I do thank you and the boys over there in certain places where you cannot reveal your location. Don’t worry, I’ll look it up on WikiLeaks, they’re bound to know. When you think about it, it’s all a bit silly really. This Wiki Julian Meringue or whatever his name is, doesn’t make up all the information, they shouldn’t have written it down in the first place. So who’s in the wrong? All beyond me, Petal, me without a chest to stick out any more. All the best for 2011.

Dear Hillary,
Why don’t you put all your writings into a book? I reckon it would have to be a great hit. I have mates overseas who read you every week, just for the laugh at the idiots who write in. I’ll buy the first copy.
Regular Reader

Dear Reg the Reader,
It is always nice to know that the readers enjoy the column, especially people who send champagne and chocolates with their letters. We have discussed putting some of the best letters together, but it is a lot of work, Reg my Petal. Maybe it will be something for me to do when I retire. I’ll let you know and autograph that first copy just for you. Of course the first copy will be more expensive than the others, so in true fashion for these parts, there will be around 1,000 first copies (just like the third 50 percent share of many bars)!

Dear Hillary,
Do all Thai people ask you the most personal questions? Things like “How much money you make? You married yet? Why not? You got girlfriend? You want me go with you?” Apart from the fact that this is considered a very rude way of starting a relationship in the west, I also find it very embarrassing when I am over here. How do I get these people to stop doing this?
Shy and Retiring

Dear Shy and Retiring,
Or is that Shy and Retired? You have to look at where are these women who ask such direct questions. My bet is in a bar somewhere. They are not in the habit of issuing a gilt edged invitation to dinner, hand inscribed in Ye Olde English. Be real and be thankful that ‘these people’ as you call them are interested enough in you to even ask questions. There’s only one thing worse than being a wall-flower at parties, and that’s not being invited at all. In actual fact, my turtledove, those inquiries are very cleverly designed “standard” bar girl questions to see if you are worthwhile bothering with at all. If you have no money all interest will be lost immediately. Likewise if you are married they will want to know if “You marry Thai?” or whether your partner is waiting faithfully for you back home in the UK, while you contemplate the unfaithful ideas. Lighten up and when you are asked next time just say, “No money. Wife take all money to boy bar,” and then laugh a lot. They’ll get the message and you will be left happily lonely, then you can write me letters asking why does nobody talk to you!

Camera Class:  by Harry Flashman

Give yourself a subject

Joe Louis theatre.

Royal Garden’s DC3.


There is so much more to photography than pictures of your aunt Maude and the nephews next time they come to Thailand. Do yourself a favor and start to look at what is around you. And what could make an interesting photograph.

There are six photographs with this week’s column. None of them are related to each other, but they are simply six subjects snapped within 500 meters of my Pattaya office. The six were taken with the camera in Auto mode and at 9.30 a.m. so there was nothing technical in getting the shots.

The subject for Pic 1 was found by looking up, and there is the advertising for the City Walk. You will not have seen it if you don’t look up every so often.

Continuing the City Walk there is the stage built for the Joe Louis players, rising above the greenery. It actually looks quite dramatic from this angle and again needed to look up.

Along one wall of the City Walk is a fountain/statue. In the morning light you get interesting areas of shade and brightness.

This fourth photo is interesting, as it looks as if it were taken somewhere around the Sukhothai region, when in fact it is 50 meters from Second Road in the grounds of the Marriott Resort. When you see these classical Thai buildings anywhere, you should stop and get a few photographs.

Once again, photo 5 was only possible after looking up, and finding the macaw in a tree. Difficult to photograph as he moved around so much, and the owner would not have like me using super-glue on his feet!

Finally, once again looking up, there is the familiar site of the DC3 above the Royal Garden Plaza. You can take this by shooting from Second Road, but I liked this angle better, getting right underneath the plane and shooting in portrait, rather than landscape.

There are many great subjects to photograph, and sometimes it just needs a little bit of careful observation to see them.

Macaw in the ‘wild’.

City Walk.

Salas in Sukhothai?

Money Matters:  Paul Gambles MBMG International Ltd.

Learning from the past

As the famous Spanish philosopher and essayist, George Santayana said “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

This adage is particularly true when it comes to the world of investment, a now global arena that is too often championed by con artists.

Full of style, swagger and myriad false promises these industrious snake oil merchants are skilled at profiting from the misfortune of others. But it is not only the inexperienced and gullible who are netted by their promises of unobtainable returns, hardboiled investors who pride themselves on being able to smell a rat are often among their victims.

In this article, we will take a brief look at two of the greatest investment scams of the past century, their common XXXX before shedding light on some of the dodgier types of products that are doing the rounds today.

Hopefully, these will help you learn from the pain of other investors’ bad experiences and save you the bother of learning the hard way.

Ninety years ago, Charles Ponzi launched a postal coupon scheme which sold promissory notes from his Boston base on the East coast of the US, which guaranteed a 50% return in just 45 days. This “financial wizardry” caught the popular imagination and Mr Ponzi managed to quickly net $9.5 million from 10,000 investors.

His promises of total returns of 400% kept the cash flowing in until the bubble burst. Investors then realised they had been chasing fool’s gold as Ponzi’s scheme was nothing but a hollow shell, a well thought out but simple plan that took advantage of human greed by promising something that was unbelievably good - the key is the word “unbelievably” - he had been using cash from his most recent investors to pay the notes that had matured.

The Ponzi scheme had arrived.

Fast-forward to 2008 and meet the former chairman of the Nasdaq Stock Market and member of the board of governors of the National Association of Securities Dealers who some joke “made off” with his clients’ money because it was a destiny born from his surname. Such witticisms, however, are unlikely to bring smiles to the faces of Bernie Madoff’s clients who got nothing when they collectively requested some US$7 billion in redemptions in the wake of the 2008 Financial Crisis.

Madoff’s claim that his secretive investment strategy was “too complicated for outsiders to understand” was laid bare when it was revealed that he was running an old fashioned Ponzi scheme. The 1-2% returns he paid his clients each month came from new money from new investors. Profit came from the simple expanding of his client base to net new unwitting investors.

Both Ponzi and Madoff are linked by both their promises to deliver the undeliverable to investors, and their method of paying off old investors with the money from new ones.

With hindsight, it may seem all too easy to point out that generally in life, things that sound too good to be true generally are. And, to be fair, Madoff had a solid track record of paying his investors the returns he had promised for years until the credit crunch caused too many clients to demand redemptions at the same time.

Today, illiquid assets promising fixed returns are a common feature of some of the more questionable funds being promoted in the market. The more sinister products also incorporate assets that are essentially impossible to value.

Some cater to ethical investors who want to earn decent returns from socially responsible financial products. Many forestry funds fall into this category, because on scrutiny they fail to provide a robust investment strategy to back up their claims of above market rate guaranteed returns.

Market traded timber, as a commodity, has a verifiable price which can be used to forecast the value of an investment in that commodity. Teak is a good example of this. However, for some other timber products, which is not traded, there is no such data.

With no verifiable market price and no empirical/historical data available it is impossible for an investor to check the price assumptions that are used to generate future guaranteed prices and returns on investment. This is something to bear in mind the next time a once in a lifetime forestry fund with guaranteed returns arrives in you email inbox.

Litigation funds are another relatively new product and some of these are essentially based on the same false foundations as they work on the basis that investors cover a portion or all of the costs of litigation cases in exchange for a share of awards granted by the court. But the key question is how do you value a loan that you made to someone that has no repayment value other than the proceeds of successful legal cases? How can you value it in a meaningful way? How do you know that the cases you are funding will be resolved to your benefit?

An illiquid asset, such as a litigation fund, can only be made liquid if it can be traded at market price on the open market with all the pricing issues that entails. But an asset that has no market price cannot be verified and its entire value is based on the assumption that at some future point there will be a market and, therefore, a market price for it or there will be an opportunity to unload it on a private buyer. Once again the odds are loaded against the investor.

There are a number of other similar funds, such as open-ended property funds, that trade illiquidity for fixed returns on assets that cannot be independently valued.

Some key points to remember that could save you from making a bad investment are:

- There is no such thing as a guaranteed return.

- If something sounds too good to be true it generally is.

- With any investment, especially those which sound the most promising, take a step back and take time to check out the claims made by the fund.

Essential questions to ask are:

- How is this asset valued? Are data available that can be used to verify the price assumptions?

- Is the asset illiquid? Can I redeem my investment before maturity if necessary?

If the answer to any of these is negative, then do not invest in the product.

Until then remember, if you are told an investment product is “too complicated to understand” then it is too complicated to risk investing in.

Please let me take this opportunity to wish you all a Happy & Prosperous New Year.

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 Son (2001/2); Directors: Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne

This little masterpiece begins in an air of mystery (accentuated by the intense camerawork), develops into a gripping psychological thriller and opens up physically and emotionally into a forceful social realist drama, celebrating humanity and the nature of redemption. On the surface the simple story might appeal to ‘born again’ Christians, when in fact its core audience is intelligent, left wing non-believers interested in what might be called, if a little pretentiously, the ‘human condition’. Art as paradox.

Olivier Gourmet, the actor for whom the film was written, describes it as ‘entertainment, but the kind which makes you sit up and think’. It is one of the finest films of the past decade and comes from the award-laden Dardenne brothers, who after a number of shorts and controversial documentaries have made five feature films (a sixth is in production), The Promise, Rosetta, The Son, The Child and Lorna’s Silence.

They have the unique distinction of being the only directors to have received – in the long history of the Cannes film festival – two Palme d’Or awards for Best Film, the most prestigious prize in world cinema. Gourmet was honoured with the ‘Best Actor’ Palme d’Or for his role in The Son.

The movie was notionally inspired by the Bulger case in the U.K., where two youngsters lured a third younger boy from a shopping centre, then painstakingly and strenuously murdered him. During the scripting the work moved away drastically from the original concept.

Gourmet plays Olivier, a somewhat nerdish carpenter with a bad haircut and dull spectacles, who ‘wants to be useful’ and works as an instructor in a training centre for teenagers, where they learn a trade He is fortyish, recently divorced and lives alone and is brusquely supportive and friendly to his charges.

A new lad (16 or so) is offered to him as a trainee, but he refuses citing a full work load. The boy is moved to welding classes. Olivier seems obsessed by the new entry into his world and to be stalking him, almost with a sexual drive. A short while later he decides to take Francis, a pale skinned, blond lad with haunted eyes (the talented and perfectly cast Morgan Marinne) into his meticulous care. The ‘secret’ is revealed and the story shifts gear into a cat and mouse game between a murderer and his victim by proxy.

It might spoil an element of the suspense integral to a first viewing to tell more of the ‘story’, although having seen it several times the impact grows rather than diminishes since as with all worthwhile movies the actual narrative is only the frame upon which a creative director displays his thematic concerns.

It would be pointless to suggest that this work has populist appeal, although its blunt and rigorous directness presents no complications to an attentive viewer. It is, though, an intense experience and the ending, whilst perfectly judged and ‘right, seems almost abrupt. It leaves room for speculation for those who enjoy such exercises. There is happily no music in the film, the dialogue is sparse and naturalistic and the concentration is on Olivier – his work, his body, his suppressed emotions – shown with claustrophobic close-ups and relentlessly probing tracking shots. Only in the climactic end sequence are we allowed to come up for air.

There is a classical precision and rhythm to the work, with a musical structure: a haunting expository opening, a substantial middle movement and a powerful, redemptive climax with a percussive element that gives way to an abrupt, serene last chord.

Gourmet does not so much act as exist within the character, like a latter day Jean Gabin playing a working class man awash with frustration, emotion and despair. The setting is Liege, but could be any mid-sized town anywhere in the world. The film’s resonance comes from a ‘documentary’ – style background which gives the story a realism and authenticity, which we associate with Bresson’s masterpieces.s.

There is nothing miserabilist about the movie, rather it develops into a work of great compassion and sensitivity. Although it would be possible to fill the entire pages of this journal with a detailed examination of it subtleties, let one example suffice…….. The apprentices have to learn how to safely carry long planks of wood across the shoulder (an image of the carpenter Christ carrying his cross comes to mind). In the final section Olivier and Francis each have to carry planks. Shortly afterwards they share the burden of an extra long plank.

The image is understated and precedes the explosive and inevitable revelation to the boy. With the rhythmic precision possessed by only true cinematographers the juxtaposition of the sequences and what follows is perfectly judged. This film and others by the brothers and works by Bruno Dumont and Michael Haneke allow one hope for the future of European cinema.

(Available from the DVD Film centre at 289 Suthep Road, Chiang Mai).

Let's Go To The Movies:  by Mark Gernpy

Now playing in Chiang Mai

Tron: Legacy: US, Action/ Adventure/ Sci-Fi/ Thriller – A rebellious 27-year-old, is haunted by the mysterious disappearance of his father, played by Jeff Bridges, a man once the world’s leading video-game developer. Looking into his father’s disappearance, he finds himself pulled into the same world of fierce programs and gladiatorial games in which his father has been living for 20 years – a visually stunning cyber universe that is advanced and exceedingly dangerous.

In this film, 3D is an integral part of the experience, so yes, do see it in 3D if you have a choice. They used an updated version of the 3D camera system that James Cameron used to make Avatar, and by all reports, the 3D is spectacular and cutting-edge. Bridges is reportedly sensational. Mixed or average reviews. 3D only at Airport Plaza; also 2D there and at Vista.

Millennium 1: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Men Who Hate Women): Sweden, Crime/ Drama/ Mystery – in Swedish and English, with Thai and English subtitles – A densely plotted and compelling thriller, with graphic violence that will prove too much for some viewers; most, however, consider it an unforgettable viewing experience. It’s intense and frightening – filled with nightmarishly violent behavior. All three novels in the series and all three films have a large and wildly enthusiastic following world-wide. Rated R in the US for disturbing violent content, including rape, grisly images, sexual material, nudity, and language; 18+ in Thailand. Generally favorable reviews. Vista only, with thanks for bringing this series to Chiang Mai.

Millennium 2: The Girl Who Played with Fire: Sweden, Crime/ Mystery/ Thriller – in Swedish, with Thai and English subtitles – Mikael, publisher of Millennium magazine, has made his living exposing the crooked and corrupt practices of establishment Swedish figures, so when a young journalist approaches him with a meticulously researched thesis about sex trafficking in Sweden and those in high office who abuse underage girls, he immediately throws himself into the investigation. Meanwhile Lisbeth is accused of three murders, causing her to flee while Mikael tries to clear her name. Rated R in the US for brutal violence including a rape, some strong sexual content, nudity, and language; 18+ in Thailand. Generally favorable reviews. At Vista only.

Millennium 3: The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest:Sweden, Crime/ Drama/ Thriller – in Swedish, with Thai and English subtitles – At the start of this third and final episode, two seriously injured people arrive at an emergency ward. One is the wanted murderer Lisbeth Salander who has taken a bullet to the head and needs immediate surgery, the other is an older man who Lisbeth has attacked with an axe. Throughout, Lisbeth plans her revenge against the men who tried to kill her, and the government which nearly destroyed her life. Rated R in the US for strong violence, some sexual material, and brief language; 15+ in Thailand. Mixed or average reviews. At Vista only.

The Tourist: (perhaps) , Action/ Drama/ Thriller – Johnny Depp stars as an American tourist whose playful dalliance with a stranger leads to a web of intrigue, romance, and danger. With Angelina Jolie. Directed by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck (The Lives of Others – very fine film!). Generally unfavorable reviews.

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader: , Adventure/ Family/ Fantasy – I found this an excellently crafted movie, and quite superlative of its type. It’s a detailed fantasy about a magical land, and if you like that sort of thing, or your kids do, then you will love this. Overall, the special effects and the magic were just exceedingly well done, and the animated characters excellent. Only in 2D now, and at Vista only Thai-dubbed. Mixed or average reviews.

Yes or No: , Comedy/ Romance – A sweet girl off to college finds her roommate to be somewhat of a guy-acting tomboy. As they get to be veryclose friends, the question becomes whether it’s friendship or something more fun. Probably not, because the film is only rated 15+, but the filmmakers play around with the idea.

Due 6 Jan

Hereafter: US, Drama/ Fantasy – Matt Damon in a film by Clint Eastwood, which investigates what three people know about the afterlife. What do people believe, and what is the truth? Mixed or average reviews. But it sounds fascinating to me.

Megamind:US, Animation/ Action/ Comedy – Actually, believe it or not, I found this rather cute and funny. But you do have to like animation. About the unhappiness of the most brilliant supervillain the world has ever known ... and the least successful. Over the years, he has tried to conquer Metro City in every imaginable way. Each attempt, a colossal failure thanks to the caped superhero known as “Metro Man,” until the day Megamind actually defeats him in the throes of one of his evil plans. Generally favorable reviews.

Bridge in Paradise : by Neil Robinson

As I write this column I am in New Orleans to inspect the blowout preventer from the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico (fortunately the blowout preventer has been salvaged and is now on dry land—so I did not have to go diving—-but unfortunately it did not prevent the blowout). This column is based on a hand from the Times-Picayune newspaper of New Orleans. The hand is below. You are sitting South and playing six spades in a team competition, so making an overtrick is not important—making the contract is all that counts. West leads the jack of diamonds. What is your plan to maximize your chance of making 6S?

This is a tough hand to make. Most people would probably take the first trick on board with the ace. Then pull trumps and lead a low club from board towards the jack. West wins with the king and leads another diamond. Win this and cash the ace and queen of clubs, hoping for a 3-3 split. If clubs did split, then you could throw a heart from board on the fourth club. Unfortunately, no such luck, so you have to take the heart finesse. This fails also and you go down, losing both the king of hearts and the king of clubs. If you played it like this you would have reason to complain of bad luck. You have three chances to make—either king being onside or the clubs splitting, but nothing works.

However, there is a better line of play. It is tough to come up with, but if you found it (which I did not!), then you deserve congratulations. This line is better because it gives you an extra chance—it succeeds whenever West has either one, two or three clubs, no matter where the king is. Take the ace and king of diamonds, then ruff a diamond high in hand. Now cash the ace of clubs and draw trumps, ending on board. Then lead a club towards the jack. If East had the king, South could return to dummy to lead another club towards the queen, setting up the 12th trick. On the actual hand, West wins the second club with the king, but has only hearts and diamonds left and is now helpless. If West leads a diamond you can throw a heart from board and ruff in hand, so you never lose a heart. Alternatively, if West leads a heart it gives you a free finesse. Either way, slam made!

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

Something new under the sun

I am not one for New Year’s resolutions as I tend to believe that you shouldn’t need to set a specific date to choose to change things in your life but rather you should just get on with things and do it. However, there is a certain something about the changing of this rather arbitrary date in our calendar that does cause me to pause and reflect on the year past and the forthcoming.

I am now marking the little more than one year mark as the managing editor for the Chiang Mai Mail and I have to say that this year has been a huge learning curve for me. I came to Chiang Mai a newbie, as it were, not to Thailand but to Chiang Mai. I have come to learn that yes, indeed, all the regular protestations of uniqueness that you hear from residents and the tourism board are, in fact true. Chiang Mai is a unique and different place to live from other places in Thailand and I have come to see and understand the magic of this place that brings people back and draws people to stay.

Dr. Howard Graves, a well known and iconic figure in the Chiang Mai community, said something the other night that resonated to me. He pointed out how the Chiang Mai community is welcoming to all, regardless of where they are from or what they look like. That the friendliness of people here draws you in so you become a part of the community. And he’s right. I came knowing virtually nobody and I have made dear friends, met the most interesting people and enjoyed my year in Chiang Mai thoroughly. I look forward to many more years to come. After 22 years in Thailand, much to my surprise, I have discovered something new. So, perhaps my New Year’s resolution should rather be, accept that there is always something new under the sun.

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

Garden jelly

Dokmai Garden’s herb master, Mrs. Nived Seehamongkol, returned this morning from a funeral in Esan in the northeast of Thailand. Although the occasion was sad, it did not stop a plant fanatic like her to search for new plants. She brought Cyclops barbata (Menispermaceae), called ‘monoi’ in Esan language. A central Thai name is ‘bai kon pit’. One English name is Green Jelly Leaf.

This is how they use the plant in Esan: Take 6 leaves and crush them in 2 dl of water. Sieve the liquid and quickly mix with fish sauce, salt, galanga and fish or frog meat. Within 5 minutes, the dish will turn into jelly, thanks to the polysaccharides extracted. Nived said this is a cooling dish which is good in the hot season, and to calm down an upset stomach. The plant is a liana native to Thailand and Southeast Asia, and prefers a shady place for its establishment before growing out into the sun.

Plant jellies are common foods in China and Southeast Asia. Other sources of jelly are the agar (the red sea alga Gelidium amansii) and the Chinese Jelly Leaf Platostoma palustre (Mesona chinensii), called ‘chao-kuai’ in Thai. It is a member of the mint family (Lamiaceae), so the other English vernacular name jelly grass should be avoided. The plant is cultivated in Chiang Rai, and its jelly is commonly seen in the form of black cubes in Thai desserts. The jelly can be combined with fruit juices to add more flavour. Like the green jelly leaf, it has cooling properties and is often served with ice.

The famous Jelly Nut is a fruit from a Thai tree (phung thalai), Scaphium scaphigerum (Malvaceae). This tree (sometimes called Marshmallow Tree) is common in the south of Thailand, but grows well at Dokmai Garden where we can irrigate it. In Thailand its jelly is used for making a cough medicine.

All jellies give your stomach a sensation of being full, while in reality it is just water bound to the jelly fibers. Therefore sugar free jellies are good for people suffering from obesity.

Life in Chiang Mai: By Colin Jarvis

New Year Resolutions - for Other People

Living in Chiang Mai we begin to relax. We find minor irritations do not irritate us any longer. Big irritations do not seem so irritating. But still some irritations remain. Some people just do not think clearly or behave properly. The following are three resolutions that, if other people followed them, I would become serene and probably live a few more years.

Road Map: I first noticed the term “Roadmap” being used by George W. Bush in relation to the rebuilding of Iraq. I thought, at first, that this was another Bushism. After all, he was the man who said “The French have no such word as entrepreneur”. Since then I have heard the term used to describe the Burmese development of democracy, the Thai reconciliation programme and now I find many people using this term to describe both great and mundane projects.

“Route map” I could accept. A route map shows where to start, where to finish and how to get there. A roadmap does no such thing. It does not tell you where you are, where you are going, or how to get there. Still maybe that’s what the politicians and others want. To appear to say something when in fact they say nothing, to imply they know what they’re doing when in fact they have no clue.

Why don’t they use a much shorter word that means a great deal more, why don’t they simply use the word “Plan”? Resolution: I will use the word “Plan”, instead of “Roadmap” unless I want to mislead people.

Making Money and Creating Wealth: It seems to me that the latest world financial crisis was caused simply because people have forgotten the difference between making money and creating wealth. Stock and shares and commodity futures were not originally designed for speculation. They were there to help commerce raise money for new, wealth creating activities.

In this new world of computer driven decision making and a worldwide market it is now up possible for far more people, than in the past, simply to speculate on these markets and to derive other financial products simply to make money. There is nothing wrong in making money but if it is done by speculation it simply means that one person wins whilst another person loses. The total value is not increased. Wealth simply moves from one person or organisation, to another. True wealth is created by utilising capital, labour and creativity to produce something. That might be a product or a service but it is something that increases the total value of the economy. Speculation, these days, can create serious economic problems as we have seen.

Resolution: I will concentrate on creating wealth and I will never speculate again.

Day Tripper: Fesitvals galore

By Heather Allen

Chiang Mai has no shortage of things to do and January sees a lot of festivals on offer, Bor Sang has its umbrella festival coming up, while Baan Tawai has a wood carving festival at the end of the month.

The Red Cross Winter Fair is currently running out behind the Provincial Hall, there is the Floral festival out at Ratchaphruek Royal Park, one of my favorites, I have to admit! Warorot is celebrating its 100th anniversary and one of the events there will be the Mahakad Arts Festival. Another flower event is the Floral Miracle of Chiang Mai held at the 80th Anniversary Commemoration Garden (opposite the 700 Years Stadium). There is a fundraising fete at JJ Market on January 16 for the Royal British Legion’s Poppy appeal and an exhibition of the Chiang Mai Photographic Group’s works on display at the Northern Village in Central Airport Plaza, sure to be fantastic photos. I went last year and found the quality to be extremely high.

For the athletic, Bike for Elephants charity biking event is taking place in mid January. This should be a fun and interesting and worthy event for those who want to get out of town, get some exercise and most of all, help the elephants. The bike ride goes through Mae Taeng valley and involves an overnight stay at the Elephant Nature Park as well. Details can be found in the community calendar on pages 8 and 9.

So, even if you don’t feel like getting out of town for the elephants, or seeing beautiful umbrellas and pretty girls in Bor Sang, you can still find things to do right here in town. (Bor Sang photo by Yossuntorn Sawasdee)


More birds of New South Wales

Further on from last edition’s column, we travelled to Soldiers Point which is not too far from Nelson Bay and having found our land-legs again we wandered into a wooded area and watched the antics of the Laughing Kookabura. This 45cm long, thick billed bird can be distinguished by it’s chuckling call. We watched as it was on the ground breaking an egg open and devouring the unborn chick. In due course we viewed the bird’s tree-hole nest and its many forages for insects and worms to feed hungry mouths. As we emerged into a clearing several red headed, white cheeked Eastern Rosella parrot type birds flew around. Long tailed and sporting many colours this species seemed to move around in small groups. Picturesque Shoal Bay had some welcome shady retreats, and there an abundance of Galah Parrots kept cool amongst the leafage. Their pink heads, rose / pink underparts and grey backs were conspicuous. Occasionally some would fly to overhead cables and hang upside down. Quite an interesting species whose antics differed greatly from the ‘everyday’ bird. Nearby, and walking quite sedately was the unique looking Spinifix Pigeon. Albeit is small, 23cm long, by normal pigeon standards it sports a tall chestnut crest and has grey / black barring on the wings. Also, and not wanting to be left out of the picture the Little Corella, a crested parrot made several appearances. At 42cm long this mainly white bird had a blue eye-ring.

Continuing north route 1 took us to Bulahdelah and along the wooded twisting lanes to Smiths Lake. Here the Pied Oystercatcher, that red billed, red legged, red eye-ringed probing master was busy by the water’s edge. Being 50cm long with such contrasting colours, it is quite easy to identify. The quaint town of Forster has a long bridge over Wallis Lake and close by was Tern Island. Hiding amongst bracken we watched the Magpie Lark scouring the ground for insects, then walking up to the ‘point’ the ebbing estuary had two Great Egrets stealthily stalking their aquatic prey. And indeed experts they were, for despite their all white colour and yellow bills they caught fish as though there was no tomorrow. In a lagoon nearby a 90cm long Great Cormorant stood with wings outstretched, as is nature’s drying mode.

Botany Bay is the historical landing place of Captain Cook in April 1770. A plaque marks the occasion. In a copse close by the curious Black Faced Cuckoo Shrike searched for insects on the ground. Their habit of shuffling their wings upon landing is most unusual. Surveying this famed area we noticed a swamp with a crested large white bird which swept it’s long bill from side to side in the shallow water. With a black spatulate bill and black legs the Royal Spoonbill was a surprising joy to observe. 

There are both House and Tree Sparrows resident in Australia, and yet for the duration of our stay we never saw any. Enjoy the gifts of nature.