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

Bridge in Paradise


How does your garden grow?

Day Tripper

The Doctor's Consultation:  by Dr. Iain Corness

A penniless ending?

I don’t know how many of you saw the following piece in the Bangkok Post? It went, “State hospitals in the southern province are shouldering a heavy burden for treating elderly foreigners who cannot afford to pay their medical bills.

Many retired foreigners who came to Thailand with the hope of settling down here are now struggling after spending their pensions wastefully and marrying Thai women, some of whom left them after their money ran out.

Lots of foreigners have fallen ill and been admitted to local hospitals. Their relatives back home refuse to pay for their treatment on being contacted by the embassy…”

What is forgotten by these unfortunate people is that there is no “free” National Health Scheme. No safety net to catch them when things go bad. You have to provide your own in this country, and that is called Medical Insurance.

But is your insurance cover enough? This is a perennial question. And a perennial headache for private hospitals and those who end up in them! And if you haven’t upgraded your cover recently, then you may be in for a nasty surprise. Unfortunately, everything, be that petrol, bread, or baby’s nappies has gone up in price in the past 12 months. If you haven’t upgraded there could be a shortfall, which you would have to find (or fund), not your insurance company.

When I first came to Thailand to live permanently 14 years ago, I was just as remiss as far as insurance was concerned. Hospital in-patient insurance? I passed on that one too. After all, the only foreseeable problems that could stop me working were massive trauma following a road accident or suchlike, or a heart attack. In either case you don’t care where you are as long as there are wall to wall running doctors and plenty of pain killers. In Australia, the “free” public hospital system is fine for that.

So I blithely carried on, after all, I was ten foot tall and bullet proof. Then a friend over here had a stroke and required hospitalization. Said friend was four years younger than me and I was forced to review the ten foot bullet proof situation to find I was only five foot eleven and the world was full of kryptonite. Thailand was a completely new ballgame.

Enquiries as to hospital and medical costs showed that they were considerably less than the equivalent of private hospitals in Oz, but, and here’s the big but, there’s no government system or sickness benefits to fall back on in Thailand. Suddenly you are walking the tightrope and there’s no safety net to stop you hitting terra firma.

So I took out medical insurance. Still, it was no gold plated cover. But it was enough to look after me if I needed hospitalization, and that came sooner than I imagined. I had always subscribed to the “major trauma” theory, but two days of the galloping gut-rot had me flat on my back with the IV tube being my only life-line to the world. We are only mortal – even us medicos.

So do you have medical insurance? Perhaps it is time to chat to a reputable insurance agent! Yes, reliable insurance agents and reliable insurance companies do exist, but you need help through the minefield.

You also need help when it comes to filling out the application forms, in my opinion. And you also need to be 100 percent truthful. Yes, insurance companies will check on your records, and if it is found that you have been sparing with the truth over pre-existing conditions, expect a shock at settling up time at the cashier’s desk.

Remember, too, that just because you have an insurance card does not automatically signify that ‘everything’ is covered. This is why private hospitals will ask you for a deposit on admission. If the insurance company later verifies that you are indeed covered for that ailment or condition, then you’ll get it back, but you have to prove that you are covered, not the other way round!

And remember that cheap insurance premiums means you are only getting partial cover. This is something you have to plan for. Start by asking around today!


Salsa is a sweetie!

This sweetie is still a pup at 1 year. She is medium-sized and has a short golden brown coat. She is playful, yet gentle and affectionate. She is not dominant and gets along well with other dogs. Adorable! 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 or e-mail [email protected]

Heart to Heart  with Hillary

Dear Hillary,
Is this Singha Jerry for real? I was thinking he might even have been that Mister Singha guy who used to write in with drivel every week. Glad he’s gone. He’s a fine one to complain about other people’s spellings. His is the worst you’ve had recently. Thanks for the fun column each week.
Carlsberg (it’s back) Ken

Dear Carlsberg (it’s back) Ken,
Glad you like the column, Petal. I can only keep trying to keep you amused. I don’t think Singha Jerry and Mistersingha (he used to spell it as all one word) are one and the same. As the T-shirt says “Same, same - but different!” And yes, I was told that Carlsberg has returned to our shores, not that I really cared. I am a champagne drinker, as you would also know - when someone nice sends me a bottle (or two). It’s far too far out of my budget, I’m afraid.

Dear Hillary,
One of the women at work told me she needed some money as deposit for a unit close to work. It wasn’t much, only 4,500 baht, so I gave her 5,000 baht. I didn’t expect it back. Just a gift and I forgot about it after she said she had moved in to her new place. About a couple of months later she left the job, but came back to see me as she was waiting to be paid and was behind in the rent, so I stumped up for another 1,500 baht. She saw me a couple of weeks later and said everything was going fine, but that didn’t last too long as she came back again this week with another tale of woe. I realize I’m being played as a sucker here, Hillary, but how should I deal with it. I don’t want to be bad friends with anybody. Not in my nature.

Dear Wally,
Wally the wallet, you have certainly been tagged as a soft touch, haven’t you, my Petal. There’s no secret in what to do here, and you know it already. Just say “No”. You can do it nicely, by saying you are a bit short this month yourself, and that’s all. She will find someone else, just the same way as she found you! But learn something from it. OK? Charity may start at home - but that’s at your home, not hers.

Dear Hillary,
Is there any real way to tell if these Thai girls really fancy you, or is it just an act? I have met a nice one, we get along well together and we went to Phuket for a week and that was good, she says she loves me, but I’ve heard all this before and it was all just lies. I’d like to think this one is for real, but what is the way to find out? Help me Hillary before I get in too deep and get disappointed again.

Dear James,
I presume you met this young lady in a bar somewhere, James, as it is not so easy to get a girl holding down a good job from a traditional Thai family to just take a week off and go to Phuket with a foreigner she doesn’t really know all that well. This being the case, you always have to take into account that protestations of “love” are the bar girl’s stock in trade. Once she thinks she has you snared, then what you have to look out for are mothers with health problems requiring expensive medicines, brothers with broken legs, fathers with cancer and buffalos with hoof rot. All these conditions can only be cured with large lumps of money - yours! So in a nutshell, the “way to find out” is to listen to the requests for financial assistance. If they include help for family members, then that is the time for you to consider slipping on the running shoes. Got the message, Petal?

Dear Hillary,
I am thinking about buying a motorcycle but all the reports about theft has stopped me. Is it really as bad as people say? Is it worse than the UK for example? Have you any ideas on how to make a motorcycle “thief proof” or should I just stick to baht busses?

Dear Valentino,
Motorcycle theft is a problem all over the world. Not just here. In fact, I believe that theft is so commonplace in the UK that you would be very lucky if you didn’t get your car or bike stolen at some time. The answer is to be vigilant and lock the bike securely. Mind you, you can never be 100 percent secure. One chap in the UK chained the front wheel of his expensive sports car to a lamp post but when he returned the car was gone. The front wheel was still chained to the lamp post, as all the villains had done was jack the car up and put on the spare wheel and drive away! With bikes you have the additional problem of it being easy to throw it in the back of a pick-up. A good chain and a stout padlock and attach it to something solid seems to be the answer. But not to the car parked next to you!

Camera Class:  by Harry Flashman

Polarizers - circular and linear

I have often mentioned filters in this column, and there are many which can produce some spectacular images. However, many of them can also be duplicated post-camera with one of the programs such as Photoshop. However, a polarized image is not something that can be done later.

The polarizing filter is needed at the time of taking the shot, not later. There is no other filter that can make such a difference to your final pictures, especially in the bright sun of Thailand. Once you become used to polarized effects, you will want to leave the filter screwed on the end of your lenses forever!

These filters are different from most others in the fact that they are made up of two distinct elements. There is an outer ring that rotates the outer “glass” relative to the inner element. This increases or reduces the degree of polarization to allow the photographer an endless range of polarized effects from one filter.

The principal behind these filters is to remove reflections, and funnily enough it is reflections that take the color out of color photography. Look at the surface of a swimming pool, for example - a shiny white, non-transparent surface. Now look through a polarizing filter and you can see right down to the tiles on the bottom of the pool. And the people frolicking in the pool!

What happens is that these filters remove reflections from any surface, not just water. The reason you cannot see through some normally transparent windows is because of reflected images on the surface of the glass. The reason some tree leaves appear to lose their color is through reflected light from the sky above.

One of the traps for young photographers is that because you know the grass is green, you see it as green when you look through the camera lens - even though it is not truly green, caused by reflections. Look again at the scene in the viewfinder. The green grass is really a mixture of green and silvery reflections, dark shadows and pale green shoots. Put the polarizing filter on the lens and slowly rotate the outer ring. Suddenly the silvery reflections disappear and become a deep, solid green color. The grass is now made up of green, dark green and pale green. This green will really leap out at you and smack you fair between the eyes!

Your next beach scene when taken with a polarizer will really amaze you. Again, slowly rotate the outer ring on the polarizer. Look critically through the viewfinder and you will see the sky take on a much deeper color to highlight the white clouds. Keep turning that outer ring and the sea will change to a deep blue to green luminescent hue. The end result is at your command. Try taking the same shot this weekend, but with varying degrees of polarization and see the differences in the final shots.
Another shot to try with or without polarization is photographing a reflective, shiny object like your family car. Again, by looking critically through the viewfinder you will see what happens when you remove the reflections from the paintwork.

So, if the polarizer is such a wonderful bit of gear, why do we not make it a standard piece of equipment on all cameras? Well, like everything, there is a downside as well as the upside. In the case of the polarizer it does its bit of brilliance at the expense of the amount of light that gets into the camera. With most polarizing filters you will lose about one and a half to two stops of light. What this means is that the shutter speed will be at least twice as long to record the same scene, or that the aperture will have to be twice the size. This means that you are more likely to get camera shake effects and suffer from lack of depth of field when using the polarizer. Another drawback is that the light drop can confuse the camera’s flash settings, so compensation has to be made for night shots.
However, if you haven’t got one - get one and see the full bodied difference a polarizer can make!

Money Matters:  Paul Gambles MBMG International Ltd.

Climate Change - Have we got it right? Part 1

From the start, let me explain that I am not a scientist and I know nothing about global warming. However, I am concerned we may be spending money in the wrong places and these funds could be better used elsewhere.

It cannot be disputed that wherever man settles there must be a micro climate change by the simple fact that, once he had progressed beyond the hunter/gatherer stage in order to grow food crops, he had to destroy the forest tree climax. As the population grew, he progressively killed off more and more forest cover. This was no problem for Gaia provided the availability of forested land was not a limiting factor. This was the case up until comparatively recent times but there are indications that the present level of world population is now too great for the natural resources of this planet.

Most of the world’s agro-socio-economic woes can be laid at the doors of ‘world over-population’. Strangely, most of the developed world’s leaders, both scientific and political, have ignored this issue and diverted themselves into considering what are simply symptoms. In particular, the main distractions are Global Warming or Climate Change. Undoubtedly, this is a major issue for the world’s ecological stability but there seems to be little understanding that this is a symptom and not the cause, which is leading politicians into massive expenditures on attempting to control carbon dioxide emissions.

This expenditure may well end up being a complete waste of funds when money and time could be used better elsewhere. To pinpoint carbon dioxide emissions as the sole cause of all the world’s environmental woes is also a waste of time. It is not only carbon dioxide that is the problem. Indeed, high levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere are actually beneficial for plant growth and it should be remembered that carbon dioxide is only 340 parts per million in the atmosphere whilst nitrogen is more like 700,000.

More than a few people are now coming round to the thought that a lot of the global warming is due to the removal of the rainforest cover. Politicians and even some scientists do not seem to appreciate the critical role of trees in the world’s ecology. Some do not even understand why it is cool if one walks in a forest and hot if one comes out into the sunlight. They think that the forest is cool because it provides shade and some reduction in temperature. This is true in the same way that a corrugated iron roof will give shade and reduce the temperature. However, the tree is an entirely different matter. The tree during daylight carries our photosynthesis on a grand scale, converting carbon dioxide and water in the presence of chlorophyll to carbohydrates (timber), using vast amounts of incoming solar energy. This is what takes the heat out of the surrounding atmosphere and is, in reality, the tree’s immediate micro climate. It also uses up tremendous energy in transporting water from the soil and evaporating it into the atmosphere.

Let me re-state that I am not of a scientific bent and nobody with a modicum of scientific knowledge will deny that mankind is the cause of climate change - every time a family cuts down trees to grow annual crops they inevitably change the micro climate. The natural ecology of the Earth is a tree climax which creates a sustainable macro climate. If the tree cover is removed, as is happening all over the planet, then the ecological stability is endangered. The cause of this instability, and rising temperature, is entirely due to population pressure on a finite resource - that is cultivable land. The real problem is entirely due to the amount of people in the world and not carbon dioxide emissions - air pollutants are obviously creators of social problems, such as pea-soup fogs, smoke, nuclear waste, etc., but these are normally micro climate changes and not macro ones.

It is critical in the management of the world’s ecology that the relationship between man and plants is understood. The most important element in the world is carbon - for both plants and mankind. Life is not based on silica or nitrogen or any other element - though they are all involved in organic chemistry. The world is actually a carbon based environment.

Another simple fact is that mankind and animals cannot live or survive without plants but plants can survive quite happily without animals. The next important fact which must be understood is that mankind needs oxygen and plants (including trees) need carbon dioxide. To put it another way, man cannot survive without oxygen and plants will die without carbon dioxide. I apologise for the repetition but it seems to me that these simple facts of the world’s nature are not completely understood or appreciated.

However, it is the tree that is the most important factor in all this. Thousands of years ago, the ecology of the earth was predominantly a tree climax, with upper storey and lower storey environments. With the unstoppable increase in the population of man the tree has been removed simply because it does not allow man to cultivate the soil and grow food crops.

Despite this, the tree, and other green plants, remains an important part of the world’s natural cover and without its natural biology man would find it next to impossible to survive on this planet.
To be continued…

The above data and research was compiled from sources believed to be reliable. However, neither MBMG International Ltd nor its officers can accept any liability for any errors or omissions in the above article nor bear any responsibility for any losses achieved as a result of any actions taken or not taken as a consequence of reading the above article. For more information please contact Paul Gambles on p[email protected]

DVD of the Week: By Brian Baxter

The Departed (U.S.A. 2006)

Only a fool would deny Martin Scorsese’s obsessive talent, which is barely surpassed by his enthusiasm for and love of movies. He’s generous with his time, opinions and money(for preservation) in praise of the greater earlier directors who inspired him to abandon thoughts of becoming a priest and frequently pays homage to them with referential nods in his own movies: or, as with Shutter Island, in tribute to a bygone era, like Tarantino’s Inglorious Basterds.

In The Departed, which is derived from the fabulously successful Hong Kong film Infernal Affairs, there are references to The Red Shoes and The Third Man among others. There is also – rather unsatisfactorily –a sense of déjà vu to the whole enterprise and not because of the earlier version. True, there’s originality of approach but the overall sense of familiarity stems in part from the genre which has been mined so deeply from the late silent days of cinema, through early talkies such as Scarface, Public Enemy and Little Caesar right through to films by de Palma, Coppola and Scorsese himself with Goodfellas especially.

Even so, no Scorsese work goes unnoticed (even misfires such as Gangs of New York) and this violent, long and brilliantly acted work is no exception. It also got him a long awaited Oscar as ‘best director’, though oddly Mark Walhberg failed to receive one, though nominated, as ‘best supporting actor’. The Academy being as dumb as always, I guess. True it leaves a bitter aftertaste but then one does not go to a film by ‘Marty’ for an edifying sense of release nor – despite the concern with Catholicism – for a notion of redemption, least of all in the callous ending to The Departed.

It’s held together by style and energy and by the actors, notably Leonardo, whose early prettiness relegated him to ‘poster boy’ status for too long. He has now made four movies with this director and has the film’s central role, alongside the talented Matt Damon and the electrifying Jack Nicholson, who once again proves that no-one can do ‘Jack’ a tenth as well as Jack. The cast is a standout, including Alec Baldwin, a rather tired looking Martin Sheen and Mark Walhberg in a telling role as the foul mouthed co-chief of the investigation team for which Di Caprio, as a recent graduate into the police force goes undercover and in harm’s way. A fellow graduate, Damon, has long been corrupted by Nicholson and the counter informant: they are handsome sides of the same coin, representing good and evil.

To be honest the story does not stand up to great scrutiny and the ending is highly questionable at every level, not least plausibility and the moral it offers. As often with this director the success is in the telling, not the tale and it is odd that his best film is not a visceral study of a boxer, nor a walk on the seedier mean streets but a period set work.

Here we have a lack of emotional restraint, common in so much American cinema, so that effect is created by intense psychological explanation rather than the rigorousness and subtlety we hope for in great art. Scorsese’s films are vivacious, impactful and grab one’s attention New York style as does The Departed, a colourful mood piece, vivid and exhausting and very much on the surface, rather than offering us iceberg-like a suggestion of hidden depths. It is, I guess, the difference between the best films from the U.S.A. and those from Europe. Vive la difference! Happily, in my book, there’s room for both. This and other Scorsese films are available from the DVD Film and Music  shop at 289 Suthep Road.

Bridge in Paradise : by Neil Robinson

Here is something a bit different---a bridge crossword printed by kind permission of Carlton Parker of Singapore. Carlton and his partner Chris Wong recently paid a visit to the Bridge Club of Chiang Mai for a session of duplicate (and won!) If you need the solution to the crossword please contact me at: [email protected]

MAIL OPINION: By Shana Kongmun

Year of the Rabbit

Well, the Year of the Rabbit is upon us. What that means for me, as a Horse person, I am not entirely sure. But I have to say, I have always found the Chinese horoscopes very interesting.

Less interesting perhaps, was to find out that I, as a female fire-horse would result in the early death of my father because of my headstrong personality. Fire Horses are seen as outgoing, people-loving, ambitious, rebellious, and independent. They are supposedly freedom-loving and impossible to contain. Acceptable qualities for myself, as a western woman, and, thankfully, less taboo to the Asian woman than they used to be, but, the story goes, they would be troublesome for the families, drain them of their resources and cause the early death of the father.

Well, since Dad celebrated his 75th birthday last year, I guess that one can be put paid to rest. But it generates an interesting thought about many of the traditional ideas that carry weight across the centuries and sometimes, even across cultures. A well known phrase, “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree”, has an equivalent in the Thai phrase, “the fruit doesn’t fall far from the tree”. But, is it true? Are children necessarily always going to take after their parents? And what about another old phrase, “You catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar”? This does seem to ring true in Thailand as the famous Thai smile generally gets a person much further than a frown or a bad attitude.

And what about the western idea that redheads have fiery tempers? Why should red hair make one more inclined to angry outbursts? Or the phrase “Still waters run deep”, perhaps the person isn’t so deep as they have nothing to say? I always take these things with a grain of salt (why salt?) seeing that while they may have some basis in reality they could also just be considered true because of repetition and that the role one chooses to take in one’s life is just that, one’s choice.

So, as we enter the year of the Rabbit, I will be sure to check my horoscope but I will also be equally certain to choose my own path and make my own choices as best I see fit.

MAIL OPINION: By Shana Kongmun

What news?

Well, it certainly is a sad day for all of us here at the Chiang Mai Mail as we, too have finally succumbed to the financial difficulties facing businesses here in Chiang Mai and in media in general as we are now forced to temporarily cease printing of the newspaper.

And while many herald the end of print media as we, too go online, it’s a sad day for everyone when the only English language local news source can no longer print. Many people prefer to read a real newspaper and some don’t have internet, or as we know, have really awful internet and find it more convenient to read a newspaper in print.

We will continue to publish news of interest to our readers online, so while the Chiang Mai Mail will no longer be available at your local supermarket or 7-11 you will be able to find us online.

Subscribers please visit our office on the 2nd ring road with your receipt for a refund, or fax your receipt to 053 260 738 along with your banking details. Alternatively, scan your receipt to [email protected] and bank details.

So, it is with quite a heavy heart that we must say goodbye to the printed version of the Chiang Mai Mail. I guess we never really know what we are missing until it’s gone.

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

Southeast Asian fruits and vegetables

A couple of days ago we received the book ’Fruits and Vegetables in Southeast Asian Markets’ (2011). 195 pages, 270 colour photographs from White Lotus Publishing. An author can never write a review of his own book, so I leave that to others, but I can expand the blurb by sharing some of the ideas behind the book.

Thailand has fantastic food, marvelous markets and interesting fruit orchards. At times a new book is published on how to identify the fruits and vegetables. For several years, such a book has not been available, which is why we decided to describe 120 common fruits, vegetables and mushrooms found in the Southeast Asian markets. We believe that such a book has to be small and affordable, and contain clear colour photographs next to a concise text. Such a text should not be too botanical, but instead create an interest for the plant. A year’s efforts to track down plants and literature were therefore spent to create the book. Thanks to Ketsanee Seehamongkol’s Dokmai Garden, we could follow many plants when growing, and also share the family’s experience and advice. We also tried to make the book more cheerful and less stiff by including many human faces. The index is 14 pages, because we packed it with many vernacular names (English, Thai and other Southeast Asian languages) in addition to the more precise scientific names and common synonyms. Something which surprised me is that many southern Thai specialties such as breadfruit (Artocarpus altilis, sake) and horse mango (Mangifera foetida, mamut), are rarely seen in the Chiang Mai markets. Surely, with the cosmopolitan mix here, there must be a demand for any commodity. With this new book, you may overcome the language barriers and simply show a picture, to get what you long for.

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

Can plants get viral infections?

Yes, all living organisms, animals, plants, mushrooms and even bacteria can suffer from viral infections.

The latest news indicates that a viral infection, Coconut cadang-cadang viroid (CCCVd) disease, has hit the oil palm plantations in Sabah, Borneo. This comes at a time when the cooking oil prices in Thailand has gone up due to demand being higher than supply, one of many symptoms of the over-population of Earth. The demand will probably speed up the transformation of ancient rainforests into more oil palm plantations. The question is, what do we do when we reach 50 billion inhabitants on Earth at the end of the century, and demand is still higher than supply, but there is no space left for expansion? Better turn the trend now!

Anyone who has gone to Kuala Lumpur may remember that between the airport and the city there is hardly any forest, only oil palms. A gigantic monoculture is always dangerous because disease may thrive and wipe out everything. The Philippines have lost some 30 million coconut palms already. A monoculture is even more susceptible if a plantation is based on a clone, i.e. a million identical twins. Genetic variation, found between seedlings, may imply various degrees of sensitivity. Plant viruses, or in this case a viroid which lacks the protein vehicle typically carrying viruses, are spread by insects, or contaminated knives or shears.

Since the West African oil palms (Elaeis guineensis) are commonly planted in Chiang Mai gardens, along with coconuts, we should all take a close look on our trees. For the first two years, yellow spots appear on the fronds, and the nuts get smaller and scarred. Then the yellowing becomes larger and fruit production ceases, and after about five years the tree may die. A tree infected by the virus has to be cut down immediately, and the tools cleaned. Another common virus here in Chiang Mai is the papaya ringspot virus (PRSV). The symptoms are distorted leaves and dwarf fruits with irregularities. Such trees have to be cut down too.

Day Tripper: Is it me, or is it Hot?

Hot district is pretty cool

By Heather Allen

Hot or Hod, as some like to call it, is a district in Chiang Mai, south of Hang Dong. Well worth a visit, Hot is easily reached and boasts some beautiful scenery and a village well known for its hand woven cotton goods.

Driving out of town on Highway 108, you can visit Ban Rai Phai Ngam, a short (4km) side trip off the main highway. Renowned for their high quality hand woven cotton cloth, local weavers gather at the home of the late National Artist Saengda Bansit who initiated the project of extracting dyes from natural materials. The uniquely beautiful cloth is worth the stop.

Continue on Highway 108 until it ends, turning left into Highway 1130. This will take you to the man made reservoir, Doi Tao Lake to dip your feet or take a swim, boating and rafting is available for visitors. Part of the Ob Luang National Park, Doi Tao was formed when Bhumibol Dam was built in Tak Province. Ob Luang National Park is famous for the Ob Luang Gorge framed by teak forests and mountains, a small stream cascades through the gorge and a small bridge allows visitors to cross over. Not for those fearful of heights! A nearby hot springs allows weary hikers to soak their feet.

Another beautiful park to visit, also off Highway 108 is the Mae Tho National Park. Located about 160 km from Chiang Mai, drive past Ob Luang National Park to Highway 1270 and turn North. The road into the park is dirt and not for the faint of heart. But, the scenery is beautiful and the viewpoint at Doi Mae Tho was made famous when HM the King visited it over 30 years ago. With several beautiful waterfalls, the Park is especially noted for the Karen highland rice paddy fields situated near the Park headquarters. As part of the same mountain range that encompasses Doi Inthanon, the highest peak is Doi Gew Rai Hmong reaching 1699 meters near Baan Paang Hin-Fon.

Easily reached in a day, a return trip back to Chiang Mai can be easily done by backtracking along Highway 108, or continue and drive through Mae Chaem and Doi Inthanon.

Day Tripper: Camp it up!

By Heather Allen

Daytripper’s usually involve simple one day trips out of Chiang Mai to surrounding areas but some people really enjoy camping out over night, and curling up around a campfire roasting marshmallows or whatever it is the outdoorsy types like to do, so this time we will talk about some of the more out of the way or lesser known national parks for camping.

A newish park in the region is the Khun Chae National Park in Wiang Pa Pa in Chiang Rai, established in 1995. Encompassing 270 square kilometers of deciduous forests of bamboo and, at higher elevations pine, waterfalls, granite outcroppings and wildlife, many of which can be found in the lush river valleys covered with wild bananas, ferns, mosses and deciduous trees. Several species of civet cats have been seen in the park as well as wild pigs; barking deer; hog badgers; and many species of flying arboreal and ground squirrels along with bats, birds.

Maetow waterfall has seven levels, the highest of which is about 40 meters, all seven levels of the fall can be reached in abouty two hours of hiking. The waterfalls for which the park is named, Khun Chae waterfall is a 6 level fall reached by 2 hours drive from the park's headquarters to the trail head and an hour hike from there.

For the plant lover the trail to Doi Mot is a must see, it passes through a lush, dense, wet evergreen forest, with epiphytic and ground orchids, ferns and many other shade loving plants. The mountain top is at 1700 meters and affords an amazing view of the forest and you can see Doi Lahnga and Doi Phangome clearly.

Thailand’s fifth highest peak is found in the park, Doi Lahnga is just over 2,000 meters. Doi Lahnga and its many sister peaks are located on southern edge of the park, next to Jae Son national park and Mae Dahkry national park.

Khun Chae is famous for a unique fig tree that grows near the park’s headquarters, covering 1,660 square meters the large branches are supported by stems from the ground, covered in a multitude of epiphytic plants, it’s truly a beautiful tree.

Khun Chae is also home to a reservoir where picknickers can paddle out to the middle of the lake on a bamboo raft. Khun Chae Park has two guest houses with western style bathrooms near the park’s headquarters.

Take Highway 118, the park is about 56 kilometers away.

Tel. 0 5316 336, 08 4366 5213. Fax 0 5316 3364. [email protected] for reservations.