Monday, May 31, 2010

The Enlightment Tree of ChiangRai’s Main Downtown Intersection

ChiangRai’s central intersection was named for the sacred fig, but now, somehow, the sign commemorating the ancient gate uses สรี (‘glory’) instead; originally the intersection name (important as intersections have traditionally been considered better landmarks than stretches of road) was สะหลี (sah-li), an old Lanna language term for the Bo tree. Perhaps someone from Bangkok changed it to สรี… The old northern language uses no ‘r’ sound (nor, consequently, has a letter for it). Bo trees are rare here, but almost all Thai temples have one. There are two at the east side of Wat Pra Singh, another at Wat Pra Kaeo, several at and around Wat Jet Yod, and more in Mae Sai… anyway, let’s hope roots aren’t completely forgotten, and that the past doesn’t become just another fairy tale!
The northern dialect (pasa neua in Central Thai) was referred to as Lao a century ago; its written language, which antedates Thai, has resemblances to Burmese and Lao that Thai does not. Common greetings are, Kin khao lao bo yang (have you eaten yet) or Bpai nai (where are you going). Sawat-dii ka and swastika sound alike because they have the same derivation; the terminology came here from ancient India. The ancient language of the north, though, does not share in use of terms from Pali, Sanskrit or even Khmer (at least not much). High and low tones are a bit higher and lower, and the language is even more monosyllabic.
As ‘r’ sounds do not exist, a school is a hong hien, not a rong-rien; and despite how it is marked, the town’s main intersection, si-yaek pratu sri, is pronounced by locals as si-yaek pratu sali (pronounced with a short ‘a’ sound and no rising inflection at the end, as opposed to the sali, meaning round pears from China, with short ‘a’ and rising inflection at the end. Sa-lee, here, is an old Lanna term for the Bodhi, or Bo, tree (the ‘sacred fig’) under which the Buddha is reputed to have achieved enlightenment. The Bo tree has heart-shaped, prominently displayed leaves, and takes hundreds, if not thousands, of years to fully grow. It has always had major significance in Buddhism, and is greatly revered. There’s no ‘sri’ in Lanna dialect (kham muang), and young people seem to not even know where the intersection name comes from… especially as that tree is now known as “Don po”!

Give a Fig

Figs, one of two trees sacred to Islam, are also sacred to Hindus and Jains; they’re of great cultural importance both in the tropics and elsewhere. The importance of fig trees, and a taboo against cutting them down, is shown in the ancient Hindu Ramayana epic, where Ravana exclaims, “I haven’t cut down any fig tree…Why then does this calamity befall me?” Genesis 3:7 has Adam and Eve covering their nakedness with fig leaves of the common fig (Ficus carica).
An interesting fact about them is that they utilize a wasp species (fig wasps) for pollination. Among the first, and perhaps the very first, plant species bred for agriculture (in the Middle East, over 11,000 years ago), there are many kinds. The Peepul, Bodhi, Bo or Po (as in Wat Po; Ficus religiosa) and the Banyan, which grows in cracks and crevices of host trees, are regarded as sacred by hundreds of millions of Asians; the Bo symbolizes happiness, prosperity, longevity and good luck. One or more, sometimes of considerable size, can be found in or near most Buddhist monasteries and temple compounds. They’re easily recognized by its heart-shaped leaves which descend into long points, and tremble in breezes, making a fluttering sound.
In Chiang Mai there’s an old one by the Moon Muang Road moat. It’s not native to Thailand, but the related Ficus benjamina (in Thai ton sai) is, and can get as large; the largest is a couple km. from the Khmer ruins at Prasat Hin Phimai (in Khorat). Northern Thailand’s most famous Bo tree is about 20 km. southwest of Lampang, at Wat Phrathat Lampang Luang, one of the country's oldest and more impressive temples. The gnarled old giant has branches propped up by poles, and is decorated with strips of silver and gold paper. It’s said to come from a cutting of the famous Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi of Anaradhapura in Sri Lanka - the oldest living plant of known planting date (288 BCE, by King Tissa), and said also to come from a cutting from the very tree under which the Buddha attained enlightenment (thus giving it the name ‘enlightenment’ tree).

Bo tree at Wat Pra kaeo, ChiangRai

Bo tree at Wat PraSing, ChiangRai

A Nam Lad occupation

Nam Lad means where the river takes a short-cut when it floods. There’s a bend in the Kok River, and a lot of stones have accumulated. Just downstream the riverbed diverges into separate channels; not long ago this separation into channels was much more so, and created Dusit Island and Goh Loi (Floating Island). Koh Loi is a small flood plain, and the river there was shallow, wide and correspondingly slow-moving – so it didn’t carry anything heavy, and deposited silt.
The Kok River banks at Nam Lat, as high as 3 meters, are now shored up with stone and strong wire mesh; flooding from it doesn’t happen anymore. For much of the year it’s shallow enough to allow gathering small stones to sell, labor which generally nets workers over B500 for a day’s work. The guys who do this work are some of the last of the genuinely independent operators.
In the morning a couple men will go out in an uncovered long-tail boat – just a long, empty vessel with motor and long propeller shaft. The men know the river well, and have their work spaces delineated. For hours they will gather tiny and small rocks in scoops – either like ones often used as dust-pans, or, more often, half a strong plastic bucket rimmed where it was cut with thick wire, to strengthen it and create handles. They wash dirt from the rocks, and then pour them into the middle of the long boat. Reddish or whitish stones will be piled separately, as convenient, from darker brown or black ones, although the price they sell for is often the same. Before long the boat is low in the water, and it’s time to head in with the load.
Each boat has its own bamboo dock, to which the workers laboriously, but skillfully, maneuver their craft. Then it may be time for a brief rest, before using the scoops to toss rocks up onto the little bamboo pier, where a special kind of wheelbarrow will have been placed, and sometimes family members wait to help. The wheelbarrow is up considerably higher than the boat, so it takes real strength to toss the rocks into them. But it can be, and is, done. When the wheelbarrow’s full, it’s pulled by hand or motorbike from the riverbank, to a place nearby, alongside a small road going parallel to the river, and dumped. Later a big 6-wheel truck will come and the tossing of rocks take place anew, at first with a side of the truck lowered.
The rocks are occasionally used decoratively, and in ponds for raising fish, so some are sold for more. But they’re mostly used in construction. At other places along the river, sand is dredged, to be used for making cement. ChiangRai is growing, and this is where much of the construction material used to build comes from. But although the Kok runs down from Burma, not China, and so isn’t affected by the many new Chinese dams, precipitation patterns have been changing, and maybe Himalayan snow melt has lessened; at any rate, the Kok doesn’t carry as much as it used to.

Which brings us to a story of great philosophical import, which I ran into at

Head In the Sand, by 20 CMR

Once upon a time there was an ostrich. The ostrich had no concerns and was content to while away its days with its head in the sand. It would awaken that way in the mornings and drift to sleep that way at night. During the day it would seek out new sand to enjoy. It was at peace with itself and the world around it.
Then one day a man walked by and saw the ostrich with its head in the sand.
“Ostrich,” he said, “Why do you spend your days in such a state, idle and purposeless with your head in the sand?”
“Why shouldn’t I” said the ostrich. “It’s what I enjoy. I can think of nothing I would rather be doing.”
“Nonsense,” said the man. “There’s plenty to be done. One must always aspire to fruitful endeavor, take charge of his own fate, and bring about true happiness for himself and others. Life is meaningless with out aspirations to attend to. What will be your measure when time is done with you? Will you have brought about change and glory to the world, or will your passing be as forgettable as the wind? What legacy will you leave when you’re gone? Or are these grains of desert sand all that you will touch in this life?”
When the ostrich failed to reply, he went on, “Come with me ostrich! Together we will move mountains. Together we can change the world, reshape it to the betterment of all. We’ll live on forever in the hearts of all who come after, and in the history we shall forge. We will achieve such heights as never have even been dreamt before!”
At first the ostrich demurred. He’d no interests in the doings, and hubris, of others. But the man persisted and eventually convinced him to his way of thinking.
So, the ostrich left the desert, and journeyed into distant lands. He became a teacher and a prophet, and inventor and innovator. He gained numerous titles and degrees despite his physical disadvantages. Together he and the man won Nobel prizes and awards. They ended world hunger, cured diseases, and brought peace to the world. They built cities on land, in the air, and in the sea, and even moved mountains.
The world had entered a golden era. None had ever accomplished so much. Yet deep in the ostrich’s soul there was always a yearning for the sand.
The ostrich and the man grew old from their labors, and one day the ostrich went to see him.
“Man,” he said. “I feel I have accomplished much in this life, just as you said we could. Together we have changed the world, reshaped it to the betterment of all, and even moved a mountain or two. There is nothing left for me to do, our work is finished and I’m returning home to the sand.
”But Ostrich,” said the man. “There is no more sand!”
“Don’t you remember? We used it all to make concrete. We built cities, bridges, and schools with it. Those mountains we moved needed new foundations, not to mention damming up the Pacific Ocean for hydroelectric power.” The man continued, telling of all the great things they’d built. He talked of saving California, cloning sea turtles, and the worlds biggest half pipe, but the ostrich didn’t hear him.
The only thing he could think was, “Damn, I can’t believe I wasted all that good sand.”

Advice to new Expat Residents of Thailand faced with Legal Issues

By Joel Barlow

When investing here, building, starting a business or just leasing something, as also with marital or criminal issues, make legal caution a top priority. One good lawyer may well not be enough. Good advice from a variety of sources can save grief!
Think, for example, of tax code problems. Do you do your taxes yourself? Likely not, if they’re at all complicated! Officials, especially in the USA, often interpret the tax code, and other laws, differently. With many legal matters here in Thailand, as elsewhere, precedent and traditional procedure may be more important, in some ways, than the actual wording of a law, and it is best to expect that there may be different interpretations.
A good example is building a home here: a cheap lawyer, and expensive lawyer, a municipal official and a village headman are unlikely to give one the same advice as to how to proceed. This is not necessarily a problem of efficiency, or education, or language… it’s just the way it is. Similarly, experience applying for visas at Thai consulates and Thai embassies will differ, as will service in different countries.
Bureaucracy the world over has gotten out of control, growing, spreading and propagating itself like a cancer more dangerous than rabbits newly introduced to Australia or kudzu to the USA. It’s been a public headache and major social problem for as far back as we have records, but we have yet to learn how to control it, reign in its inefficiencies or even much limit its expensive waste. Motor Vehicle Bureaus and the ChiangMai USA consulate don’t any longer require all the waiting they used to, but absurdities remain. To apply for a retirement visa I wanted two documents notarized – and for less than a minute’s more work, my cost was doubled from B1020 (for one document) to B2040. I’d have done better to combine the two, and get a certified translation made… but more to the point: in this computer age, our waste of paper yet increases; numbers of bureaucrats rise faster than the population (in pubic companies, private companies, government, lawyers, accountants; one can’t help but participate some, doing bookkeeping for taxes, or whatever).
It’s become as expensive as health care, and often similarly unnecessary. As a doctor is redundant to those who take care of themselves, much paperwork would be unnecessary if we’d only take sufficient responsibility for our corporations and governments. A computer-chip ID wouldn’t be a notion of terror to so many if we were successfully, and sufficiently, organized to control bureaucracy – but we aren’t (although the legislature of Virginia state passed a bill in Feb., 2010, to protect citizens from being forced to have microchips planted in their bodies, amid concern chips could be a “mark of the beast” used by the Antichrist … or, at least, that chip implants might replace employee ID badges in offices. Microchip implants can store medical data… or establish “a National Health ID/Debit card with Smart chip/RFID technology, linked to Bank accounts for the purpose of ID verification as well as patient info, along with instant debit from” one’s accounts… Four USA states have passed bills saying their people cannot be forced to take chip implants, but they remain in use to track pets through radio frequency identification, and would be great for Alzheimer patients - so that nursing home staff can track them down when they go wondering).
Communist states failed not because of the ideology, which was never instituted anyway, and which I hardly mean to defend, but rather because of bureaucratic inefficiency, waste and failure to meet real needs. That we (humans), as individuals, abdicate much too much responsibility, is a big, big problem. Not that I wouldn’t worry about a chip implant’s safety, but I could certainly stand the assist in record keeping!
But enough of all that. The point is, it serves no purpose to find fault with the local system, to complain and get all worked up (perhaps to the point of ulcers). It’s our responsibility to gather information, be as prepared as possible, and to then make appropriate arrangements. To delegate responsibility too much, and rely too much on others, is to insure that important issues will not be fully addressed, and needs not completely fulfilled. To lose much anticipated, which would have been available with proper care. Sure, there are only so many hours in a day, and navigating bureaucracy in a strange, difficult language is especially hazardous, but ChiangHai Magazine is now here to help.

Some Thai laws that resident expats should know:

Buying a vehicle and registering it is easy if you have a non-immigrant visa and either a work permit or a proof of address form. You’ll need copies of your passport main page and visa page, and (usually) a letter from immigration. If you have a tourist visa you cannot own a vehicle in your own name. License plates (แผ่นป้ายทะเบียนรถม หมายเลขทะเบียนรถ or simply ทะเบียนรถ), required by law, display the name of the province where the vehicle is registered. Owners register in the province they live; this isn’t necessarily that of official residency (as shown on a house registration). If a car is sold or given to someone else (permanently), and the new owner is living in a different province, the number usually changes. You get a license plate with two Thai consonants, 1 to 4 numbers (from 1 to 9999) and the name of the province where it was registered. Some consonant combinations aren’t used as they form negative words: for example, "จน" means poor, "ตก" means fail or fall, and "ศพ" means corpse. Eight different types of vehicles are officially recognized, and show differences in plate types; some have only one consonant, others another number in different style, and there are diplomatic plates, but unless you’re really into vanity plates &/or lucky numbers, you really needn’t worry your pretty head about all that.
When you buy a car, the dealer arranges paperwork to register the vehicle, for you. You provide signed copies of your Passport, Visa, and Work Permit or proof of residency (including the house registration – tambian ban – of your landlord). If you don’t have a work permit, take your rental contract (or home ownership papers) to the Immigration Office (you’re supposed to register your address there anyway) and get a proof-of-address document; the fee is B500. If you decide to buy a car in Pattaya or Bangkok but live in ChiangRai, you need to obtain a letter from MaeSai Immigration before you change the papers stating you live in ChiangRai. To get this, take in your passport, 2 photos and a lease or other papers proving your local domicile address. There’s no charge for this letter, which they will usually provide right away.
The Vehicle Registration Office of the Department of Transport must see your original documents, but, rather than let them out of your hands, you take copies and the originals to the Registration Office, where they stamp and certify the copies. These certified copies are all the dealer needs to complete the registration. The annual vehicle registration fee is governed by the engine size and the type of vehicle, and both the vehicle registration sticker, issued by the vehicle registration office (which shows the year of expiry in large figures) must be displayed on the left hand side of the windscreen.
When a new car is registered, you will be given red license plates until your registration is complete – normally about one or two months. When they’re ready, go back to the dealer to have the permanent plates fitted and collect the registration book. Some dealers can be slow providing new plates. As strictly according to the law, you may not drive at night or outside your home province on temporary plates
If you’re buying a car through payments, the lender will hold the registration book until you finish paying, at which time they’ll transfer to your name; but you may need to re-provide all that paperwork. And, to obtain car finance, you’ll need a Thai guarantor.
Some suggestions: Be wary about buying a car other than through a reputable manufacturer’s dealer or a second hand dealer of note. Maybe buy a used pick up first – they’re cheaper as tax on them is lower. The driving style here can take some getting used to, you might want to teach someone else (i.e. spouse or lover) to driver, and there’s a definite chance of it getting banged up at bit. Buy a popular make Toyota, Honda, Mitsubishi), as it’s easier getting service for them. Automatics are harder to find, but a lot easier to teach someone how to drive! Go for a small engine - most likely most of your driving will be in town or on the highway – you don’t need lots of horsepower, or to race kids from KrungThep. Save on gas. Consider LPG – it’s WAY cheaper.
Insurance: There are two types of insurance in Thailand, the Government mandatory 3rd party insurance and the comprehensive insurance which is not mandatory but highly recommended. Both insurance types are arranged by an insurance company and there are many such companies with offices in Phuket and agents everywhere! At first, or for the first year with a nice car, you might want a high level of insurance. After a year without any claims, your rates will go down (maybe 30% less). The mandatory liability insurance costs only about 1-2,000 baht. If you sell your vehicle before the insurance expires, there’s no refund - the insurance is carried forward to the new owner. It is unwise to drive without adequate insurance; if you have an accident without insurance, there’s no limit to your liability. There can also be a fine for driving without insurance (up to B10,000). After a year, don’t forget to renew! All that applies to motorcycles, too, except that no comprehensive insurance is available in Thailand for motorcycles. You must, though, have the mandatory government insurance.

Leasing Land/house in Thailand:
This is a good alternative to buying a house, but a lease should be done properly by a reliable lawyer. They charge about 5000 -10000 baht. You take the lease to the Amphur together with the nor sor sam or Kanut and register it; they then stamp the document on the back. The land cannot then be sold unless the lease is cancelled. A lease without doing this is totally useless. The lawyer would take the title deed to the Amphur and get it legalized. The wife or owner should then sign another 30 year lease dated from the end of the first one (you can renew a 30 year lease). Most wives would agree to these procedures by explaining to them that if they died, they would not want their husbands thrown out! At the end of the thirty year lease, all you have to do is get a lawyer to take it to the amphur again. A virtual 60 year lease should cover most peoples lifetime and the wife can leave the property in her will to the children; if you die the lease could be terminated and the property go to your children.

For foreigners who wish to retire in Thailand:
Initially you must get a nonimmigrant visa from a Thai Embassy or consulate, before you enter the country. Most visas are for one year, but permission to stay is for only 90 days, renewable upon leaving and re-entering the country (often done by walking into a neighboring country; a final 90 days can be taken just before the end of the year after the visa is issued).
There are two types of visa options for individuals who are interested in retiring in Thailand. The first option is an O-A Retirement visa which is obtained in your home country before entering Thailand. The second, and most common is the extension of stay based on retirement which is processed at immigration inside Thailand. issued to applicants aged 50 years, with no criminal record in Thailand and over who wish to stay in Thailand for a period of not exceeding 1 year without the intention of working, who have a non-immigrant type visa and B800,000 in a Thai bank account, or a verified income/pension of 65,000 baht per month (or a combination of savings and income). Note: You have a much better interest rate on a FIXED Term Deposit, which is also acceptable. Bua Luang, mutual funds or money market accounts are not.
Retirement visa requirements: application form T.M.72, copy of passport or substitute document, two 4 x 6 cm photos, proof of financial sufficiency, and a B1900 application fee. If the applicant is 60 years or older, income must be not less than 200,000 baht per year (or 20,000 baht per month – sorry if that confuses…). For applicants over 55 years old, proof of 800,000 baht in a Thai bank OR an income of not less than 35,000 baht per month (I’ve read 65,000, but think that not correct) must be presented. The B800,000 must be deposited for a minimum of 3 months before you first apply, and for 2 months every time you renew. A personal income tax return with receipt, proof of pension, proof of interest from bank account deposit or proof of other income from authorities concerned can be used to demonstrate income.
If you’re married to a Thai, you need only 400,000 baht on deposit, and proof of income. For a marriage visa, extensions are less: B40,000/month for a male Farang with B400,000 in a Thai Bank. You’ll need a family photo, and your spouse along to sign documents. The bank account can be in your spouse’s name. Total income of not less than B40,000 per month, except for aliens who entered the Kingdom before Oct. 1988, and were granted a permit to stay in the Kingdom, must be shown (again, this doesn’t seem to be hard and fast, especially due to quickly varying exchange rates).
Documents Required:
- Passport with validity of not less than 18 months, with copies of front page, visa, last entry stamp and the TM6 arrival/departure card.
- 3 copies of completed visa application form TM7 (available from
- 2 passport-sized photos (4 x 6 cm) of the applicant taken within the past 6 months.
- A personal data form and a hand drawn map to your residence.
- 2 copies of quite recent bank statements, showing a deposit of not less than B800,000, or an income certificate (original copy) showing a monthly income of not less than B65,000, or a deposit account plus a monthly income totaling not less than B800,000. For example if you have proof of 32,500 baht per month in income then you would need to also show proof of 400,000 baht deposited in a Thai bank. To show more than the minimum amount can be a big help in getting your retirement extension or “O-A” visa approved. The bank statement must be accompanied by a letter from your bank showing that the money came from outside Thailand (2 copies, too). To show an income or pension of B65,000 per month, you must obtain a certified ‘affidavit of income’ from a consulate or embassy. Various embassies have different requirements for issuing this document, so it is recommended you supply additional ‘evidence of funds’ to the immigration officer (they are aware that some embassies do not ask for supporting documentation when issuing the income affidavit). Pensioners arriving before Oct 1998 with unbroken records while living here only need 200,000 baht in a Thai Bank when they apply for an extension. Those arriving in Oct 1998 or after, who have obtained a permit to stay on the basis of having 200,000 baht in a Thai Bank, must increase that amount to 800,000 baht before applying for an annual extension.
With your bank deposit books you’ll need the following:
- two photocopies of the passbook page showing your name & account number
- two photocopies of the passbook page showing the current balance
- two copies of a guarantee letter from the bank (your bank may charge for this, but not much)
- a medical certificate issued from the country where the application is submitted, showing no prohibitive diseases as indicated in the Ministerial Regulation No.14 (B.E. 2535) (certificate shall be valid for not more than three months and should be notarized by notary organs or the applicant’s diplomatic or consular mission), or, a medical certificate (health exam administered by doctor at first class hospital) issued in the last 30 days, certifying that the applicant is “not a person of physical infirmity, incompetent, mental infirmity”, with no prohibited disease, including leprosy, tuberculosis, alcohol or drug addiction, filariasis (a tropical parasitic disease which causes elephantiasis; sometimes syphilis is included; the law is the Ministerial Regulation No. 14, B.E. 2535).
If the alien is ill, or has weak health and is sensitive to colder climates or has resided in Thailand for a long period, and is 55-59 years old, special circumstances may be given. Applicant must have no criminal record in Thailand (and the country of the applicant’s nationality or residence), and supply proof that he/she is not a wanted criminal back home (an affidavit from a home country consulate attesting to that suffices).
If married, or with children under 20 (who must live with you), you’ll need papers proving that, and signed copies (including of your spouse’s ‘bat prachachon’ ID card and ‘tambian ban’ household registration). A Thai parent, over 50, can also be a dependent who can help you get a good visa. Proof of Thai nationality for the parent must be provided, with signed copies.
Your Thailand Retirement Visa expires when your Extension of Stay does. You will need to renew your stay in Thailand before your extension of stay expires. This can be done in Thailand. If you cannot obtain your extension inside Thailand, you will have to get a new non-immigrant visa from a Thai Embassy or Consulate abroad. Failure to notify Immigration every 90 days, or in event of change of address, can result in a fine of B2000, or B4000 if you are arrested, plus B200/day until your complied. Notification can be by registered mail, within 7 days before or after the period of 90 days expires. A self-addressed envelop with B5 stamp affixed must be enclosed. Send to ChiangrAI Immigration Office (Visa Extension Section), Tambon WiengPangKham, Amphoe MaeSai, CHiangRai 57130 (tel 053-731008 or 9, ext 23), or your appropriate office. might be of assistance, but it is in Thai. MaeSai Immigration’s phone is 053-731008 (or 731009); Phayao residents use that office also, much as the ChiangMai office can (I’m pretty sure) be used by residents of MaeHongSon.

If you want to own a business in Thailand, you can, but don’t have to, set up a company (you’d need Thai partners; 4 oof them, I think it is). Depending on your needs, you can form a Limited Partnership, with a Thai. You should obtain a non immigrant “B” visa before you enter the country, then apply for a work permit here (at least if you are going to do more than just be “owner”). It’s illegal to work in Thailand unless you possess a current work permit - even NGO work or volunteer work (although this is often ignored). It’s wise to check with a lawyer and play it safe!

Editorial for 1st issue:

ChiangHai Magazine is intended to work toward keeping Chiang Rai tourism a calm, clean and serene business, without the myriad problems which have beset so many favored travel destinations. There are plenty of other places for theme parks, 'All Terrain Vehicles', jet skis, bungee jumping, and other noisy, disruptive, insensitive and ecologically dangerous activities, and Chiang Rai certainly does not need them. Why should people be encouraged to come half-way around the world to do what’s possible close to home? It’s wasteful, it’s exploitative, and it’s not even convenient! There are plenty of other things worth coming here for, though, things which it is our intention to promote increasing awareness of. Chiang Rai's great the way it is; while recognizing the inevitability of change, and that change can be for the good, we hope to do our part to keep quality of life there high.
So, while we’ll have features on entertainment, we’ll also have others on culture and the environment, and put a human interest slant into our advertising (and maybe even include useful listings, coupons and valuable legal advice).

A few local businesses we recommend:

It’s amazing how many farang Westerners one sees at Big C, Makro, Tesco and Saha Pibun – clearly people in residence here for at least a while. While around the main market, one sees mostly locals and tourists. Of course, we also occasionally frequent (if you’ll excuse the absurd verbal juxtaposition) the Western-style places, but being price-conscious and interested in fresh and wholesome food, shop more regularly at local markets. The intention here, though, is to point out that the area of the central market offers lots of good quality merchandise at low prices, with considerable convenience and a friendly atmosphere providing a quite viable alternative to the globalized corporatocracy which seems to be gobbling us up. Electronic equipment, shoes, hardware, sporting goods, pet food, dried foods, household goods, stationary and, of course, food, can all be found at the best price, right in the center of town, sold by independent businesspeople in the spirit of ‘sufficiency economy’. Banks and the post office are right there, there are clocks and watches for almost nothing, key copying shops, hand-phone shops, ridiculously cheap clothes, and Saha Tawikeet, with lower prices than other chains on most items they offer. Drug stores are usually cheaper too (although our favorite is at the mouth of the Night Bazaar soi, on Pahonyothin; they also wholesale). Parking isn’t difficult, one doesn’t need to walk more than at other places (but hey, look what not walking has done to so many Farang, particularly from the USA…), and a wide variety of other businesses are quite close by. Tanalai Road has opticians, gold shops, tea shops, discount shops… 5 Star Chicken (Kai Ha Dao) has a place to the west of the main market – best chicken prices in town, if you don’t mind frozen, with KFC-type taste and inhumanity to the animals involved (according to some, a root of bird flu). True, it’s nice to see Chiang Rai modernizing, and the big chains are brighter and cleaner (and Boots certainly does have helpful staff), but the pie place by the market’s main entrance is wonderful, and, once again, why travel all the way here to engage in life just like at home? Better to investigate viable alternatives, no?

Orn’s Book Shop, in the city’s center on JetYod Soi 1 (Soi Boon Bun Dan), just north-east of Boon Bun Dan Guest House. Here for 5 years and listed in Lonely Planet, Orn’s is a friendly shop, in the proprietor’s home, with over 3500 used books on offer (2000 plus in English, over 100 each in German, French, Dutch, Swedish, Finish, Italian and Spanish (a few other languages are represented as well). Hours: 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily, except on rare occasion, when announced on the front gate. Books accepted for trade, at a very good rate, but not purchased for cash.
Nice Kitchen, IMF Café, Lotus Family Bakery, Nakorn Pathom restaurant, Ban Chewit Mai bakery, PawJai khao soi shop (behind the WangKom Hotel, on Jet Yod, serving the world’s best northern noodles), Yok-loh noodles (out PawKhun Road a ways), Tuk Taeng down Pahonyothin Road (with traditional Lanna music, live), Ran Nai Inn bookstore and the handicrafts place next door, Ran Bai ?, Pai Massage… we’ll be increasing listings as time passes, promise.

ChiangSaen Wetlands
By Joel J. Barlow

Beset by ecological decay, especially manifest in loss of rainforest and wetlands, Thailand isn’t losing only biodiversity, but could, quite possible and before very long, lose access to good nutrition, and thereby perhaps suffer even more of the confused and disoriented behavior currently besetting our world. ChiangRai, bordered by “backwards” Burma and Laos, stands to weather the coming environmental storm better than most places, but gone are the large wild animals and most of the large, old hardwood trees. Going, like elsewhere, seem to be many of our bees. But ChiangRai, hospitable and agreeable as it may be, remains far from fully domesticated. Just as ChiangRai has much cultural diversity, it retains much ecological diversity too.
On GoogleEarth you can see that Thailand’s neighbors remain green, while Thailand has become mostly brown. In Chiang Rai, Mae Hong Son, Tak and Nan provinces, though, nature still thrives. ChiangRai has more national park than any other province; one of its most interesting natural areas, though, the ChiangSaen Lake, isn’t among them.
The 830 sq. km. ChiangSaen Basin extends from the Golden Triangle along the Mekong River 29.5 km. to Ban Suan Dok (below the confluence of the Nam Mae Kok), and for about 18 km. southwest from Chiang Saen, encompassing Nong Wiang, ChiangSaen and MaeChan Districts, then along the Kok River for 15 km. “Old clearing” in hilly areas covers 15%, mixed deciduous forest on surrounding hills 10%, new cash crops over 6%, and other land use categories occupy about 5% each. Water bodies cover only 6 %. The area, at altitude 350 to 400 meters, is mostly open and deforested, with rice paddy (2 crops a year), rubber, coconut and pineapple groves interspersed by patches of seasonally flooded grassland, grazing marshes, small rivers, pools and reservoirs.
The Mekong River here is over half a km. wide, with sand banks and small islands. The depth of the Mekong River fluctuates greatly; the river is at its deepest in November to December and reaches its lowest depth in April. There’s little or no overspill from the banks, and flooded areas inland are confined to the basin of Nong Wiang, about 330 sq. km. in size, within the ChiangSaen basin. The Mehong’s Laotian shore is still largely wooded, while paddy covers about half of the area on the Thai side. River banks are often cultivated right up to the water margins, although patches of dense scrub remain. Nine exotic fish species have been introduced, the most serious of which is the giant snake-head fish (Channa micropeltes), and, over the last 30 or so years, Mimosa pigra, an exotic floating plant species brought to the area, has become predominant in the drawdown zone. There are at least 46 fish species from 17 families, with 17 species of important economic value, and five threatened species. The famous but endangered Mekong Giant Catfish (Pla Buk, or Pangasianodon gigas) live both in the Mekong and in its tributary, the Kok; the Department of Fisheries collaborates with local fishermen to obtain eggs and sperm from them, in order to rear fry to be released. An annual ceremony to propitiate Jao Paw Pla Beuk, that fish’s ‘guardian spirit’, is held annually at Wat Had Krai, in Chiang Khong district, in April – the time when people fish for it.
Nong Bong Khai, a.k.a. Chiang Saen Lake or the Yonok Wetlands, effectively divides the ChiangSaen wetlands into northern and southern sections. It’s an area of freshwater marshes, with bog, reed-beds, woodland and drainage channels along a river valley bisected by a causeway. In Pa Sak and Yo Nok Sub-districts, about 5 km. from the Mekong River, it’s in a natural depression surrounded by a small 16.6 sq. km catchment, and low deforested mountains and hills, cultivated in parts. There’s fairly high human population density, with many houses throughout drier parts. The lake bed averages 2 meters in depth (4.5 m. at its very deepest); the level subsides about 1 to1.5 m. in dry seasons. It’s fed by surface run-off from rainwater; seepage goes underground and excess flows into downstream tributaries. Much more would be lost but for a short cement weir which keeps the water from flowing to the Mae Nam Kam (a stream leading into the Kok River). Current out-take for domestic consumption, agriculture and fishponds is just barely sustainable.
The lake provides winter (November-February) habitat for migratory water birds. including egrets, bitterns, crakes, rails, herons, waders and warblers, which rest in the wetlands and feed on paddy grain in downstream areas. Visitors can watch other wetland birds too: species rare or new species to Thailand are sometimes found – sightings include nesting Gras Owls, Swinhoe's Snipe and Comb Duck. Yonok Wetlands holds the largest harrier roost in the country, with over 200 birds in mid winter. There are Eastern Marsh, Western Marsh, Pied and Hen Harriers; other raptors include the Oriental Honey-buzzard, Crested Goshawk, Northern Goshawk and Grey-faced Buzzard. About 225 bird species visit the area, including 79 migratory species, 23 resident breeders, 23 migratory and resident breeders, and 11 species of duck. Of these, 219 are listed as protected species; 19 of them are internationally threatened. Over 10,000 migratory birds visit or stay in the area, annually. Scrub on river sand banks support some small wintering flocks; freshwater marshes and paddies others.
Surrounding land belongs to private individuals, and the lake’s boundary, which fluctuates between wet and dry seasons, in accord with the amount of regional rain, isn’t clearly demarcated; government officials and local people understand the periphery of the non-hunting area to be the water’s edge, so hunting still occurs. Increasing tourism brought guest bungalows, restaurants and other facilities to the lake shore, as well as along the Mekong, and hunting, fishing, especially gill-net use and electrocution, and run-off from fertilizers and pesticides, have greatly reduced the area’s wildlife. In the water catchment area, deforested land under cultivation has taken over most of the area, but newly adopted cash crops like coffee and fruits became less popular when detrimental aspects of orange growing became clear to locals. Similarly, while there were once more than 10 resorts around the lake, there are now only two (with a couple others nearby).
In 1985, the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives made Nong Bong Kai a Non-Hunting Area. Long an intermittent floodplain, it’s been suggested that a large lake was there in the time of King Mangrai, but that receded. Maybe about 1200 years ago water from a large lake above Keng Tung, relocated by a big earthquake, came down here, and created a natural barrier King Mangrai found useful for helping avoid subjugation by the Mongols, but details aren’t clear. After the British clear-cut teak from the area, things dried up; then, about 50 years ago, a dirt weir was built, to store water for agricultural uses. Birds returned to the artificial lake, now of 3.5 sq. km.; the dirt weir was replaced by a cement one after a little over 10 years. The birds returned, and the area became an important tourist attraction for ChiangRai. 15 species of fish seasonally migrate between Nong Bong Kai and nearby rivers, but migration has been reduced due to lack of interconnectivity in the hydrological system. Fish lay eggs and raise their young at the east end of the lake because that area is protected, with fish habitat still in good condition. Locals are allowed to do some fishing, but that too has become adequately constrained, and it’s now planned for trees to grow tall all around the lake.
Near the weir ancient ruins have been found, mostly in the bog-land: housing foundations, brick and an ancient wat. But it’s not known how old they are, nor quite how much the courses of the Kok and Mekong have fluctuated.

Effective and productive natural systems are complicated, with many interdependent, inter-working parts. To remove a component of the system is to remove much of its value. Most teak was removed from the Lanna area a century or so ago, and dry seasons started getting drier. The huge ChiangSaen Lake dwindled into a boggy marsh, and dried up. Waterfoul had to relocate to Nong Luang, and fewer nutrients entered the bending Mae Nam Kong (Mekong). After the weir was built to retain rainfall runoff, the lake revived, as did the area’s population, and agriculture. Were there more rains in winter, though, water coming into the lake would be continuous, and water could be allowed to run out, through an old-fashioned weir of wood and rock, helping alleviate accumulation of toxins in the lake while aerating water leaving it, generally enriching everything. There’d be more food for fish, more beautiful birds, and, of course, the missing trees, if there, would help keep everything temperate, most certainly, anyway, much cooler in the hot season.
The abbots of nearby Wat Pa Mak No and Wat Yonok assisted in conservation efforts, and the Yonok Wetland project "Friends of Yonok Wetlands" got significant support from one of Northern Thailand's most followed monks, Khru Ba Boun Chum, who was given land adjacent to the wetlands for a meditation centre.
As Yongyut Trisurat of Kasetsart University has explained, “Large areas of freshwater wetlands and mangrove forest in Thailand were converted to agriculture and shrimp farms during the 19th and 20th centuries, such that few now remain in a natural state. Some of these areas are threatened despite the fact that they are vital to the daily life of local people, who have relied on them for generations. Planning for wetland management is hampered by limited budget and lack of commitment by government agencies, low levels of acceptance by local communities and the absence of any monitoring.” He believes it essential to strengthen community organizations and local administrations to promote conservation and wise use of wetlands, especially through community participation and multi-stakeholder networking, and explains, “community-based conservation intentionally includes a range of activities and practices that directly or indirectly affect biodiversity conservation, and there is no one definition. However, it has two broadly recognized objectives: 1) to enhance wildlife/biodiversity conservation; and 2) to provide incentives, normally economic, to local people. Community-based conservation has three essential characteristics: 1) indigenous peoples and local communities are concerned about the relevant ecosystems that are related to them culturally and / or for livelihood; 2) they are the major players in decision making and the implementation of decisions; and 3) management decisions and efforts towards conservation of biodiversity are voluntary.” (“Community-based Wetland Management in Northern Thailand”, published in the International Journal of Environmental, Cultural, Economic and Social Sustainability, Vol. 2, Number 1, by Common Ground Publishing, Melbourne, Australia, 2006).
Although the circuit off Highway 1 going from MaeChan to ChiangSaen, Ban Sop Ruak at the Golden Triangle Confluence, and Mae Sai, is being widened, and there are extensive swathes of gambling resorts across the Golden Triangle Confluence now, commercialization’s reach hasn’t yet gripped all, and a lot of local businesses look quite slow. The lake, as yet, has no internet shops, bakeries, coffee shops, home-stay or even “agro-toursim”… although when the tourists start to come back, that could certainly change.

First view of the lake, from the hardtop road

View from the far side

Disabled bird that couldn't fly and lived on the lake shore a decade ago

The resorts

The weir

A Fair E-tale.

Once upon a time in a lost shire-like place of rivers and streams and a high dry plateau, lived a hobbit-like people, who didn’t have big hairy feet. In some ways they were more like fairies; they had small wood boats, and wood and grass houses raised off the ground.
These hobbit-fairies worshipped nature and fun, and didn’t progress as the rest of the world did, building cities of stone, cement and steel, conquering nature and fun. To catch up, outsiders were invited in, to play on water-slides, swing on vines and get therapeutic massage. Soon the little wood boats were replaced by nuclear-powered space-pods directed through dashboard TV monitors. No-one worried about spent fuel; they were used to ignoring problems, for in this shire lived three huge animals no-one ever talked about: a 3-headed elephant named Erehwon, an 800 pound gorilla and a giant bull. The three great animals did what they wanted, and were fed by the little folk.
But as the great antiseptic cities of the outside world became both over-populated and sterile, and more and more came to visit in the shire, space began to dwindle there too, and the great beasts to feel confined. One day they went on a rampage, and all the water-slides were destroyed. The outsiders stopped coming, fuel for the space-pods ran out, and the 3-headed elephant grew tired and confused enough to think his name was Nowhere. The 800 lb. gorilla had babies, and paid attention to little else. But the bull, Gaur, ran rampant. The people again built boats, and fled to islands, while Gaur ruled on the great plateau.
On their islands, people grew bananas, which they fed Erehwon and the gorilla family, while those still on the great plain learned to make red cloth to distract the bull (often at great sacrifice).
As the cities outside stagnated, reporters came to gather stories of the playful nature-worshippers. They exaggerated their problems without ever learning of the three great animals no-one ever mentioned to them. But eventually the gorilla babies reached full size. At about that time, though, the outside world collapsed; briefly, Gaur ran rampant at will, through China shops, until the young gorillas decided to co-operate, just briefly, but long enough to forge chains from some of the old space-pods.

A great philosophy to get one through life

We live in world of illusion; every sense of our body gives us false messages, all the time. We're consumed by never-ending hungers for food, sex and pride. We’ve confused priorities, like putting fun over happiness, and ego before stability. It almost seems like this is inescapable, and that the only thing we can do is to carry on with
life as a farmer who walks through his garden admiring the beauty there. He must attempt to limit weeds and other pests once in a while, and water the plants when needed, but can finally sit quietly under a big tree and contemplate thoughts, feelings, appetites, or possible futures. This is what Voltaire recommended, a quarter of a millennium ago, through his Dr. Pangloss, in Candide. Simply get everyone to just tend their own garden, and our lives should be fine. If only there weren’t things we produced more than we need of, which can be traded for things we don’t have, but have use for… or at least sometimes think we do!

art by Alex Andreyev of Saint Petersburg, Russia

A friend thinks Thailand’s "People Power" revolution could lead the world into a new era of social justice. This is but reveling in an intoxicated feeling resultant of accepting being lied to as as valid as anything else. Thai being a highly ambiguous language, well suited for seeming to say opposite things simultaneously, it involves tremendous capacity for deception, as well as for very polite manners (and yes, there is a very definite close relation there).
Are Thai oppressed masses really demanding freedom from an evil dictator? I think not. The “protestors” (or paid agitators) are victims, certainly, but mostly of their own gullibility. Unused to reading, doing even simple math, and blithely unaware of most geography, history and economic theory, they at least have been unwilling to follow the un-elected leaders of their “democracy movement” – although at great social cost, and cost, even to their own health (in particular, from breathing smoke from tires they lit on fire). They know Taksin wasn’t “democratically elected” – they got paid to vote for him! But that’s OK, they tell themselves; even the Democrats have bought votes.
Weather there are actual facts, or only opinions, it is wise to accept that there are consequences to actions, or non-actions, and to act in accordance with what is likely to result from one’s decisions. The Red Shirts have not done that, primarily because they have become intoxicated with hope, and because they refuse to see that replacing the devil they know with a new silver-tongued devil full of glib promises is hardly overthrowing a system, let alone working for social justice.
Traditionally, different Thai powers have had differing concepts on justice, duty and method, and no singular vision ever became paramount. Clergy, armed services, tax collectors and other bureaucrats, various Chinese groups (merchant and other societies), other foreigners and internal rivals among these various powerful groups have long exerted veiled, but extensive, influence. Privilege was protected, nurtured, cherished and fought for – and Thai politics has generally been a delicate diplomatic juggling show. Much of Thai social structuring has always been a balancing act, keeping peasant farmers and Chinese merchants, border tribes and central bureaucrats, army and police, the powerful and the powerless, able to interact with less friction than has been the norm through much of recorded history, throughout the globe.
Thai courts have often been accused of corruption, as also have army, police, and bureaucracy, as well as other government divisions (the electricity generating monopoly, state railroad department, customs and port authority, immigration and the border patrol); even the Sangha Buddhist clergy officialdom has, too. But as often as not, perhaps, this “corruption” might be said to exist primarily in the eye of the beholder. It’s often been simply the way things are, or were, done, and Thailand has usually exhibited an incredible extent of tolerance.
Telecommunications-tycoon turned Prime Minister Taksin’s years of success (coming after many business failures and then selling questionable walkie-talkies to the police force he was an officer of) involved quiet deal-making that eventually consolidated over a fifth of the national budget under his personal executive authority; he toured the country dishing this out (usually as loans, with interest), thus becoming more important in patronage than long-powerful local MPs, and creating a challenge to the old power system. Taksin's main challenge to the power structure involved assault on the long-standing but compromised relationship between authoritarian privilege and mercantilism. The poor wanted a champion, and he pretended to be one for them, gaining power while traveling to India and Burma on public funds to do personal business. While proclaiming support for all, he acted primarily for his own benefit, winning accolades as a mover and shaker, as one who knew how to achieve results.
But much of what he did was based on the work of Chuan Leekpai (especially the much touted, but painfully inefficient, 30 baht public health “scheme”). He did all he could to overthrow checks and balances, and to insure continuation of his power. He was no champion of democracy. The parliamentary process by which the current Democrat coalition came to power is the same process used in Britain; the parliament that voted in this government consists entirely of democratically elected members.
The fanciful, self-serving demands of the “red shirts” have had little to do with “social justice” – they don’t even say what they hope new elections will bring. They could, and should, talk about decentralization, and some have; they could, and should, decry corruption, but in doing so, must also show willingness to share in the burdens a re-making of the social contract would require.
In Bangladesh, “micro-economic” support-groups have helped revive an almost comatose economy, much as overseas Koreans have used the power of the group to finance many small, but nonetheless successful, businesses. Has “community radio” called for that kind of thing here? I think not.
The Isaan poor engage as much in “kicking dogs” as other people; they complain of being looked down on, but meanwhile look down on others. Not only is there a problem of lack of individual initiative, but one of integrity, honesty, and understanding of principles. That Isaan’s history has been lost has contributed to this, but despite an interesting tradition of separatism, the fiery self-respecting bravery of which I most certainly respect, it is absurd not to acknowledge the problems of Balkanization, and how the ethnic armies of Myanmar undercut themselves through their refusal to effectively unite. Privilege without responsibility is hardly privilege at all. The truth of the matter is that Abhisit is more likely to be of assistance to the tire-burners and other under-privileged Thais than Taksin, or his surrogates, would ever be, as is clear to anyone looking at the situation without hope of personal gain. That the “red shirt” leaders are merely self-serving should be obvious, but the human capacity for self-deception is immense.
Thai social hierarchy is built from commoners up through the lower bureaucracy to high officials; there has never been even pretense of egalitarianism. Thai democracy, such as it is, is a system purportedly responsive to people’s needs and aspirations, but leaders are supposed to act toward members of society as fathers toward children, concerned for their well being while stern in discipline. A consequent attitude that those in authority need not explain difficult matters to their lessers, brought problems with accountability, consistency and transparency – problems which still hamper Thai efforts to successfully compete in the modern global economy.
Since World War II, Bangkok’s rapid growth has caused many problems: with transportation, communication, housing, water supply, drainage and pollution (which Thai language thus had to invent a word for). Tourism rose in importance during the Vietnam War; the city became a popular destination for U.S. military personnel. In the 1980s, nightclubs and sex trade were the world’s wildest. Although prostitution is formally illegal and the number of prostitutes per capita is lower in Thailand than in some other Asian countries, sea-side resorts pander to foreign sex-tourists. To combat gross abuse, underage prostitution and a growing ‘image problem’ the government stiffened penalties in the late 1990s, and problems with “sex-slavery” have been greatly reduced. Amazingly, though, despite a lack of foreign spending during the Red Shirt occupation of central Bangkok, prostitute earnings are reported to have quadrupled during that period. It isn’t hard to guess where the money for that came from, or why.
While their men were disporting themselves, women and children were being told they were in danger of falling into the hands of murderous oppressors, and children were used as “human shields”, told they needn’t be afraid, must be brave for the “cause” – their presence justified to reporters by their parents’ purported desire to "entertain and thrill" them. Paranoia, delusions of grandeur, incessant noisy diversions, and a perverse justification of violence as expression of one’s feelings undermined what otherwise might have become a propagandistic media victory; I doubt the Red Shirt faction can any longer win a national election. Still, the international press has failed to comprehend the issues involved, and seems determined to help destroy what democracy exists here, in the name of democracy – much like the Tea-baggers in the good ol’ USA.
It is foolish to forget that Taksin has been supportive of despots, that the Argentine Juan Peron’s populism didn’t work, that concentration of wealth is sometimes almost accidental (is it merely coincidence that the richest man in the world is currently a Mexican telecommunications tycoon, that fabulously wealthy Italian PM Berscolinni is also accused of corrupting democratic values, that the “too big to fail” businesses are ruining the world economy?); if media doesn’t correct its conceptual and contextual framework, we might even end up living in a world of urban terrorism not unlike what’s been depicted in Hollywood movies based on Philip K. Dick stories, but in all likelihood, media predictions of continuing violence are greatly exaggerated.
Did red shirt “leaders” (orators?) make suspiciously expensive purchases this year, as has been claimed? Were followers promised financial reward they didn’t receive? How much has resumption of peace resulted from asset freezing? Was Central World well insured and operating at a loss? Was another party involved, and directing (and paying for) paramilitary snipers dressed in black? Is there a significant chance of these questions being satisfactorily answered? Will misguided reporters, and their publishers, make retractions and corrections? As for the last two questions – I doubt it, while at the same time suspecting that real resolution depends at least somewhat on that happening (at least somewhat). More likely, we’ll hear more about projected unrest, unrest due to globalization, governmental ineptitude, and the good side of certain scoundrels.

10 ways to tell if you’re a backpacker:
1. You believe banana pancakes are the traditional food of the country you are in.
2. You believe "cheapest" and "best value for money" are the same.
3. In conversations, you tell of the cheap¬est flight with the dodgiest airline, the most uncomfort¬able bus/train journey, and the best unspoiled beaches (regardless of any personal experience), and like to give your most dramatic bowel-movement story. None need be true.
4. You bargain with fervor to save even a penny or cent: it's the principle that matters!
5. You dress in "ethnic" style clothing: martial arts pants, bracelets with bangles, earrings and facial jewelry, with tattoos and dreadlocks - to impress the locals and give the right impression to policemen and airport officials.
6. You defend local people and cultures in front of other trav¬elers, except when refused entry due to your appearance, or when a victim of two-tier pricing... After all, how can a devel¬oping nation progress unless it broadens its horizons?
7. You learn some important terms of local languages, especially, how to say "how much is your cheapest room?" and "That's too expensive."
8. You are an expert on malaria pills.
9. You call yourself an independent traveler but seldom make any decision without consulting your guidebook, whose word is gospel.
10. You are NEVER a tourist.

Chiangrai 10 best – and worst – list(s):
1) Best climate in the country, with usually good air
2) Excellent cost of living per quality and value ratio
3) Low crime, low stress
4) Cheap fresh food from open, honest farmers (a bit slow in their pickups)
5) Doi Khao Quai – groovy abbot, great views, cool legend and ambience
6) Old Airport – friendly, free, healthy, convenient
7) Border proximity and cultural variety
8) Good beer availability (relative to elsewhere)
9) Beautiful girls
10) Big C, convenience, especially for seeing them!)

10) It’s a colony of Bangkok, with little self-direction/self-determination
9) Out of control Farang embarrassingly under-socialized, pretentious drunks
8) Stateless people (and government not even giving appearance to trying to live up to legal obligations)
7) Poverty and resultant love-for-hire (and people thinking money will suffice)
6) Missionaries – misguided wannabes
5) Fragile egos (both Farang and Thais with money)
4) Education – wouldn’t want my kids competing for university entrance or in the job market based on what they can get here
3) Entertainment – as limited as education
2) The Wet Season flooding and dangerous roads
1) Big cargo-less SUVs in tiny sois.

You know you’re adapted to CR when:
1. You’ve met anyone who’s ever stayed at “Boring Guess How”
2. You can’t get enough prick kii-nu
3. You easily use a squat loo without t.p., and your dinner napkins come from inside a t.p. roll
4. You automatically reach for your wallet when a traffic cop pulls you over
5. You can sleep without air-conditioning or ear-plugs
6. You recognize when an r sound will become an h instead of an l (‘lak Chiang-hai’)
7. You no longer wonder how someone making but B10,000/mo can own a D-Max truck
8. You give directions using intersection names, not street names
9. You understand that male, female and katoey aren’t the only possibilities
10. You own a lady bike, a rice cooker, and a katik nam-ron (and call it that)
11. You expect, and get, change – using public transportation
12. You’re not surprised when your semi-fluent Thai doesn’t get what you ordered in a restaurant

And you really know you’ve overstayed when you get a trailer for the lady-bike!

Why do native English speakers feel so supreme, not simply superior, but supreme?

Why are Thai people so slim, when they eat 5 meals per day, and why are Farangs not, when they eat only 2-3 meals per day?
Why can´t I drop crumbs onto the floor when eating a biscuit and not have time to pick them up without my wife immediately seeing this and nagging at me for making a mess?
Why does my wife criticize me for not washing up... then also criticize me when I do wash up - for stacking the plates wrongly... and then wonder why I won´t wash up again...???
Why must you give up asking "why" in Thailand?
Why can’t I believe a politician any more?
Why are girls in uniforms more beautiful?
Why do English daily newspapers like Bangkok Post have ads (sometimes full page) entirely in Thai?
Why can you only find toilet paper on restaurant tables, but not in their rest rooms?
Why do parking attendants and security guards constantly blow those whistles?
Why do we become so brave, righteous and impatient as soon as we get behind the wheel of a car?

A love-struck Farang having an argument with a bar-girl exclaimed, “You lied to me!”
“That’s my job,” she replied, with perfectly straight face…

ChiangRai may rival ChiangMai when it comes to restaurants, but world class it certainly isn’t. We have the world’s best khao soi gai (at Ran Paw Jai, on Jet Yod Road behind the Wang Kom Hotel), and about that the world doesn’t know what it’s missing. Otherwise, we don’t have much truly spectacular.

Except, that is, for Ran-ahaan Tomato (Restaurant Tomato), which, despite its rather plain, if not peculiar, name, is as good as any, anywhere. They even have steaks, and the Hamburg Steak is to be very highly recommended. The wasabi horseradish paste for sushi is simply splendid, the fish excellent, and they even offer the wonderful Asahi beer at a reduced price of but B59 for a big bottle (and a better deal can’t be had).

The décor is nice – semi-Japanese style, but comfortable, and the service good and quick. The help is even considerate enough to repeat your order, to insure that all is right (a habit others would do well to emulate). My wife, baby and I ate until stuffed for B680, including a locally hefty almost 10% tip.

If you’re not familiar with Japanese, Korean or Vietnamese cuisine, don’t be intimidated. Everything tastes simply heavenly, and you’re sure to find yourself wanting to return for more.

There’s sashimi (raw fish with vegetables), teriyaki, tempura, oyster nabe and make; miso, seaweed soup and mushroom soup; potato salad, baked potato and bacon potato and potato au gratin, salmon, oyster nabe, maki shrimp; sake, green tea hot or cold, and wine.

Open 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. (last order 10:30 p.m.), 7 days a week, at 81/4 Paholyothin Road, about half-way from the Ha-yaek to the bridge to MaeSai, on the Ban Rai (east) side, right by Sahamit Road (which leads to the Sports Stadium). Phone and Fax: 053-719028.