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  COLUMNS

HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:
 
Family Money: The U.S. Inflation Story
 
The Computer Doctor

Successfully Yours: Thanet Supornsaharungsi
 
Snap Shots: Buying a new camera
  
Modern Medicine: The Big C.

Heart to Heart with Hillary
 
Grapevine

Dining Out: Something enTHAIrly different
 
Animal Crackers: Olly, the Butcher Bird
 
Auto Mania: Malaysian GP - The Drive!

Family Money: The U.S. Inflation Story

By Leslie Wright

Last week we started looking at the causes and effects of inflation, and how it affects all of us.

Because the U.S. economy has such a considerable influence on the rest of the world, it is worth looking at the history of the U.S. inflationary boom-bust-boom cycle, what causes such cycles, and what measures have been taken there from time to time in attempting to keep inflation under control.

The origins

As was mentioned last week, inflation in the U.S. didn’t really start until the mid 1960s, and came about largely as a result of a rapid increase in the money supply.

Although the reasons for the increase in U.S. money growth in the 1960s are not clear, at least two factors seem to have been important.

First, the economic disciples of John Maynard Keynes gained new influence in the Kennedy and Johnson administrations.

Many Keynesians supported an economics model (called the Phillips-curve) which postulated a permanent trade-off between full employment and price increases.

Thus unemployment could be permanently reduced by increasing the rate of inflation by a few percentage points.

Keynesian policy-makers therefore urged a stimulative monetary policy that initially seemed to work better than anticipated.

Only later did rapidly rising prices and simultaneous unemployment - together with analyses of Milton Friedman and others - demonstrate the fallacy of the Phillips-curve analysis.

Second, government deficit spending rather than taxation financed increasing U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War.

The Results

Some economists argue that the inflation was especially difficult to curb because it was accompanied by a widespread economic slowdown - a phenomenon sometimes termed stagflation.

The traditional methods of encouraging economic growth through monetary and fiscal policy, however, are designed to stimulate aggregate demand, and thus can result in further inflation.

The U.S. government began programs to reduce excessive monetary growth on several occasions - including 1969, 1973-75, and 1979-80 - but each time the initial temporary increase in unemployment persuaded political leaders to abandon the program before inflation was much reduced.

A wage-and-price-control program was tried (1971-74), but it also was abandoned as costly, inequitable, and with no real effect on inflation.

Major price increases for imported oil occurred in 1973-74 and again in 1979-80, but these only slightly reduced real-money-demand growth so that their ultimate effect on inflation was small.

Ronald Reagan’s election as president in 1980 was interpreted as a mandate to reverse the accelerating trend of inflation. The executive branch supported and encouraged the U.S. Federal Reserve’s efforts to reduce growth in money even at the cost of the major 1981-82 recession.

Inflation in 1981 slowed somewhat from the above-10% rate of 1980 and averaged only about 4.5% per year over the ten years 1981-91.

This performance was not achieved easily.

The 1981-82 recession, a side-effect of the anti-inflationary policies, was the most severe since World War II. Once the economy adjusted to the lower inflation, however, real output and employment grew rapidly during 1983 and 1984 as they approached normal levels.

Credit for the sharp reduction in inflation after 1980 generally starts with Paul Volcker, U.S. Federal Reserve chairman from 1979 to 1987. Volcker, with the active support of the Reagan administration from 1981, led the Federal Reserve to adopt a policy of slower growth in the money supply.

When Alan Greenspan replaced Volcker in the summer of 1987, he inherited a Federal Reserve System with a consensus that the central bank’s goal should be to achieve stable prices.

The attempt to use monetary policy to lower unemployment, motivated by the Phillips-curve model, was generally agreed a proven failure.

It appears that the Federal Reserve was ready to take the next step of moving from 4-5% inflation to stable prices and to begin to reduce money growth substantially.

However, tight monetary policy contributed to the stock market crash of October 1987, which rippled around the world and wiped billions off the value of international investors’ holdings, and the U.S. Federal Reserve was forced to retreat temporarily.

In 1988 the Federal Reserve adopted a more gradualist approach aimed at gradually reducing inflation without causing a recession.

The plan was for a period of slow growth until the economy adjusted to stable prices. But the dramatic oil price increases following the August 1990 Iraqi invasion of Kuwait were sufficient to push the economy from slow growth into the mild 1990-91 recession.

Nonetheless, by 1991 the Federal Reserve strategy had lowered inflation to less than 3%.

The effect elsewhere

In the early 1970s, U.S. inflation spread to a number of foreign countries as a result of the Bretton-Woods System, under which they had agreed in 1944 to maintain fixed prices for the U.S. dollar in terms of their own currencies.

By 1973, however, the Bretton-Woods System had deteriorated; the U.S. dollar had been devalued, and so had the British Pound, and floating exchange rates were instituted. Since then other countries have been generally free to pursue independent monetary policies.

Some of the industrialised nations, such as Germany, Switzerland, and the Netherlands, have quickly and successfully controlled their rates of money growth and inflation. Others, such as France and Italy, have continued to tolerate high and rising inflation rates.

Beginning in 1979, member nations of the European Community began to develop their own European Monetary System (EMS) of fixed exchange rates.

From the beginning, the German central bank was in fact pursuing its domestic goals of price stability, which other EMS members had to accept to avoid devaluing their currency.

Increasingly, other Community members entered the EMS (with the notable exception of Britain) and accepted the goal of price stability.

By 1991 the European Community was working toward the creation of a European central bank somewhat similar to the U.S. Federal Reserve System and a single monetary unit - the Euro.

The experience of NICS

The experience of developing countries (or ‘Newly Industrialised Countries’ as they are now termed in these politically-correct times) has been much more varied than that of the industrialised nations.

This reflects greater diversity in political institutions and ideologies and, in particular, the ability of governments to finance their expenditures by taxes, foreign aid, or borrowing without resort to printing money.

A small country that can raise sufficient funds to finance its expenditures through conventional taxes, aid, and borrowing generally prefers to fix the rate at which its domestic currency can be exchanged for the dollar, British pound, German mark, or a "basket" of several major currencies such as the Special Drawing Right of the International Monetary Fund or the European Community’s newly-introduced Euro.

The central bank then varies the domestic money supply so that prices at home relative to those abroad are consistent with the fixed exchange rate.

Domestic inflation trends will then conform to those of the country or countries with which the domestic currency can be exchanged at a fixed price.

Many developing countries, however, finance large fractions of government spending by issuing new money. The financing of government expenditures through the printing of new money is called seigniorage.

Argentina’s seigniorage amounted to more than 6% of the gross national product (GNP) and nearly equalled all other sources of government revenue over the period 1960-75. As a result the average Argentinean inflation rate was 57% per year during this period.

By contrast, among industrialised countries seigniorage averaged only 1% of the GNP and less than 6% of total government revenue.

High seigniorage reflects rapid inflation, rapid growth in output, and thus the work to be done by money, or both.

Individual remedies

When governments print money fast enough that large sustained inflation result, individuals protect themselves.

They conserve on the use of government-issued money, utilising interest-bearing financial devices (such as bank accounts and money-market funds) instead.

If currency inflates too rapidly, individuals may avoid the use of domestic money entirely and shift to barter or the use of foreign money.

Countries tend to experience high average and highly variable inflation rates simultaneously as government financing needs fluctuate.

Individuals protect themselves from uncertainty about the future value of their money by writing contracts that are indexed, normally, to a consumer price index or to the cost of foreign currency such as the U.S. dollar.

These indexing provisions permit longer-term contracts to exist in countries experiencing high and variable inflation.

Typically, tax and other laws contain similar indexing provisions. Nonetheless, indexing is not a perfect substitute for a stable price level.

For example, because price indexes are reported with a lag of a month or two, unusually rapid inflation will lower the current purchasing power of indexed wages.

Uncertainties about the real value of financial markets limit the development of domestic capital markets.

Economists are still debating whether low inflation rates are a precondition or a benefit of rapid growth in real output.

Solutions

Simple acceptance of inflation is in many ways the most appealing solution.

Unexpected increases in inflation benefit debtors and hurt creditors by reducing the purchasing power of contracted payments, but a constant, expected inflation rate has no such effect.

Interest rates are adjusted to account for the expected decrease in the value of money, and therefore neither side benefits.

Nor is there any evidence that any particular income group is disproportionately harmed by a steady, expected inflation.

Future trends

Many economists believe that creeping inflation is a permanent feature of the U.S. economy.

There are real costs, however, to wage indexing of contracts, marking up prices, conserving on money balances, and all of the other ways of living with inflation.

So it may well be less costly in the long run for a government to eliminate inflation even at the cost of temporarily higher unemployment.

More rapid growth in output of goods and services would increase the real-money-demand growth and so tend to reduce inflation. This goal is hard to achieve in practice.

A 1% increase in real output growth would be large indeed by historical standards, yet it would only reduce inflation by a similar amount.

Nonetheless, because until comparatively recently U.S. inflation occurred simultaneously with a production slowdown and even recession, some economists feel that more rapid growth in output is an essential element in solving economic problems, both short- and long-term.

The way forward

Elimination of excessive money growth is the most direct solution to inflation.

In principle, the U.S. government or its central bank, the Federal Reserve System, could simply choose to end the excessive growth either gradually or immediately and face the unemployment that would result.

A number of countries have ended severe inflation or even hyperinflation by reforming their central banks so they are charged solely with maintaining the domestic price of a stable foreign currency or earlier, gold.

Such reforms eliminate the responsibility of the central bank to finance the government deficit or avoid unemployment.

It is a possibility, advocated by some economists, that the United States could lead a return to the gold standard, but otherwise this option is open only to smaller economies.

In the U.S. a constitutional amendment has been proposed requiring the Federal Reserve System to maintain a non-inflationary growth rate of the money supply.

All of these proposals - or even a realistic acceptance of the current inflation rate - require not only the U.S. government but any wise government to constrain itself not to pursue short-term gains at the long-term cost of permanently higher inflation.

Let us hope they all learn the lessons of the past and exercise sound financial management policies in the future.

If you have any comments or queries on this article, or about other topics concerning investment matters, write to Leslie Wright, c/o Family Money, Pattaya Mail, or fax him directly on (038) 232522 or e-mail him at [email protected] Further details and back articles can be accessed on his firm’s website on www.westminsterthailand.com.

Leslie Wright is Managing Director of Westminster Portfolio Services (Thailand) Ltd., a firm of independent financial advisors providing advice to expatriate residents of the Eastern Seaboard on personal financial planning and international investments.

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The Computer Doctor

by Richard Bunch

From Henry Jackson, Na Jomtien: I have a PC about 2 years old; it works fine, just a little slow. My problem is that when I try to go into some websites, they seem to start to load but then nothing happens. I am using Internet Explorer, I do not know whether the problem is with my PC or the Internet. What do you think?

Computer Doctor replies: As you have not given me any specific URL’s to investigate, it is difficult for me to give you a definitive answer but I surmise that the sites in question have either Flash or Shockwave default pages. Both these applications are widely used in modern web design but are not included with Internet Explorer 4 but are part of Internet Explorer 5. There are two routes you can take to obtain these plug-ins, either install Internet Explorer 5, making sure to select a customised install then selecting the required components including Flash and Shockwave. The alternative is to download these from Macromedia’s website, www.macromedia.com.

I think it highly unlikely there is anything wrong with your PC or the Internet. Try my suggestions, but if they don’t work, please feel free to come back to me with specific details.

From Heinz, Pattaya: I spend most of my time in Pattaya, although I still have a business in Germany. I have a Compaq notebook PC that I purchased in Germany and it has German software and Keyboard. I do not wish to change this as I take it back to Germany with me and need to be able to connect to the Office Intranet. I do not want to go to the expense of buying a PC here for the moment although I do plan to do so towards the end of the year. In the meantime, I would like my girlfriend to be able to type some Thai as she is going to computer school and needs to practice at home. Is there a way I can do this cheaply, please?

Computer Doctor replies: Good news Heinz, you can accomplish your goal for less than 1,000 Baht! I suggest you purchase a Thai/English keyboard, the PS/2 variety. This will connect to the PS/2 port on your notebook, if you are already using an external mouse then you will need to acquire a splitter to enable both keyboard and mouse to function. Next you will need a software switch and some Thai fonts, all of which are readily available here. If you have any difficulty, please contact me.

Send your questions or comments to the Pattaya Mail at 370/7-8 Pattaya Second Road, Pattaya City, 20260 or Fax to 038 427 596 or E-mail to [email protected]

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Successfully Yours: Thanet Supornsaharungsi

by Mirin MacCarthy

Affable and always apparently at ease, Thanet Supornsaharungsi is a young man on the way up. We met at the Loma Hotel, one of the Sunshine Group’s flagships. At 31 years of age he is already an Executive Director of the Sunshine Hotels group and the Secretary General of the Pattaya Business and Tourism Association (PBTA).

suc.jpg (23604 bytes)He is of Chinese-Thai descent. "My grandparents came from China. You can usually tell, if a surname has more than ten letters in it." Thanet is one of a family of four. With Thanet’s surname he has even been asked how old he was before he could spell his own name!

His father was originally in the construction materials business, but some years ago formed a joint venture partnership with Thanet’s uncle and went into the hotel business. From there, it was an easy step for his family to go it alone with the Sunshine Hotels group.

Thanet was schooled in Thailand and went on to Thammasat University where he graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science. He then worked for a year and a half and then went to America to study. From California he returned to Thailand with an MBA in Finance. This was in 1994 and he went straight into the family business.

In many ways, Thanet is following in his father’s footsteps. "I always lived in hotels, and at vacation times I would help out doing all sorts of jobs." It is no small wonder that he has taken this career path. Even his involvement with the PBTA he relates directly to his father. "When I came back from America he was the Vice-President of the PBTA and I often had to deputize for him when he was unable to attend meetings." At the following elections, when Sophin Theppajug (also a subject of Successfully Yours a few weeks ago) was elected President, he became the Assistant Secretary General, rising to Secretary General at the next elections.

He is very proud of the PBTA and speaks animatedly about its role in bridging the gap between the private and governmental sectors as regarding the furtherance of Pattaya. He has strong views on the future direction of Pattaya and says that, "Every city overseas has areas like Pattaya. Sydney, for example, has King’s Cross. The difference is that overseas they have them located in zones, so if you are after that kind of entertainment you know where to go. Here in Pattaya we have so many good things to do, but there are bars everywhere. I believe in zoning the beer bars, then if you want that you go to one area or if families want entertainment they go to another area."

In the family business, Thanet openly speaks of the need and support he gets from his younger brother and his staff. With his brother he sets the policies for the hotels and relies on the staff for implementation. "With four hotels, I cannot do everything on my own." Thanet concentrates more on maintaining overseas contacts and the operations side of the group, leaving the finance side to his brother.

His aim is to expand the business, not only to other regions in Thailand such as Hua Hin where they have invested in some land, but to also increase the number of countries from where they draw their customers. "We used to depend on just the German market, but we are now talking with Spanish tour operators as well." As part of that push for expanded markets, Thanet is also exploring the MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences, Exhibitions) market and was personally involved in the Pattaya Road Show to Australia last month. "I believe it was a successful promotion, but we will not see the maximum results of this for two or three years." Thanet has a rare, far-seeing attitude, especially at only 31 years old.

He has few hobbies, listing reading and the occasional game of golf when work allows it as his only pastimes.

He does have future personal aims, but is reticent to expand upon these. However, he does have a five year plan that involves having his own business at that time. When asked about where he expected to be by the time he was 41 he laughed and said, "Maybe retired!" He is not married, replying, "Not yet" to my question.

He believes that to succeed in any business you need to love that particular endeavour as it needs all of your personal energies and with the service industry in particular you need good staff and partners. "You have to have the service mind."

And his own personal greatest influence on his life? "My Dad," he said simply and proudly. I think his father can also be justifiably proud of his son, Thanet.

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Snap Shots: Buying a new camera

by Harry Flashman

Three times last week Harry Flashman here was asked about cameras and which one to buy. The answer to this is almost the same as "How long is a piece of string?" However, there are some guidelines and some tips for you to follow.

The first, of course, is how much do you want to spend? You must set your budget first, or else you will spend a lot of time looking at cameras you cannot afford. Secondly, just like everything else, you get what you pay for, but you can get better value by choosing carefully.snap.jpg (20445 bytes)

Actually, the Flashman household is looking for a replacement "point and shooter" right now, so I know first hand what you are going through in looking for a camera. After setting your price ceiling you next have to decide if you want an SLR (Single Lens Reflex) or just a Compact. If you want to do lots of creative photography, use filters and different lenses, double exposures or long time exposures then go for an SLR every time. Despite all the features in Compacts these days, to have control over your photography you need an SLR.

Taking Compacts first, I suggest that you look at any one that has a range in the focal length of the lens. Generally these are called something like 28-70 or 38-105. This sort of range gives you the advantage of a wide angle lens and a small telephoto all built in. What to look for here is just how easy is it to look through the viewfinder and see what you are going to get in the different lens positions. Many times there are two sets of lines that you are supposed to use and very often these are totally confusing. Some Compacts move the viewfinder in line with the lens and this is much superior in my opinion.

For Compacts look at the Olympus MJU’s, Nikon Zoom 310, Konica Z-up 110, Canon Sure Shots 270 W and Z 135 or Pentax Espio 90 MC.

While still on Compacts, there is a new breed called APS cameras. These use the new Advantix type films. These are easily recognised with the oval film cassettes that just drop into the cameras, with no leader strip to pull across. These cameras will allow you to take panoramic shots as well as standard shape ones. They also give you up to 40 shots on one roll and a proof sheet so that you can check the shots you want printed full size. Unfortunately, these tend to be the more expensive compacts. One of the most impressive (and expensive) is the Canon Ixus Z70. Check out the APS range, they do have many advantages over standard 35 mm Compacts.

Now, the SLR’s. These are even more difficult to pick. As a guide, if you want good results, stick to the better known brands. My personal favourite is Nikon. The typical journalist’s camera is the FM2. Rugged, great optics in the lenses and reliable. If price is no drawback then the Nikon F5 is hard to beat. The pro’s camera. If you cannot afford this one, look at the Nikon F90X.

The other brand used by 50% of pro shooters is Canon, with the top of the range EOS-1N RS rivalling the Nikon F5. Again, you’ll need a fat wallet for one of these. The cheaper EOS models are also good cameras.

After those two brands, look at Minolta Dynax models and the Pentax MZ series.

So there you have it. See how big your cash tin is and then go from there. Happy hunting!

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Modern Medicine: The Big C.

by Dr Iain Corness

Have you noticed that we produce all sorts of euphemisms to cover anything we are afraid of. "Death" we call "passed away" or "slipped over to the other side" or similar sweet niceties. Likewise, "Cancer" gets the name of "The Big C" or "Jack the Dancer".

Mind you, we are correct to be a little afraid of cancer. In most instances, it is a nasty disease process, and as we all know, some forms can be terminal. (There you are, I’ve even fallen into the euphemism trap - what I should say is, some forms can kill you!)

One of my friends got the cancer diagnosis that nobody wants the other day. A fairly nasty type of cancer as well. He has taken it on the chin, despite all sorts of problems post operatively. "Don’t throw away my business card just yet," he said last week, maintaining his usual dry sense of humour.

When all else seems to be failing for you, that sense of humour becomes one of the most important factors in getting over major medical catastrophes. It is scientific fact that those people who keep up a cheerful attitude do much better after operations or other treatments for cancer than those who drop their bundle. This is not stuff to cheer up the dying. This is fact. It’s not where there’s life there’s hope - it’s more that where there’s laughter there’s life!

With some cancers you have twice as much chance of getting better by keeping a cheery positive approach than otherwise. That is better odds than winning the treble at Royal Ascot or picking the Bangkok Lottery.

Of course, the other important thing with cancer is early detection. Undoubtedly the sooner you can jump on the cancer, the better are your odds. Again it is that simple. The rub comes in this "early" detection. By the time you get to be 40 you should remain watchfully "aware" of your own mortality. After all, in the vast majority, cancer is a disease of aging.

After 40 it is a time to schedule some preventive medicine testing into your lifestyle. For women, cancer of the womb and cancer of the breast rank high, and fortunately there are tests that can be done to give you an early warning system. Pap Smears and Mammograms on a regular basis will soon show warning signs.

Likewise there are tests for colonic cancers and prostate cancers that can do a similar job in heralding unhealthy signs.

As well as signs that can be tested for, there are symptoms that should not be ignored either. Any sore that does not heal, or blood from an orifice, continuous cough or persistent indigestion may have a sinister reason behind it. You are not supposed to cough every day. You are not supposed to have blood in your urine. If you have a symptom you did not have before, then you should have it checked. Ignoring it is foolhardy and taking unnecessary risks with your own life.

Unfortunately, my mate decided to ignore his warning symptoms. He will need his sense of humour. I hope he makes it.

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Dear Hillary,

I am a 24-year-old Thai girl working in an office. I’m having a terrible time because the Farang boss is making me very embarrassed. He is always standing over me and constantly putting his hands on me when he is talking to me. I am married with one child so I need the money. I have not told my husband about this because he would take it the wrong way and maybe shoot the farang. What should I do?

Da

Dear Da,

From your letter and your office job I can tell you have a good understanding of English. Surely by now you must have realized that Farang customs and values are totally different to Thai ways. I suspect that your boss thinks he is just being friendly and has not the slightest idea that he is offending you.

I have a few suggestions for you about what you can do. First, think a little about the difference of what Thais and Farangs think are important.

Thais value saving face and are upset when anyone criticizes them. Farangs care not a scrap about saving or losing face and are happy to insult and criticize each other freely. This is even thought of as a sign of friendly teasing at some times.

Thais hold hands and touch woman to woman or man to man and are horrified by any male to female touching in public. It is an important difference that Farangs are just the opposite (with some gay exceptions) and generally disapprove of same sex contact.

Farangs do not consider the head sacred, or care at all at what level they stand above or below you. Whereas this is a very important concept in Thai culture. If you can understand these very basic differences in Thai and European culture you can then learn to accept that generally non-Thais have no idea at all that they are offending you.

To stop this from happening I suggest you buy a copy of the book "Culture Shock Thailand" by Robert and Nanthappa Cooper (from Asia Books, Bangkok) and give it as a gift to your boss. It is an interesting book and points out all the cultural do’s and don’ts for Farangs in Thailand.

The other effective action you can take is whenever your boss stands over you is to smile, say "excuse me" and stand up. Finally every time he puts his hands on you say, move back and smile and say, "I wish you would not do that. I am a married woman." Be smiling and nice but repeat your reactions every single time with no exceptions. Soon he will get the message and stop. Failing that, display your husband and child’s photograph proudly on your desk. Try to understand that Thai and non-Thai customs are totally different, therefore it is not worth becoming upset over.

Dear Hillary,

I feel I am being ripped off in some bars with the bill being incorrect. What should I do? Is it O.K. to scrutinize the bill? Then what should I do when wrong additions or extra drinks are put on the bill? I don’t want to cause a fuss.

Frank

Dear Frank,

Are you kidding? Of course you should check the bill thoroughly and with a calculator. The Thais do. Be nice about any mistakes, smile and laugh. Point out mistakes gently, just do not show annoyance. My advice is not to attempt this when you have had too much to drink because then it is likely you will lose the plot and get into a fight. I would like to know just how you can prove there have been extra drinks put on the bill. Sometimes it is just a case of putting it down to experience, and he who smiles the longest wins.

Dear Hillary

Can you tell me what is the correct baht bus fare? I’ve heard so many bad tales about baht bus drivers. Also, how do you know which baht busses go to Jomtien?

Doubtful

Dear Doubtful,

Generally baht bus drivers are not a bad lot. Though keep in mind they do not give change, and asking for a specific destination is contracting to hire them. Then they can charge whatever they negotiate with you (which is whatever they think they can get, more if they can see you’re a newcomer). The thing is to keep small change, 5 and 10 baht, know where you are going, never respond to where you go? Just point and be prepared to get off it they choose the wrong direction. You simply get off, pay and take another baht bus in the direction you want. It is five baht anywhere around Pattaya. 10 baht to Nakula or to Jomtien. More at night, then you have to negotiate first, expect to pay 50 to100 baht to Nakula or Jomtien at night. Simply do not get on if they will not accept this. Wait and catch another baht bus, there are plenty of them. Very simple really, no reason to demonstrate you don’t know what you are doing. The key is to be smiling and polite and always have the right money.

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GRAPEVINE

Bargain odd job
A Pattaya tattooist is in hot water after tourist skinhead Mark Doolley, ex Belfast docker and self proclaimed victim of comprehensive schooling, asked for the word NURD to be permanently inked onto his square like forehead. Mark was not best pleased when he looked into a mirror and discovered the letter "N" had regrettably been misspelt and replaced by a "T" during the minor operation. The tattooist apologized and offered to drill the correct word NURD anywhere on Mark’s body, and for free. Two for the price of one.

Work permit changes
Some business farangs report that Thai company regulations have been amended. In future, their documentary security will be conditional upon the company for which they work making a profit. The implication is that the work permit will be revoked if the annual returns show a loss. This is a far cry from the early 1990s when sizeable declared profits from farang operated businesses were an accountant’s nightmare. Most likely to be affected by the new scenario are small businesses with which Pattaya abounds. Sources say that work permits in the resort have risen 600% in the last four years.

Not a hot dog
A farang lover became so disenchanted with his paramour’s behavior that he put the household poodle in the fridge to cool off. Jason Connery told neighbors he was utterly browned off by his girl friend’s continual doting on the pooch, named Slobodan, that he decided to hide the animal for a while. The pet was discovered dead behind the fish fingers when Jason’s girlfriend was getting ready to prepare the evening fry up. After a heated argument, the couple have now agreed to buy an Alsatian which won’t easily slot into the ice box.

Penang visa runs
Farangs say that Thai tourist visas are again freely available in Penang. There are a number of hotels offering the visa service, including the Oriental, which saves you the bother of going to the Thai consulate on the edge of town. But it’s single entries only for the most part and convincing documentation, say proof of work permit or a letter from the Board of Investment or a Thai marriage certificate, is necessary for non immigrant "B" or "O". Meanwhile, in Europe, twelve months’ availability, multiple entry visas are much easier to obtain. There seems to be a hidden assumption that you ought to prove you can go back home once in a while without being arrested on arrival.

Phone bills again
If you want to pay your telephone charges by auto bank payments, the procedures for domestic and overseas calls are different. The domestic office, in Pattaya Klang, has devised a simple form which you ask your bank to fill in and then return to the telecommunications center. The overseas mission in Pattaya Tai has a more complex bureaucracy requiring old bills and passport and bank account photocopies. If the phone is not currently in your name, you’ll be asked to find the previous owner to give consent. Can be difficult if they’ve left the country or moved to a higher plane of existence.

Bit of a let down
All the talk of 15% of the world’s male population having impotency problems may not be a hard statistic. New research from America suggests that many men are taking Viagra to perform better horizontally simply because they don’t fancy sex with their regular partners. Amongst the reasons given are that some partners don’t wash often enough and are smelly, or persist in using perfumes which are a put off. One man even said he had to take Viagra because of his wife’s dog which stood on the marital bed barking instructions.

TV dressing down
A representative sample of Pattaya’s substantial transvestite population held a meeting in South Road on Sunday about how to improve their image in the resort. Cross dressing chairman "Ninoi" explained the problem was that most people think TVs are interested only in cabarets and picking up men. The meeting then broke up as half of the "girls" at the meeting said they would be late for the Tiffany show, whilst most of the others had heard a group of sailors were in town.

Top news story
The biggest bundle of letters for ages on a single subject was received at Pattaya Mail last month. It was neither on visas, nor on child prostitution nor on the problem of litter. Not even on Kosovo nor the future of mankind. But a guy stepped onto the bonnet of another man’s car and started an international incident in our fair city. If anyone’s interested, Grapevine’s rented van this week had stolen from it by varlots both the petrol cap and the spare tire. Locals said two American servicemen were seen running down Soi Yodsak. So and soes!

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Dining Out: Something enTHATIrly different

by Miss Terry Diner

When the Dining Out Team heard about a different style of Thai cuisine we decided we should investigate. The venue was the Atrium Café in the Ambassador City Jomtien Hotel.

The Atrium Café runs off the lobby of the Ocean Wing and is set in a large atrium (hence the name), with hanging plants around the walls. Live music in the background was supplied by the Ambassador’s regular duo, Rungratt (vocals) and Kittipan (keyboards), producing pleasant easy-listening style of music.

dining.jpg (21278 bytes)Atrium Café

The menu change this month has been called the Zalacca promotion. The Zalacca (or Ragum, in Thai) is a strange (to us) seasonal stone fruit. Looking a little like a large strawberry, it has a dusky red skin with small prickles. Peel it and inside is the white fleshy fruit around a large stone. Taste it and "Zing!" It has the tartest, sharpest acidic taste, like a super lemon. It’s one of those "love it or leave it" tastes. Personally I loved it.

The Zalacca promotion refers to Thai food made with the Ragum fruit and has its own separate picture menu. For us, this was necessary, as it is not an English language sheet. The main menu, however, is multilingual with 50% European food and the rest Thai, but since we had come to try the Thai style we chose from that selection which includes Appetizers (80-150 Baht), Spicy Salads - Yam Neua, Larb Gai, etc. (80-190 Baht), Spicy Soups - Tom Yum, Tom Kha, Kaeng Jued, etc. (80-190 Baht), Mains with the usual items as Gai Pad Mamuang, Garlic and Pepper stir fries, Green Curries, etc. (65-230 Baht) and finally a large selection of Rice and Noodle dishes (65-120 Baht).

The PR Manager, Khun Ladawan was on hand to assist and between us all we ordered a See Kong Moo Tod Kratiem Prik Thai (AKA Fried spareribs with garlic and pepper), a Fried stuffed Squid dish, a Chicken in Oyster sauce and from the Zalacca promotion a Nam Prik vegetables and a Gai Tom Ragum soup.

The "standard" items were typical Thai food, quite pleasant and the squid being given top marks of the evening by one of our number. However, it was the Zalacca that we had come to try.

Firstly, the Nam Prik dish. The actual sauce is made using the Ragum, consequently it is tart as well as fiery. The chopped vegetables, and there were several varieties, are eaten with the Nam Prik poured over them. If you are into spicy food, then this is Nam Prik with a kick! In the Thai community, this is a very well-liked dish - so if you’re ready for it, this Nam Prik will lift your jaded taste buds.

Finally, the Gai Tom Ragum. For me, this was the sensation of the evening. The soup stock is similar to Tom Yum base, but the sharpness of the Ragum makes it very different. The chicken is chopped Thai style (bones and all) and there are other vegetables, like small onions, in there as well. Madame and I enjoyed this Gai Tom so much that Ladawan ordered a second one, which was also polished off in no time. It was the dish of the evening for us both.

The Zalacca promotion has been so popular with the local community that Ladawan said that it has been extended till the end of the Ragum season (probably another month). If you enjoy spicy Thai cuisine, then this Zalacca promotion could be for you. Certainly a different form of Thai food from the usual.

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Animal Crackers: Olly, the Butcher Bird

by Mirin MacCarthy

This story is from my mother-in-law Ella, a delightful Scottish lady who has been "mother" to countless animals and birds.

Olly was brought to her, having fallen out of the nest. It was a tiny pathetic pink baby Butcher bird. She made a little nest for him and kept him warm and fed. He grew strong, getting all his feathers and very quickly stamping his mark in the family.

animal.jpg (15482 bytes)While still unable to fly, he used to jump on to the hem of Ella’s skirt and be carried through the house. His other trick was to climb onto the table, jump into the butter and then into the sugar and sit happily eating sugar from his buttery feet!

When it was time for him to learn to fly he wouldn’t. Because his "mother" didn’t, neither would he! Eventually Olly was carried onto the roof and gently introduced to airspace from there.

Olly never lived in a closed cage and always returned home every evening. His diet was shreds of meat and when hungry, he would fly onto the fridge and tap his beak on the door. This was his signal for "Feed me."

One night, when he was about six months old, he did not come home. The family all hoped that Olly would not fall prey to some feral cat, and wished him well in his future bird life.

Around six months later, my husband opened the door to find a fully grown Butcher bird standing on the railing. "Olly?" he exclaimed. The bird replied by flying straight into the house onto the fridge and tapping his beak on it! This was certainly Olly.

Excitedly, Ella cut up some meat and he gulped it down as usual. However, the second bit of meat he kept in his beak and flew off, to return a couple of minutes later for some more for himself. After he repeated this several times Ella realised Olly was feeding a family.

The next morning Olly was again on the top step, but this time he had the family on the lower ones. The feeding routine continued, one piece for him, one piece for them. This happened every year, with a new brood each time and Ella delighted in telling Olly’s story to incredulous people. She would finish talking about him and say, "Would you like to meet him?" and call his name from the back door. From out of the trees would swoop Olly, straight into the house and tap his beak on the fridge. Olly never forgot Ella, neither has she forgotten him.

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Auto Mania: Malaysian GP - The Drive!

by Dr. Iain Corness

The first Malaysian GP is on October 17th this year. Tickets are available, as we have mentioned before, from Capt. Sittichoke at Eastern Marine Services, the official agent in Thailand for the Sepang race people.

Now, if you want something really different, my old mate Sittichoke is organising a drive yourself caravan tour from Bangers to KL, leaving Wednesday 13th, going via Penang (Thursday) to KL on the Friday. Coaches organised to the race circuit Saturday and Sunday with a gala dinner as the finale. Monday leave KL and expect to hit the Thai border late that afternoon. With any luck you’ll be back in the office on Tuesday (or Wednesday at the latest!)auto.jpg (21626 bytes)

Sittichoke will be running this caravan and will take between 20 and 30 vehicles. Sounds like a great trip. You could even do a visa run at the same time. Bargain! It would certainly make for a truly momentous occasion.

Now, which car company out there would like me to do a week long extended road test? Get me on [email protected] and I’m waiting!

Japanese minicars move up

Interesting news item the other day about the minicar movement in Japan. That country has had registration laws to favour small cars and narrow trucks for many years, but the economic downturn has really tipped the scales in the tiddlers’ favour.

In Japan, cars with engine sizes under 660cc get much cheaper rates than their larger engine brothers. All the major manufacturers are in there with small engines and minicars. Now I honestly think that this ain’t such a bad idea. When Sir Alec Issigonis turned out the BMC Mini in the early ’60s it had an 848cc engine developing 34 horsepower. Yes it was that underwhelming. Yet, those who were lucky enough to drive it when it was released raved about the performance - and it was (and still is) a nippy little car. With today’s technology and light weight materials, a 660cc should develop well over 50 BHP, naturally aspirated, or even up over 100 BHP with a puffer on the side. The weight would be much less than the old Mini, so you have all the makings of a great little pocket rocket.

So the performance should be much more than adequate and with good design the minicar should be roomy enough and also safe enough. So why would we want the current acres of sheet metal and fuel thirsty motors? There are those with large families (you didn’t listen to your Father, did you!) or boats to drag down to the jetty or even caravans to tow, but they are really in the minority. For the majority of motorists a small, fuel efficient, comfortable car is all that is required. If it is cheaper than the current crop of gas guzzlers that’s another bonus.

Personally, from behind the steering wheel of the family Mira I cannot see much future for the large cars of the past decade. Sure, in the line up of cars I’ve owned over the years there have been several V8 monsters, but they were all used as tow vehicles for race cars.

No, roll out the minicars. I’ve got room in my garage for a twin turbo Honissayota. What about you?

Japan and F1

Everyone was sorry when Honda pulled the plug on its much vaunted return to F1 after designer Harvey Postlethwaite moved on to the parc ferme in the sky. However, they will be present as engine suppliers for Jordan and BAR, even if just through the Mugen Department. Shame really, as the Honda F1 racer is already competitive time wise against the current crop of cars - even with Verstappen at the wheel, who is only a second tier driver at best, in my opinion.

Toyota has been hanging around like the smell of Durian in the fridge for some time now and the bets were on that the Japanese giant would buy into Minardi or Sauber or a similar second (or third) string teams. Not so, says Toyota. They will be coming into F1 in their own right, using their own European facilities. The interesting bit is from where they will draw the personnel? They’ve got the money to buy the best. I believe that 2000 is too soon for Toyota Motor, but put your money on 2001.

Buying on the Never-Never

Many years ago the motor industry throughout the world discovered Hire Purchase, Leasing and other "Drip Feed" methods of payment. This was enough to bring the concept of owning a new car within the reach of the "battlers". It also didn’t take the financial world long to realise that the lower the deposit and the longer the term of the loan, the more the contracts they could write up.

Unfortunately, it also meant that there was a significant degree of "bad debts" (does all this sound decidedly familiar, but on a "grand" scale?) and the knee jerk reaction was to immediately jack up the deposits required to ridiculous percentages.

Fortunately, the pendulum is now swinging the other way on the local scene, and 20% and 30% deposits are returning. Sure these figures are designed to move old stock out the showroom door, but if you are on the lookout for a new vehicle and don’t want to tie up all your capital in a new car, then the option is worth looking at.

Phra Nakorn Automobile (PNA) are pushing the VP Holden Calais and are offering quite reasonable terms on this vehicle as well as a discounted purchase price. Finance comes in around 8% if my mathematics are correct on a 30% down payment. While the VP Calais is now a superseded model in Australia, it is still a damn good car and at 849,000 Baht definitely represents value over here. If you want to look at one give Shomchai Chaisilpawattana from PNA a ring on 02 561 4610-9. Definitely worth a gander. Actually, I don’t know why PNA haven’t brought in some of the extras available for the VP’s. Wings, dams, wheels and other go faster bits are readily available Down Under.

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