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Business News




HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:
Family Money: Strengthening currency lowers returns
The Computer Doctor

Successfully Yours: Dr. Pichit Kangwolkit
Snap Shots: Unlock your mind!
Modern Medicine: Malaria!

Heart to Heart with Hillary
Dining Out: A surprising Sunbeam
Animal Crackers: Blue Tongue Skinks
Shaman’s Rattle: Find me some Water?
Auto Mania: The Asian Market
Fitness Tips: Reading Food Labels

Family Money: Strengthening currency lowers returns

By Leslie Wright

I was recently having a chat with a sophisticated investor who spends considerable time tracking his investments and market performance. I really had to be on my toes to keep up with him!

However, even this very knowledgeable man (who from my experience is more familiar with market trends and portfolio management than many so-called professional advisors) showed an all-too-common misunderstanding about the effects of exchange rates on his investments.

For those of us living in Thailand, watching exchange rates fluctuate between sterling and the US dollar is not the end of the story.

Nor even how the Thai baht (or “bath” as some prefer to spell it - perhaps having taken one in that bubbly currency) is moving relative to sterling or the US dollar.

While most Brits still think in sterling terms and Americans in dollars (and others in their home countries’ currencies), this predisposition can be misleading.

What’s your base?

For those of us who have settled here more or less permanently, there is a strong argument that our base currency is no longer the pound sterling or US dollar (or whatever), but the Thai baht. This is because one’s base currency is the one one thinks in and spends most money in.

On the other hand, there is always the tendency to argue that if a lump sum of capital has been invested offshore, perhaps from savings accumulated “back home” or from a pension gratuity, the currency it was received in - say, sterling - is the currency to watch.

This scenario becomes even more complicated when your capital was accumulated in sterling, is invested into dollar-denominated unit trusts or mutual funds, which are themselves investing in regional equities (such as Asia, Europe, or even globally - as opposed to a single country), and you’re drawing down an income from that investment to cover local expenditure here in Thailand.

Which currency or currencies do you watch then? Or doesn’t it matter?

Well, yes it does. But perhaps not quite in the way most people think it does.

When down is good

Most people are well aware that if sterling (or the US dollar or deutschmark) strengthens against the Thai baht, their remittance of foreign currency will get more baht when exchanged at their local bank.

Conversely, a purchase of foreign exchange - say to pay for a mortgage or school fees - will cost them more baht if the transfer is going the other way.

When applied to investments, however, the fluctuations in relative exchange rates are not so clearly understood.

If your base currency is sterling (i.e., you think in terms of pounds sterling rather than baht), and sterling depreciates against another currency, this would have a positive impact on the returns (in sterling terms) from an overseas investment made in that other currency.

Conversely, if sterling strengthens against another currency, this would have a negative impact on the returns (in sterling terms) from an overseas investment made in that other currency.

As an example, let’s say a sterling-orientated investor buys Thai shares costing THB 60 each while the exchange rate for ฃ1 = THB 60.

The share price does not move, so the investor sells for THB 60. Ignoring any brokerage commission that might apply on the transaction, he gets back the same as he started with.

But let’s say that in the meantime, sterling has weakened (or the Thai Baht has strengthened) to ฃ1 = THB 55 - i.e., our investor needs only THB 55 to “buy back” the ฃ1.

Our investor has THB 60, which divided by the exchange rate of ฃ1/THB 55, gives ฃ1.09.

In sterling terms he has made a profit of 9%, even though he was in exactly the same position as when he started in terms of Thai baht.

When up is bad

The corollary of this scenario is if sterling had strengthened (or the Thai Baht weakened) to ฃ1 = THB 65 - i.e., our investor now needs THB 65 to “buy back” the ฃ1.

He has THB 60, which divided by the exchange rate of ฃ1/THB 65, gives 92p. So although he made neither a profit nor a loss in Thai baht, he has lost money in sterling terms.

Hence if the view for Thailand equities is positive and outlook for the ฃ/THB is also positive, then the overall outlook for a sterling-orientated investor into Thailand would be positive. In our example the positive currency outlook increases the returns to the investor from the equity investment.

However, if the view for Thai equities were positive, but the outlook for the ฃ/THB were negative - i.e., it is considered likely that sterling would strengthen against the baht, or the baht would weaken against the pound - then a sterling-orientated investor into Thailand should exercise a degree of caution, since positive equity returns may be adversely affected by the currency movements.

This same scenario applies to any other two currencies you may care to choose.

But when it comes to considering three or more currencies - as in the scenario cited earlier of a sterling-orientated investor investing into dollar- or yen- or Euro-denominated funds and drawing down an income in Thai baht - things become rather more complex. So I’ll leave that discussion until next week...

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

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 Garrie Cox, Houston, Texas: I will be travelling to Thailand next month for business for about 6 months. My home office would like to have Internet access from Thailand for e-mail, etc. We will be working outside of Bangkok on the PTT pipeline project. We plan to rent a large apartment or house to use as an office and residence. My question is how difficult will it be to gain access to the Internet? Is it costly and/or time consuming? On prior visits, getting landline telephones was slow. If you were trying to get set up, how would you go about it? What is our best bet for getting online? Any help you can provide would be appreciated.

Computer Doctor replies: You haven’t said exactly where you will be located, so it is difficult for me to recommend a Internet provider to you. You can find a complete list of Thai providers at It is normally possible to have a telephone connected in about two weeks, but as you will be renting, I suggest you specify this as a pre-requisite. If you don’t do this, then as a non-Thai you will need the landlord’s Tabien and ID card to apply at the telephone company. I really wouldn’t recommend this route. With the completion of the Chonburi-Bangkok motorway people are now finding living in Pattaya and commuting to Bangkok a viable option. It is probably worth you contacting a real estate company in advance, a reputable local company is Northern Thai Group e-mail, [email protected].

Connection to the Internet itself is neither costly nor time consuming. I am assuming you will be putting the connection in your own name. If this is the case the only formality other than completing the appropriate agreement is to furnish the provider with a certified copy of your passport. If you are registering it in a company name then you will need to provide a certified copy of the company papers and the application will need to be signed and the company stamp affixed by an authorised company signatory. Assuming you don’t use the connection excessively, i.e. mostly for e-mail, then budget for about 1,000 Baht/month.

From: Johannes Kern, Philippines: Thailand as the Philippines has a cable TV network, certainly a heavy investment in cabling. In the Philippines, somebody came up with the idea to make better use of those cables. Now you can have internet access via these cables. At fantastic speed and at a price (at least in the Philippines which is more then affordable/reasonable). Do you see any chance this happening in Thailand?

Computer Doctor replies: All Internet providers are governed by the Communications Authority of Thailand which takes a levy from their earnings. Whilst in theory what you suggest is possible, the underlying infrastructure would find the traffic difficult to handle. Cable Internet connections are now commonplace in many parts of the world. Personally, I cannot see them appearing in Thailand for some time, of course I may be proved wrong. Incidentally, I gave up on the website you suggested, whilst they may be a good provider for you, they have a lot to learn about web design and hosting!

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: Dr. Pichit Kangwolkit

by Mirin MacCarthy

The young, handsome and hardworking Director of the Bangkok-Pattaya Hospital, Dr. Pichit Kangwolkit, has had his career mapped out from an early age.

Born in Bambung province, Chonburi, to a family of seven, he completed all his primary and secondary schooling in Bangkok. Like many others before him he studied hard to pass the entrance exams to Mahidol University. Medicine was his objective because, “It is the most popular career choice in Thailand. It is a well respected profession.”

It was the correct choice for him. Even as a student Dr. Pichit showed a compassion for his compatriots and was an activist for the rural poor, helping other students to find ways to improve the health, hygiene and education for the needy. This gave him much experience in rural community medicine that he was to practise later.

As a Post graduate student he studied Health and Economics for six months and Private Hospital Administration for three months. He chose to do his internship in Ubon Ratchathani for the wide experience it afforded. Then his life changed radically from studying every day to working every day and night, seven days a week.

He was later appointed as the Doctor in charge of the Chanuman Community Hospital in Isaan. It was a ten bed, forty staff hospital and community practice with an immense work load. As Dr Pichit was the only doctor in the area he was responsible for everything: medicine, pharmacy, operations, deliveries, plus community visits. He then spent a year in the Srimuang community hospital.

In 1988 he married his girlfriend Bunsri whom he had met when she was studying nursing at Mahidol, and the doctor and nurse moved to the Nong Yai community hospital in Chonburi. They worked there for three years and then Dr. Pichit was chosen by the Ministry of Public Health to be the Director of the 30 bed Aoudon Hospital for the Laem Chabang Industrial Estate.

Now very used to the hard working life of a doctor, he additionally had his own private clinic which he ran in the evenings, being by now a specialist in clinical Preventive Medicine.

Dr Pichit smilingly dismisses the fact that he is young to be a Director of Pattaya’s biggest private Hospital. “It is just a coincidence that when I met the Managing Director and Deputy Director of the Bangkok-Pattaya Hospital six years ago, they were young too. They invited me to join them because they wanted someone who was interested in social security programmes and a medical marketing programme, two very new areas for private hospitals. I started as Assistant Director, then Deputy Director and I have been Director for the past two years. If I had chosen to stay with the government hospitals I would have had to continually move to further my career.”

Under his guiding hand, it is notable that the Bangkok-Pattaya Hospital is not only surviving financially but even planning expansion in these critical economic times.

As to how he achieved this, Dr Pichit relied, “There are two main factors. We have the Bangkok General Hospital for back up - they are the leader for private hospitals in Thailand. We follow their standards in building and staff training, so naturally we take their reputation. Secondly, although we are the newcomers here, we are bigger than the other two older private hospitals in the district and so we can be the best. We also slot our pricing into the middle income range.”

At this stage of his life it is all hard work and very little play for Dr Pichit. He works full time at the hospital and seven evenings a week at his own clinic. “Sometimes I go swimming in my free time or to the cinema with my family, but only occasionally. Maybe I will close my clinic when I am forty-five. Then I would like to travel overseas and to remote areas of Thailand as a tourist.”

Dr. Pichit values family above all aspects of his life. “That is why I work so hard for my wife and my daughters.” Success means to him, “Taking care of my family and being successful in my career. The most important objectives to me are to be a good director and administrator and tomorrow to be better than today. If possible to be the best in our group and to have this hospital achieve the highest standard of treatment and reputation. That is the goal.”

In his life so far, Dr. Pichit has shown he is an achiever. I am sure he will do just that for his hospital too.

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Snap Shots: Unlock your mind!

by Harry Flashman

A good title to this week’s column, but we are going to do more than just “Unlock your mind!” This concept was brought home to Harry Flashman the other day when looking at the work of one of his favourite photographers, Larry Dale Gordon.

Even the words on the cover are uplifting - “Using your vision and experience to make better photographs.” It is an old adage in journalism to write about what you know, not about what you think you know! You can apply that equally to photography. This weekend photograph the subjects you really know.

So what subjects do you really know well? Undoubtedly one of the front runners has to be your job. You know it better than anyone. Why not photograph it? Even your office as a photographic record is important. Try shooting your desk from the side your clients see it, for example. Hold the tools of your trade (be they hammers, pencils or scalpels) and photograph them in your hand as your eyes see them. In a small way, that is unlocking your mind. You have started to think creatively.

But back to Larry Dale Gordon. In the book he has published some great aerial shots. Mountains, sunsets, dawn, deserts, snowfields - they are all there. LDG calls them his “porthole” shots. Porthole, because he has taken every one of them out of the window of a commercial airliner. Now I must admit that Harry here has not taken many shots on TG, QF, BA, SQ whatever and he hangs his head in shame. Even through two layers of airplane glass, these shots in the book are magnificent. LDG even admits, “I never know exactly what I’m going to get. That’s part of the excitement.” He finishes by saying, “I just like taking pictures and this is one more opportunity.” He is a true photographer. On your next trip, go for that ultimate aerial shot.

One tip, by the way. When taking porthole shots, turn the flash off or all you get is flare across the glass. Also walk around the plane and look through some of the other observation portholes, they might have a better view, or less direct sunlight on them. The concept here is “Look”. See, you have already started to take creative control of your own photographs.

One phrase that LDG uses is “Expand your creative horizons.” One very quick way to do this is to never take landscapes (or seascapes) in the middle of the day, but take them at sunrise or sundown. The colour shifts at those times of day will create new hues in your horizons. In fact, try this for unlocking the creative self. Park yourself on your favourite bit of beach and watch the sun go down. When the sun is almost on the horizon take one shot and then every 5 minutes afterwards take another for up to 30 minutes after sundown. One of those shots will be average, two others will be good and one fantastic. That’s a promise!

According to LDG, to unlock your mind you have to be versatile. That means looking at life from more than one approach. See, it’s that “looking” thing again. LDG documents his own awakening as follows, “The US Army sent me to Germany as a young (very young) boy of 18. Imagine a na๏ve kid, just out of high school, being dropped into an endless parade of voluptuous blond women (all older at 20!), great beer, schnapps and cities and castles older than America. It was incredible. I began to see. Not only the countryside, but a different way of life; different attitudes, styles, food and humour. I knew then how diversified the world really is.” What is more, LDG then went ahead and photographed it. We should all take a leaf out of his book.

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Modern Medicine: Malaria!

by Dr Iain Corness

We have had a few mosquitoes around recently and the other evening it was even necessary to burn a mosquito coil while we ate out under the stars. Everyone has heard of Malaria, so how much of a threat is it to us here in Pattaya?

According to the good books there are 100 countries/regions carrying malarial mozzies and somewhere between 300 and 500 million people are infected. Of all those, some 1.5 to 2.7 million people actually die of the disease.

SE Asia is one of those areas where the Plasmodium falciparum mosquito is known to be prevalent, and that little fellow is the nasty one. That same “good book” also suggests that in Thailand the cities and main resorts are malaria free, including island resorts. This is not quite correct. While I do feel that Pattaya is malaria free, the same cannot be said for some of the island resorts, especially as you go down closer to the Cambodian border. Trat itself has been implicated in the past.

Since we are a highly mobile society and places like the Cambodian border are only three hours away, we should not forget the dangers of malaria. Real dangers when you remember that 1-2% of returned travellers who are incubating falciparum malaria do actually die.

The key to keeping malaria down is three pronged. You do not have to rush out and begin gobbling down expensive medicines as the first reaction. The most important defence is to avoid being bitten in the first place. The mosquito involved is a nocturnal beastie so try to limit your outdoors activities between dusk and dawn. Long sleeved shirts and long pants are also a good idea. If you are in a high density mosquito area then look at screens on the windows or even nets for the beds. (These are also not a bad plan for babies, as the mozzies seem to like their tender flesh!)

Next move is to use mosquito repellent at night. The magic name here is DEET, a chemical that is very effective against the nocturnal blood suckers. Finally, a mosquito coil at night is also another deterrent.

If you are venturing into known malarial areas for a period of time, then look at taking preventatives yourself - we call this “prophylaxis”. Chloroquine used to be the drug of choice, but the mosquitoes are now mainly resistant to that drug. Round Thailand, Cambodia and Burma, the drug of choice is Doxycycline (unless you are a pregnant lady or child under 10 years old). You start these 2 days before going into the malarious area and continue on for 4 weeks after leaving.

The third prong in the attack is rapid diagnosis and effective treatment. This you must leave to the professionals, and doctors in this country are well versed in this particular disease. Remember that the incubation period is around a week, so those ‘chills’ you get a few days after leaving Cambodia just could relate to some mosquito bites on the other side of the border!

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Dear Hillary,
I am a very new employee in a foreign run business in Jomtien. I have not been here very long and I cannot speak Thai. My problem is with the Thai secretary. She seems to be very moody and I am sure is making fun of me to the other Thai people in the office. She does not carry on like this with the other farangs in the office. How can I stop this?

Paranoid Pete

Dear Paranoid,
Easy, just ignore her and her behavior. Thais cannot bear to be ostracized and ignored. She will get the message fast.

Dear Hillary,
Can you help a friend of mine? She is an honest working Thai woman, who has supported her family through thick and thin. She has scrimped and saved and done without, just to make sure her children were brought up correctly. Her “husband” lives in Bangkok (where he has his major wife) and he has been coming down to Pattaya recently and physically abusing this woman. She would not go to the police and I doubt if they would even do anything in this domestic problem. What can she do?

A friend.

Dear Friend
This is a sad story. The lady in question has to decide if she wishes to keep living in these circumstances. No amount of money or accommodation is worth tolerating abuse, to my mind. Maybe it is not so with her. Just giving her a chance to talk and consider her alternatives would be a start in the right direction. Perhaps staying with relatives may be an option for her to consider. She is the one who has to make the decision.

Dear Hillary,
Do you have to have a residency visa to be able to own a car in Pattaya? Some people tell me that you can buy one with just a tourist visa, and others say you have to have a non-immigrant B. I get a different story from everyone I ask. My situation is that I come over here regularly and would like to have a car, but I travel on a tourist visa only. Can you put me straight?


Dear Charlie,
It is correct, you must have a non immigrant B Visa to buy a car. You only need a drivers license and a credit card to rent a car.

Dear Hillary,
My Thai girlfriend is wonderful. I have no doubts that she is honest and is not like the terrible tales you hear with foreigners being ripped off all the time. We have been seeing each other every time I come over from Bahrain (every six weeks) and I am going to put her into a condo this next time. My worry is not her, but her mother. She always seems to be asking my girlfriend for money and I am sure she thinks I can always pay up. What should I do to make sure that when I put my girlfriend into a condo, that mother doesn’t come along too?


Dear Sam,
This is a frequent problem with Thai families. The parents always expect farang boyfriends and husbands to pay and pay heavily. May I suggest that you stop giving your girlfriend lots of cash. Also, are you able to discuss matters with her and explain that you are not prepared to live with her family or have them live with you? If you explain gently that this is not the farang custom, she may be able to accept. There are no guarantees though.

Dear Hillary,
I have an embarrassing problem. Bad breath. I’ve really had this for quite some time and just learned to live with it I guess. Recently I have met this really nice lady and before we get any closer I need to fix the breath problem. What suggestions do you have?


Dear Bill,
It is said that the most self defeating thing you can do for bad breath is to use mouthwashes. As soon as the astringency wears off your mouth feels worse than ever. Good oral hygiene, regular teeth cleaning and dental check-ups are important. Eating plain yogurt or acidophilus yogurt is said to help. So is drinking peppermint or rosemary tea. Perhaps breath fresh sprays from the pharmacy may be of some help occasionally.

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Phone cheat
A troubled Pattaya farang, whose new wife yawned with bored indifference throughout their nightly marital encounters, is furious after dialing an intimate help line. He first called up How To Satisfy Your Woman One where a recorded message reeled off such self evident advice as buying brightly colored pajamas and not eating too big a supper beforehand. He then dialed How To Satisfy Your Woman Two which was exactly the same word for word. When he complained to the company about this obnoxious rip off, he was told that the two lines were valuable in case you had difficulty getting through the first time.

Peace at last
Albert Norris, 81, a retired cobbler from Newcastle on Tyne and a self made man if ever there was, has had better luck with his particular recurring problem. His continuous snoring throughout the hours of darkness has been driving his nubile companion, 23, to absolute distraction in their modest hotel in downtown Soi 17. Not even herbal treatments nor a special face mask could stop the aggravating nightly cacophony. Unusually, local doctors were clueless what to suggest next. “Then I suddenly realized what to do,” exclaimed a joyful Albert. “I moved into another guest house without telling the wife.”

Television upgrade
In spite of all the criticism, UBC subscription satellite TV is recovering fast. The company is well on the way, Grapevine hears, to doubling the number of its subscribers compared with the pits at the bottom of the recession. The latest English language addition is X-Zyte (channel 37), a most entertaining 24 hour review of ghosts, magic, mysteries and light entertainment madness. If you are a UBC subscriber but fail to receive their monthly magazine, it’s probably because your name and address are not on that separately held computer file. Visit your local operator or the UBC headquarters in Ban Saen to check. But take with you your smart card number and the receipt for your subscription.

Pedophile arrests
In spite of continued sensationalism in the international media about child prostitution and Thailand, Pattaya offers no refuge for pedophiles. Whilst undercover police continue to patrol likely haunts and hotel receptionists mostly know the score, suspicious neighbors in housing estates are reporting instances of young children apparently living “off the scene” with single men. The excuse, sometimes used by the men, that they have the parents’ permission to bring up the child simply doesn’t wash any more. These days, imprisonment, huge fines and exposure are the price to be paid.

Price check
If you are the prudent type, it pays to check out costs in leading supermarkets and stores rather carefully at the moment. Gordon’s Gin (1.125 litre size) varies from 480 to 590 baht a bottle and Schweppes canned tonic weighs in anywhere from 11 to 14 baht. Readers report similar huge differences in local beers, coffee, cartons of cigarettes, imported whiskey and most goodies likely to be bought by high living expat community. Unlike in Europe and the States, some of the best buys are in corner shops, well away from the city center, even though choice there will be restricted.

Power to the people
Singapore’s Films Appeals Board has reversed a previous ruling of the censors and has allowed Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me to be promoted as it (or he) stands. At first, it had been decided that the title be changed to The Spy Who Shoiked Me, employing a “Singlish” term to replace what was seen as crude English debauchery. Interestingly, here in Thailand, the censors’ act of 1940 was not invoked to try and ban a movie which many say is indifferent anyway. A wise non move, that was.

Car fines
The police are particularly active along Second Road at the moment towing away illegally parked motor vehicles to the pound across from Soi 7. If your car is missing, best to go and check there first. The procedure, passport or Thai driving license in hand, is to pay 800 baht to the fines clerk in the main police station and then go to the pound to collect your vehicle. If, on the other hand, the vehicle has been stolen, the registered owner needs to take the log book to the police in order to spark any interest in official circles.

Pattaya perspectives
Reader RB shares with you his latest conclusions about Pattaya expat life. “How many Pattaya drunks does it take to change a light bulb?” - None, they just sit there in the dark and complain. “Why is it so difficult for local girls to find a farang who is kind, sensitive and caring?” - Because they already have boyfriends.

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Dining Out: A surprising Sunbeam

by Miss Terry Diner

Funny how life can catch you out some days. The world changes and evolves around you and unless you keep your eyes open, you can miss these new developments. This happened last week while driving up Soi 8. The Dining Out Team suddenly found a new restaurant had miraculously popped up at the front of the Sunbeam Hotel! Bright, shiny and inviting, like the smiles from the waitresses. We made a note to come back and try this new venture from the very progressive Sunbeam people, called Caf้ and Gateaux

The concept of the new bistro style eatery, according to K. Rungthip, the Managing Director of the Sunbeam Hotel, is to appeal to the farang population who would like a no-fuss meal in an outside environment, as well as provide an additional outlet for the increasing numbers of international guests in the hotel.

The area is in the forecourt of the hotel and is built up above the street level. A huge blue and white sun shade covers the restaurant, wooden furniture, cushions on the chairs and the atmosphere is open and clean.

The menu is multi page and begins with breakfasts for the hotel guests and then runs into a la carte suggestions. These are very extensive and cover steak, pork, fish and chicken dishes. The price range is around 120-180 Baht. Included in these are such favourites Chicken Maryland, Pork Cordon Bleu and Pepper Steak. Soups, and there are eight choices of all the usuals, are all 80 Baht. Salads are next in the menu (80-120 Baht) and cover Tuna, Smoked Chicken, Beef, Shrimp and Crab. Next up are the quick bites - sandwiches and burgers (80-100 Baht) and then on to a section called a la carte favourites that has many stir fries and curries, all around 80 Baht. From there it is a true Thai food section with soups and curries, generally around 80-150 Baht depending on serving size. If that is not enough, there is a separate section for omelettes and vegetarian dishes, noodles and ice creams and fruits.

As its name suggests, there are good choices of coffee and cakes in a separate menu as well.

For our evening we both began with Tom Kha Gai, the famous chicken in coconut milk soup. So often we are presented with a thin, soapy watery concoction far removed from the original recipe. This was not one of those. A large bowl of good thick hot soup. Not too chilli hot (we asked for mai pet) and decent sized pieces of chicken. So far, top marks.

For mains, madame chose an interesting dish - a Chicken Gumbo with French Fries, while I stayed with the Thai side and ordered a Thai pork stuffed omelette (Kai Yat Sai). The chicken was in two large drumsticks with a lovely loaded garlic and tartar sauce accompaniment. I must admit to purloining some of her chips and dipping furiously!

My Thai omelette was done perfectly. A thin light egg parcel with plenty of pork inside. I must admit to being very partial to Kai Yat Sai and this was one of the better ones. Nice fluffy white rice too.

We were too full to try their coffee and cakes, the servings of the food we had eaten being more than adequate, but the cakes all looked mouth-watering and not for the calorie counters.

Our impression of Caf้ and Gateaux was that this is a worthy addition to our bistro style restaurants. A new place to drop in for a good bite to eat, without it biting a hole in your wallet at the same time.

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Animal Crackers: Blue Tongue Skinks

by Mirin MacCarthy

Skinks are very secretive lizards and are found throughout most of the world. As opposed to the geckos you see here with the “sucker” pads on the feet, skinks have sharp pointed “fingers” and cannot walk up smooth surfaces like geckos can.

One of the most easily tamed skinks are the Blue Tongues. They are quite common in Australia and America and are a territorial lizard. Quite often you will find a Blue Tongue will live in your garden for many years. If you have a dog or cat, you may even see the lizard eating from the pet’s dinner bowls.

The different species of Blue Tongue all have heavily built, broad bodies set on small legs with delicate toes and have the broad, blunt triangular head typical of skinks. Their deep blue tongue vividly contrasts against the deep pink interior of the mouth.

The Common/Eastern Blue-Tongued Skinks grow to around 60 cm in length, so they are not small lizards.

Many people keep the Blue Tongues as pets, and they are quite easily tamed, as are any territorial animal. You will need a large enclosure for them, adults requiring at least 40-55 gal tanks. Substrate can be pine shavings, aspen shavings or cypress mulch. They also need a hide box. They are ground dwellers and so do not need tall branches or rocks for climbing, but they can climb, however, so top-opening tanks do need to be securely fastened. One area of slightly damp substrate should be kept, or a humidity retreat box (into which they can freely climb in and out, filled with damp sphagnum moss, for use during skin shedding periods).

They should have a bowl of water available at all times. The bowl should be big enough for them to climb easily in and out of as it is used by the Blue Tongues for bathing.

They are also omnivores, eating a mixture of plant and animal life. Their diet should be 60% plant, 40% animal. Frozen mixed vegetables (carrots and peas mixture) can be ground up in a food process and a calcium supplement added. This can be refrozen in serving sized blocks, or kept refrigerated for a week. Serve with a low fat canned dog food. Start with 1/2 teaspoon for a hatchling, working up to a tablespoon for adults. Mealworms, killed Zoophorba worms, and pre-killed baby mice (larger mice for adults) should be offered at meals 2-3 times a week in place of the dog food.

Blue Tongue skinks are very docile, curious lizards, but like many omnivorous and carnivorous lizards, wriggling human fingers look very much like small wriggling mice...and may try to eat one if they are hungry. You have been warned!

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Shaman’s Rattle: Find me some Water?

by Marion

Divining for water, called “Dowsing”, has been around for centuries. Like any aspect in our lives where we appear to be using paranormal powers, there are those who will vigorously deny and decry this form of divination. If science cannot explain it, then it must be wrong say the technocrats. If their god doesn’t mention it in their religious dogma then the churches will say it is wrong. From that background of distrust it becomes easy to see why persecution of people with “paranormal” abilities has occurred throughout the ages and in fact still occurs.

Dowsing is actually a form of divination that allows you to find things that you cannot detect with your ordinary five senses. Whilst the best known form is water divining, dowsing can be used to find metals, missing persons or even the car keys.

To dowse for anything you do need some tools, and for the dowser these are ‘Y’ rods, ‘L’ rods and pendulums. ‘Y’ rods are green sticks freshly cut, in the shape of a Y - a central branch with two side branches - although these days they can also be made of plastic. This is the traditional form of dowsing tool and is easily obtained from any handy small tree. Hazel is traditionally used in the UK, due it’s ability to retain it’s springiness. My husband, who can dowse, claims the best way is to hold the two side branches in the small finger of each hand and rotate the hands inwards to then have the central stem pointing forwards. The two side branches are then held under tension and the evoked response is the stem of the Y moving sharply up or down.

‘L’ rods are two pieces of metal rod bent into L shapes - these are easily made from wire coat hangers for example. They are held like pistols, with your elbows in at waist height, balanced in the hand rather than gripped, and the response is for the two long ends to swing apart or to cross over each other.

Pendulums, or plumb bobs, can be made from any small weight suspended on a string or fine chain. They are held with the weight hanging freely and the response is for it to swing clockwise, anti clockwise, back and forth or side to side. Traditionally, pregnant women used a pendulum made of their wedding ring to determine the sex of their unborn child. Is this a form of water divining perhaps - checking to see if there is a “spout” on it!

Pendulums are best used for map dowsing - finding the location of something or someone on a map. ‘Y’ and ‘L’ rods are best used for field dowsing outdoors, such as searching for water pipes, electric cables or buried treasure.

The principle behind dowsing is the same, no matter which tool is used. The dowser must hold a mental image of what must be located and then commence the search and wait for the dowsing rod to give a response. You need to almost not care what the answer will be, but to be totally open to the truth. As with all things, it takes practise before you can be confident that you are obtaining an objective response.

Many people explain dowsing by working out how the tool moves, which is almost certainly by unconscious muscle movements. That is, however, irrelevant. The real key to dowsing is how does your body know how to twitch at the right time? This is what makes dowsing a form of divination. The dowser must have that ability to tap into a source of knowledge or energy which is not known to all.

The results of dowsing can be spectacular, and have been able to be proven. In the early 50s, a geo-chemist, metallurgist, mining engineer and dowser named Stephan Riess predicted that a vast supply of water ran under the Mojave Desert. Riess’s conclusions were corroborated by a study done by civil engineers. Their findings revealed that there was, as Riess called it, primary water travelling in the deep rock fault system under the desert.

As proof of his theory, Riess drilled a number of deep, successful wells, and turned barren Californian desert land into fertile, productive acreage. However, his discovery was ignored by the politicians of the day. Why? It has been claimed that there was simply too much money to be made in the water transport systems in which the politicians had a vested interest.

In 1958, Riess’s work was noticed by the Israeli government and they invited him to find water for their new city of Eliat on the Red Sea’s Gulf of Aquaba. Riess met with the then Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion who gave the go-ahead for his search for water. On May 29, 1959, the Jerusalem Post announced that the Riess-located well was sufficient to supply a city of more than 100,000 people including industry and outlying villages!

In 1949 the island of Bermuda was hit by drought. Hydrologists declared that there was little underground fresh water available. However, Henry Gross map-dowsed from his home in Maine the general locations of four good freshwater sources in Bermuda. Gross was summoned to Bermuda and accurately pinpointed his locations which in turn were drilled for water. The wells were completed in 1950, and were able to produce 2 million gallons of fresh water per day for public consumption.

With water quality always a problem in Asia, perhaps we need a dowser in Pattaya too!

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Auto Mania: The Asian Market

by Dr. Iain Corness

It is being touted round the traps that Asia is the place to be if you are a motor manufacturer. After the downturn of a couple of years ago (“downturn” - you like that? Dead stop more likely!) things are on the way up. Predictions are that within 18 months Asia will be the fastest growing vehicle market in the world.

Looking at the Eastern Seaboard, you would have to agree that we are looking ahead to better days. The investment being put in by BMW, Ford/Mazda and General Motors is not just a money mopping exercise. They are investing some serious capital in this area.

The rebuilding of the local motor industry has been fairly extensive as well as expensive. Parent manufacturers have been “buying back” their manufacturing rights and there is also now much more direct involvement with the overseas parent manufacturer. BMW and Daimler-Chrysler spring to mind immediately.

On the very local front, as well as the BeeEmm, GeeEmm, FoMoCo group, there is the VW assembly plant on the way, Nissan at Laem Chabang and possibly even Benz as well.

The 4th Roundtable Conference on the Automotive Industry in Asia is going to be held in Bangkok in October, and some of the issues affecting growth and sales will be aired. It will be necessary for Industry and Government to co-operate to ensure that Thailand gets its fair share of the exploding cake!


After watching Mika Hakkinen’s rear tyre disintegrate at high speed at the Grand Prix, it makes you think about the technology necessary to keep those round black rubber things together.

If you take a look at the World Land Speed Record and other milestones in motoring, it makes you realise what an incredible job tyres actually do. Mind you, our Mika hasn’t been the only one to have a sudden delamination. Back in Australia a few years back, “Our Nige”, the whining Brummie, did a fantastic job when one of his rears let go around 250 kph. The front-on footage of his fight with the car down the straight is a classic.

One fellow who did not do as well as Nigel or Mika was poor old Percy Lambert. He was the first to exceed 100 MPH for one hour, driving a 25 HP Talbot at the Brooklands circuit in 1913. Later that year, while trying to retake his record from Peugeot, a tyre burst and Percy was killed when the Talbot rolled down the banking.

In 1927 Parry Thomas lost his life when the rear wheel collapsed after a presumed tyre failure, breaking the drive chain which decapitated the Welshman. In those days, the record on the Pendine Sands was standing at 170 MPH.

The reliability of tyres today is also such that most motorists never even give them a second thought. Way back at the start of this century, a good set of tyres might last 1000 miles! It is said that George Lanchester, while delivering a car to Rudyard Kipling, had 21 blow-outs on the 320 km drive from Birmingham to Kipling’s home.

With the Grand Prix crews now able to refuel and change 4 tyres in under 10 seconds, pity the racers at the dawn of motor sport. The three man crews at the Gordon Bennett Trophy races in 1905 amazed everyone with their speed in a single wheel change, getting the time down from an agonising 15 minutes to under 5.

Of course, pneumatic tyres are not new, and the Michelin name has been associated with competition for more than a century. Andre Michelin’s De Dion Bouton steamer winning the first speed hill climb in the world in 1897. His car’s victory was attributed to the pneumatic tyres, with the runner up on a more powerful machine only having solid tyres. The famous Michelin ‘X’ were also the first radial ply tyres and came out in 1953. Oh gawd, was it really that long ago!

Dunlop, another stalwart of motor sport, gave the aforementioned Parry Thomas his first record in 1924, at over 110 MPH for one hour at Brooklands. Up till their use, he had been plagued with tyre changes during the duration of the competition. It was Dunlop, too, who “re-invented” the tubeless tyre in 1953, even though they had been used (with no success) in the 1890s.

Firestone were first onto the market with the “balloon” tyre in 1923 and the 1924 Chrysler were specially designed for them.

Pneumatic tyres only dominated the market, however, after 1929 as the Trojan people were still selling the XL Trojan with solid tyres up till then. No, the pneumatic tyre has certainly gone a long way.

I can remember the first “real” racing tyres I ever used. They were Dunlop R5’s which were a treaded tyre - hands up anyone old enough to remember them? They were not new, but were hand-me-downs from a mate, who in turn had received them as cast-offs from someone else! There was enough rubber to last 5 laps if I was lucky, and most of them started my races being bald to start with. When I think about it, I probably “invented” slicks! Whatever, they were just so much better than road tyres that I never raced on road rubber again.

Autotrivia Quiz

Last week the quiz revolved around the 1940 Mille Miglia. What was so special about the 1940 event was that it was run over nine laps of a 100 mile circuit, rather than the usual “proper” route. Never mind the fact that it was run while “hostilities” were in progress (what a lovely term for Adolf’s bunfight)!

OK, to this week. The mid engine position is almost de rigeur for the exotic sports car these days. Ferrari, Lamborghini and even the humble Toyota MR2 boast this layout. For the week’s FREE beer, what was the first production sports car with this mid engine layout? Fax to 427 596 or email [email protected] and be first in with the correct answer. Good luck! By the way, no trick question with this one. Hint - it was in the 60s, so some of you are even old enough to have seen one in the flesh.

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Fitness Tips: Reading Food Labels

by David Garred,
Club Manager Dusit Resort Sports Club

G’day all,

Further to last week’s column on grazing through mealtime, this week I want to suggest how we select foods for optimal benefit. It is all in the label.

An important part of choosing healthy, nutritious food is knowing how to read food labels. Unfortunately, labels have their own language, and it is not always easy separating fact from fiction. The Dewy Decimal system of the supermarket can be more confusing than the on back at University. The best starting point is learning what a manufacturer has to tell you, as opposed to the information they volunteer in order to convince you to buy!

Ingredient listing

In many countries of the world all manufacturers are required to list their ingredients in descending order according to their relative proportion by weight. Although by no means an exact measure, this list will give you an indication of the relative amounts of the different ingredients that make up the food. Be aware, some of the manufacturers will use several kinds of sugar (EG, fructose, lactose, maltose, molasses, treacle, golden syrup, icing sugar, honey) or fat (EG, shortening, vegetable fat, vegetable oil, beef fat, butter, margarine, cocoa butter, Canola oil, and milk solids) so that each one will be present in a smaller proportion and will not be seen to be the major ingredient in the product.

Nutrition panels

Fat, carbohydrate and protein content determine the energy provided by food. Food energy is measured in either kilojoules (kJ) or calories (American usage). To change kilojoules to calories you divide by 4.184.

Fat provides 37 kJ per gram, carbohydrate 16 kJ, and protein 17 kJ. You can use the nutrition panel on foods to estimate the percentage of total kilojoules provided by each of these nutrients. Simply multiply the above kilojoules per gram by the number of grams per serving. Then divide this figure by the total kilojoule level of the product (see examples below).

The average person should aim for a daily energy (kJ) intake made up of 50% to 60% carbohydrates, 30% fat and 20% protein. These are general guidelines only and will vary between individuals, depending on a number of factors including physical activity level, weight loss goals, etc.

Comparing products

When comparing products for energy, fat, sugar and sodium (salt) content, be sure to check that the serving size is consistent across all the products. Some manufacturers give smaller serving sizes than others, so make sure you are comparing equal amounts (i.e., look at the ‘per 100 gram’ information, rather than the per serving information).

Sugar and Salt content

The body’s needs for sodium are estimated at 920 to 2,300 milligrams per day. However, the average person takes in 10 to 20 times that amount, much of which comes from processed foods. The true name for table salt is Sodium Chloride and ingredient lists will classify salt under either title. If a nutrition panel is present it is possible to estimate the amount of salt in a product by looking at the sodium content. Be aware of hidden salts in processed foods. For example a vegemite sandwich (the stuff that almost all Aussies are reared upon) provides 480 milligrams of sodium, of which only 150 comes from the vegemite itself, the rest comes from the processed bread and margarine - now there is a truly shocking example.

To find out the sugar content of a food, refer to the ‘total sugar’ figure listed on the label. Adults should aim to take in about 5% to 10% or less of their kilojoules from sugar. For an average female this would be approximately 25 to 45 grams, and 30 to 60 grams for a male per day.

Misleading claims

A food classified as low fat must not contain more than 3 grams total fat per 100 grams. If classified as fat-free the food must not contain more than 0.15g total fat per 100g of the product. Do not be tricked into believing that foods claiming to be low in cholesterol are also low in fat. Cholesterol is a type of fat from animal sources such as meat and eggs. A product such as olive oil, made from vegetable sources, may make the claim ‘no cholesterol’ but it is still 100% fat. Also be cautious of claims such as 95% fat free - this equates to 5 g of fat in 100g of the product, but if the actual serving size is 500g, then you are still taking in a total of 25g of fat.

Nutrient kJ/gram G/serve  Total kJ provided 
by nutrient energy
 / serve
Total kJ  % of
* 3.7
* 41.2
* 12.5
136.9 /
659.2 /
212.5 /
1050 (*100)
1050 (*100)
1050 (*100)


  Finally, yes I understand that no foods manufactured in Thailand are required to have this amount of information printed on the label by law. As I mentioned at the start of the article, many foreign countries are.

I also understand that imported foods are more expensive than locally produced foods, but don’t you think that for the sake of the health of your family and of yourself and for your own piece of mind that the extra expense is justified?

Carpe’ diem

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Updated by Chinnaporn Sangwanlek.