Family Money: Spoiled for choice?
Managing director of Westminster Portfolio Services (Thailand) Ltd.
Ask any growth investor to define the ultimate
investment and the response will invariably be the same: one that provides
good capital growth with absolute capital security. Fat chance. If things
were that easy, the financial services industry in its entirety would be
sun-soaking on Jomtien or Patong Beach. Financial advisers are continually
faced with the challenge of helping clients who want the ideal scenario,
but who must accept reality. Sadly, reality has teeth which bite, as
evidenced during the past two years.
The investing public is not (always) completely
unrealistic in its views, and advisers can provide solutions that offer
real benefits. With most traditional investments, however, neither the
potential return nor the effect on the capital invested is quantified in
any way which is meaningful to the investor.
The most traditional investment ‘safe-house’ still
has to be the bank or building society deposit account. Total capital
security is what they offer (subject to the creditworthiness of the
institution concerned) along with interest on your investment. However,
prevailing low interest rates coupled with inflation (even at current low
levels) mean returns on many of these accounts are now negative in real
terms. Hence the very investors who are primarily concerned with capital
security are seeing their capital eroded by inflation.
With-profits, bonds proved a popular choice for many
years, offering the cautious investor’s fantasy of stock market-type
returns with low risk to capital. The perception had grown over a number
of years that this was an investment which steadily grew by smoothing out
the peaks and troughs of the stock market’s investment returns. However,
recent events in the UK have changed the nature of the investment,
exposing its flaws and weaknesses. The complexities of the product and the
arbitrariness of the returns declared are now openly criticised where once
they were ignored. Importantly, the investment gives no indication of
capital security - nor does it offer an indication of the returns which
might be achieved when both annual and terminal bonuses are being slashed.
Unit trusts offer no such pretensions of being able to
provide capital security or defined returns, but they have developed other
ways in which to reassure investors that their risk profile might be right
for them. This can range from the use of risk-grading (cautious, balanced,
aggressive, opportunity), to the use of different asset classes (corporate
bonds, property, traded endowments, equities) to the reassurance that the
investment is being managed by a ‘star fund manager’.
These methods provide fund management companies with a
means of promoting funds to particular ‘customer profiles’ but in
reality they are as clear as mud. No indication is given of potential
returns or losses within these profiles, and there is no evidence that
managed funds can consistently outperform passive investment vehicles. The
danger here is too much risk for too little reward.
In the midst of the turmoil in investment markets,
protected investment funds become popular with conservative or nervous
investors. While these funds do not represent a panacea for cautious
investors, they can offer a more clearly defined investment option.
On the plus side, they are designed so that they say
exactly what they do and do exactly what they say. First, you choose a
capital protection level for the next period (usually a quarter or a
year): typically this ranges between 95% and 100%. This means the
investment value cannot fall below the selected level, regardless of what
the market does. Then look at the potential return. Again, this is defined
in advance - either as a fixed bonus or a percentage of the growth of the
market index. Investors cannot predict what the market will do, but they
can define what their investment will do in relation to it and protect
themselves from the downward movements.
On the negative side, these funds are much
misunderstood. Far from being ‘fatally flawed’ by the ‘high cost of
protection’, they offer a means of providing real growth potential with
real, defined capital protection. It is also possible to devise investment
strategies for the most conservative of investors, which can ultimately
lead to high-risk investment without taking them out of their comfort
The conservative investor wants to conserve his
original investment. That’s a given. But he also wants a decent return
without risking his capital. Managed funds can fall by any amount at any
time, no matter how skilled the manager might be (just look at the last
two years), so these funds are unsuitable. Even the credo of ‘hold for
the long term’ is scarcely satisfying to someone who will not accept the
investment value falling below the original level. Similarly, with-profits
funds are subject to unquantifiable bonus allocations, while deposit
accounts offer an unacceptably low return.
By combining protected funds with different capital
protection levels, though, it is possible to progress into funds with a
higher risk / reward definition without damaging the initial investment.
Starting simply with funds providing 100% protection and a reward profile
linked to a stock market index, the investment value cannot fall. At least
$100 will be returned on a $100 investment regardless of what the stock
market might do. Thus, when the bear starts to bite, the investor can sit
back and relax.
When the market rises, though, so does the fund. On the
negative side the increase is a fraction of that achieved by the market,
typically only about 20% of it, depending on market circumstances. On the
plus side, though, with 100% protection, that increase is locked in.
The investor now has the luxury of choice: lock in the
growth and retain 100% capital protection or take more risk for more
reward. For instance, if the fund had grown by 2.5% over a quarter, the
investor could afford to take more risk by selecting a fund with 98%
capital protection. In this case, the investor can take such a risk
because he is not exposing his initial investment - he is in fact betting
with the house’s money! If the worst happens, the fund loses 2% - but
the original investment is intact. The investor then reverts to 100%
capital protection. If the fund grows again, the investor can potentially
go all the way into a fund with 95% capital protection, offering more than
100% of the stock market growth.
This safe combination of protected funds means that
investors can step along the risk / reward spectrum at their own pace and
entirely under their own control. It represents a safe combination of
absolute capital protection combined with the potential for attractive
long-term capital returns.
Snap Shot: Wild and Weird
by Harry Flashman
One of the biggest problems when selecting photographs
to hang on your wall (and you should always think about “showing” your
original work) is to find a shot with enough ‘oomph’ to make people
sit back and notice. That problem is now over. This weekend you will come
back with photographs that are practically psychedelic. The end result
will be such that people will say for years “How in heck did you take
that? Was it a special kind of filter?”
Well, the good news is that you do not need to know
anything about filters. The next fact is that you also do not need to know
anything about f stops, shutter speeds, zoom lenses, reciprocity failure
or the like. The special photographs we will end with can be taken by
anybody with a fully automatic point and shoot compact camera. And that
The first step is to pop down to the photoshop and buy
some slide film. Yes, slide film! Don’t say you haven’t got a
projector, never used slide film before or any other of the excuses I hear
people say when Harry here mentions slide film. If you normally use 100
ASA print film then get some 100 ASA slide film. Do not get Kodachrome
because you have to send it away for processing, just get ordinary slide
film that can be processed here in Pattaya. Look for the cheapest - it
will be perfect for what you want.
Now load up and let’s go and shoot. The project will
work best with some good landscapes or seascapes and there are excellent
ones here. Pop down to Jomtien and take some shots of boats on the water
and then some of the beach scenes. Now get in the car and go up to Buddha
Mountain and take some shots there. Or to Wat Yarn for more spectacular
scenes and finish the roll of film.
Now take the film back to the shop for processing and
here is an important part. You ask for E6 slide processing, but say, “DO
NOT MOUNT THE SLIDES!” Leave the slides either as a roll or cut into
strips of 6 and put in sleeves like your usual print film negatives.
Impress this on the girl behind the counter. You do NOT want them mounted.
When you get the transparency films back, just hold
them up to the light and select any one shot that you like the look of (or
even only half like, it doesn’t matter!). Go back to the photo
processing shop with the following instructions, “I want you to print
number X as if this is a negative. I know it is a slide, but I want you to
print a picture, using this slide as the negative.” It will probably
take quite some repeating before the technician will reluctantly take the
job on, with much warnings about it will not look right etc. Ignore all
warnings, just have faith in Harry Flashman.
While you are at it, tell them that you do not want the
usual size, but get an enlargement done straight off. 10 x 8 is sufficient
and costs around 80 baht, but be brave and even order a 16 x 12. Repeat
your instructions, tell them you know the colour will be wrong and leave
them to it.
You see, what happens with colour prints is that the
processing machine recognizes certain “colours” in the negative and
converts them to green for grass, blue for skies etc., in a photochemical
way. By giving the autoprocessor grass that is already green and skies
that are already blue totally confuses its auto brain (and the girl in the
shop usually) and it will produce a print with the wildest psychodelic
colours you will ever see. Expect orange trees and yellow skies - you can
get anything! It is almost impossible to predict, but the end result will
be wild. Try it this weekend. You will not be disappointed.
Modern Medicine: Are you a Trekkie? Now see the Trials of Trekking
by Dr Iain Corness, Consultant
By Trekkie, I do not mean the endless legions of couch
potatoes who sit and watch endless re-runs of space travel fantasy. I mean
the boots and battledress type.
Quite a number of my friends, over the years, have gone
trekking. To be perfectly frank, I have no idea why, but for some it has
become a sort of annual pilgrimage, the jungles of South East Asia being a
seemingly irresistible lure.
However, like all pursuits undertaken when one leaves
the relative safety of home, there are certain precautions that should be
taken by those thinking of indulging in the odd jaunt through the jungles.
In today’s parlance, this is called being “proactive”, which is
merely the buzz word for what we all used to call forward planning or even
So what would I recommend for today’s trekker? Well,
to start with, there are some vaccinations that should be done, with the
two Hepatitis vaccines for Hep A and Hep B being high on the list. Another
is Typhoid vaccine, which though not a 100% cover, is better than none.
The usual cover for polio and tetanus should also be brought up to date,
as many people tend to let these slip. How long is it since you had a
booster? Too long, I’ll wager.
The next couple are also, in my mind, very necessary.
The first is rabies - I have no idea what the prevalence of rabies is in
Nepal - but I would imagine it is not much different from other places in
Asia. Rabies is also not one disease you want to get, because otherwise
you do not trek home - you come back neatly encased in a wooden box.
The second is Meningococcal vaccine to protect against
a group of very nasty bugs. Unfortunately, Nepal has had outbreaks of
Meningococcal disease, and it is quite contagious in the closely packed
groups of backpackers. Vaccination is painless and side effects are
generally mild. Protection lasts up to three years. You have been warned.
I would also scan the press for current regions of hostilities, for the
same wooden box reasons!
Of course, when considering trudging along the hot and
steamy jungles, you also have to remember that this is a high fluid loss
pursuit, so you need to remain well hydrated. Additional water supplies
should be taken with you - jungle streams, if you find one, may not have
safe drinking water.
There is also the problem of snakes, vermin and
leeches, assorted beasties and creepy crawlies that delight on feasting
off the itinerant backpacker. Long trousers, long sleeves and stout boots
are a necessity.
Of course, to really get involved in trekking, you
should also remember that you must be of reasonable fitness to begin with.
If you are an overweight cigarette smoking 50 year old, then don’t
bother signing up for the trek of a lifetime. It could be your last (see
wooden box cautionary item)!
No, while I am sure that the jungle trekking adventure
does appeal to many - just remember that the trekking diseases may not be
quite so appealing. Sensible precautions, vaccinations and a health check
before you sign on the dotted line are really in order.
Women’s World: A puff a day
by Lesley Warner
After telling all you ladies how bad alcohol is for you
I couldn’t leave out smoking, so here goes!
A woman’s annual risk for death more than doubles
among smokers compared with persons who have never smoked.
The risk for dying of lung cancer is 20 times higher
among women who smoke two or more packs of cigarettes per day than among
women who do not smoke. The signs of a lung problem are a cough that
won’t go away, sputum (secretion coughed up from the lungs streaked with
blood), chest pain and recurring attacks of pneumonia or bronchitis.
Unfortunately, lung cancer is often discovered in advanced stages of the
disease, when it is difficult to treat and it is too late to be cured by
surgery. Only 13 percent of lung cancer patients live 5 or more years
after it is diagnosed.
There are also increased risks for liver, cervical
cancer and cancers of the pancreas and kidney. Postmenopausal women who
currently smoke have lower bone density than women who do not smoke.
We tend to assume that it is men that have heart
attacks but smoking is a major cause of coronary heart disease among
women. Nicotine increases the heart rate by 15 - 25 beats per minute and
blood pressure goes up by 15 - 25 points. When combined with high blood
pressure and high blood cholesterol, smoking multiplies the risk of having
a heart attack. Those women smokers who also use oral contraceptives are
10 times more at risk of having a heart attack.
The benefits of not smoking start within days of
quitting, and risk is substantially reduced within 1 or 2 years. This
immediate benefit is followed by a more gradual reduction in risk to that
among nonsmokers by 10 to 15 or more years after cessation. As the carbon
monoxide level in your blood decreases, the oxygen level increases.
Another factor that is apparent in the surveys is the
association of smoking and depression. This is particularly important
among women because they are more likely to be diagnosed with depression
It is felt that women have been extensively targeted in
cigarette marketing. Tobacco companies have even produced brands
specifically for women. Innumerable ads and promotions are targeted at
women and such marketing is dominated by themes of both social
desirability and independence, which are conveyed through ads featuring
slim, attractive, athletic models.
A high percentage of women stop smoking during
pregnancy, both spontaneously and with assistance, than at other times in
their lives. Only about one-third of women who stop smoking during
pregnancy are still abstinent one year after the delivery. Babies born to
women who smoke during pregnancy weigh, on the average, 7 ounces less than
babies born to nonsmoking women.
How to quit: first you have to have a reason and then a
firm commitment to try. It is no good doing it for someone else; it has to
be something you want to do for yourself. Try to avoid negative thoughts
about how difficult it might be. List all the reasons you want to quit and
review the reasons every day. It sometimes helps to set a target date for
quitting - maybe a birthday, your anniversary, or some other day of
personal significance. On the day you quit, throw away all your cigarettes
and matches, and hide your ashtrays and lighter.
Typical triggers to smoking include working under
pressure, feeling blue, finishing a meal, watching television, having a
drink and watching someone else smoke. Anticipate these things and prepare
to avoid them. Find activities that make smoking difficult. Exercise,
drink more fluids, get plenty of rest and avoid fatigue. Avoid places
where smoking is permitted. Reduce your consumption of alcohol, which
often stimulates the desire to smoke. When you do get the urge try and
remember why and avoid placing yourself in that situation again.
Many people who are considering quitting, especially
women, are concerned about gaining weight. Quitting does not necessarily
result in weight gain. About one-third of ex-smokers gain weight, but
another one-third actually loses a few pounds. When ex-smokers gain
weight, it is usually because they eat more to give them something to do
with their hands. On average, expect to gain anywhere from 5 to 20 pounds.
Your weight gain can be minimal if you eat low-fat foods and exercise.
Heart to Heart with Hillary
While it appears that everyone enjoys your column
(except perhaps those writers who cannot spell, I notice), do they
honestly think they are going to get “professional” advice, or are
they just in it for the laugh too? What do you think? It has intrigued me
for some time and I really do want to see what you think of it from your
side of the fence.
What an interesting character you have, Enquirer.
From my side of the fence, indeed! Just where do you think I am when I
write my replies, Petal? In some sort of zoo, perhaps? And are you on the
outside looking in - or are you on the inside looking out? Any advice
column such as this has writers who try their best to honestly and
sincerely answer the queries as they are presented. If the tone of the
letter is serious, then it gets answered in the same way. If, however, it
is flippant, then it gets replied to like the way this one was!
This is a real problem. I am in love with two beautiful
Thai girls. Both of them work in the same bar, so it is difficult for me
to favour one over the other, and I really cannot make up my mind just
which one I should settle on. Even taking either one out of the bar
without the other knowing would be hard. Have you any tips for a young man
in my situation? I am serious and want this relationship to last (with the
right one). But how do I find which one it is. What tests can I do? By the
way, I am a well endowed and energetic man, so I need to have a
“stayer” if you can understand me.
There’s lots you can do. For a start, you can take
both out for the evening together and let them scratch each other’s eyes
out. Select the one who can still see at the end. Or alternatively, you
can get them to weigh all their gold chains and necklaces. The one with
the most gold is obviously smarter than the other, but do not worry overly
so, Perplexed. Both of them are obviously smarter than you, my well
endowed little Petal. The endowment does not stretch as far as the brain,
it seems. Pity that. If it did, you wouldn’t be wasting Hillary’s time
with self-serving fatuous letters such as yours.
I read all these letters from dejected and disappointed
males who have found they have been ripped off by some girl somewhere in
Pattaya. Surely the answer for the next wave of unsuspecting males is for
them to run some sort of security check on the girl of their dreams. There
are places that will do this sort of service locally. I ran a check on my
girl and found that she was ripping me off behind my back while I was
working overseas. I saved much more money than it cost. It must be a
thought, surely? You would have to agree.
Dear Safety Sam,
Credit checks are done by banks who give loans,
security checks are done by companies with industrial secrets to hide, but
are the males who come to Pattaya ready to pay for “lovers” checks?
With “affairs of the heart” reason goes out the window, Sam. We are
not talking about a commodity here - we are talking about that emotion
called love, one of the strongest driving forces in the world. A force
that has sparked revolutions and wars. Remember that the famous Thai tale,
the Ramakien is the love story of how Rama spent many years striving to
get his wife Sita back, even though it took battles and destruction to do
it. Logic does not come into it. You are too logical, Sam. I hope you and
the bank manager will be very happy with each other.
Are there any other people like me for whom bartering
to buy anything is a process which I agony over. I really would just
prefer to know the price and pay for it, but my friends all tell me that
you have to barter as it is an accepted part of trade in Asia. What can I
do, Hillary? There must be more people like me.
Dear Agonized Annie
Simple! You can just pay the first asking price and
live with the knowledge that you have been ripped off and the shopkeeper
thinks you are a fool. Or you can shop only in large supermarkets which
have fixed prices. Then of course, you can send the maid out to do the
shopping for you. There are some aspects of living in Asia which are part
of the lifestyle here. There are similar kinds of “ethnic” practices
in other countries, like queuing in the United Kingdom, or going mad over
the Super Bowl in America. Learn to like it, Annie, or be prepared to
accept whatever the maid comes home with. The choice is yours. This is not
the western world.
Why English is so difficult
We’ll begin with a box, and the plural is
boxes; but the plural of ox becomes oxen not oxes.
One fowl is a goose, but two are called geese,
yet the plural of moose should never be meese.
You may find a lone mouse or a nest of mice; yet
the plural of house is houses, not hice.
If the plural of man is always called men, why
shouldn’t the plural of pan be called pen?
If I spoke of my foot and show you my feet, and I
give you a boot, would a pair be called beet?
If one is a tooth and a whole set are teeth, why
shouldn’t the plural of booth be called beeth?
We speak of a brother and also of brethren, but
though we may mother, we never say methren.
Then the masculine pronouns and he, his and him,
but imagine the feminine she, shis and shim.
No money for you
A farang is having trouble leaving Thailand after
giving all his assets to various unaccountable charities. He met
Lucky, the girl of his dreams, in a horizontal leisure center not
far from the Soi Yodsak joy bars. Romance soon bloomed and the
farang found himself funding the hip operations of miscellaneous
family members as well as a specially adapted motorbike for
Lucky’s brother who had only one leg. Lucky herself succeeded in
emptying the farang’s local bank account and cashing all his
traveler’s cheques. At long last, the bankrupt farang wanted to
leave for the airport and asked Lucky for the cab fare and the
airport departure tax. However, she said she had no money for items
like that as she needed to buy food for her four hungry children.
Good value Apex
Concerned about rising prices throughout Asia and
particularly in Pattaya? You can still be comfortably accommodated
and well fed in Pattaya for under 700 baht a day. An airconditioned
room at the Apex Hotel on Second Road will set you back 450 baht. If
you choose to eat the breakfast and evening meal buffets at 85 baht
and 149 baht respectively, you could survive almost indefinitely and
without any substantial grumbles. The breakfast, by the way, has a
full range of cereals, fruit, bacon, eggs and all the trimmings.
Coffee and tea are available in unrestricted amounts. Recommended by
GEOC (Grapevine Eating Out Collective).
The better alternative
An architect, an artist and a computer programmer were
discussing whether it was better to have a wife or a mistress. The
architect said he enjoyed time with his wife, building a solid foundation
for an enduring relationship. The artist said he enjoyed time with his
mistress because of the passion and mystery he found there. The computer
programmer, however, said that he preferred to have both. “Both?”
queried his friends. “Yes,” said the programmer, “If you have a wife
and a mistress, they’ll each assume you are spending time with the other
woman, leaving you plenty of time to mess about on the computer.”
KY asks whether you still have to leave the country
even though you are found not guilty of an offence by the Thai courts. The
answer is ‘Yes’ but you will not be under formal deportation and will
not spend the final days in the police station cells. By the time you are
found not guilty in court, your visa will almost surely have expired. The
police will normally give you two weeks or so to leave the country under
your own steam. Finally, you will be liable for overstay charges at the
airport unless you have obtained through your lawyer a letter explaining
why you are late leaving. People found not guilty will not normally have a
problem re-entering the country, although Thailand along with all other
countries in the world reserves the right to blacklist without going into
More English anomalies
The farm was used to produce produce.
The dump was so full that it had to refuse more refuse.
We must polish the Polish furniture.
The soldier decided to desert his dessert in the
The insurance is invalid for an invalid.
How can I intimate this to my most intimate friend?
I spent last evening evening out a pile of dirt.
When shot at, the dove dove into the bushes.
Upon seeing a tear in the painting I shed a tear.
There was a row amongst oarsmen about how to row.
Antiques, are they genuine? Signatures and attributions
by Apichart Panyadee
Once the material has been established as ivory it may
still be necessary to consider the matter of attribution in some detail
before deciding a carving is altogether genuine. East is East and West is
West and the twain certainly does not meet over the attitude toward
imitation. The 18th and 19th century netsuke-shi were not regarded as
artists but as craftsmen of a lower order. Only rarely did they achieve
any recognition for their skills. As such, they frequently did not sign
their work, particularly in the 18th century. Those
who did achieve a degree of fame were unashamedly copied by their
contemporaries. Sometimes the imitators included the famous signature, but
often they did not.
modern resin netsuke. The chip on the prow has exposed the white,
A truly successful carver was most likely unable to
supply the total demand for his work and would employ pupils who would
copy the master’s work as closely as possible. The student would start
with roughing out the shapes until he was skilled enough to undertake the
whole carving on its own. Occasionally a pupil would subsequently set up
his own shop, but many continued to work in a master’s studio. As a
result, there were not only a great many unsigned pieces, but pieces were
originally signed in ways that can now be extremely confusing.
The Japanese, as in the West, have a surname (written
first) and a given name. But these names are not always their working
names. It was much more common to adopt a professional name which could be
changed several times throughout a craftsman’s life. Kaigyokudo
Masatsugu, for example, signed variously; Masatsugu, Kaigokudo, Kaigyoku
and Kaigokusai. He also used an adoptive family name. A pupil would adopt
one character of his master’s name, which aids the tracing of a
particular school, but overall it is difficult to attribute all but the
greatest carving with certainty.
base of the same boat showing the molded signature “Tomochika” and the
age cracks of the original model.
The matter is complicated by the Japanese love of
travel within their country. The carvers would have been influenced by
work from other centers that they passed through. Attributing netsuke to a
particular artist working in a particular center is therefore fraught with
difficulties. All that we can do is look for likelihoods. The signature
may provide some clues. Perhaps the first character is badly engraved and
hesitantly formed, the second slightly better, the third better still, and
so on. This would indicate the trepidation with which the forger embarked
upon his work and his increasing confidence.
There is a trend in connoisseurship to make the mistake
of believing that a netsuke that is carved by a pupil in the style of his
master and bearing his signature is in some way less powerful or inventive
than one might expect from the master. Many feel that if the work is even
partly done by a pupil that it is the work of a follower and thereby less
a work of art, or an outright forgery. But we must remember that great
artists do not always turn out masterpieces. The muse deserts them, they
have off days, and financial pressures often enforce second rate work. One
has only to look at some of the rubbish turned out by Picasso to see the
truth of this, but no one doubts his standing as a major artist of the
There seems to be a preference for signed netsuke, over
the unsigned, although the quality may be no better. But the preference is
sufficient to tempt fakers to indulge in a little “attribution” and
sign an unsigned piece. This may spoil a good piece as most collectors,
when told that their perfectly genuine Tomatada bore a later signature,
would rate it less highly. It goes without saying that only the signatures
of major artists are liable to be forged.
Animal Crackers: Red Bellied Black Snake
by Mirin E. McCarthy
I was born and bred in Australia of Irish ancestry and
my father taught me the ways of the bush. Amazingly, his father, an Irish
Catholic immigrant in the 1911 Irish potato famine quickly learned the
habits of the Aussie creatures. As a policeman in the outback Queensland
town of Bananna (where Dad was born) his father taught all his 7 children
the lore of their adopted country.
though urbanised city girls, our entire family spent every available
opportunity either camping, bushwalking or on seaside holidays. In
addition to campfire cooking, Dad taught us the names of all the trees,
animals, reptiles and birds as well as their habits.
Now Aussie men generally are paranoid about all snakes
whether venomous or not and believe it is their God given duty to bludgeon
them all to death at every opportunity, or blast them into the hereafter
with shotguns. This macho behaviour did not extend to our family, though
Dad did have a healthy respect for the wildlife, especially in breeding
season. Perhaps there is some truth in the rumour that Saint Patrick drove
all the snakes out of Ireland so they went to Australia and became
My first encounter with snakes was at Lone Pine
Sanctuary, some forty-five years ago when my sister made a beeline to
cuddle the koalas, I just had to have a photo with a (milked) taipan
draped around my neck. I was twisted even as a child.
I can still picture the day I came toe to snout with a
red bellied black snake. My father was always a bit of a larrikin and we
had been traipsing through the bush at Gold Creek for hours, with Dad
constantly teasing us by calling, “Watch out there’s a spider” and
“Careful there’s a goanna!” So when he said, “Don’t move
there’s a snake!” I just laughed and walked on.
I was instantly shocked when Dad grabbed me by the arm
and threw me four feet away behind him. Coiled, head raised and ready to
strike was a glistening black snake that I would have certainly trodden
on. Now red bellied blacks are not extremely venomous except to the
elderly and small children and they are usually shy creatures who slide
away at the first opportunity. This, however, was summer nesting season
and she was on her nest.
My mother sardonically related the tale of ‘the boy
who called wolf’ on the way back and I learned a huge lesson to always
watch where I put my big flat feet when walking through the bush.
Some facts to ease
anxiety if planning a trip to the Land Down Under
The following is from Brian Bush, herpetologist. SNAKES
Harmful & Harmless - specialising in reptile education.
“Australia’s snakes are the most venomous only if
you are a mouse. That’s right, when anyone refers to the strength of the
snakes’ venom they are using the LD50 data (applicable to mortality in
mice test injected with venom). So are you a man or a mouse!
Only 34 deaths have occurred due to snakes Australia
wide in 20 years between 1980-2000.
Although 2,000-3,000 people are believed bitten by
snakes each year in Australia, less than 200 require antivenom treatment.
Many more people die from bee’s stings and motor
vehicle accidents than snakebite.
No one has ever died from snakebite in Australia after
correct pressure bandage and immobilisation first aid has been applied.
With appropriate footwear, an awareness of snakes
poisonous and not, and bush walking instead of running, there is no need
to worry about snakes.”
Social Commentary by Khai Khem
I am endowed with friends and family who have twin
diseases: a love of travel and a penchant for hospitality. Both are
incurable. Of course when I travel I am the grateful recipient of both.
But since I live in Pattaya, this is a disastrous combination when the
tables are turned. Everyone wants to come to Pattaya. I have never lived
in another city as popular a destination for friends and relatives as this
famous sea-side resort. However, my work demands the occasional need for
solitude. I also try to keep regular hours and an orderly life with time
to read and all the other advantages that burying myself in my home office
allows. But after years in Pattaya, I have found that burial doesn’t
work. Someone is always trying to exhume me.
When I first moved out of Bangkok, I was given a
“going away” party and a prophecy of things to come in the form of a
visitor’s book. Of course I never used it. I should have. During my
first year in Jomtien Beach I had a total of 7 weeks to myself out of a
possible fifty two. Visitors not only arrived almost every weekend from
Bangkok, but they flew in from all parts of the world. And they have been
streaming in ever since. This is not a complaint. But it does qualify me
to comment on the joys of sharing one’s home with a procession of
visitors. It may also qualify me for a job in a busy hotel.
When guests occupy a large part of daily life, there is
every reason to include them in the domestic budget along with other
regular expenses such as hiring an extra maid and the liqueur and laundry.
Also, when you consider house guests as an item of expenditure, it is
difficult to avoid the same criteria that you would to any significant
investment, such as a car or a new wing on the family home. So you begin
to look at servicing costs, value for money, as well as more technical
details, like the ability to start the car in the morning. These will vary
of course. All guests are not created equal.
At the top of the list is the guest who is bound to you
by ties of blood, with a permanent claim on your spare room and visiting
rights to your most comfortable chair, the cigars you were saving for
Christmas, and your stock of malt whiskey that was brought through
duty-free on your last business trip. This is of course, the privileged
figure; the Relative. Now he or she may be an impoverished cousin from
Arkansas, a sporting uncle on the run from his bookie, a mother-in -law,
or a recently divorced sister. The precise relationship doesn’t matter.
It has something to do with the genes.
Then we have what I call the waifs. The phone rings and
the caller and his companion have found themselves stranded without hotel
reservations. Would it be possible to squeeze them in for just a night?
The night turns into two nights, and then a week. It’s Chinese New Year
and every hotel room is booked solid. Gosh. Who would have thought?
The indispensable executive seems to be my most
frequent visitor. Within minutes of coming through the door he is on the
phone to his office in London. He’s been away from his desk for all of
14 hours, but God knows what might have happened. A management reshuffle
engineered by one of the accountants, a client in distress, the empire
crumbling without the emperor? He spends his vacation with my phone
sprouting from his ear and is reluctant to leave the house because I
don’t have an answering machine.
Last month I had a friend visit from Paris. He’s a
frequent guest and never carries any small change. I refer to him as the
“man with the indestructible banknotes”. All he ever travels with is a
fist full of high denominational currency. He knows from experience that
when you are just buying a newspaper, a packet of cigarettes or a few
bottles of beer that most Thai shops are not prepared to deal with foreign
money. All through the week I picked up the tab as we went along, while he
promised to settle up since he left his cash at home. The day of reckoning
was postponed by a series of maneuvers, and the banknotes remained intact.
My American friends come a very long way to see me, for
which I am truly grateful and always delighted. The first two or three
days we have a wonderful time. They binge on Thai food, drink and make
merry, take the sun and gleefully partake in Pattaya’s rowdy nightlife.
Then they start to drop like flies. They are what I affectionately call my
“virus victims”. They insist something in the curried crab gave them a
stomach bug, or perhaps it was the Third World water. They retire to bed
and call feebly for beef broth, refusing to admit the virus is nothing
more than their delicate digestive system rebelling against the quantities
of beer they have been drinking and the late nights spent carousing. A
couple of days in the hospital usually do the trick. Recovered and 20 lbs
lighter, their hand tailored suits fit better and they always book a
My Bangkok friends are cagey. They just drop in and
announce they “knew” I wouldn’t mind if they brought a few friends
for lunch. Lunch for four is stretched to lunch for eight. Then it becomes
apparent I have been chosen to divert the strangers for the afternoon
while my friends slip away to shop. I mentally calculate how many for
breakfast, break out the straw pallets and nudge the living room furniture
to the wall, happy to see someone has brought a guitar and a bottle of
whiskey. At least these guests won’t need an ambulance for diarrhea or
sunstroke. Nor will I have to max-out my credit cards for organized
entertainment and expensive distractions. House guests! Don’t you just
Roll over Rover: What you will need to train your dog
by C. Schloemer
Before you start training you will need a few tools.
The basic training tools will be a collar, leash, chew toys and bones,
gates, crates, and a bed.
The buckle collar
This collar is a staple. It fits around your dog’s
neck and carries its identification and inoculation tags. Whether your dog
is two months or two years old, whatever the weight or size, it needs a
collar and the tags attached.
The owner will use a training collar only when the dog
is on a leash. The only dogs exempt from this rule are the toy breeds and
puppies under 16 weeks of age.
Here’s a tip: you should avoid using training collars
on puppies under 16 weeks because their necks are still forming. Jerking
or pulling on the collar can cause too much stress to their developing
trachea and could cause permanent damage. Also puppies under the age of 16
weeks cannot understand the concept of being corrected.
There are three types of training collars. Choosing one
will depend on your dog. Find a collar that works for you and your pet.
The original training
It is called the original training collar simply
because it has been around a long time. Sometimes referred to as a chain
or choke chain collar, if used properly it should never choke your dog.
Choking and restraint will only aggravate problems. Most people don’t
now that it is the sound of the collar, not the restraint, which teaches.
Every owner surely will want to use this collar correctly rather than hear
his dog hacking during walks, but most people just don’t know how to
make the collar work.
Put the collar on
Put in on backwards and it will cause your dog a lot of
discomfort. When the chain collar is fitted improperly, the links will
catch in a vise-like hold around your dog’s neck and do exactly what the
collar is NOT supposed to do; choke. Getting it on right, however, is not
a big challenge. First decide what side you want your dog to walk on, left
or right. Take one loop of the collar and slide the chain slack through
it. The chain now should form the letter P. Holding it out, stand in front
of your dog and with the P sill facing in your direction, slide it over
your dog’s head as you praise the dog.
To check the result, slide the rings up behind the
dog’s ears and stand at his left side. Grasp the movable ring and pull
it towards your leg. Does it slide through the stationary loop? That is
correct. If it bends over the stationary loop, take it off your dog’s
neck and start again.
Mastering the zipper
This is the second step with the chain training collar.
Once again, it is the SOUND of the collar, not the restraint that teaches.
Used properly, a quick snap (which should sound like a zipper) will
correct your dog’s impulse to disobey or lead.
Here is an example. My friend and I and his 6 month
Collie mix, Jip, are walking in the park. Suddenly we both notice Buster,
a Bullmastiff friend sniffing along with its owner trailing along behind.
The owner of the mastiff digs in and tries to drag his dog over to us to
have a chat. Buster is coughing and cannot catch his breath. Jip, the
Collie, however behaves differently. Though she squirms to be with her
doggie friend, she is quickly alerted to a zipping sound by her right ear.
A sound (rather than a feeling) is coupled with a command, “back” and
she is urged to reconsider. She tries once more to pull ahead, but is
checked again with a zip. She chooses to wait quietly beside her owner.
A Slice of Thai History: The Iron Horse in Thailand
Part Two 1889-1896
The Thai government refused, delayed or made it
impossible for the British to obtain railway concessions that would lead
to the construction of lines between Thailand and Moulmein in Burma or
what is now Butterworth in Malaysia.
For example, in 1889, the Thais granted Dunlop a
concession for the construction of a rail line between Butterworth and
Songkhla, but the terms were so onerous that the British company never
started the project.
However, on a more positive note, the Thais,
recognising that the main threat to their independence came from France,
encouraged German and British economic investment, at the expense of the
By encouraging both the Germans and the British, the
Thais hoped to prevent either power becoming economically dominant,
especially with regard to railway construction. They were also at pains to
ensure that any and all concessions had Bangkok as the focal point, being
either the terminal or the start-off point.
In 1890, a Royal Railways Department was established
under the directorship of Karl Bethge, a German who had previously been in
China as a representative of the German government and the Krupps Company.
The Railways Department considered four proposals for
the construction of rail lines in Thailand and accepted two. The first was
a German proposal for a line to run between Bangkok and Nakhon Ratchasima
(Khorat), while the second was a plan put together by local European
business people for a 20-kilometre light railway to run between Bangkok
The new department rejected two British proposals for a
line between Bangkok and Chiang Mai.
The cost of the line between Bangkok and Paknam was a
relatively cheap 400,000 baht and with King Chulalongkorn contributing
half the amount, and the railway was soon constructed.
Thus, Thailand’s first rail line opened for business
in April 1893.
The Bangkok to Khorat line, running some 264 kilometres,
was originally priced at around 16 million baht. The Thais decided to
operate a joint government-private enterprise; however, in the finish the
entire cost of the project was met from government coffers.
Private tenders were called, with only British and
German contractors submitting bids. In keeping with their policy of
balancing both German and British influence, the contract was awarded, in
December 1891, to a Briton named George Campbell, then working in Malaya.
Construction of the Bangkok-Khorat rail line commenced
in March 1892 and the first section, to Ayutthaya, was completed in 1896,
with the first train leaving Bangkok on March 26 that year. Advisers to
the Thai government suggested that the line to Khorat be further extended
to Nong Khai on the Mekong River as a counter to French imperialist
ambitions. However, King Chulalongkorn decided to terminate the line at
Khorat because of a desire to avoid incurring a large foreign loan. The
monarch saw debt as more of a threat to Thai sovereignty than the French.
Interestingly, very few Thais were involved in the
preparation of the rail tracks, most of the work being done by Chinese
The Message In The Moon: Sun in Leo/Moon in Cancer
by Anchalee Kaewmanee
The stout hearted man
Self acceptance is the greatest gift endowed to this
particular Sun-Moon combination. Unlike most Leos, these natives do not
feel the compulsion to prove their greatness to the world. They are
confident and self-assured, and others think highly of them because they
think highly of themselves. All of this is enhanced by their acute
sensitivity and compassion for others influenced by the Cancer Moon.
Creative and highly emotional, open-minded and above all, imaginative,
these people can achieve almost anything they want to do with the proper
What they may lack, for various reasons, is driving
ambition. Before we address the area of ambition, we must allow that a
peaceful existence without self-doubt and constant stress is nothing to
belittle. It is in fact, a state that many of us search for and never
However, because of their unquestioning self acceptance
and lack of inner conflict, the Leo-Cancer can run the risk of settling
for far less than they are capable of accomplishing. Since their nature is
free of many of the hang-ups and much of the inner turmoil that plagues so
many others, they risk adopting an attitude of smug complacency. Often the
Leo-Cancer is too easily contented, and that which is pleasing interests
this native more than that which is rewarding and fulfilling. Thus in some
cases, an individual born into this sign often allows their potential to
lie dormant, and their special talents go untapped. If this is so, they
have all of the attributes at their disposal to overturn this situation.
They are also very proud individuals. This can be both
strength and a weakness. A highly evolved Leo-Cancer has a lot of self
respect and that reinforces his or her inner strength to overcome
obstacles. A less favorable scenario arises when the individual is overly
proud. That pride may lead to arrogance and the inability to obtain enough
humility to learn a craft or develop inherent talents which need to be
successfully explored in order to be developed. These natives need to take
stock often and see if their talents are really being utilized to their
fullest extent. Often times they are involved in activities or jobs which
do not use the full potential of these natives and their many fine
attributes are being wasted.
Charm, intuition and subtlety combine to give people
born into this sign excellent business acumen. They are intelligent and
possess enough organizational skills to run a company at the executive
level. However, their unique imagination and originality are more suited
to creative fields, usually in the field of drama, and visual media. Many
Leo-Cancers excel as counselors, psychologists, and teachers and are often
very successful in administrative duties or running charitable
enterprises. Statistics show many accomplished actors in Hollywood and
television are Leos, and many have Moon signs in Cancer as well. The
legitimate stage also harbors more than its share of Leos. This Sun sign
is a born actor.
A secure and tranquil domestic life is very important
to this combination’s overall happiness. As with all natives of Moon in
Cancer, these people need the comfort and stability of a home base of
operations as a point of anchor. They are all oriented toward family life
and will take great pride in their mate and their children. When the
domestic side of life is disrupted or in chaos, this sign may find the
rest of the components of life falling apart as well. Harmony on the home
front is essential to these natives and they will do much to retain it.
Highly romantic and idealistic, the Leo-Cancer knows
how to give and take in love. That natural curiosity will no doubt lead
him or her through many romantic affairs before they finally choose a
partner and settle down. Once they do, however, they are loyal and
devoted, and they can always be counted on to cherish and support their
Coins of the Realm: Thai coins with low mintages
by Jan Olav Aamlid
President - House of the Golden Coin (http://www.thaicoins.com)
In 1997 the Treasury Department issued a 200 baht coin
in silver and a 2,000 baht coin in gold to commemorate the 50th
Anniversary of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
The obverse of both the coins has the portrait of King
Bhumibol Adulyadej with the legend “Thailand” on the left, “The
Ninth Reign” on the right, and the denomination below.
reverse of the gold 2,000 baht depicts in the center a Thai girl sitting
and writing a script with a slate and a tray on the floor. On the left is
the symbol of UNICEF and the denomination “2,000 BAHT”. Around the top
border are the legends FOR THE CHILDREN OF THE WORLD” and
The reverse of the silver 200 baht shows three Thai
children sitting and playing a game called “Maak Keb” with the symbol
of UNICEF, the legend “THAILAND” and the year “1997” above and the
denomination below. Around the lower border is the same legend as on the
The Royal Norwegian Mint minted the coins in PROOF
quality and the coins arrived in Thailand on the 25th of June 1998. After
inspection the coins were sold by the Treasury Department to the public
for 5,000 baht for the gold 2,000 baht coin and 1,100 baht for the silver
200 baht coin. Abroad, Paramount Coin Corporation (USA) marketed the
According to the certificates, 15,000 pieces of the
gold coin were issued while 25,000 pieces of the silver coin were issued.
The total mintage up to September 2000 was only 1,290 PC for the gold coin
and 2,123 for the silver coin according to the book “Coinage of the
Rattanakosin Era A.D. 1982-1999”. The final mintage before the program
was closed last year, and only 1,700 coins were struck in gold and 2,903
coins struck in silver.
is a very low figure, probably the lowest, for modern Thai coins. This was
a program not only marketed in Thailand but in the whole world. Overseas
the coins could be bought individually or on subscription with other coins
issued to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of UNICEF.
In 1981, coins to commemorate the International Year of
the Child were issued. Here the mintage for the gold coin was 4,892 PC and
the silver was 4,947 PC. After the coins were sold out from the
distributors the second hand market was immediately much higher.
There are several theories why the sales of the 1997
coin did not even reach the amount of coins sold in 1981, with fewer
collectors operating in the market at that time. The main distributor of
these coins in Europe closed down their Modern Coin Department, and a new
distributor was appointed. Sales might have been delayed, and even
The coins were dated 1997, and only arrived in Thailand
a year later, so the coin was not really a “new” issue. Also, many
people in Thailand were strongly suffering from the financial crises that
started in 1997, and did not put their priority into buying coins.
But for the ones that did buy the coins, it is a happy
story. At the last meeting of the Numismatic Association of Thailand, the
200 baht coin from 1997, with an issue price of 1,100 baht was sold for