I am pleased to report that, at a recent meeting of the British Chamber of Commerce in Thailand it was decided to greatly improve the services offered to local members and to reduce the membership fee from 20,000 baht to 10,000 Baht for people living outside Bangkok. It was also decided to focus their efforts on promoting business between Thailand and the UK. This may sound obvious for the British Chamber of Commerce but there is always a temptation, with relatively small numbers of potential members in the area, to throw the doors open to anyone who wishes to become a member in order to provide better services.
There is now a working party in place which will start to plan a wide range of activities for members, in Chiang Mai, over the next year.
Having said this most of the members felt that there was a also need to promote Europe rather than just the UK and to see activities in Chiang Mai as a way of introducing European organisations, not just to Thailand, but also to Myanmar, Laos and China.
As a result of this feeling some people have got together to form an organisation that will support all foreign business organisations in the North Thailand and provide services that would not normally be available, because of size, to individual organisations, such as the Chambers of Commerce. We will keep you informed as to developments.
Gardening for Giants!
I could never call myself a truly keen gardener; however I do like a good garden and have always put in the work necessary. I once double-dug a large garden simply in order to sow seed for a new lawn. Several weeks of back breaking effort resulted in the new lawn being used as a toilet by all the local cats but eventually a good lawn was achieved and that gave me great satisfaction.
One aspect of gardening in the UK I enjoyed it hugely was the making of compost. Lawn clippings, leaves, dead plants of all kinds would rot down and in two years would turn into the best and sweetest compost you could imagine. Once you've got it organised it was very simple and quite wonderful.
In the UK Garden I used to grow almonds, which were totally useless for anything other than decoration, vegetables, the most fantastic horseradish and apples and pears. I did try a soft fruits but the birds tended to get there before I did.
Looking back on my typical British garden I realise how small everything was. An apple, about 3 inches across, was about the biggest fruit, even the leaves that fell in the autumn, were only two or 3 inches in diameter.
Not so now that I am in Thailand. This year's crop included pomegranates, mangoes (several different types), papaya, ugly fruit, rose apples, papaya, jackfruit, bananas and papaya. There is an awful lot of papaya and unfortunately it all seems to be ripe just when all the neighbours’ papayas are also ready to eat. In the season you can see people wondering from house to house offering papaya for free but there are very few takers.
We also grow mint and all manner of herbs; chilis and all manner of spices. Soon I hope to experiment with star fruit and perhaps even some oranges.
I have tried to get a compost bin working properly here. It just does not work. The leaves are too big and waxy, there are very few grass clippings and trying to get a palm leaf to rot down as downright impossible. Still, I have high hopes that experimentation and perhaps a shredder will enable me to continue making that magnificent rich, black product.
The point of this anecdote is that I can never get over the fact that all the fruit is so huge. Jackfruit can often be as big as 2 feet long and more than a foot wide. The mangoes are often twice as big as any apple I ever produced and whilst the rose apples may be relatively small there are so many of them that the harvest puts my UK apple harvest into the shade.
It's not just the flora that is so huge. There are beetles as big as bricks (Thai bricks that is), butterflies as big as plates, toads as big as football boots and bats and birds as big as, well as big as the ones in the UK really.
The point is why are so many things so much bigger than elsewhere? Is it the sun? Is it the rain? Who knows but whatever it is it is very impressive!
On the whole, I think I prefer gardening here in Thailand but that could be because my wife does most of the work. The odd thing is, come to think of it, she’s quite small.
Chiang Mai Friends
You have probably heard of the Chiang Mai Friends, even if you have never been to a meeting. Over the last four years organisation has grown from an informal dining club to an organisation fulfilling a truly useful purpose in Chiang Mai. Thais and foreigners meet together, once a month, to exchange ideas, learn from each other and together put something back into the community.
The organisation is so large that it can no longer be run on an amateurish basis by one or two members. The organisation appears to be well respected by local Thai officialdom such as the governor's office, Immigration and the Ministry of Labour. There is no doubt from time to time the organisation plays an important part in improving the quality of life of people in Chiang Mai.
However, there have been some problems. Meetings are not planned or announced as far in advance as many of the members would wish. Sometimes things that should be done do not get done simply because the few people involved are too busy in other areas.
Over the past year a working party has been considering the way forward for the group of Chiang Mai Friends and now is the opportunity for members and potential members to put forward their ideas on how the organisation should be run and who should run it.
There will be a meeting of all interested parties on the 28th of March. This will take place in the evening at a venue that will be decided once the numbers of participants is known. At this meeting there will be a discussion about the future of the organisation and its structure. In addition it will be proposed that elections will be held so that some people may be appointed to some of the more critical positions in order to ensure the longevity of the organisation and to maximise its benefit to the community.
If you are not a member but would like to go to this meeting you will be very welcome. If you are not a member but would like to become one in order to be able to vote, membership will be available at the meeting at a cost of 500 baht.
Because meetings such as this can become tedious, Scott Jones, my fellow columnist in this paper, has been prevailed upon to come and lighten the evening. Those of you who know Scott know that he is a great humorist and musician. His observations as a foreigner living in Thailand are perceptive and very funny. Apart from Spike Milligan, he is the only writer who has ever caused me to laugh out loud when reading his books.
If you would like to go to this meeting and are not already on the mailing list, send an e-mail to me at email@example.com and I will ask someone to e-mail you back with the details.
Finally, now that the rain has come and the dust has settled I hope you did not suffer too much in the recent smog. I gave up smoking years ago but felt as though I had been smoking 80 a day.
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