Hilltribe concert in Chiang Mai for legal status and against HIV/AIDS, human trafficking, and drug abuse

On November 3rd, 2007, we went to the second International hill tribe concert to advocate for recognition of legal status and the prevention of HIV/AIDS, human trafficking, and drug abuse. The concert attracted more than 20 popular hill tribe singers, from seven ethnic groups, who led the show with songs, entertainment and messages delivered in Karen, Hmong, Mien, Akha, Lisu, Tai Yai and Lahu languages. The show took place at Chiang Mai University.

Three years ago, Thailand’s first International Hill tribe Pop Concert, organized by UNESCO and Radio Thailand Chiang Mai, shook the mountains around Chiang Mai with a crowd of 4,000 stomping, dancing, jumping and singing fans. "The first concert was a major success – both as entertainment and in bringing attention to the issues facing hill tribe people ," said Dr. David A. Feingold, head of the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Trafficking and HIV/AIDS Project and one of the event’s co-organizers. This year’s event was a bit smaller, mostly due to the weather conditions of rain which changed the location of the event in the last minute (probably with the result that many people couldn’t find it or stayed home due to the rain).

One of the main purposes of the concert was also to help educate lowland Thai people to think of the hill tribe people as citizens of the country and not simply a tourist attraction. Organized in honor of H.M. the King of Thailand’s 80th Birthday, the concert was furthermore an opportunity for highlanders to express their gratitude to King Bhumipol for his work in improving the livelihood and welfare of mountain people.

The concert, which was free of charge, was very well presented and we enjoyed the performance very much. If you get the chance to go next time the event takes place, do go – it supports a great cause and is very enjoyable at the same time.

Podcast: Coffee enema – do it yourself detox

[Download MP3 | Add to iTunes | Subscribe to Podcasts]

Coffee Enema bagCoffee Enemas have been used for over a hundred years as a generalized detoxification procedure. I do a DIY coffee enema every two months or so. The procedure stimulates the liver and gallbladder to release stored toxins and wastes and liver function is enhanced. The immediate benefits for me are always a relief in my stomach, a feeling of well-being and increased metabolism.

It is also a very cheap procedure because you can do it at home yourself and all you really need is a special enema bag (which costs about 130 baht or $4), purified water and some organic coffee.

It is interesting to note that drinking a cup of coffee has an entirely different effect from that of using it as a cleansing enema.

At the top is a podcast we made about coffee enemas. Enjoy I did 🙂

[ad#text-unit-468×15]

Oxfam: Susie Smith Memorial Prize for a piece of published work in the field of HIV and AIDS

Oxfam Great Britain is awarding the Susie Smith Memorial Prize for a piece of published work in the field of HIV and AIDS. The Susie Smith memorial prize of £3000 will be awarded to an already published piece of work on HIV and AIDS from sub-Saharan Africa. Any type of piece – (e.g. poetry, fiction, article, chapter of a book) – of up to 10,000 words, in English, and published since January 2006, will be eligible.

The judges will focus on two key elements: quality of the piece itself (writing, analysis, insights) evidence of impact of the writing in the media and/or with people, governments or other institutions. All submissions must be received by 31 January 2008. You should include a cover letter outlining what kind of impact the piece has had and/or what it has achieved.

A shortlist of five will be published on Oxfam’s website in early April 2008 and the winner will be announced at the end of April 2008. They will notify who has made it through to the shortlist, but will be unable to advise any other applicants of the panel’s decision.

All submissions and cover letter should be sent to: Susie Smith Memorial Prize Submission Oxfam Great Britain Oxfam House John Smith Drive Oxford OX4 2JY Or emailed to: susiesmithmemorialprize@oxfam.org.uk . Oxfam regrets that posted submissions will not be returned. For further information, please visit the website: www.oxfam.org.uk/susiesmith or contact Oxfam directly at susiesmithmemorialprize@oxfam.org.uk.

Good luck with your writing.

6 Reasons to Visit the World’s Happiest Country: Denmark

Denmark has recently emerged as the world’s happiest country, beating out Bhutan, the long-time favorite of anthropologists everywhere.

Nyhavn, Boat tour, Copenhagen

The birthplace of LEGO"”a contraction of leg godt or "play well""”offers even the first time visitor an incredible sense of hygglige: amiable cosiness.

"I remember you mentioned in your book," my Danish editor said over lunch in Copenhagen two weeks ago, "that you had a big head." I do have a huge head. I took a bite of delicious Esrom cheese and nodded for her to continue, keeping one eye on the wienerbrød.

"But you don’t have a huge head. You just have a healthy, normal-sized Danish head." I smiled"”home at last.

Even if you don’t have a Danish bloodline like I do, there are some good reasons to visit Copenhagen, the capital of the world’s happiest country

Here are just 6 of them:

1. More than 80% of the Danes speak English.

English movies are almost never dubbed in Denmark. Combined with excellent free education, this results in a high % of Danes speaking more pleasant English than the average Brit or American.

"OK, I’ll see you for dinner at 6pm then," I said to one friend named Christopher over the phone. "You shall. Have a nice evening and see you soon," he responded. Did I just get out-Englished by a non-native speaker? I felt like a TOEFL student.

You’re more likely to have communication problems in the bayou of Louisiana or in a pub in Manchester than you are in Copenhagen.

2. Christiania"”the anarchist state of Scandinavia.

In 1971, a 101-acre site formerly used for army barracks was effectively seized and converted by hippies into "The Free State of Christiania." They hotwired themselves into the power grid, created their own form of goverment, as well as a rich community of shops, schools, recycling programs, and most things you would associate with a normal township"”but they claimed sovereignty and paid no taxes. It became a haven for artists, alternatives, and soft drug dealing, among other things, and the Danish government"”though allowing Christiania to exist as a proclaimed "social experiment""”has been trying to shut them down for more than 35 years. In 1991, the appointed powers within the anarchist state agreed to pay rent and cover the costs of water and electricity.

I spent a late night wandering through the beautifully painted historical buildings of Christiania, ultimately ending up with two friends at The Woodstock Cafe, where we drank organic beer and met interesting vagabonds from all over the world. Dogs played outside among the metal barrels, which glowed like jack-o-lanterns from the flames inside them, producing surreal shadows on the graffiti all around us. It was incredible.

Most Danes agree that Christiania’s days are numbered. It’s an anachronism that has somehow survived every attempt to demolish it, but it’s nine lives will soon be up. Get there before it’s gone.

3. Danes pair food and wine better than most Italians or French.

That’s a strong statement, but I was amazed at how precisely, and insistently, most decent restaurants paired courses with wine. Restaurant Saa Hvidt, featuring young culinary superstar Frederik Hvidt, offers a prix fixe 5-course meal with five separate wines for each tapas-like dish. Incredible and unlike anything I’ve had in more than 30 other countries. Danish cheese is also the best I’ve ever had.

For a taste of real home-cooked Danish food, eat with a local family for about 400 DKK through the Dine with the Danes program.

4. The people are beautiful but seem unaware of the fact.

As Bill Bryson once observed: you could cast a Pepsi commercial here in 15 seconds.

Right up there with Argentina, Denmark has a jaw-dropping number of gorgeous people. The truly beautiful part, and unusual differentiator, is that appear blissfully unaware of the fact. There is little LA-style pretension unless you go to a social climber magnet like Club NASA, which helps to pull the mirror gazers off the streets. Go in the spring or summer and there is no need for catwalks"”the sidewalks at Nyhavn are good enough. For those feeling the club or lounge itch, Vega and JazzHouse are hard to beat.

5. Danish design is incredible to experience, even for non-designers.

"It doesn’t cost money to light a room correctly, but it does require culture." This quote from Poul Henningsen, encapsulates the beauty of Danish design minimalism. Much like in Japanese design, form follows function, and half of the time I found myself in a great mood in Copenhagen, I realized it was due to the planned passage of sunlight in Danish architecture, as well as their understanding of interior lighting intensity and placement.

Bigger is not better, as is so often the case in the US, and the tallest building in Copenhagen is a modest 358 feet.

From the sleek silverware of 2001: A Space Odyssey to the most famous chairs in the design world, the Danes have a functional and pleasant feast for the eyes almost anywhere you go, whether the renowned Louisiana museum or your hotel lobby.

6. Bite-sized goodness: public transportation is as good as Japan, and you can cover the entire city in a weekend.

I looked at where I wanted to go. It was on the other side of the map from my hotel. "How long does it take to get there by taxi? 20 minutes?" The receptionist looked at me and laughed: "10 minutes by bicycle." Copenhagen is probably the most hassle-free capital I’ve ever visited.

Rent a bike for 100 DKK and you can cover 1/2 of the "Barcelona of the North," as design god Sir Terence Conran calls it, in an afternoon. 1-3-hour bike tours from Central Station are a perfect first-day orientation. The numerous S-line and Metro stations, in addition to HUR buses, will get you where you want to go if self-propelled locomotion isn’t your gig, but the average Dane bicycles 375 miles per year. Get off your ass and join them for the real Danish experience.

###

Looking for other happy travels?

Here are the combined top 10 according to separate studies from the University of Leicester in the UK and Erasmus University in Rotterdam, the latter of which had 953 indicators (!):

* 1 Denmark
* 2 Switzerland
* 3 Austria
* 4 Iceland
* 5 Bahamas
* 6 Finland
* 7 Sweden
* 8 Bhutan
* 9 Brunei
* 10 Canada

Source: http://www.fourhourworkweek.com/blog

Excursion to ComPeung artist village in Doi Saket

This Saturday we went for an excursion to visit ComPeung artist village at Doi Saket. ComPeung is the first non-governmental artist-in-residence program in Thailand. Founded in 2005 by artists who believe places that resist the conventional art’s obsession with selling rather than content are needed. Alternative places that experiment with and question the role of art, artists’ positions, and the interdependence of art and society. ComPeung aims to be one of these places, open to all who share the importance and the compassion for creativity.

The actual ComPeung site, comprising of a total of 112 ares (2.8 acres), is situated in the outskirts of Doi Saket town and surrounded by hills, forests and natural lakes. All the houses in ComPeung are made from mud and bamboo and it aims at being environmentally friendly.

Local and international artist are invited to come and live there for one to three months. The artist pays 27.000 baht (860$) per month for housing, three meals a day and the right to utilize the surrounding space as they please. Artists also have the opportunity to exchange ideas and share experiences through the process of creating artworks, developing conceptual projects as well as participating in workshops and other ComPeung activities.

While visiting we spoke with Ong who is the manager of ComPeung. He is a very friendly young Thai man with excellent English. His idea for the village arose from travelling and his art studies at Chiang Mai University. He explained to us that they are also building a small hut for tourist/visitors to stay in for a shorter period of time. We enjoyed the afternoon very much and definitely recommend people to make their way to this off-the-beaten-tourist-track site.

For directions to ComPeung visit their website – http://www.compeung.org/indexB.html
You can view more photos in our Flickr account – http://www.flickr.com/photos/earthoria.

ComPeung artist village in Doi Saket

Video: Rainy season (monsoon) in Chiang mai

The rainy season in Chiang Mai is fascinating and lasts from around June to about October. As opposed to most guidebooks I actually recommend people visit the city during this time of the year. There are several reasons for this: a) the rainy season doesn’t mean that it rains day and night, far from the truth. It may rain for one hour in the late afternoon and then not rain for the next 5 days or rain all night (when good children are asleep 🙂 ), b) Everything becomes green and the air is fresh after the little rain has gone. This time is beautiful, with many wild flowers around, and it is nice for trekking or visiting the mountains which is one of the main reasons people come to Chiang Mai, c) There is a very low level of pollution as opposed to the end of the cold season (from February to April) in which the levels of pollution becomes a hazard to health. During the rainy season the air is fresh in the morning, and the daytime is not too hot, d) The accommodation in the city is much cheaper than in the high season (from November until January).

All of this being said, I will have to warm you about the amounts of rain that comes down when it does rain. Within a matter of minutes it can change (and usually does) from a few drops to a torrential downpour which often leaves the streets flooded. The rain is usually heaviest in September, with an average precipitation of 250mm for that month. Another downside to the rainy season is the amount of mosquitoes in the beginning (May – June) – do put lots of mosquito repellent on.

The "rainy season" video below was taken on September 16th and shows you how much rain comes down at one time – enjoy 🙂

Visit to a Shan refugee camp near Chiang Mai, Thailand

On Saturday September the 8th I went with a group of friends to visit a Shan refugee camp about 4 hours drive from Chiang Mai city. The purpose of the visit was to bring food, school supplies, medicine, and donated clothes etc. to the refugees and to spend a day entertaining all the children of the camp. This camp has existed since 2003 but has not got official status. Previous to this the refugees lived for two years in tents by the nearby Wat.

Shan refugee camp in The Chiang Mai area, Thailand

In order to ensure the safety of the refugees living in the camp I cannot write neither the name nor the location of the camp. Burmese refugees are illegal in Thailand , have no rights (to school, health facilities, work etc) and are constantly under the threat of being caught and sent back to Burma . Being deported back to Burma would for the most part mean imprisonment, torture and worse. Therefore, it is essential to keep the names and faces of the refugees anonymous. To read about news from Burma , please see http://www.irrawaddy.org/ .

In order to get to the camp we had rented two big vans in which we could have both people (9 different nationalities) and donations for the camp. We started the day making bags with food and sweets for the 200 children in the camp. After that we started the games. We played: football, darts, rob jumping, badminton, 3-legged races, tug of war, balloon dance and had a dance competition. All the games we rewarded with prizes of sweets (to all the kids). The children were all absolutely adorable and my biological clock was definitely ticking heavily (poor Thomas…). Also knowing that 50 of the 200 children in the camp are orphans just made me want to take a few home.

After many hours of play the children got their bags with food and sweets and a ceremony was held with a monk. The recording can be found below.

x

At the end of the day the camp leader spent an hour telling us about the situation in Burma, the history of the camp and answered our questions. It was an absolutely mind-blowing day. Not only did we make the kids happy, help the camp, enjoy the beautiful landscape and fresh air, but we also learned a lot. This has enabled me to pass it on to you…