Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Learn The Ways of the Thai Elephant

photo credit: Trekking Collective2011

My first unforgettable encounter with Thai elephants more than 20 years ago was hanging on precariously to an elephant howdah (elephant saddle!) during a monsoon downpour in the forests of the ancient Lanna Kingdom, northern Thailand only a few hours journey where I am based in Chiang Mai, the capital city. A time to really appreciate and respect the sure footedness of such a relatively huge pachyderm travelling on a steep and slippery single file narrow mountain path. Don't look down if you get virtigo!

Following my new found elephant friend and her keeper again the next day we made our way down to the river for her morning shower and I joined them to bathe and wash away seeds and insects before work begins - An Elephant Spa ! Contrary to popular belief pachyderms - 'thick skinned mammals' have very sensitive skin.

In the north of Thailand Mahouts (elephant keepers) the Indigenous Karen are the traditional keepers of elephants in the northern forests originally living along the deep forested Thai - Burma border their skills are legendary with commands and skills learnt over many generations with their partnership lasting over a  life-time as both man and elephant may live over 60 years.
Over the days I was taught commands in Karen dialect, So I began to know and care for this amazing creature, learning of foods and medicines that can be picked from the forest for an elephants well -being as I journey on elephant back following forested paths.

Late afternoon I returned to my Elephant friend to continue my lessons of traditions, forest-lore and ways of the Thai elephant with a forest walk returning the Elephants to their resting place for the night. It really was a once in a lifetime experience!

Take time to look deep into their all knowing kindly eyes for these our friends are one of the last remaining links to another maybe better world.

..."Let you on an unique personal journey through northern  Thailand .."

Caroline Marsh is co-founder of Chiang Mai based independent ethical tour operator .."Expertise, Ethical travel and Authentic Experiences contribute to making a difference to local communities and the environment." passionate about new experiences and travel; preaches and teaches community environmental well being; Caroline writes for travel sites, regional travel magazines and her own blog Authentic Chiang Mai promoting her adopted city of more than 20years!; coordinates local 'grassroots' community peoples actions through Holistic Environment Urban Schools Program (HEUSP)and a member of the umbrella network group Lanna Community Life Network (LCLN) formerly NCCN. Visit channel

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Yupparaj Wittayalai High School Goes International

Yuppparaj International Food Festival
photo credit: Sawat Chantalay

Every year during the refreshing climate of cool  'winter' season, historic Yupparaj Wittayalai High School holds its annual open day celebrations. Situated within the old city at the 3 Kings monument with its old colonial buildings and original detailed painted glass windows surrounded by some of the city's largest documented endemic trees dotted around the school grounds that once was the site of a corral that housed Royal Elephants.

Indian National Costume
photo credit: Caroline Marsh

For 2011 the theme was an International food festival supported by the British Council with students dressed in colourful national costume, dance and music promoting languages, technologies and facinating facts about all the countries represented, noted stands were that of India, Korea, France and Japan where everyone sampled traditional fare that students had prepared and served to the many 100's of visitors  including healthy and delicious chaphatis, roti and daal from India.

All departments were represented, Sally Lawrence an English teacher at Yupparaj for a number of years who recently won the best teacher award had fun quiz games set up at the gifted students stand. Sciences had some cool physics and biology exhibits. Acharn Sawat Chantalay from social sciences who is a recognised environmentalist winning many local and national awards, represented India, an additional stand displaying an excellent low carbon school initiative - the sucessful 'eat salad and vegetables' project. Meals containing vegetables, students collect a stamp and when the card's full can win a cool prize.

Eat vegetables and salad for low carbon good health!
photo credit: Caroline Marsh

This was a great event for Yupparaj Wittayalai 's students, teaching staff and president of  Yupparaj PTA, Khun Thanawat Chalermchutidej  to welcome the school's new director  Khun Wissanu Chaokaewmay and endorse the director's vision of cooperation and sustainable future for the School.

The event also welcomed representitives from consulates based in Chiang Mai including China, Japan including the French honourary consul Thomas Baude.

Holistic Environment Urban Schools Program (HEUSP) which has supported Yupparaj  social sciences department for a number of years promoting environmental awareness joined this year's event to sign up students, teachers and visitors to the 'Chiang Mai People's Pledge' more than 700 Yupparaj students have pledged to date.

The intiative started in 2010 by members of the Chiang Mai citizen's group Lanna Community Life Network (LCLN) With the Governor, the Mayor and numerous regional heads of government signed including Ministry of Energy, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources and important Lanna cultural figures such as Chao Duong Duen Na Chiang Mai (Chiang Mai Royal family) who is President of the Chiang Mai Cultural Council.

Students signing up to Chiang Mai People's Pledge

photo credit: Caroline Marsh

The local foreign representitive of Great Britain, the UK honorary consul Mr.Ben Svasti Thompson signed the 'peoples's pledge' December 2010 commiting the consulate to 10 low carbon actions to reduce fossil fuel use which makes environmental, health and economic sense for all to cooperate to take Chiang Mai towards a sustainable future.

During the event the new director of Yupparaj Wittayalai showed great interest  in the initiative and a follow up appointment by members of Lanna Community Life network to pledge the school to commit to these measures so cutting carbon by a minimum 10% and supporting the new government initiative for Chiang Mai to be a low carbon city announced this 14th February 2011.

Written by Caroline Marsh

Caroline Marsh is co-founder of Chiang Mai based independent ethical tour operator .."Expertise, Ethical travel and Authentic Experiences contribute to making a difference to local communities and the environment." passionate about new experiences, travel and environmental well being she writes for travel sites, regional travel magazines and coordinates local 'grassroots' community peoples actions for a better future for all. Member of Lanna Community Life Network (LCLN)

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Japanese visitors are here to stay!

photo credits: Caroline Marsh

Luckily for me Chiang Mai has been our home for over 20 years firstly as a traveller discovering for myself the nuances of South East Asia, especially Chiang Mai and the magical 'hold' it has on you. Having  since settled down here, experiencing a life style first hand that bridges both Thai and Foreign understanding making an ideal care specialist for Long Stay visitors to Chiang Mai working closely with certified Long Stay advisors based in Tokyo.

Chiang Mai has all the attributes of a perfect winter oasis for the many visitor’s whose homes are frozen over, and now with climate change coming into the equation, winter’s are predicted to be colder and longer, so if your  health suffers, nowhere is more inviting than a warm sunny climate that combines the colours of autumn, spring and  summer all rolled into one.

Chiang Mai is now a quality stand  alone all year destination. It is the capital city of the ancient Lanna Kingdom, steeped in old cultures and customs combining a new contemporary facade. Lanna is made up of the eight far north provinces of northern Thailand, situated 700 metres above sea level and surrounded by the immediate hills of Doi Suthep, Doi Pui and Doi Saket mountain with some of Thailand’s highest peaks conveniently close to the city.

2011 will be the city’s 715th Birthday with ancient Buddhist temples, more than 300 in total! age old Chedi’s (pagodas ) dotted around the city, the most  striking is that of Wat Chedi Luang close to the three kings monument and the colonial buildings and inner courtyard of the Chiang Mai Cultural Museum. Criss crossing the numerous narrow lanes (soi) you'll discover traditional Lanna style teak family homes with their tropical gardens mingled with contemporary design.

Living standards are high with a wealth of luxury hotel accommodation, comfortable affordable housing and condominiums in secure locations with all amenities considered along  with boutique resorts in the hills plus  ‘alternative living’ such as  'Homestays' and 'Farmstays' to suit  individual taste.

Food and local cuisine your are spoiled by the vast array of ‘ flavours’ There are some wonderful traditional northern Thai  menus mixed with other regional tastes from around Thailand . Ethnic restaurants abound with expatriates (expats) running Chinese, Italian, Vietnamese, Mexican, British, American, Isreali, Indian, Spanish and Burmese plus the one’s I’ve forgotten to mention!  With Japanese food easily found  with excellent sushi freshly available, all your favourite noodles plus quality evening style dining.  If you ever get bored ‘fusion’ food at many trendy restaurants is in vogue.

Health and well being are high on the priority list for the majority long stay visitors. International standard hospitals and dental clnics are based in Chiang Mai with 24 hour emergency care services with translators available for your peace of mind. For the less mobile there are qualified nurse assistants that can care for you at your home and private retirement homes with 24 hour care are situated in peaceful locations close to the city.

This is an exciting creative city of traditional and contemporary design, Chiang Mai’s historic artisan villages and skilled craftsmen complement local and international design themes using locally sourced materials. Excellent ideas for your home furnishings in cotton and silk, quality teak furniture and stylish one off design items. Hand crafted jewelry, leather and quality local tailoring means you return back home with a new designer wardrobe for the summer!

For Long stay visitors it’s essential to be able to access most of your favourite ‘comfort foods’ from home and now  specialty stores in Chiang Mai are very aware of these needs  and now offer a wide choice of quality American, British, European, Australian and Korean imported and locally sourced products, health shops and weekly organic farmer's markets. 

ISAC's JJ Weekly Market every Saturday 5am to 9am
photo credit: Caroline Marsh 
For Japanese visitors you will be pleased to hear Yamazaki Bakery and Daiso brand 100 Yen stores  are in Chiang Mai for all those gadgets and handy nick-knacks that the Japanese are famed for – every item 65 Baht each.

Daiso Brand Store

Yamazaki Bakery

Activities and hobbies abound in Chiang Mai taking in the the more typically promoted visitor destinations  and attractions such as Doi Inthanon, Elephant Camps, Buddhist temples and sites around the city as well as niche ethical tourism  operators offering exclusive trips and activities supporting local wisdom and knowledge of the varied indigenous cultures of the Lanna kingdom.

Come to study, Thai Dance, Thai Boxing, weaving, natural dyeing, leather work, ceramics, dressmaking, Lanna traditional crafts , learn Thai cooking, Thai Massage, organic farming, earthen  homes. Practice Yoga and meditation daily or on retreat . Sports are well supported here such as classic golf with many quality courses close to the city. Swimming, Horse riding, Daily Aerobics and Tai Chi.
Alternative therapies are practiced here or can be studied such as Reiko, Ayurvedic  Medicine, massage techniques and intriguing Feng Shui, Tarot card readings and numbers with a local cultural twist.

Additional study trips where you can learn Thai, English and other languages such as German, French or Chinese as private one to one or small groups. One month quality accredited TEFL courses where you qualify to teach English worldwide are a new feature of our 'Long Stay' activity programs

Annual Festivals from October to February are some of the best to be seen in Thailand. Loy Krathong or "Yee Peng" is held in November following the lunar calendar for three days. Traditional sports and activities are held at Temples all around town during the day, but the nights the streets are filled with parades and beautifully decorated floats and paper lantern of the full moon is quite spectacular with individual floating banana leaf 'Krathongs' dressed with flowers,incense and candles to make offerings of god luck to the water goddess and hundreds of floating fire balloons lighting up the night sky

The 35th Chiang Mai Flower Festival was held this year, always the 2nd weekend in February with hundreds of visitors and locals lining the streets to see the intricately decorated floats with 100's of thousands of fresh flowers and clever use of seeds, School marching bands and traditional northern Thai dress on show.

Chiang Mai Flower Festival 2011

Transportation around the city ranges from cycling following a city bicycle lane, which is increasingly popular, fashionable and economically smart  supporting the low carbon vision for Chiang Mai as the first green eco city in South East Asia ( )if you wish to be  in tune with the ways of  northern culture travelling by tricycle (Samlor thip) is  the best way to get a good  feel of the old city and supporting a great low carbon way of getting around plus  supporting the uncles ‘loong’ that appreciate your fare. Our love hate affair with red truck taxis (Seelors) are that they are convenient and run pretty much 24hrs, but too many of them ply the streets with their black smoke exhausts going unchecked by the powers that be! Tuk -Tuk’s which are a fast, but loud way of getting around are handy as they also operate  the graveyard shift, many proud owner's personalise their Tuk - Tuk with bright neon's, mega sound systems and dangling kitch gadgets  it’s like being on a magical fun fair  ride…….hang on!

Written by Caroline Marsh.

Caroline Marsh is co-founder of Chiang Mai based independent ethical tour operator .."Expertise, Ethical travel and Authentic Experiences contribute to making a difference to local communities and the environment." passionate about new experiences and travel; preaches and teaches community environmental well being; Caroline writes for travel sites, regional travel magazines, her own blog Authentic Chiang Mai promoting her adopted city of more than 20years!; coordinates local 'grassroots' community peoples actions through Holistic Environment Urban Schools Program (HEUSP)and a member of the umbrella network group Lanna Community Life Network (LCLN) formerly NCCN. Visit channel


Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Healthy Organic Market for Urban Kids - "Connecting Communities"

Weekly Organic farmer's market
by ISAC Women Farmer's Group
which is held at Puttisopon Primary School a local government school which is located opposite Wat Chedi Luang one the city's most famed and most striking Buddhist Temples.

The weekly market is promoted by HEUSP (Holistic Environment Urban School Program)  a community grassroots pilot project to bring a healthier quality of life to students and teachers within the old city of Chiang Mai along with Kru Nongluck, the schools' dedicated social studies teacher giving urban children, parents and teachers access to affordable highly nutritious local varieties of rice such as "Khao Nin" a black 'nutty' flavoured rice that is delicious which my children love to eat mixed with other steamed varieties of jasmine rice. Vegetables for example "Ch-om" a tasty veggie that kids love eaten in an omelette that has 8 times the amount of vitamin A of an imported carrot! and snacks like "Khao-Lum" which is delicious, fresh sweet coconut milk mixed with sticky rice and red beans all B.B.Q'd inside sections of a fresh bamboo.

The 'Aunties' are up well before dawn every Friday morning, rain (we are talking serious monsoon country) or shine soaking and griding soya beans to make soya milk, out gathering fresh bundles of young leafed vegetables from their kitchen gardens, netting fish from their fish pond cum water reservoir, collecting bamboo and other seasonal forest products such as honey from the community forest, Harvesting seasonal age old medicinal Thai herbs, dried and sold as herbal teas plus making sweet sticky rice cakes, fried and steamed, plucking fresh free range chicken, cooking up local curries and chilli pastes. All packaged and presented in banana leaves, tied with bamboo string and picks which they will bring into town. Their journey takes about an hour, all sharing a truck, sharing costs and reducing vehicle emmisions something us urban folk should take note of!

PhotoCredit: Caroline Marsh

Auntie Jamlong who is the head organiser of this farmer's group from Mae Taeng district produces her own brand of organic fermented sauces and flavouring and has promoted her products collectively with other farmer's groups at large national 'green living' trade fairs in Bangkok. After returning from one such very tiring trip we sat and chatted the very next day at the school market. Auntie had sold all her stock of sauces where demand had out stripped her supply and I asked if she had taken alot more orders whilst she was there...but her answer was that she had plenty enough and didn't wish to make more money as it would change the balance of all the other chores and activities she needed to do on her self sufficiency farm!

The women's group are from one of the more than 400 local rural farmer's in more than 12 Chiang Mai districts of farming communities that ISAC (Institute of Sustainable Agriculture) and NOSA (northern organic standard association) have patiently worked with for over a decade with their hard work now coming to fruition. Promoting sustainable farming practises of permiculture and self sufficiency giving back the farmer's their pride, healthy land and a healthy sustainable future, not dependent on large regional and international agro industry corporations that corrupt governments, manipulate people and poison the land for future generations. See this trailer for Food Inc. an eye opening film on global multi corporations you can pick up a DVD at local rentals inThai/English.

"Connecting Communities" Farmer's Market
Every Friday 3-5pm during term time
Healthy fresh vegetables, local varieties of organic rice, northern food, snacks and soya milk for sale. Come early!
Bring your cloth bag, reuse your old plastic bags and say no to foam!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Authentic Chiang Mai Doi Luang - Chiang Dao

Photo by All Rights Reserved 2011

Having first seen Doi Luang Mountain 20 or so years ago it was and still is a magical place making the hair on the nape of your neck prickle as it comes it to view never failling to conjure up Buddhist legends and the spiritual world referenced in chronicles and fairy tales of the Lanna kingdom which still occupies the eight northern provinces of Thailand to this day
The 'spiritual home' of the people of the north and a personal totem Doi Luang Doi Chiang Dao is Thailand's third highest peak. Located in the heart of the north in the province of Chiang Mai. A limestone massif standing some 2,225 metres high. With its striking silhouette erupting from the fertile rice growing valley floor up into sub - alpine conditions.

A place of remote beauty, explore challenging nature trails to stunning panoramic mountains views. Discover a rich variety of Montane Bird Life and for orchid enthusiasts endemic orchids and flora with the excitement of chance encounters on a nocturnal animal watching trip during the dark phase of the moon for an optimum Its status as a protected Animal Sanctuary with limited access allows Doi Luang to preserve its unique place in our world.

Typical tour agencies, not knowing the area well only promote the caves which are easily accessable by road, though definately worth visiting particularily the deeper caverns that are normally missed out on standard group tours.

Travel with an expert independent tour operator and the mountain gives up its secrets from a one day "Remote Trails City Escape" and overnight "Stunning Mountain Nature Trail Experiences". Balancing nature with the Indigenous tribal groups of mainly Hmong, Karen and Lisu People, already settled for generations and living on its verdent slopes, tribal cultural experiences can be combined with a theraphutic soak at a local hot spring or relaxing at a refreshing seasonal waterfalls in a forest grotto.

Extended programs combining elephant Mahout training programs passing on the in depth knowledge and skills of the traditional local Indigenous Karen elephant keeper's followed by traditional travel by bamboo Raft along scenic river ways or take a cool ride by white water rafting along one of the best stretches of the Mae Nam Taeng River with some extreme class 5 rapids or opt for the fun for all class 3 rapids joining one of the many qualified outfits operating on the river, but choose wisely.

Recommendations: Book well ahead as trips run on a limited departure basis each month. Travel with knowledgable qualified guides respectful of the environment and communities. Visits to the Animal Sanctuary are seasonal. If travelling alone contact travel site forums such as to put together a small group ahead of your arrival to Chiang Mai.

Written by Caroline Marsh.

Caroline Marsh is co-founder of Chiang Mai based independent ethical tour operator .."Expertise, Ethical travel and Authentic Experiences contribute to making a difference to local communities and the environment." passionate about new experiences and travel; preaches and teaches community environmental well being; Caroline writes for travel sites, regional travel magazines and her own blog Authentic Chiang Mai promoting her adopted city of more than 20years!; coordinates local 'grassroots' community peoples actions through Holistic Environment Urban Schools Program (HEUSP)and a member of the umbrella network group Lanna Community Life Network (LCLN) formerly NCCN. Visit channel

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

A Big Thank-you! Low Carbon Children's Day 2011

photo credit: Kirk Hollis

A Big Thank-you for the 2nd year! to all those who joined us at the Chiang Mai Low Carbon Children's Day Event on Saturday 08th January 2011.

Held this year at a New City Venue - Urban Development Centre (Earthern House and a preserved historical wooden building in the old city) on Ratchawithi Road.

We would like to say a Big Thank-you to...............

Thank-you to all the staff at UDIF especially Acharn Duongcharn Charoenmuang who has tirelessly spread the word of change and sustainability for a better caring Chiang Mai community and inviting us to join the event

Thank-you to all the staff especially the Ladies at Huay Kaew Nursery of the National parks and plants Dept. at the base of Doi Suthep for donating the local tree saplings.

Thank-you to everyone at the Tessabahn Chiang Mai plant Nursery out at Mae Hia for plants and bags of soil.

Thank-you to Khun Paradee and staff of Bohdi Serene Boutique Hotel for supporting the event for the 2nd year and coming to join us and help out with planting

Thank-you to Judith and all the staff and Managment of Riverside Restaurant for supporting the event for the 2nd year and donating all the icecream for everyone at the event.

Thank-you to teachers and students of Puttisopon Primary School to dance at the event.

Thank-you to Ricky of OurChiang who helped with his time and transporting 500 local indigenous tree saplings and sharing his knowledge and support on local trees for a local community

Thank-you to Pung for giving up his own Children's Day to help other children plant and learn about how much fun it is for parents and children alike to feel soil in your hands, sign a plant pledge and nurture a plant to take home and care for!

Thank-you to Thamanoon and Lila for supporting and helping their Mum!

Thank-you to members of Lanna Community Life Network (LCLN) formerly NCCN especially to Kirk, Tomoko, Punika (Ja), Alex, Grace and Dave to giving up their precious spare time from hectic work schedules to help out at this event.

Along with other members of Lanna Community life Network (LCLN) they have been involved in many actions promoting awareness of our community's health, the environment and our natural resources.

Including local actions such as a 'Community Peoples Pledge' to lower carbon use
with many local influential people signing up including the Mayor, the Governor, Chao Duong Duen Na Chiang Mai, many regional directors of central government ministeries and most recently British Honorary Consul, Ben Svasti Thomson - UK Consulate.

More than 10,000 pledges so far with students, their teachers A. Sawat from Yupparaj High School, Kru Nongluck from Puttisopon School and Kru Maem Anubahn Panee (all schools part of Holistic Environment Urban Schools Program HEUSP) Rural Women's Organic Farmer's groups and most importantly families leading the way.

If you would like to find out more and would like to join an action or for regular meetings with LCLN see contact details below English / Thai / Japanese

Finally a very big Thank-you to all the children, parents, neighbours, friends old and new and fellow Chiang Mai Community who without your support we could not and cannot make Chiang Mai a better sustainable place to live for everyone urban and rural!

For more info: English 0831-523 621 ไทย 0892634422 Japanese 0812-884-216 LCLN initiative Sept2010

Caroline (Kare)

Project Coordinator
'Pilot Project' Holistic Environment Urban Schools Program, Chiang Mai, (HEUSP)

Parents for a Brighter future for our Children
mobile +66 083 1523621,

member of Lanna Community Life Network (LCLN) Climate Justice Now! formerly (NCCN)

......" Good Actions Require Everyone's Cooperation......" Jing Si

These projects have zero official funding and rely solely on the positive energy generated within our Chiang Mai Community

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Lanna Community Life Network Begin Dialogue with Local Consulates

photo credit: Tomoko Kashiwazaki

On the issues regarding the highly critical situation of the global climate crisis. An issue that undeniably requires urgent action globally, as well as locally, here in Chiang Mai.
Lanna Community Life Network (LCLN) People’s Action December 2010
 group of Chiang Mai citizens under the banner of Lanna Community Life Network (LCLN) visited US, UK and Japanese Consulates to begin a dialogue with high-level consulate personnel

Firstly the group expressed its concerns about the slow process of negotiations between states- as well as the insufficient commitment made by all states in addressing the causes and consequences of climate change. It has been recognized that major industrialized countries, such as the US, Japan and the UK are responsible for the majority of global natural resource depletion and subsequently are the biggest emitters of GHGs.  However, these same states have not demonstrated their recognition of, nor made sufficient and rapid enough commitments to, the necessary steps that are required to tackle this crisis situation. This can only be achieved when these wealthy and powerful states seriously commit to the act of significantly reducing their own consumption of natural resources, as well as drastically cutting their emissions of GHGs.

As a way to respond to this situation, the group introduced and proposed the “People’s Pledge” and the “Chiang Mai Consulate Pledge” to the consulates.

The “People’s Pledge” is a commitment which individuals, families, businesses or organizations make in order to reduce GHG emissions and protect the environment by taking various actions. This is based on the concept of the campaign- 10:10, which inspires and supports people and organizations to cut their carbon emissions by 10% per year. 10:10 was initially launched as a UK campaign on September 1st 2009. Since then, the campaign has expanded and currently 113,031 have signed up in 186 countries. LCLN adapted a set of actions to reduce GHG emissions, which are specifically relevant to Chiang Mai. And these actions include a ‘Zero Burning’ campaign (forest, agricultural and residential) and the restoration of the ancient community ‘kud’ laws introduced 715 years ago during the reign of King Mengrai, whom established Chiang Mai and the eight provinces making up the Lanna kingdom. These laws governed wisely the city’s natural resources. The “People’s Pledge” has been signed by organisations and individuals in Chiang Mai including the Governor, Chao Duong Duen Na Chiang Mai, Ministry of Energy, Chiang Mai’s Mayor, Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources, Ministry of Health, a number of schools including faculties, students and parents  are leading the way with nearly 10,000 signatures pledged to date.

The group also proposed adding more actions to the “People’s Pledge” to be adopted by the consulate as the “Chiang Mai Consulate Pledge” complying with a given consulate’s greater capacity and responsibility to the community where it is located, and as a pro-active representative of its respective government.

The “Chiang Mai Consulate Pledge” includes:

  • Publicizing the consulate’s official mandate with regard to the state policy and measures to address climate change through its website, links to other websites and any other occasions;
§  Ensuring all consulate sponsored programs, projects and activities will be ecologically responsible;
§  Conducting carbon audits of all consulate activities and publish the results regularly;
§  Proposing and promoting the low-carbon development model at all consulate-sponsored events;
§  Providing any available financial support, as well as any other potential forms of support, to the civil society in Chiang Mai in order to increase awareness on environmentally sound and sustainable development.

The group was welcomed with Japanese green tea by the Consul of Japan, Masahide Sato. Asked about the policy and measures of the consulate office to tackle climate change, he shared their initiative- “cool-biz” as part of their attempt to save energy, a working-style implemented in his office, which includes wearing no neck-tie for men and setting the temperature of the air conditioning at a maximum of 25 degrees C. He also shared with us that more than 3,000 Japanese people reside in Chiang Mai and are registered at the consulate, of which 1,500 are retired. And that many of whom routinely go home during the worst of the air pollution season in Chiang Mai – from late January to April. Mr. Sato further stated that due to the limited human and financial capacity of the consulate, he could not at this time agree to prioritise the environmental issues raised by LCLN among the other important issues the consulate must undertake. And he therefore could not commit the Japanese Consulate to the signing of the “Pledge”.  However he promised that he would share the concept of the “Pledge” and its list of actions, with his colleagues. He added that the visits to his office by civil society groups are always welcome.

Honorary Consul of UK Ben Svasti Thomson welcomed the group and entered into a discussion on environmental issues in Chiang Mai and the initiatives taken by the UK government. He informed LCLN of new legislation to regulate corporations in the UK, which is part of the effort to tackle the effect of business activities on the environment and lessen the impacts of global warming. UK embassies and consulates are also implementing measures to cut 10% of their emissions annually as part of the UK Government policy.  “Climate Control” was an issue that Mr. Thomson took great interest in and was well aware of the need for action at both a local and global level. 

On signing the “Chiang Mai Consulate Pledge” he commits the UK Consulate to setting air conditioners to 25c., supporting local farmers and buying local organic produce, support zero burning, supporting green and ethical businesses; initiatives to protect the Mae Kha Canal and the Ping River and methods to save water, reusing glass bottles, recycling and composting organic waste; walk instead of using the car. A proposed carbon audit by the group was welcomed and it is in the process of being submitted to the consulate.

LCLN members made an appointment with the U.S. Consulate and were met by Consular / Economic Officer Thomas Schmidt. Our engagement was brief and held while standing in the public waiting area of the consulate facility. We expressed our concerns and objectives and presented our People’s Pledge. We were informed that U.S. Consulate official policy prevented Mr. Schmidt from making any comment or commitment. We were assured that the purpose of our visit would be noted for consideration, but that no official response may be given.
U.S. Consulate policy prevents visitors from taking of any photographs within the consulate facility.

Written by
Tomoko Kashiwazaki
With additional content by Kirk Hollis, Alex Putnam, Caroline Marsh
Lanna Community Life Network (LCLN) People’s Action December 2010