September 4-12, 2004
Coverage for the next few days may be slight as the connection in Hua Hin is less than 28K.
PS: Watcharee and I have the same suite as we have had for the preceding three years.
Of the Screwless Tuskers, there are two new members. All of them are about to leave for their 4pm practice session.
I am still dithering with image size as The Anantara Hotel here in Hua Hin can only 'broadcast' at 28k.
PPS: I am still playing with image sizes and an alternative WiFi cnnection.
This is another shot of our porch ... and one from the porch; using the least 'desirable' settings on my Nikon.
PPPS: Here are some random snaps using very low resolution (*) ... all taken this evening at the Anantara Hotel in Hua Hin.
(*) I am sorry about the poor quality of the photos ... but, given a 28k output I had to shoot the pictures at my camera's lowest image setting.
Sports Illustrated is shooting the cover for its Swimsuit Issue just about 100 meters from our suite.
This is the real payoff time for my Nikon paparazzi lens. I knew it would come in handy one day. By the way, I shot this using my camera's maximum resolution.
PS: Fake sweat.
PPS: "Am I showing?"
PPPS: We were on the beach primarily for lunch ... the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Shot was just a fillip.
Last night three of the Screwless Tuskers (Golf, Tok and Pu) held their own swim suit 'shot' by the hotel pool.
PS: Lots and lots and lots and lots of photos from the first day of competition. The Screwless Tuskers did not play ... they were just part of the parade. Their first game is tomorrow. Most of the pix are of them ... but, of course!
We lost our first match 9 to 2. The Screwless Tuskers were up against the vastly more experienced Sandalford Winery Team from Australia.
BULL'S BOAT HOUSE ATTACKED
Late Night PS on the 7th:
Team dinner on the porch at the Screwless Tusker Suite:
The World Class All Blacks from New Zealand (see their profile) barely slipped by the Screwless Tuskers (see our profile) by a score of 2 - 1.
PS: The 'girls' prepared for the team dinner.
PPS: TEPA (Thai Elephant Polo Association) dinner at the General's Mansion:
The Screwless Tuskers scored more goals in this game than any in their history ... but that was not enough to keep the powerful Mullis Capital team at bay. Our old friend from Nepal and Thailand, Tom Claytor (the Bush Pilot), was the announcer ... prayers and cheerleaders helped our 10 - 6 score.
PS: A blow to the Mecca of e-polo:
IT WAS Nepal's first tourist venture, with a guest book of A-list celebrities including the Prince of Wales, Kate Moss, Henry Kissinger and Mick Jagger, and attracted global attention by hosting the annual elephant polo world championships.
But the sun could be about to set on the carefree days of champagne and safaris at the British-owned Tiger Tops resort in southern Nepal, after Maoist rebels ordered its closure.
The business is one of 35 companies on a list rebels issued on Monday that targets firms they accuses of exploiting workers. Bombs exploded on Tuesday at the Malla Hotel in Katmandu, another company on the list.
The demand for the companies to close came three weeks after a bomb attack by Maoist rebels forced another 12 firms to suspend operations.
In a statement issued this week the rebels said: "Since the government and industrial enterprises have not fulfilled demands presented by our organisation so far, we announce indefinite closure of [an] additional 35 industries from 10 September."
A Nepalese source said the forced shutdowns were aimed at putting economic pressure on the government.
Yesterday, emergency talks between industry leaders and go-betweens for the Maoists to resolve the crisis ended without progress.
"You don't take these things lightly," said a spokesman for Tiger Tops. "If the threat isn't lifted tomorrow then we will have to close.
"We obviously wish to protect our staff, their families, our guests and the community in which we operate. We don't want to cause any trouble in the village.
"We haven't a clue [why we've been targeted] but Tiger Tops has always been quite a high-profile company down the years. We used to be in school text books [here]."
The cultural gulf between Nepal's peasant revolutionaries and the international set that frequents the resort could hardly be more stark.
Tiger Tops stands on the edge of dense jungle in the Royal Chitwan National Park, an area famous for its one-horned Asian rhinos, wild elephants and Royal Bengal tigers. When it opened in 1964 it was the first tourism business in the country.
Over the years it has been a favourite hangout of the rich and famous, attracting other famous guests such as Jimmy Carter and the Duke of Edinburgh.
"Kate Moss came down those steps topless," recalled Jim Edwards, the resort's owner, last year. "None of the staff batted an eyelid. I think she was a bit disappointed."
The resort began hosting the annual elephant polo world championships after Mr Edwards and a Scottish friend, James Manclark, invented the sport in 1982.
"The first year was just a champagne picnic, great fun," Mr Edwards said.
The second year the event was sponsored by Cartier and included a team comprising Ringo Starr, the Bond girl Barbara Bach, Billy Connolly and the comic Max Boyce.
These days the championships are dominated by horse polo players, British Army officers, diplomats and an occasional aristocrat.
Players attending last year's championships arrived at the resort's private airfield, mounted elephants and rode across sweeping grasslands and a wide river to the tree houses and bungalows on the edge of the forest.
This is not the first time Tiger Tops has been targeted by the Maoists. In 2002 a bomb exploded at the resort's Katmandu office, destroying a toilet, while in April this year the control tower at the airstrip was burned down.
The resort's isolation and old-world charm means it has little choice but to take the latest threat seriously. The only communication with the outside world is by radio, the nearest telephone is two hours away by four-wheel-drive.
With Nepal's 60,000-strong army stretched thinly protecting towns and roads, companies and their staff are vulnerable to intimidation.
Responding to the latest threats against businesses, Nepal's home minister, Purna Bahadur Khadka, said: "My ministry will give necessary protection to help encourage the industries to continue working."
But a similar offer was not enough to reassure the 12 companies singled out by the rebels in August.
Other companies on the rebels' latest list include a hydroelectric plant and a turpentine manufacturer. Industry officials said that the 35 firms employ 25,000 workers between them. The 12 companies that have already been forced to close employ 5,000 and are said to be running at a combined daily loss of £2.25 million.
The economic hardship follows a week-long blockade of Katmandu by the rebels last month. Nepal's vital tourism industry is already in decline in the face of increasing security fears.
On Tuesday Indian officials said they had received intelligence of a Maoist hijacking threat to flights between Katmandu and India.
A Nepalese army officer said that by damaging the economy the rebels hoped to undermine the government and make it appear to be powerless. Fighting between rebels and government forces has escalated since peace talks broke down last year. The rebels are inspired by China's Mao Zedong and want to replace Nepal's monarchy with a communist state.
The Maoists control large swathes of the countryside in the desperately poor Himalayan nation and have had sufficient influence to enforce transport strikes in the capital.
Since walking out of peace talks last August, they have called a series of largely effective blockades of provincial towns and villages, attacking vehicles whose drivers defied their orders. The anti-monarchist revolt has claimed more than 10,000 lives, scared away investors and tourists and threatened the stability of multiparty democracy set up in 1990.
In eight years the rebels have made enormous progress. Starting from a small base in the western hills they have gained control of about 80 per cent of the country and mount regular bombings and shootings.
In one of the world's poorest countries the Maoist leaders are able to attract illiterate peasants to their cause with talk of equality and a better life. When the revolution was launched in 1996, six years of democracy had done little or nothing to improve conditions in remote areas.
At first the government did little about the killing in distant districts, seemingly more preoccupied with tackling corruption and infighting.
The conflict escalated following the palace massacre of 2001, when Crown Prince Dipendra shot dead King Birendra and eight other members of the royal family in a drunken rage, putting the late king's more activist brother Gyanendra on the throne.
A state of emergency was declared and the army was deployed against the rebels. The following year, further infighting led to the dissolution of parliament. A few months later King Gyanendra sacked the elected prime minister. Since then politics has stumbled from one crisis to another.
The government has called for peace talks, but the rebels have said they will only negotiate if the future of the monarchy is on the table. While King Gyanendra retains his influence that seems unlikely.
Last night Chivas (the whiskey people) hosted the Chivas Beach BBQ at the hotel. All the teams signed a huge bottle of booze for the charity auction that will be held on Sunday.
PS: The following update was sent to all friends of Tiger Tops (the original home of elephant polo).
SITUATION UPDATE – 29
Dear Agents/Guests and Well-wishers,
Following a press release issued by the Maoist Trade Union on September 6, 2004 for the closure of 35 companies including Tiger Tops, we regret to inform you that the Tiger Tops Management has decided to close the Chitwan part of our operations, which includes Tiger Tops Jungle Lodge, Tiger Tops Tented Camp and Tiger Tops Tharu Lodge with effect from September 10, 2004 until further notice.
We have no idea why we were listed but have decided to close our Chitwan operations to protect our staff, their families and our guests from any difficulty.
However, dialogue between the industry leaders and mediators for the Maoists continue very positively and we are confident of an early resolution to this situation.
Meanwhile, other operations of the Tiger Mountain Group, i.e. Mountain Travel Nepal, Adventure Travel Nepal, West Nepal Adventures and Himalayan River Exploration continue to operate normally.
We will certainly keep you fully informed of all developments.
September 10, 2004
NB: Last year GAMEON Magazine from Dubai did a coverage of The Screwless Tuskers; better late than never seen at all:
The hotel prepares for this evening's Gala Feast.
PS: The Screwless Tuskers are pushing Watcharee and Arnold to form a 2008 'ticket' to combat the likely Hilary - ? combo.
Watcharee mit Arnold.
PPS: "NO! not him!"
Watcharee mit dem Führer.
PPPS: Start of Gala dinner:
The Screwless Tuskers finished the season in 12th place ... out of 14. Last year we were 12th out of 12. That's a plus of 2.
Our friend, Tom Claytor, sported a new patriotic eye shadow.
Transvestites go down fighting in elephant polo match
An elephant polo team made up of transvestites has competed in a prestigious tournament in Thailand.
The Screwless Tuskers put up a brave show before going down 2-0 to the DBS Bank Ladies.
The played on the final day of the 14-team round-robin tournament in the annual event.
Elephant polo - a slower, heavier game than the equine version - is a serious business in Thailand.
"It is almost like horse polo but in a very slow motion. But I can tell you it is much more difficult," said Raj Kalaan, a member of the Chivas Regal elephant polo team.
Some 55 players, including three former All Blacks rugby players, gathered in the Thai beach resort town of Hua Hin for the tournament.
Next: Back in Bangkok