International Vegetarian Union (IVU)
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Congress Logo 33rd World Vegetarian Congress
Chiang Mai, Thailand, January 4 - 10, 1999
'Vegetarianism is the Way'
an unforgettable visual, cultural and gastronomic experience

Personal Reports from some who were there

Date: Sat, 16 Jan 1999
From: Robert Fraser, Perth, West Australia

I did enjoy it, despite getting burnout by Saturday afternoon. I just HATED the atmosphere in the hotel building; the aircon. was appalling, and made me feel just so agressive at times. Who knows what it did to others! And one couldn't even go outside to get a breath of sun and fresh air. It was so good to get back to Perth, with fresh air, blue sky, sun and a temperature of 27 degrees C.

Thanks to the organisers are superfluous, they know that we owe them gratitude for all the work that they must have put into making it work as it did, despite the little hiccups.

If anything, there were too many talks and events; I am totally exhausted just from listening to so many people. But this is what a Congress is for. I learnt so much and met so many interesting people. It just reinforces how universal vegetarianism is, having met people from such diverse backgrounds and from so many corners of the globe.

Robert W Fraser
Perth, Western Australia
President,VegSoc WA Inc
IVU RegSec/Australasia

Date: Mon, 18 Jan 1999
From: Katherine Azzopardi, Malta

Namaskar dear friends,
Already a week has passed since the end of the congress and I suppose most of us are back home to their normal routine. I wanted to write in earlier but, for some reason unknown even to myself, I kept putting it away for another day. I suppose now is a good enough time as any, to pass on my reflections.

Certainly this congress was one big growth experience for me. I am happy that I came, even if just to meet personally with so many wonderful people. It is a pity that we did not have more time to spend together. I can probably count the minutes I spent talking to Vanessa, Francesco, Katharina, Gerry, Tina, John, Ruth, Rachel Flower... these short moments were to me the most precious, more valuable than all the lectures/workshops which I attended. I feel it is very important, if we wish to strengthen this movement, to get to know one another better, learn from each other, discover what makes us tick. All of us are so much alike and yet so different, we have so many good qualities and yet so many imperfections. Whether we succeeded in showing the world that "Vegetarianism is the Way", I am not sure. To me there is much more to "the Way" than vegetarianism. And this congress helped to strengthen my feelings about this. Vegetarianism is one thing we all seem to (somehow) agree upon, and I say somehow, because all of us know that even in this respect we have established classifications. We should do our utmost to see to it that all of our resources and collective potential be directed towards making more and more vegetarians, hopefully vegans. One essential element of vegetarian living is love. Many of the participants in this congress were shining with love, and on these people I would place my bets, if anyone challenges the idea that vegetarianism is bound to grow. It was obvious that a lot of work went into the organisation of the whole programme, and I'm grateful to all who gave their time and energy. All who have been active in some organisation or other, know that if we expect some kind of progress anywhere, we have to undergo a lot of struggle. A number of people were facing a lot of struggle from before and even during the whole of the conference. To them we owe the success of it. I auger that all of us recognised what lessons we had to learn, and we just grow and move on.

What I wish for the future is that we concentrate a little more on what we can do together, how to share resources. Many of us have already given so much for the materialisation of a global vision. Let us take their example and continue building on that. All of us, no matter how small, should come to these congresses with this idea in mind: what do I have to share this time? What new idea? How much more love?

Many thanks to all you nice people.
In love,

PS I agree with Robert about the hotel..

Date: Tue, 19 Jan 1999
From: Tina Fox, The Wirral, UK

Now that I am finally getting over my lack of sleep I thought I'd write in with my experiences of the World Congress. First of all I have to say I am prejudiced towards Thailand, I have visited once before and think the country , its architecture and inhabitants are great. My experiences this time only reinforced that view. We travelled there in a group of 7 with Arab Emirates who I found to be efficient and veggie friendly. On arrival we seemed to have a slight technical hitch and hung around the airport for nearly two hours - the last thing we felt like was a trip around Bangkok but I'm glad we went . It was wonderful on the river with all our fellow congress attenders, even if I was too slow to snaffle any of the buffet !. The disorganisation on arrival at the hotel was somehow expected but in general I thought the programme of talks seemed less chaotic and very enjoyable, as were the evening entertainments and the excursions. I found the experience very intense, it was great meeting everyone but it might have been nice to spend more than 1.5 days away from the hotel. Lunch, dinner, breakfast, coffee breaks have never been so interesting - a big hello to all my new friends and contacts out there!

Some valuable lessons learned for our own congress in 2002 in Edinburgh (BIG PLUG) both on the plus and the minus side. Sunday seemed very sad, everyone leaving at different times but afternoon tea ( or coconut) at the Regent Chiang Mai lifted our spirits as did an excellent evening meal ( sadly I would say congress catering was not a high point). Monday it was off to Chiang Rai for a foray to Myanmar on Tuesday morning followed by night high in the mountains at Maesalong. Wednesday back to Bangkok and an afternoon tour , of the disabled dogs shelter. We were surprised to find that as well as cats and dogs the animal guests included monkeys, turtles, poultry, a cow and a crocodile. Basically any unwanted animal would find a home there and none are put down. The disabled dogs have there own individual pen to prevent injury and all they crave is affection, both Tom and I found it heartbreaking. Thursday a final morning out to the old capital then a farewell/ birthday meal with my Thai friends before flying home. As Arnie would say "we'll be back" and we look forward to Toronto.

Date: Wed, 20 Jan 1999
From: David Roman, Valencia, Spain

Above all, I feel it was a great experience. Being my first congress, it gives a wider concept of vegetarianism, the diversity of people and common goals. We had a wonderful time there. The talks in the program were very interesting, anyone could find something suitable for his likings (and usually several, and at the same time...).

Of course, there were also some slight problems, which I would like not to have happened. But that's something that usually occurs. Especially about the hotel, the "quality" of the rooms (on the standard wing), and the service (several days without towels...). I totally agree with Robert Fraser about the air conditioning, after one week inside the hotel our lungs were starting to complain. But on the contrary, it was not so good to get back to Europe, when we're having a really cold winter (even here in Spain).

I must confess that I didn't expect Thailand to be so developed; I think they're facing real problems with pollution and ecology. But on the other hand, the traditional aspects are wonderfully amazing. The fascination around buddhist culture ... an unforgettable experience. One of the things we liked most, was a post-congress 3-day trekking tour through the northern lands, visiting hilltribes villages and sharing their lives and customs.

Best wishes to all,

Date: Fri, 22 Jan 1999
From: Maxwell G. Lee, Stockport UK

Firstly, I feel we should thank the Thai congress organisers for the congress. Their efforts are very much appreciated and they gave us a good congress. Yes, there were some problems. I have never known a congress without them! However, people enjoyed this congress and most of the comments were positive that I heard. We are all human and have our own views and thoughts about what is and what should be. This often means a different opinion and approach. However, we should never lose sight of the fact that any divisions in our ranks only benefit the meat industry. Whilst we might have differing views of the most positive way forward, let's ensure we act with good humour and a desire for co-operation and friendly working together for the good of the cause.

The elections for president and deputy president resulted in myself being elected as president and Kevin Pickard being elected as deputy president. I am sure we wil both work to ensure the success of IVU and real progress in the international vegetarian movement. Subsequently elections were held for membership of the International Council. Fifteen candidates stood for election and eight were elected ( the constitution allows for up to 8 to be elected to the International Council). Those elected were Dr Simon Chau, Mr Francisco Martin, Mr Hiren Kara, Dr. Matsuko Kakimoto, Mr Paul Turner, Mr John Davis, Ms Tina Fox and Ms Katherina Bless.

In addition to the people previously mentioned, the International Council includes Mr Saurabh Dalal, regional secretary for North America, Mr Robert Fraser regional secretary for Australasia, Dr P.K. Jain, regional secretary for Africa, Mr Louis Escala regional secretary for Latin America, Dr Claude Pasquini regional secretary for Europe and Mr Jashu Shah regional secretary for India and the East. In addition, Mr Howard Lyman, as retiring president, is a member of the International Council for two years. The post of Hon. Treasurer remains vacant and the International Council will co-opt a suitable person to the post.

The International Council is a group of dedicated vegetarians, many of whom are vegan, and they all have their own views and are strong independently minded characters. It seems there has been some suggestion that the International Council might be easily influenced or swayed in its decision making. I think this is highly unlikely!

I hope we can all put any past differences of opinion behind us and all work together in a positive manner for the good of the cause.

Maxwell G. Lee
President IVU

From: Margaret and Ray Grech, Malta
Date: Mon, 25 Jan 1999

My husband Ray and I would like to thank Vanessa, Francisco, Katherina and John and all the ones we do not know who organised the Thailand Congress. For us it was a wonderful stay and we really enjoyed it.

The hotel was the only problem we had with, not the people, they were nice, but the building in itself just made us feel headless most of the times, maybe too much bulding and not enough air space. The food was good, we enjoyed the meat substiutes for the first two days, and then we switched on the the veges and soups. the food was abundant and ran the risk of eating too much. We are sorry to ahve heard that a few got sick, and realise that it spoils one's holiday and purpose of stay, not to include the bitterness that the experience leaves. I am sure that I would feel the same if it had to happen to me. So I am sorry for these people, but I am sure that inspite of any problems some may have had, they also have taken somethings that were good and have been pleased with. Also a big thank you to the gentleness and great work of Teheeran and the wonderful spread of food and thai show she had for us in Bankok.

Unfortunately Katherine had to leave right after the congress, but we stayed on together with Joyce and Paul, also from Malta and had a private tour which did not cost us much more. We went to Chang Rai and treked in the Lahu and Karen tribe areas in chang Mai, rode elephants and bamboo rafted. we went to village temples and had a nice time with the nice people of Thailand.

Thank you all once more and hope to see you again soon where we will have more time to get to know eachother, and share experiances.

Much love and peace