Month: July 2014

Never Buy Property in Thailand

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There is a strong urge for many expats to own their own home in Thailand, not a good idea. A foreigner can’t own the land their property sits on. A non-Thai cannot own land. They can own the building on the land. You have to lease the land back from a Thai. A foreigner can sometimes own apartments or condominiums, under the Thailand Condominium Act. Many expats have purchased property and are happy with their purchase. Let’s just say, others aren’t so happy.

It’s simply cheaper and makes financial sense to rent. Let’s take the condo I live in, for example. It’s a beautiful three bedroom, 2 bath, furnished, luxury condo with 3 pools, just five minutes from the beach. The selling price for one of these units is $160,000. There is a 30 year lease, you never actually own the condo. The monthly ownership fee is $320. This covers management, security, pool service, gardeners and maintenance. If I invest $160,000 at say 6%, it comes out to be $800 a month plus the $320 for the monthly maintenance fee. That’s a total of $1,120 a month. I rent for $800 a month! By buying the unit, I would lose $320 a month and tie up a considerable amount of principal.

What about appreciation? Condos aren’t like fine wine, prices go down as they age. Construction standards are poor. They age miserably. The prices of condos where I live are going down in price. People don’t pay a premium price for second hand units. The more expensive the unit, the smaller the market is and new units are opening every day…and not selling. The building goes on relentlessly and unsold inventory just keeps rising. There is a housing bubble in Bangkok and Phuket.

Condos are often badly managed. The money for the maintenance is squandered, spent on silly things or more likely just pocketed. A strong owner’s committee has to oversee how fees are being spent or else it disappears. Often the owners of a condo project go bust or fees simply aren’t paid. Fees collected are barely adequate to pay for costs. With a lack of basic services, building maintenance just doesn’t happen and value of all units in the project goes down!

There are the usual problems with living in a condo. Noisy neighbors or noise from outside, you name it. Factors that are easily solved in the West can be a nightmare in Thailand. When you have a problem in Thailand, it is not always easily solved. Trying to solve it often escalates it to another level and you’re left with one way to fix it…move!

Everything I’ve written about condos goes for houses as well. I have a friend who built a luxury home on spec. It’s a gorgeous home, he originally put on sale for $550k. A few years later it’s still unsold at $390k. Renting a property in Thailand is the way to go. It suits expats to rent because they can come and go as they please and not have money tied up in a country with an unstable government.

I suggest investment elsewhere and use the income from those investments to rent in Thailand. Places do sell, but the market is slow. There are plenty of places to rent. Rents in various parts of the country vary widely. In Phuket 10,000 baht ($300) a month would “buy” very little for a foreigner; however in Chaing Mai it could mean a very comfortable house or apartment. Rents are always negotiable with the low season is the time to shop. A year-long contract is the way to go, bearing in mind that the owner will want to charge more for the high season. Try and avoid doing business with a Thai landlord by the way. Make sure your lease spells out exactly how a deposit is to be returned.

Bottom line: Save your money, rent in Thailand.

10 Rules To Survive Driving In Thailand

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Thai people are inherently kind, friendly, forgiving and turn into complete psychopaths when behind the wheel of a car or motorbike. How such polite and generally demure people become such “I-am-the-center-of-the-universe assholes” behind the wheel, is open to debate. The road fatality rate in Thailand is more than double the global average. The blame lies somewhere in the poor driver education system, the Jekyll and Hyde nature of the people and the lack of law enforcement. Whenever I think I’ve just seen the quintessential worst idiot driver, another one comes along to prove me wrong. Yet, somehow we manage to get around here in the Land of Smiles. You merely have to forget everything you know about driving in the West and adapt to the Thai rules of the road.

Here are the basics:
1) Drive on the left. This complicates things for drivers coming from other countries that drive on the right, of course. Thai drivers drive anywhere they like, including sidewalks; officially they’re supposed to be on the left.
2) Watch out for motorbikes. Motorbikes are the dominant form of transportation. You’ll see entire families on one bike, sometimes five at a time. You’ll see parents holding a baby, while driving. I see motorbike drivers on the phone all the time despite the fact that it takes two hands to bring the bike to a stop. Motorbike drivers never look when they pull out into traffic. They’re difficult to see when driving a car, especially at night with many broken headlights. They’re supposed to be off to the left because motorbikes are slower, but they can be anywhere including the wrong side of the road.
3) Be aware of everything around you. Dogs run out into the traffic with cars and bikes swerving or stopping suddenly. In rural areas, water buffalo graze and wander onto roads. Tourists on motorbikes do crazy things. Thais never look before pulling out in front of you. Be vigilant.
4) Stay calm and avoid confrontation. You will need patience in Thailand. You’re going to be tested by suicidal drivers, speeding and constantly swapping lanes without indicating or using mirrors and a general lack of courtesy.
5) Accidents are your fault. This is the Thai way. As a foreigner you will be automatically blamed even if the other person is at fault. It’s your fault because you are in their country. If you are involved in an accident, plan on having to pay some compensation. A Thai driver who kills someone in an accident commonly runs away.
6) Police stops and fines are part of driving. You will get stopped by the police. You will eventually run into a manned traffic stop and they will find something wrong. They have to supplement their income somehow! Refusing to pay just means a trip to the station and the fine going up. The good news…the fine is typically $10.
7) Forget about common courtesy. Take for example pedestrians in a crosswalk. If you stop to let them cross, you’ll get rear-ended. Being courteous just screws things up because no one expects it. Thai driving laws are generally the same as the rest of the world, they’re just ignored. The first rule for a Thai driver is, “ME FIRST”.
8) Drive extremely defensively. Look both ways and then look both ways again. Drive assuming that everyone else on the road isn’t paying attention, because likely they’re not. I’m constantly scanning the road and mirrors for possible problems. You can be legally right and legally dead. You are always in the wrong on a motorbike. On a motorbike, never push your luck; give way to things bigger then you. The very early hours of the morning are especially dangerous with many drunk drivers. Drunk drivers kill at an alarming rate.
8) Thai police are useless. In most countries, we drive safely and courteously out of consideration AND fear of the police. There is no fear of the police in Thailand. They have little interest in making sure the public drives safely. Police have poor training and don’t have vehicles for traffic enforcement. They have no desire, motivation or ability to ensure the public’s safety. No one ever gets stopped in Thailand. That’s the reason it’s so dangerous to drive here. Speeding, blowing off traffic lights, passing on curves, driving on the wrong side of the road, anything goes because police never enforce traffic rules so the driving is insane.
9) Don’t stop or get involved in an accident. If the mob smells money, then it’s your fault and plenty of “witnesses” will state that. I know this goes against everything we know as drivers in the West, but TIT.
10) TRY to never get angry. It’s frustrating, but it is what it is. Always expect someone to do something stupid in front of you…and behind you. Driving in Thailand takes infinite patience and constant awareness. Thai drivers believe they are invincible, infallible and immortal, despite the evidence to the contrary.

Don’t come here on vacation and rent a motorbike unless you’re a very experienced driver. The emergency rooms at the hospitals are always filled with bloody broken tourist. Don’t make it a memorable vacation for the wrong reason. The World Health Organization reported that 74 percent on road deaths in Thailand involved motorbikes.

The main thing to remember is, driving in Thailand has its own rules and you will need to adapt to survive. Be careful out there.

Tar Foot

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It’s that time of the year again. I’m always surprised when I find a glob of tar on the bottom of my foot. I never remember stepping in it. Chances are you have experienced tar on the feet. It’s a black, sticky goo that is the result of natural petroleum seepage. No amount of soap and water will remove tar, but it can be easily removed.

First scrape off the excess. I use a dull bladed knife. Then, dissolve the rest with oil and a paper towel or cloth. Others write that any cheap oil will do, but I swear by Baby oil. It works like magic and smells good. Simply drip a spot of oil on a paper towel or cloth. Let the oil sit for a couple of minutes on the spot and then rub until the tar is gone. Once the tar is removed, wash your feet with soap and water. Best not to walk around with oily, slippery feet.

Trust me, simple cooking or baby oil is the way to go here. See you on the beach.

The Yamaha Tricity

From Kamala Beach we review the new Yamaha Tricity. There are other 3-wheeled scooters, but nothing in this lower price range. Riders all over the world are itching to get their hands on the bike, with over 25,000 views on YouTube and growing! It’s a fun, more stable and safer than those old fashion 2-wheelers. It sells for about $2500 in Thailand because it’s made here. Expect to pay another $1000 in the West. It is still a rare bird here but I expect it will gain acceptance because it’s different and fun to drive.

Tradgedy Strikes Thailand No Booze For A Couple of Days

Holiday booze shopping

I received more than adequate notification regarding the two day, bar closure, religious holiday…no alcohol sales announcement. All I can say is, I feel your pain…well, somewhat. Ever see the movie “Panic In Needle Park”?

Random comments:
Let’s get these out of the way-
1, That’s the final nail in the coffin for tourism in Thailand
2, I’m a tourist it must be illegal to stop me buying a drink
3, I’ll sue my travel company when i get home
4, What am i supposed to do if I cannot go to a bar to drink
5, I’m not a Buddhist (already covered)
6, It infringes on my human rights.
7, Thailand and all Thais are rubbish.

Can you still buy sex on Fri- Sat?

Reading some of the comments , one might think world is coming to an end.

Gees, no booze for 2 days……….?

Let your liver have a break, won’t kill ya

Alcohol damages your brain to the extent that you are unable to see past the end of your nose or 48hrs, which ever is the sooner.

Coup Leaders Invite Corruption Complaints

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The United States and western countries should reexamine the condemnation of the coup.

I’ve said it before, the coup is the best thing that ever happened to Thailand. In my little corner of the world, Phuket, I’m seeing dramatic changes taking place. The Generals have taken care of the hated Taxi mafia, cleaned up the beaches and are now working on the ingrained political corruption. This would have been unthinkable without the coup. The politicians charged with upholding the law were the ones getting rich off the corruption! These officials are now on the chopping block. True, Phuket was low hanging fruit, but it’s happening in other areas of the country as well.

It just keep getting better and better. The island’s representatives of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) are inviting residents and tourists to file anonymous complaints of suspected corruption, as well as suggestions for coup leaders on how to improve the country. It’s a beautiful thing.

– See more at: The Phuket Gazette.

Kamala Beach Transformed

It’s been an exciting time to live in Phuket with the Army stepping in and literally cleaning up the island. All the illegal structures and businesses have now been cleared from Surin and Kamala Beach. It’s been an ecological miracle. Over the years, businesses were allowed to creep onto the public beaches. This week the Army made the final clean-up of the beach. The OrBorTor had posted their second and final notices on the encroaching properties and, if the owners of the structures fail to comply soon, the OrBorTor will proceed with demolishing the structures. – See more at: The Phuket News

This is what the Kamala Beach looks like now and hopefully forever.

Army Cleans Up Kamala Beach

Army Cleans Kamala

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Following the coup, one of the first orders of business for the Generals was to clean up the cesspool that was Phuket. Every politician and cop on the island was bent. The taxi mafia ran the embarassing transportation system on the island. Public land was being sold off to the highest bidder. Beaches had multimillion dollar clubs stretching to the water line. The officials that were charged with overseeing encroachment, we’re the ones getting rich looking the other way. There was only one way to stop it. The military had to step in and clean house. What has happened in Phuket is a miracle. We knew a coup was coming, but I don’t think anyone could have predicted what an incredible job their doing.

Today the Army oversaw the final cleanup of Kamala beach.

This is a beach I walk everyday. Buddha bless the Generals.

Thai Girls Love Som Tam

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Pad Thai and tom yam soup may be better known in the West, but in Thailand som tam rules. Som tam, or as we know it, papaya salad is hands down the favorite food of Thailand.

From the Northeast region of Thailand called Issan, the dish can be found everywhere. Som tam translates to “pounded sour”. It’s a healthy combination of shredded green papaya mortared together with chili, tomato, lime, peanuts and fish sauce. The green papaya gives it a crunchy texture and the heat comes from the little bird’s eye chilies.

It has five different tastes: sour lime, hot chili, salty, savory and sweet from palm sugar. There is always a heaping teaspoon of MSG thrown in. There are many variations of the dish with Thai customers customarily asking for it their own way.

Just how popular is som tam? It’s the go-to dish for Thailand’s 70 million people. They love it, often eating it three times a day. Thailand is a poor country and papaya can be grown in every back yard. It’s cheap. Traditionally served with sticky rice, it’s one of the first things a Thai child eats. When a Thai is hungry, they’ve got som tam on their brain.

I love Thai food, but I have to be honest. I don’t eat som tam. There is so many other Thai dishes that I love, I take a pass on som tam. It’s the all-important savory sauce that turns me off. It’s a little too funky. Maybe because I was raised on hamburgers and pizza? I wasn’t indoctrinated early enough.

Look at the Thai girl’s face as she anticipates her som tam. That’s love.