Family Money: Get real about real estate - Part 1
Managing director of Westminster Portfolio Services (Thailand) Ltd.
In the past several months, real estate property has
been the buzzword in the financial trade papers, and on the lips of almost
every client who’s come to see me.
Indeed, UK property has performed especially well in
the past 12 months, and funds invested in property - both in UK and
internationally - have also performed well.
An information sheet recently sent to me by a US
investment group trumpeted record property starts in the US - despite the
general malaise in the stock market; ads appear everywhere for
rent-producing residential and commercial properties in UK. What a
wonderful alternative bandwagon when it’s a roller-coaster ride in the
I admit I waxed enthusiastic last year about property
and Traded Endowment Policies funds (‘TEPs’): the market was bullish,
and the return enticing - especially compared with equities and cash!
But property prices in UK are starting to peak, and
remind me of the situation in 1987-88 (if you can cast your memory back
that far) when a similar property bubble had developed in the UK - and
burst spectacularly the following year.
Several clients have seen the writing on the wall and
wisely (in my opinion) sold their UK properties while the opportunity
presented itself, and moved the proceeds offshore into one or another
safe-haven investments which will not be affected by a possible property
slump, or even the continuing fragile geopolitical situation.
What is my "best advice" based on past
experience and gut feeling? Hold onto property funds for the meantime,
since these can be switched into bonds, for example, at a moment’s
notice if the property market goes sour.
But as to buying a house in UK at this time? Unless you
are returning there permanently and have found the dream home you intend
to retire into, I would not advocate buying bricks and mortar at this
time: the prices are too high.
On the other hand, if you are considering selling a
property, now may indeed be a very good time - just before the market
Despite my having written before (June 2001) on the
subject of buying/owning real estate in Thailand, in recent weeks I have
again received several enquiries about buying and owning property here, so
perhaps it’s time we revisited this thorny topic.
The enquiries I receive have mostly been from
middle-aged expatriates who have decided to settle in Thailand with the
girl of their dreams that they met last month or the month before, who
loves him so much that she’s leaving her place of work polishing a pole
in Soi 8 or Pattayaland Soi 2 to settle down in the nice little house she’s
found for them somewhere along Jomtien Beach.
Typically, the enquirer wants to find out why the
property cannot be held in his own name, and if it’s okay to put it in
his girlfriend’s name.
A few potential buyers - mostly ones who have not yet
taken the step to move here, but are still "looking into things"
from afar - are so naïve that they even ask how they can obtain a
mortgage on the property. "Oh dear," I think when I receive
these enquiries, "Not another one!"
At the height of the currency crisis in 1997, Thailand
agreed with the IMF to liberalise its laws with regard to foreigners
owning real estate in Thailand.
The matter was debated in parliament and the press at
great length, and the usual jingoistic (some would say xenophobic)
statements were aired that if the protectionist laws were amended, we
greedy farangs would sweep in and buy up all the land in Thailand and
exploit the poor innocent Thais in our typical colonialist fashion.
(I wonder why the fact that Thais or anyone else with
money can buy any amount of landed property in the UK or USA is never
aired as a counter-argument, and neither the British nor Americans seem
terribly worried that their country is going to be taken over by
colonising Asians - but that perhaps is another topic for another day.)
Some prospective buyers have heard that the law which
used to prohibit Thai spouses from owning property once they married a
farang had been changed, and wanted confirmation of this.
The short answer to this is: A foreigner may legally
purchase, together with his Thai wife, a house, land or property not
exceeding 1 rai which is duly purchased as marital property - that is, the
Parties are legally married and documented at the local Amphur.
The purchase must be jointly held and cannot be sold
without the other partner’s signature, nor can either force the other
out of residence without due compensation. The foreigner’s name will
never be on the actual Title Deed, but a Memorandum is attached to it
indicating his legal attachment to the owner.
A good time to buy?
Clients point out to me the amount of building going on
around Pattaya as indicative that the economy in Thailand is improving,
and now is a good time to "invest" in property in Thailand.
There is indeed a lot of building going on - but
sources tell me that the extensive property development along a certain
main thoroughfare is mostly owned by one family-owned commercial outfit
who are using their spare cash while prices and interest rates are low.
Looking further afield, there are plenty of properties
standing vacant, and a number of failed developments.
I am reliably informed that there are many more sellers
than buyers, which the ‘Mail Market’ pages of the Pattaya Mail would
tend to confirm, week after week.
I also hear a lot of grumbling from businesses which
rely on bumper business during High Season that the High Season just ended
was not good, and consumer spending generally is down. So where’s the
money coming from for these building projects? No-one seems to know.
(To be continued next week)
Snap Shot: Wounded Cameras
by Harry Flashman
When you fall over and cut your knee, you should know
how to render first aid. When you fall over and injure your camera, it’s
about the same. However, avoiding falling over is probably the most
important lesson. It is always better to have a fence at the top of the
cliff, rather than an ambulance at the bottom! So let’s begin by
thinking about all the disasters, how you can avoid them and what to do if
the ultimate disaster does occur.
The first, and often the most common, is dropping the
camera. Cameras are very complex devices full of electronic trickery and
mechanical movements. The shutter on even the cheapest camera can open and
close in 1/500th of a second. It doesn’t take much to knock the delicate
shutter around. The camera is also a lightproof box, dropping it and
distorting the case will soon let light in.
So what should be done beforehand? First is to have a
decent padded camera bag. I recently purchased one which cost over 1000
baht - but it will keep the camera safe in the situation of it falling out
of the car or slipping from the shoulder. Throw that silly leather case as
far as you can, or feed it to a giraffe.
Another important point - always loop the camera strap
around your neck. OK, so now you have the camera hanging on the strap
around your neck, what can go wrong here? Well the strap can slip or the
eyelet rings can break, and the whole lot hits the floor unless you have
lightning reflexes. Answer? Check and make sure that everything is
correctly attached and not worn. Replace regularly.
So it did hit the floor, what now? Turn it on. Is it
still electrically OK? If no power, take the batteries out and then put
them back in - they may just be jolted out of position. Unscrew the lens
and put it back on. Look through the viewfinder - if it looks normal, then
try to take several shots at different shutter speeds and apertures and
rush to the closest 1 hour processor. Pray a lot. You may be lucky.
After dropping, the next disaster is water. Cameras are
not like children, you cannot "drown proof" them. They stay
drowned. In the rain you must take precautions. A plastic bag wrapped
around the camera with just the end of the lens poking through, and held
on with rubber bands is the way to "safe photography". Even
then, as soon as possible you should take the camera inside and dry the
outside of the case thoroughly. Take the lens off and dry carefully around
the lens mount too, making sure you do not touch the mirror. Take the
batteries out and thoroughly dry the battery compartment and the contacts.
Batteries and moisture do not go well together.
Now we should think about the great shots you can get
on board speedboats and similar situations. Resist the temptation to take
your good camera - you can buy a waterproof Kodak for very little money
and you can relax with peace of mind. Or even one of the disposable ones.
Do not take your good one!
So what do you do when you drop the whole lot in the
drink? If it is a modern electronic camera you have probably just lost
your investment - especially if it is salt water you drop it into. One
camera technician’s advice was, "Leave it there!" However, you
can try flushing the camera in running tap water for at least an hour,
then drying it and taking it to the repair shop. An audience with the Pope
would be a good move as well.
Drowning the camera in fresh water is not quite so bad,
but you have to pull it apart as much as you can and then dry it out as
thoroughly as you can - a hair dryer set on "No Heat" can help,
but again your chances are slim.
The message is first aid is possible, but prevention is much better!
Modern Medicine: Well I’ll be plasty’d! The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Cosmetic Surgery
by Dr Iain Corness, Consultant
Many women, and a significant number of men, have
contemplated plastic (cosmetic) surgery. Right from the outset, let me
state that mucking around with your face and body should only be done by
experts in the field. An "expert" is a doctor who has specialist
qualifications in plastic and reconstructive surgery and does nothing but
that type of work every day, not the clinic on the corner that does
everything from coughs and sneezes and venereal diseases and the odd boob
job as well! So let us have a look at what can be done, what it is called
and how long it takes.
Rhinoplasty is functional re-modelling of the nose and
is carried out to correct malformations and developmental abnormalities.
These procedures can usually be done under local anaesthetic, in most
instances, and will take 1 to 11/2 hours in surgery. The important word
here is ‘functional’. It is no good having a super looking nose that
you can’t breathe through!
Blepharoplasty is excision of superfluous skin from the
upper or lower eye lids. This can be done under local anaesthesia with
surgery taking around one hour.
Face Lifts. There are many types of this (depending on
how far your face has fallen)! It can range from the full Face Lift to
just removal of "Crow’s Feet" for example. Major procedures
can take up to 5 hours in surgery and require a general anaesthetic and an
inpatient stay of up to 4 days. Minor procedures are done under local and
you may be able to return home on the same day. Correction of acne scars
by Laser Dermabrasion is included in this list.
Lip Surgery, both thickening or thinning of
protruberant lips can be done as an out-patient procedure. This takes up
to 2 hours and is performed under local anaesthesia.
Mammoplasty - increasing or decreasing the size of the
breasts can take up to 4 hours in surgery and requires general anaesthesia
and an in-patient stay of up to 4 days. These days, saline implants are
generally used, though the ‘dangers’ with silicone implants were more
imagined than real. Minor procedures to reduce the size of areolae or
nipples can be done under local and an in-patient stay is not necessary.
For many women these operations can give them a new lease on life, ending
many years of embarrassment and psychological trauma.
Liposuction. This is a relatively new form of cosmetic
surgery where fat cells are "sucked" away from the tissues under
the skin and requires general anaesthesia and an in-patient stay of one
Autologous fat injections. In these procedures, the
patient’s own fat cells are used to rectify problem areas where lack of
sub-cutaneous tissue produces "sagging" or premature aging.
Local anaesthesia is possible for most regions (cheeks, forehead, temples,
chin) but major procedures around the hips require general anaesthesia and
an inpatient stay for up to 2 days.
Surgical excision of fatty apron or scars. This is not
as easy as it may sound and normally requires general anaesthesia and an
in-patient stay of up to 4 days.
Punch graft hair transplants. This is a lengthy
procedure (5 hours) but is carried out under local anaesthesia. 500 punch
grafts will fill in an area 9 cm x 9 cm and a 2 day spell as an in-patient
So there you are - now you know what to ask for - but
please do ask the specialists in the field.
Heart to Heart with Hillary
Have you noticed all the "work" that has been done
in our cities recently? I move around a lot with my job and the traffic is just
hopeless everywhere in Thailand these days, not just in Bangkok. In Chiang Mai
there appears to be endless work going on tearing up the footpaths and putting
them back down again. Then tear them up again, and so on. In Pattaya they are
not happy with just the footpaths, they tear up the whole road, lay concrete,
produce instant traffic jams and then move on to the next road. In Jomtien they
tore up the footpath, laid bricks, then built another pavement and then laid
another concrete pathway as well and then erected ornamental lights every five
metres. Not satisfied with that, they then put in more lights, making more
traffic snarls. Is this part of a national plot, or just national madness?
Traffic Jam Johnny
Dear Traffic Jam Johnny,
I doubt if it is part of a national traffic scam or an
orchestrated plot, but it is one way to cut down the road toll. Stationary cars
can’t run over pedestrians. It also keeps the concrete industry very healthy,
and the road construction business is having a boom time. Not that anyone in
the decision making offices have any interests in road construction, bricks,
electric light poles or concrete. I did inquire about the two types of lights
along Jomtien Beach for you - seems the first ones blew too many light globes.
You might have to find an alternative transport system. Have you considered
investing in a helicopter?
Just as I was preparing to put brush to canvas of your
imaginary likeness based on the sketch I sent you, I suddenly had a flash -
what if my imaginary Hillary was nothing like the real one? I decided then to
do a few contrasting alternative Hillary’s of which the examples are
enclosed. Of course, I would never dream of asking you for clues to your
mystery identity but must use my creative powers to construct a Hillary based
on your witty and eloquent responses to your letters. The only personal info
that I am aware of - that you have given out - is the champagne and chocolate
business. We don’t know if you like Frisbee, mountain bikes, tofu and
vegetables; and I must agree you probably would not have as much reader input
if you craved granola bars and carrot juice instead. Please feel free to use
any of the pictures of my art in your column, or in your upcoming book, of
which I would like X number of copies.
Dear Dickens 44,
Thank you again for the lovely sketches, wondering which
one is me. But Petal, not number 4, Kevin the half-wombat! From your sketch I
can’t even see what the other half of him looks like. Has Kevin been
impersonating me again? If he has, I’ll sue his ass off, you tell him from
Now as far as my likes and dislikes are concerned (and
you are the first one to ever ask about my deep and innermost needs, bless you)
Frisbees - No, mountain bikes - No, tofu and vegetables - are you kidding,
granola bars and carrot juice - are you trying to poison me? Stick with the
champagne and chocolates, dear Dickens 44. What more does one need in this
life, other than perhaps someone who really "cares" like you, Dickens
Trying to be objective and look at the remaining three
sketches (the ones without that dreadful Kevin the half-wombat), I must say I
would prefer to be thought of as number 3, I just love that Gallic chapeau, but
please erase the tattoos as I do not have one mark on my otherwise perfect
body. Oh you are a one - you’ve got me talking about my body already, and we
hardly know each other! But please remember that Hillary is as you imagine -
and expectation always exceeds realization. Except in the case of Kevin the
half-wombat, disgusting creature that he is. I think I’ll have to go and wash
my hands after just touching the sketch. Smelly horrible beast! If you’re
going to go for a half anything, a Minotaur would be much better.
Regarding the upcoming book - have you been peeking over
my shoulder, Dickens 44? Don’t deny everything and spoil our relationship.
When it is printed, I will personally autograph one copy just for you. After
you have purchased it of course. Agony aunts have to live too, you know, and
the champagne is getting expensive.
A Slice of Thai History: The air war over Thailand, 1941-1945
Part Two, The Allies attack Thailand, 1942-1945
by Duncan Stearn
On 26 December 1942 bombers of the United States’
Tenth Air Force, based in India, launched the first major strike by Allied
air power against the Thai homeland, hitting the Hualumphong railway
station, the port at Klong Toey, an arsenal and a power plant in Bangkok.
It was the first real indication to the Thai government that they might
have joined the wrong side. However, it was to be almost four months
before a second bombing raid was feasible.
On 19 January 1943 a flight of U.S. B-24 bombers
carried out a photo reconnaissance of the railway construction at
Four B-24’s bombed the Bangsue arsenal in Bangkok on
21 April, but this was the last action against the capital for nearly
eight months. The next occasion Bangkok heard the drone of Allied bombers
was 19 December when the dock area was bombed at night. Four days later
American bombers attacked Hualumphong.
The Americans were back on 10 January 1944 with attacks
against Don Muang airfield and laying mines in the estuary of the Chao
Phrya River. On 18 January a brace of American fighters struck troop
concentrations, ammunition dumps and workshops in Songkhla while B-24
bombers attacked Don Muang airfield and its attendant railroad station.
Attacks by B-24’s were launched against targets in
Bangkok on 9 and 10 February while on 15 March possibly the longest raid
of the entire Second World War by fighter aircraft was conducted by P-51’s
against the Thai capital. The task was to strike at what the Japanese
thought were relatively secure areas for the remnants of their own
The raid, by two squadrons flying out of Cox’s Bazaar
in India, hit Don Muang and covered a round-trip distance of 2,400
kilometres. General Levi Chase, the man who planned and led the attack,
was awarded the Silver Star for this mission.
In April, the American’s switched their attack to
Nakhon Sawan, 14 bombers striking the Japanese headquarters on the night
of the 4th and five bombers returning for a second strike a week later.
Attacks were also made against road and railway bridges
between Bangkok and Chiang Mai as well as all along the almost completed
In September 1942 the American air arm had developed a
new and powerful bomber, the B-29, or ‘Superfortress’, and before it
was employed against the Japanese home islands, the Americans decided to
test it out against Bangkok.
Accordingly, on 5 June 1944 a total of 77 B-29 bombers
(some sources claim 98, another 114, planes) attacked the Thai capital.
The raid began at around 11 a.m. with the bombers aiming to destroy the
Memorial Bridge and a major power plant. They missed and instead knocked
down tram lines and destroyed a Japanese military hospital as well as the
headquarters of the Japanese secret police. No civilian buildings were
damaged, a fact that aroused admiration among the Thai authorities. It was
only in 1947 that the Thais discovered the American bombers had been
aiming at the Memorial Bridge, almost two and-a-half kilometres away.
Following the raid, schools and universities were closed in Bangkok and
children moved out of the city for their safety.
A night raid on 6 September against Non Pladuk, a
railhead for the Burma-Siam railway line, failed badly when the bombs fell
short and exploded in a POW camp, killing over 90 Allied prisoners and
injuring more than 300. It had been, and remained, Japanese policy to
house their POW’s as close to the rail lines as possible while refusing
to allow a blue cross to be erected signalling the presence of Allied
prisoners. This policy resulted in numerous ‘friendly fire’
Early in 1945, U.S. bombers attacked railway sidings
and warehouses in Chumphon and in March two assaults were launched against
a key rail bridge at Surat Thani. In the latter two attacks, the B-24
bombers were airborne for more than 17-hours, considered to be a record at
that time for heavy bombers.
That same month, Allied bombers launched an all-out
effort to wreck the Burma-Siam railway and managed to destroy no less than
nine bridges. Among the bridges knocked out were the two spanning the Kwae
River. British bombers damaged the steel bridge while an American bomber
destroyed the wooden span that was around 100 metres further downriver.
On 14 April 1945 a second B-29 raid was launched on
Bangkok and succeeded in destroying two key power plants, plunging the
city into darkness, cutting off water supplies and stopping the trams.
This was the last major attack conducted against targets in Thailand prior
to the Japanese surrender in August.
Personal Directions: Meaning and purpose... thoughts to share
by Christina Dodd
Managing director of Westminster Portfolio Services (Thailand) Ltd.
One of the greatest rewards of writing this column is
that it puts me in touch with a vast audience of like-minded people -
people who share a common thread of striving for performance excellence
and people who realize that human emotions are the greatest powers and
guiding forces. To this end I have developed a large correspondence base
with readers who come from a broad variety of locations and backgrounds.
Some are bankers, some lawyers, some housewives, some engineers or
farmers, some teachers, some entrepreneurs and ... well the list goes on
From these newfound friends and colleagues I frequently
receive small quotes, thoughts and - like the following - essays, which, I
feel, should be shared amongst all of you.
Today I have the pleasure of submitting another of John
and Melody Andersons’ inspirational essays. I wish to thank Steven
Atkins in England for this contribution of John and Melody’s work and
hope that in turn this short piece inspires you in the same way that it
If we are prepared to embrace and to find meaning in
life, then our life will have purpose and we can actively pursue our
understanding of that purpose to our own betterment and fulfillment.
One would have to say that unless life is truly worth
living and worth living wholeheartedly, then it is not worth living at
all. This is the kind of realization that an individual can run from all
of their life and as long as the knowledge of it remains unacknowledged,
then the individual can maintain a life of sorts, appropriate to
maintaining an identity, but lacking in honesty and in meaning.
Meaning is achieved in life through honesty and only
through honesty. Without honesty, meaning cannot truly manifest itself.
Without meaning, life is simply an arduous journey of uncertainty and pain
to which there seems no point. Not only that, but unless the individual is
willing to give themselves over to the acknowledgment of meaning they will
be plagued by unpleasantness and by powerlessness indefinitely.
A willingness to find meaning and to exercise trust in
this meaning enables the individual to become strong and to embrace
greater and greater strength. Meaning also ensures that no matter what the
situation, the individual can find strength in that situation and retain
their personal power, even when the situation seems to suggest tragedy or
disaster. Being able to feel personal power in life depends on the
willingness to find meaning in all things. And indeed, finding meaning
depends on feeling a sense of personal responsibility.
One cannot find meaning in life yet reflect
powerlessness. As soon as one gives in to powerlessness, the individual
becomes a victim of life and its cruel lessons, doomed to ride the
uncertain roller coaster of change and emotion, forever pursued by hurt,
disappointment and fear. One may find a sort of meaning in life without
personal power, say if one hands the responsibility for what happens to an
outside force, or if one acknowledges meaning intellectually, while
denying it emotionally. Both negate true meaning completely and starve the
individual of the power to change what occurs and to prosper from the
situations that are encountered in life.
Living a life to which there is no point throws the
individual on the mercy of chance and randomness and indeed surrenders the
individual to the power of accident. Accident and blame are destructive in
their implications, for each determines that the individual is completely
without the power to change things. Readily applying meaning to a
situation arms the individual with the power to ascertain what is to be
gained and to then set about the achievement of the purpose. Purpose and
meaning are subtly different but inextricably linked.
Purpose doesn’t exist without meaning and vice versa.
Purpose is more strongly linked with action. Meaning is more closely
aligned with appreciation. We find appreciation in a situation, and we
find meaning. We identity purpose in a situation and we identify a
direction in which to head. Deny both and we flounder our way through
life, the victim of all that is thrown in our path.
As with much in life, neither purpose, nor meaning can
be created or made manifest without the recognition of contrasting values.
Without an awareness of the value of the absence of these things, or the
knowledge of a vision, the individual cannot commit to a decision between
one option and another. In other words, if there is no value for purpose
and meaning in life and if instead, there is more value in powerlessness
and blame, until the individual is willing to acknowledge existing values,
nothing can change.
It is the acknowledgment of existing values and
moreover, the preparedness to move on from this point that determines
whether an individual can advance and make more of life. Without a
willingness to acknowledge value in the status quo, and a preparedness to
embrace other greater options, there is no opportunity for choice and
without choice, one must be satisfied with the norm - one must be
satisfied with living a life without purpose and without meaning.
A realization of value and a commitment to the value of
living a meaningful life provides a constant source of inspiration for
wanting and having more. It allows the individual to achieve in greater
and greater degrees, the ultimate end being a direction of quality and
enhancement in every area of life.
This is, I feel, a powerful and very valuable article
and I hope that you also feel the same. Thank you once again to Steven
Atkins and to John and Melody Anderson for their insights.
The thoughts expressed by John and Melody are part of
the program subjects that we use. Our goal is to build on the positive and
extinguish the negative. This is the only way to approach life and to
therefore have Meaning and Purpose.
If you wish to talk further on matters of personal and
self development, or on matters that concern your business, the
effectiveness and needs of your staff, then please contact me at Asia
Training Associates - email: [email protected]
For details on our programs and Asia Training
Associates, please visit our website: www. asiatrainingassociates.com
Until next time ... Have a Great Week!
Social Commentary by Khai Khem
Whatever happened to “mai pen rai’?
It recently struck me that I don’t hear Thais say
"mai pen rai" (never mind) much anymore. That phrase, which used
to be such an integral part of Thai utterances, seems to have vanished
along with so many other things that were so uniquely characteristic of
The phrase equated a tolerant and laid-back approach to
life. It conveyed a sense of forbearing and compassionate understanding in
which the idea that people are human and mistakes are natural was
The concept of "mai pen rai" was also
eventually negatively interpreted as a mentality of laziness and
procrastination by outsiders and the more ambitious sectors of Thai
society. This outlook of sloth and procrastination became a subject of
debate and as Thailand went through a period of industrialization and
modernization, "mai pen rai" was made the butt of many jokes and
a target for international ridicule.
The expression is really meant as a form of courtesy to
smooth over an uncomfortable situation and let the other person know that
whatever has happened, it’s not the end of the world and perhaps the
mistake or blunder can be repaired with a little good humor and human
Have we outgrown this simple form of courtesy, or have
we had it snatched from us because of the pressures of modern living? One
of the nicer aspects of traditional Thai behavior is that our society was
once based on the concept of forgiveness. To err was human. My! How times
have changed. Now a mistake costs someone time and money. In fact, these
days time IS money.
In the rush to compete with the rest of the world,
Thais are being pushed to perform. And their performance is being judged
by how much they can produce and how fast they can produce it.
Competitiveness has become a mantra. "Keep up or be left
Competition in the economic sense is only part of the
picture. Urban life in most Thai cities has become stressful because
living conditions are becoming increasingly difficult to deal with.
Gridlock traffic, overcrowding, noise, pollution and the rising crime rate
are some of the more obvious contributors to rising tensions. Stress and
tension take a tremendous toll on people’s nerves. We are less likely to
react to problems with good will and courtesy when we are always pushed
beyond our personal limits.
Even our rural areas are not peacefully laid-back
anymore. This sector of society is being brought into the mainstream and
made responsible for improving the nation’s economy by becoming more
competitive. Farmers have rising expectations just like their city
There are those who feel that our increasingly
materialistic society is encouraging us to become more aggressive, which
in turn saps us of our former kindness to each other. Of course that idea
is not new and rich, developed countries also grapple with this conundrum.
Perhaps we don’t say "mai pen rai" as often
as we used to because we now take things more seriously. Instead of
turning away from problems with a care-less attitude, we now make the
effort to solve them. We complain when our national leaders let us down.
We hold officials responsible to their duties and accountable for their
blunders. If we are cheated we protest.
In the ‘old days’ many of us simply walked away
rather than make a fuss. It was considered rude and quarrelsome to stand
up for our rights. I think secretly, many Thais would still prefer to keep
the peace and say "mai pen rai" and go on about their business.
The real deterrent to that is nowadays, when we walk away, there is no
escape. The path to peace and civilized behavior is blocked.
Who would have believed that the gentle kingdom known
as the Land of Smiles would need a ‘social order’ campaign initiated
by the central government in Bangkok to re-educate Thais to be
well-mannered, non-aggressive, polite to strangers and non-violent? What
road did we travel to produce a generation of teenagers who form gangs to
steal, fry their brains on drugs, and are so incorrigible that they will
shoot to kill without conscience or thought of consequences?
I recently encountered an elderly European tourist who
asked for directions to a local bank. A short conversation led to his
remark that he was shocked at how crowded and chaotic Pattaya had become.
He’d holidayed here a few years ago, and the changes now intimidated
him. He felt insecure and intended to cut his stay short.
Ever the optimist, I pointed out our many improvements
to no avail. He agreed that Pattaya indeed had so many wonderful things to
offer. Put simply, he was afraid of only two things, but these two
detractors made him very uneasy - dangerous traffic and aggressive street
crime. In response, I said, "Mai pen rai," and accompanied him
to his destination. We arrived without incident.
Woman's World: The magic of the
coconut Part 2
by Lesley Warner
To continue with the story of the coconut I am going to give
you a sample of the tips you will find in the book Dancing Shrimp
(published by Simon & Schuster and written by Kasma Loha-unchit). For
more you must buy the book.
coconut has many different uses; for example in cosmetics, shampoo, and
body lotions as well as for cooking and even modeling. Virgin coconut oil
is also used for making natural soaps and other health products, as it is
one of the healthiest things you can apply to your skin.
To get coconut oil the fresh coconut meat is grated and
then pressed to make coconut milk. The milk is left for approximately 24
hours when the oil naturally separates from the milk producing crystal
The coconut is not only used for cooking and cosmetic
purposes it has been discovered to contain a far more important use.
Coconut oil is rich in lauric acid, which is known for being antiviral and
antibacterial. Lauric acid also has adverse effects on a variety of
microorganisms including bacteria, yeast, and fungi. It can destroy the
lipid membrane of viruses such as HIV, measles, herpes simplex virus
(HSV-1), influenza and cytomegalovirus (CMV). There is also some
successful research being done using the coconut to fight malaria.
In the past researchers have suggested that coconut oil
must be bad for you as it contains saturated fat and "saturated fats
are bad for you." But in this case they failed to distinguish between
different kinds of saturated fats and insist that saturated fats (meaning
all saturated fats) are harmful. This is not true; leading scientists now
recognize that just as there is good cholesterol, there are also good
Fats are classified as short, medium, or long, based on
the number of carbon molecules they contain. Nearly two-thirds of the
saturated fat in coconut oil consists of medium fatty acids.
When we eat long fatty acids, they must be emulsified
by bile salts in the small intestine before they can be absorbed into our
body. Short and medium fatty acids, such as those in coconut milk, are
absorbed directly through the portal vein into the liver, where they are
immediately available to the body.
In other words, most of the saturated fat in coconut oil is easily
digestible and converted into quick energy. And these types of fatty acids
are less likely to cause obesity because they are not stored but are
immediately used by the body.
Wine :Fermenting for flavours
by Ranjith Chandrasiri
If you’ve ever had the chance to taste wine (grape
juice) before it has been fermented, you know it doesn’t taste anything
like wine. It tastes like, well, grape juice. So where do all those fruit,
spice, vanilla and other flavours come from? Do winemakers put them in?
Can they actually add different flavours to make wine taste a certain way?
Cruse (right), the owner and general manager of prestigious Château D’Issan
in Bordeaux recently met with Ranjith in Margaux to talk about flavours of
First, let’s look at fruit flavours in wine. If
winemakers don’t add other fruits to wine (and they don’t), then where
do these fruit flavours come from?
A (wine) grape is a unique fruit in that it contains
natural chemical compounds that are also found in other fruits and
vegetables. Fermentation, a simple chemical reaction, releases these
compounds, so we smell and taste these same aromas and flavours in the
finished wine. For example, the strong black pepper aroma and flavour of
California zinfandel (red, of course) comes from the same compound that
gives black pepper its spicy kick. And the tangy apple flavour found in
most chardonnays comes primarily from malic acid, the tart acid found in
Everything that a winemaker does in producing his wine
affects the taste of the wine in one way or another. The taste of the wine
involves the wine’s aroma, body, texture, length and so on and not just
Producing wine actually involves two separate steps:
the growing of the grapes, called viticulture and the making of the wine,
called vinification. Sometimes both steps are performed by the same
company, as with estate bottled wines, and sometimes the two steps are
completely separate. Some large wineries, for example, contract with
hundreds of grape growers. These growers don’t make wine; they just grow
grapes and sell their grapes to whatever the wine company that offers them
the highest price.
The vinification end of wine producing falls into two
parts: fermentation - the period when the grape juice turns into wine and
maturation - the period following fermentation when the wine settles down,
smoothes its rough edges and gets ready to meet the world. Depending on
the type of wine being made, the whole process could take up to three
months or a few years.
Once the juice has been pressed from the grape,
winemakers place it in a fermentation container (stainless steel tank,
barrel, etc.). At this point they can either let the wild yeast (that came
in on the grapes) do the fermentation or they can add cultured yeast.
Different yeast strains create different flavours in wine. In chardonnay,
for example, one strain may produce more tropical fruit flavours while
another may impart more citrusy flavours. So winemakers can choose a
cultured yeast strain that gives them the flavour profiles they want in
the finished wine. Or they can let Mother Nature do her thing and work
with the flavours that she comes up with.
Secondary fermentation, also called malolactic
fermentation (ML), usually produces flavours of butter and/or
butterscotch. To make ML happen, the winemaker adds a strain of lactic
bacteria to the wine, which converts the harsher malic acid - the main
acid in apples to lactic acid - the acid found in dairy products. So, it’s
basically a conversion of a tart acid to a soft, creamy acid. A chemical
by-product of this process is diacetyl, the component of butter that makes
it smell and taste like butter. So, if the winemakers want a softer wine
with buttery characteristics - a chardonnay, for example - they put the
wine through malolactic fermentation.
Once fermentation is over and the sugar has turned into
alcohol and other by-products, the yeast cells die (their food source is
gone) or become dormant and fall to the bottom of the barrel. When the
white wines were left on their yeast sediment called lees, for an extended
period of time, pleasant yeasty, pastry-like flavours develop in the wine.
Oak barrels, depending on their age, oak type and toast
level, contribute certain flavours to the wine. For example, oak can
impart clove, nutmeg, cinnamon, caramel, chocolate, coffee, vanilla and,
of course, oak flavours. So winemakers will do what they call barrel
trials to determine which type of oak barrels can best produce the
flavours they want in their finished wine.
Barrel fermented or barrel aged?
The term barrel-fermented means that the unfermented
juice went into barrels (almost always oak) and changed into wine there.
The term barrel-aged usually means that the already fermented wine went
into barrels and stayed there for a maturation period of a few months or a
couple of years. Barrel fermentation applies mainly to white wines and
here is why you might care to know whether a white wine is
barrel-fermented or just barrel-aged. Wines that were fermented in barrels
actually end up tasting less oaky than wines that were simply aged in
barrels, even though they might have spent more time in oak.
Knowing how and where the flavours come from can help
you understand why you might like a particular wine and it can even
influence your wine buying decisions.
Ranjith Chandrasiri is the resident manager of Royal
Cliff Grand and President of the Royal Cliff Wine Club, Royal Cliff Beach
Resort, Pattaya, Thailand. Email: [email protected] or [email protected]
Website: http://www.royal cliff.com/rcwineclub.htm