Family Money: With-Profits Funds
Managing director of Westminster Portfolio Services (Thailand) Ltd.
Most commentators would have us
believe that with-profits funds are old hat and have little place in
today’s marketplace. In the vast majority of cases, they are right –
but not all.
Ironically, the severe criticism aimed at with-profits
vehicles has come at a time when they have actually outperformed the
market. They are designed to hold back returns when the market rises in
order to soften the blow when it falls. And this is precisely what they
have done. While the FTSE 100 fell almost 45% in the three years to
February 2003, the average with-profits fund lost around 30%. As one
pension fund researcher admits: “In the past three to four years, they
have delivered exactly what they are designed to.”
But at what cost? The concept of ‘smoothing’
returns is valid but in practice, life offices have paid out more in
bonuses than they can afford. Plummeting stock markets have hit reserves
hard – yet life offices are still committed to maintaining bonus
payouts. This double whammy has left some offices dangerously near
insolvency levels. Equitable Life, Royal & SunAlliance, Britannic
Assurance and NPI have all closed their with-profits funds to new
business. More are bound to follow.
This is the single biggest problem facing with-profits
funds. In practice, actuaries making asset allocation decisions are more
concerned with solvency than with maximising returns. They cannot risk
increasing liabilities so they have been forced to sell equities and buy
lower-risk investments, such as bonds. But the long-term returns on these
instruments will not be as strong as equities. So, even if a life office
believes that now is the right time to invest in shares, it cannot afford
to do so. Investment policy is not, then, being driven by the needs of
Small differences in asset allocation can have a huge
impact on investment returns over the long term. For example, one analyst
firm has estimated that ฃ10,000 invested in Scottish Equitable’s
Growth fund could be worth ฃ33,000 in 20 years’ time. The same
amount invested with Equitable Life could be worth less than ฃ23,000.
The bottom line is that the vast majority of with-profits funds will not
offer attractive returns in the long run.
To make matters worse, much of the gains made by life
offices in the coming years will be used to rebuild reserves. In most
cases, payouts to investors in the form of annual bonuses will continue to
fall even if markets continue to rally. In some cases, bonuses will be cut
to zero. If equity markets start to fall again, many life offices may be
pushed into insolvency – and some offices have very little to play with
(although negative free assets do not mean the life office is bust, merely
that it is in poor financial health and would be in serious trouble were
it not for a parent company).
These are the most important reasons why you should not
invest in most with-profits funds.
But there are others. There is virtually no way of
knowing exactly where your money is being invested. Nor is there any way
of knowing exactly how the underlying fund has performed. Costs are also
unclear – you never quite know what the charges and commissions are.
This may have been acceptable 20 years ago, when there were few
alternatives, but not today when there is a wide choice of transparent
products on the market. You can, for example, invest in an equity income,
balanced or cautious managed fund and know precisely what charges you are
paying, what the individual underlying holdings are, and what the
performance has been.
For all these reasons, one large onshore IFA stopped
promoting with-profits funds a year ago and has no intention of changing
its stance in the near future. Another well-known adviser, Bestinvest,
does not sell them either, while another is urging investors seriously to
consider cashing in their funds, even if there are “quite severe
penalties” in the form of market value adjusters (MVAs).
But others are less damning. The MD of one discount
broker house admits that 75% of with-profits funds are “an embarrassing
legacy from the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s and need to be routed out”.
Indeed, he believes three-quarters of funds will disappear in the next
five years due to consolidation in the sector. But he does argue that a
few life offices can still outperform over the long run – even taking
into account charges, commissions and MVAs.
Another adviser also believes with-profits have a
future: “They are still doing what they were designed to do and there
really is no viable alternative.” While there are products that invest
in the same asset classes, none are specifically aimed at ‘smoothing’
returns in quite the same way as with-profits. But, again, he believes
there are very few offices running quality funds. Overall financial
strength and commitment to the product are the two most important
criteria, he argues, and only Legal & General, Norwich Union,
Prudential and Standard Life make the grade. Only these offices, he says,
have the necessary reserves and equity exposure to produce competitive
Like most packaged products, with-profits funds offers
nothing more than a well-diversified portfolio of equities, bonds, cash
and property. If creating your own sounds like too much hassle, look at
balanced or cautious managed funds, or distribution bonds. Only if a
steady income is important to you and you like the idea of ‘smoothed’
returns, should you consider a with-profits fund.
Look for a good asset mix – around 50% in equities
– and healthy reserves (but don’t trust life offices’ own free asset
ratio figures). Then go for a transparent fund where charges and holdings
are clearly laid out. Unfortunately, you may have to wait a while before a
selection of such products is available.
Snap Shots: Shooting a calendar in Thailand
A new business opportunity?
by Harry Flashman
Many moons ago I wrote about the trials and tribulations of
shooting a commercial calendar. Not one of these calendars you can have done by
the photoprocessor, where they superimpose a year’s worth of dates on a photo
of your grandchild, but a glossy 12 month, 12 image calendar.
My own particular calendars were examples of those glossy
numbers to be hung on the wall. They were commercial calendars for a concrete
company and involved months of work in planning, getting permission for every
proposed image, shooting prospective models and getting the OK from the Board
of Directors, gathering props and painting items in the required gaudy pink
colour of the company. It was also an expensive exercise. I’ll correct that -
it was a very expensive exercise!
However, Howard Greene popped in the other day with his
latest calendar, shot in Pattaya and printed in Bangkok. It is a glossy 12 page
number and we spoke on the relative merits of shooting calendars in this
country as opposed to similar projects overseas.
Taking models first - in the US or the UK/EU, you are
looking at model fees that can run into thousands of dollars and you require
signed model release forms as well. Since this particular calendar of
Howard’s was done using the staff of the bar, it was all considered to be
part of the job!
There were some other relative freedoms here that could not
be duplicated overseas, other than at frightening costs. One shot featured an
elephant. Try renting one of those overseas for the equivalent of 2,500 baht!
The roller-coaster ride was another example. No release was
needed from the venue or arrangements be made for a closed set. In actuality it
cost four tickets on the ride - that was all.
Looking critically at Howard Greene’s images, I find
little to be critical of. He has used long lenses for most of the photographs
to produce a suitably vague background. The roller-coaster shot is a typical
example where by shooting into the sky, there is nothing in the background to
detract from the powerful image. The girls in the pool and on the beaches are
similar, with uncluttered backgrounds.
However, before you glue your 200 mm lens on your camera and
rush down to the beach with a bevy of beauties, remember that any commercial
calendar shoot requires the photographer to (in Howard’s words) “execute
the vision of the client, giving the images consumer appeal.” And by
“execute” he means “carry out” not “kill”.
Of course, if you, the photographer, want to go it alone
(and pick up the cost of printing) then the only person you have to satisfy is
yourself. And hope you’ve judged the market correctly and you can cover your
costs. Even a little profit, perhaps? However, look at the fun you can have
A small thing, but something I liked about this calendar,
was the stout spiral spine and hanging tab. The printing was also first class,
with a clear lacquer final finish. These calendars have to last for 12 complete
months, hanging on their nails in the hallway or wherever. All in all, a most
professional production and a credit to all concerned, including the young
ladies who featured. Even the service staff, who had such happy grins it is
difficult not to burst into smiles yourself.
We take for granted just how inexpensive life can be in
Thailand, and calendar production is just one of these. I believe there is an
opportunity for some photographic entrepreneurs to begin marketing Thai
calendar production for overseas clients. There are incredible cost savings for
overseas companies to pursue. As for me, I’m not greedy - 5% will do for
bringing it to your notice!
If you would like one of these calendars then you can order
it from the web through www.flbbar.com or you can purchase one directly from
FLB Entertainment Ltd., on Pattaya’s Walking Street, or through selected
Bookazine outlets. RRP is under 400 baht.
Modern Medicine: White sticks and Labradors
by Dr Iain Corness, Consultant
As we get older (sorry, that should have read “as YOU
get older” as I have decided to stay the same age as I am for a while
yet), one of the problems we get is failing eyesight. This is more than
just the arms not being long enough, but you are likely to end up needing
glasses for ordinary living as well. I have to admit to wearing contact
lenses to see where I am going, and reading glasses as well to read the
There are also those people who have needed glasses all
their lives, who have opted for contact lenses, rather than Lasik
treatment to re-shape the eyeball. For all of us - this week’s
contribution is for you.
The first thing to remember is that we were not
designed to wear contact lenses. Stuffing bits of plastic between your
cornea (the front of the eyeball) and the eyelid is decidedly not
physiological. The potential for irritation of the sensitive cornea or the
inside of the eyelid is there all the time. Just remember what the last
foreign body felt like in your eye. Felt the size of a house brick and in
actual fact it was only a very, very small speck!
Continuous irritation leads to tissue reactions that
can range from small lumps on the inside of the eyelid to ulcers on the
cornea. And all of these conditions are potentially very dangerous. Yes,
you can become blind through wearing contact lenses.
The first factor is the length of time you wear the
lenses. I know that some are being touted as ones you can leave in for
days at a time - but I am sure that I would not. No matter how thin and
reputedly permeable, contact lenses starve the cornea and predispose to
ulcer formation. Take my tip and take the lenses out every night.
After removal, store the lenses in those natty little
screw cap holders that the lens solution people give you with the bottle
of goop. However, the natty little holders need to be clean. When was the
last time you actually cleaned and washed yours? Once a week, give the
holders a good scrub and allow to air dry.
So what solution should you use to store the lenses in
overnight? Honestly, it’s up to you. Having a Scottish heritage, I go
for the cheapest of the ‘good’ brands, but I do know of people who use
‘normal’ saline (which is dirt cheap) and have no problems. The
advertising bumff about stopping protein build-up and all is hype in my
Certainly, it is important to get rid of protein
deposits on the contact lens, but you do this with gentle rubbing of the
lens with the finger. With my soft lenses I generally have some solution
in the palm of one hand and drop the lens into it and then rub for a few
seconds, then turn the lens inside out and rub again. After that I turn it
right way up, rinse the lens with solution and have a go at stabbing the
floppy thing onto my eyeball.
I also keep a bottle of contact lens lubricant in my
drawer at work, and one on the bathroom shelf at home. The eye specialists
also recommend that you have some non-preserved artificial tears to use.
That’s about it. “See” you next week!
Horsin'Around: The Thai Pony
by Willi Netzer
Standing 1.10 to 1.30 m at the withers and in all
possible horse-colors, since ancient times the local pony has been a major
part of Thai history and culture.
fun with a Thai pony.
We can assume that its use was mainly in warfare, agriculture
and occasionally for ceremonies; as a mount, for pulling carts and as a
packhorse. Nowadays, you can still see them in front of brightly colored
Landauer-coaches, mainly in Lampang and at the major tourist spots.
Plenty of riding stables also use Thai ponies alongside
expensive imports. Some find their usefulness as being donor animals for serum
stations. Years ago, we used to buy them by the dozens, when past their
retirement age of 10 years and we would re-train them. You can always spot a
former donor by the needle marks on the neck. Needless to say, I know some that
made it to the highest levels in pony club dressage.
There were lots of ponies to be found all over the country
until about 5 years ago, when racing and gambling with horses became restricted.
There are not too many left now-a-days in rural areas, except with the northern
hill tribes and in some places in the west of Thailand, where they are still
being used for ceremonies within the villages.
There are some of the local ponies that have a dorsal stripe,
a dark line within the coat along the top line, following the spine. This
suggests how closely the Thai pony is related to the wild Asiatic horse that
roamed the steppe thousands of years ago. We can assume that it came from the
north through China or the west through Burma.
The Thai pony is exceptionally tough, enduring and resistant
to diseases. The local farmers do not keep them unlike their cattle and
buffalos. There are absolute characters among them and they have all their
little extras, but in an endearing way. As a rider you will find out very
quickly what funny ideas they can get if a certain decree of authority is
missing. This makes them the ideal mount for our younger riders. They will find
themselves suddenly in a situation, where decision making is a must, and only
immediate and correct execution will produce any results.
Heart to Heart with Hillary
The wife and I moved here only last year, and I’m in a bit of trouble. You
see, I’ve been studying Thai language and I like to practice at all possible
opportunities. Last weekend we took a drive out to the country. On the way
back, we spotted a lovely restaurant and decided to give it a try. I struck up
a little conversation with the dolly who took us to our table, and there the
trouble started. I asked for the restaurant’s business card and the lady in
question brought the card and knelt down beside me. She chatted in English and
patted my arm and leg. She told me about all of her relatives and friends who
are married to farangs. She told me she was always at the restaurant. I thought
she was quite friendly although she never spoke at all to the wife. The wife
was furious when we left and I was quite taken aback. The wife thinks the lady
was coming on to me, especially when she noted that the lady gave me her
personal card and wrote her mobile number on the back of it. Tell me, Hillary,
do you think she was coming on to me? In front of the wife?
Confused in Chiang Mai
Dear Confused in Chiang Mai,
Be confused no longer, my unbelievably naive Petal. Of course she was coming on
to you! If the young lady was looking at promoting the restaurant she would
have given you the restaurant’s card and its telephone number, surely! You
don’t write your personal mobile number on your own personal business card if
you don’t want the recipient of the card to ring, now do you! Why was the
young lady chatting to you in English, when you say you like to practice your
Thai at all possible opportunities? The fact that her relatives and friends
have married foreigners doesn’t have any bearing on the restaurant or its
food, does it? Think of it from your wife’s point of view (by the way, please
refer to your spouse as “my wife” and not “the wife”), she is left out
of the conversation while you get your leg felt by a “dolly” (your word)
who gives you her phone number. How would you feel if some hunky Thai guy knelt
down beside your wife, fondling her leg and giving her his business card, while
totally ignoring you? Thais are noted for their friendliness - to everyone, not
just husbands who are prepared to ignore their wives as well.
My girl’s young brother is staying in our village with another of her
relatives for a few weeks. She has started to bring him over for dinner and
helps him with his homework afterwards and then they go and watch the Thai TV
soapies, which means that I am totally left out and can’t watch the BBC
channel. Since it is my house, surely I should have some say in this matter?
What should I do about this situation?
Dear Noel (with his nose out of joint),
I was tempted to tell you to stop being such a wimp and go and talk to your
lady and let her know that you are feeling left out, but after re-reading your
letter, I think it would be much better if you just buy another TV and sit in
the spare room watching the BBC. Ask for pizzas, as they can slide these under
the door without having to disturb you while watching the news.
Is it coincidence, or just plain stupidity, but almost all the letters you seem
to get come from farang males in trouble with their Thai ladies relates to the
fact that their ‘lady’ is one they have picked up in a bar. Surely everyone
has heard that saying, “you can take a girl out of the bar, but you can’t
take the bar out of the girl.” I have been married to my Thai wife for four
years now and there has never been a “bad moment” in all that time. She is
beautiful, intelligent (a qualified accountant) and caring. I do not have to
change the locks on my doors or worry that my suits will be cut up. She does
not need cables of gold to hold her in the marriage, or motorcycles, or houses.
There is no family buffalo on its last legs, and we are not over-run with
relatives from Nakorn Nowhere who want to stay. We have a partnership and
mutual trust. Why don’t some of these men look for the “good” girls?
No Bars For Me
Dear No Bars For Me,
There may be lots of reasons. One may be that the number of “good” girls is
much smaller than the demand, so the single males end up with the
“good-time” girls, of which there is a more than adequate supply. Look
after your wonderful wife and buy her plenty of chocolates (you can send the
champagne to me) and continue to build on your mutual trust. Bar scene farangs
are generally not looking past the end of their noses - it is some other part
of the anatomy.
A Slice of Thai History: Something about the weather
by Duncan steam
If there is one subject about which practically anyone
and everyone can chat, it is the ‘weather’; be it too much rain, not
enough rain, too hot, too cold, or even just plain pleasant, it is seen as
a perfect, and neutral, conversation starter.
In Thailand, it is said that the country has three
seasons: hot, very hot, wet and hot. The ‘weather’ also features
prominently enough, as would be expected, in expat writing from newspapers
to magazines and ordinary correspondence.
For example, in April 1901 the Bangkok Times
English-language newspaper was moved to write the following paragraph
headed, simply, ‘The Weather’:
“It seems doubtful if even that useful personage the
oldest inhabitant can remember so lengthy an extension of cool weather as
we are having at present. Instead of a few mango showers in January and
February, and otherwise unbroken drought and heat till May, we have right
along had the weather that one expects after the breaking of the monsoon.
There certainly has not been anything like it for the past fifteen years.
Is the climate changing and the terrors of the hot season become a thing
of the past? Or shall we have to pay for the present pleasant weather by a
long delay in the coming of the monsoon?”
However, as recently as August 1900 the Bangkok Times
had reported, “The want of rain is being seriously felt everywhere.
Reports from upriver ... that the ground is cracking from dryness and that
if water is not plentiful again very soon the rice crop will be far from
The weather was also viewed as either causing or
alleviating potential sickness among foreigners either residing or
visiting the country. Cholera, a severe infectious disease caused by
unsanitary conditions, remains a scourge in some societies. At the
beginning of the twentieth century, it was still a huge killer disease. In
1901, the Bangkok Times wrote:
“The health of the foreigner in Bangkok continues to
be fairly good, but within the last week there have been a good many cases
of cholera throughout the town. If the rains continue, however, the
cholera will probably die out, as it is no doubt connected in most cases
with the fact that the water in the river and the klongs has been somewhat
brackish for a number of days past.”
June 1901 saw another report, “In all the Bangkok
Circle and beyond there is a great outcry for rain, as at present it is
impossible to get fields ploughed.”
Bangkok, the city on a flood plain, has always suffered
from periodic inundation and one of the worst last century occurred at the
height of the Second World War in October 1942. Rajdamnoen Avenue and the
area around the Democracy Monument resembled a shallow sea and, it was
claimed, cars and boats had head-on collisions. Cars drove on the left
(following the British custom) while boats adhered to the American rules
of driving on the right, hence the almost inevitability of collisions.
For a few weeks after the waters of what has forever
become known as the ‘Great Flood’ receded, trams would sometimes slip
out of their tracks because of the algae that had grown on the rails.
In September 1983, monsoon rains engulfed the country
for nearly four months and caused the worst flooding in Bangkok since
1942. An estimated 10,000 people died and 100,000 contracted water-borne
diseases, including cholera.
On 29 October 1995, more than half of Bangkok was
flooded as the Chao Phrya River reached its highest level since 1983.
Efforts since then to reduce the impact of flooding on
the capital seem to have succeeded in at least minimizing the extent and
duration of inundations.
Personal Directions: Winning versus Winners
by Christina Dodd
This week I’d like to share some thoughts on the
subject of “winning”. Author and well-known speaker Shiv Khera has put
interesting ideas to paper in his book “You Can Win” and talks about
“Winning versus Winners”. I hope you find his views enlightening.
“What is the difference between winning and being a
winner? Winning is an event. Being a winner is a spirit. Winners have kept
winning in perspective based on their value system. Two inspirational
1. Olympics is a lifetime event. Lawrence Lemieux
stopped racing in a yacht race to help a fellow competitor who was in
trouble. The whole world was watching. His priority of safety for other
people’s lives was greater than his desire to win. Even though he did
not win the race, he was a winner. He was honored by kings and queens
all over the world becausehe kept the spirit of the Olympics alive.
2. I heard the story about Reuben Gonzales when he was
in the final match of the racquetball tournament. This was an important
event and he was playing for the world title. In the final game at match
point, Gonzales played a super shot to save point. The referee and the
linesman both confirmed that the shot was good and he was declared the
But Gonzales, after a little pause and hesitation,
turned back to shake his opponent’s hand and said, “The shot was
faulty.” As a result, he lost the serve and eventually, lost the match.
Everyone was stunned. Who could imagine that a player
with everything officially in his favor, with winning in his pocket, would
disqualify himself and lose. When asked why he did it, Gonzales replied,
“It was the only thing to do in order to maintain my integrity.” He
lost the match, yet he was a winner.
Winning is an event; being
a winner is a spirit
Three people ran a marathon besides hundreds of others.
The medal was won by a fourth person. But does that mean that these three
people were losers? Not at all. They all went into the race with different
objectives. The first one went in to test his endurance and he did and
came out better than his expectations. The second wanted to improve on his
previous performance, and he did. The third person had never run a
marathon in his life. His objective was to complete the race and reach the
finish line, and he did. What does this tell us? All three with different
objectives met them and they were all winners, regardless of who won the
As Mark Twain said, it is better to deserve an honor
and not have it than to have it and not deserve it. Because dignity is not
in possessing but in deserving.
If winning is the only objective, a person may miss out
on the internal rewards that come with winning. More important than
winning is winning with honor and deserving to have won. It is better to
lose honorably than to succeed with dishonesty. Losing honorably may
signify lack of preparation but dishonest winning signifies lack of
The real test of a person’s character is what he
would or would not do if he knew he would never be found out. It is not
worth compromising one’s integrity and taking shortcuts to win. You may
win a trophy but knowing the truth you can never be a happy person. More
important than winning a trophy is being a good human being.
Winners live and work every day as if it were the last
day. Because one of these days it is going to be the last and we don’t
know which one it is going to be. When they leave, they leave as winners.
“There are some defeats more triumphant than
victories.” - Michel De Montaigne.
Remember, winners are gracious. They never brag about
themselves, they respect and appreciate their team members and opponents.
Many people know how to be successful. Very few know
how to handle success. And there is always something about success that
displeases some other people. The reality is that life is a competition
and we have to compete. In fact, competition makes competitive people
grow. The objective is to win, no question - but to win fairly, squarely,
decently and by the rules.
Winners leave a legacy
Great people leave something behind. Winners recognize
that no one can make it alone. Even though champions get the medals, they
realize that there are many people behind their success, without whom it
would not have been possible. Their teachers, parents, coaches, fans and
mentors. One can never fully repay those who have helped winners. The only
way to show a little gratitude is by helping those who are following, and
the following poem, by Will Allen Dromgoole, says it all.
The Bridge Builder
An old man, going a lone highway,
Came, at the evening, cold and gray,
To a chasm, vast, and deep, and wide,
Through which was flowing a sullen tide.
The old man crossed in the twilight dim;
The sullen stream had no fears for him;
But he turned, when safe on the other side,
And built a bridge to span the tide.
“Old man,” said a fellow pilgrim, near,
“You are wasting strength with building here;
Your journey will end with the ending day;
You never again must pass this way;
You have crossed the chasm, deep and wide -
Why build you the bridge at the eventide?”
The builder lifted his old gray head:
“Good friend, in the path I have come,” he said,
“There followeth after me today
A youth, whose feet must pass this way.
This chasm, that has been naught to me,
To that fair-haired youth may a pitfall be.
He, too, must cross in the twilight dim;
Good friend, I am building the bridge for him.”
For more information on our programs and how we may be
able to address your training needs please contact me at Christina.dodd@
asiatrainingassociates.com or visit our website. Until next time ... have
a great week!
Social Commentary by Khai Khem: Time to rethink
Pattaya’s early closing hours
The peak tourist season is just around the corner and
this may be the time to reconsider allowing Pattaya’s entertainment
establishments stay open longer. Pattaya City has frequently asked for a
special dispensation which would allow its famous nightlife scene to
accommodate local and international tourists by staying open until 4:00
a.m. or even later. There is some merit to this request. Business
operators are suffering from the 2:00 a.m. closure rule and more jobs
would also be created if Pattaya businesses could stay open longer.
The nationwide crackdown on drug trafficking and drug
abuse has produced some visible results. Regarding Pattaya City and its
environs, our rising crime rate was largely drug related. Now we are
hearing reports that police raids on clubs and bars that demand mandatory
drug testing are showing negative results in most cases. Fewer underage
youngsters are frequenting these establishments because a growing number
of responsible business operators are refusing to allow minors on their
premises. Admittedly there are some club owners who flaunt the law, but
even the 2:00 a.m. closure regulation has not deterred these unscrupulous
operators. Tough enforcement and constant vigilance by police will
eventually force them to either conform to the law or be closed down.
Pattaya and the eastern region now has such a great
variety of activities, attractions and events that cater to all groups
that it is one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations. And
let’s not forget that Thais love to holiday in Pattaya, too. Many of
these attractions are new, but our nightlife scene has been one of our
most valuable selling points. We can preserve this valuable asset and let
the night owls amongst us have a fun night out on the town without
returning to the old image of sleaze and immorality. Lewd stage shows are
not Pattaya’s major attraction and only a few renegade establishments
are stuck in this rut. Authorities are targeting them and hopefully they
will eventually be weeded out.
Pattaya’s central and south districts come alive
after dark with a vibrancy that is hard to match in many tourist cities.
Not all of us are into sun, sea and sand. Our city is full of fabulous
restaurants, great shopping and the ‘pub scene’ is one of the best in
the world. When the heat of the day disappears and the sun sets over the
horizon, our streets are full of strollers and shoppers. This is the time
to meet friends, try out new restaurants - and do a bit of shopping and
some pub-crawling. These are enjoyable and harmless pleasures which make a
holiday in Pattaya an exceptional experience. Extending the closing hours
could enhance the enjoyment of tourists, foreigners and Thais alike, and
will certainly put more baht into the local economy.
It has been put to me by some business people in South
Pattaya that the 2:00 a.m. closure regulation has contributed to the
rising crime rate. As one businessman put it, “Longer business hours
mean employers can hire more people. Many Thais who were willing to work
night jobs have lost income due to layoffs. These people still have to pay
their bills and meet their obligations. Some have turned to crime out of
desperation. This group is not made up of hardened criminals, but of
ordinary people who have turned to theft and other unsavory methods to
make up for lost income which could have otherwise been honestly
I only mention this point of view because it gave me
food for thought. Not everyone is cut out to be an entrepreneur, run a
small business or work in a factory. The service industry in Thailand is a
huge source of employment. Pattaya attracts Thais from all over the nation
looking for jobs. More liberal closing hours for legitimate establishments
could help meet this demand.
If we cannot completely rescind the early closing hour
regulations, perhaps we can opt for a few compromises. Some concessions
can be made for establishments to stay open longer for special events,
certain holidays and other exceptional occasions. Pattaya is a highly
diversified city but it is still very much a party town geared to
hospitality and fun. Yes, we want our tourists to feel safe and secure.
And to its credit, our community has implemented many measures to make
that a reality. But let’s face it - crime doesn’t watch the clock.
Wonders from Down Under
Australian wine makers have done wonders with the Syrah
grape, locally known as Shiraz. The grape seems to thrive in the
Australian soil and climate, and it produces one of the most robust and
flavourful red wines in the world. The signature characteristic of wines
made from the Shiraz grape is a kind of black pepper spiciness, which
usually is embroidered with layers of black currants, plum, black cherry,
cedar, and vanilla-scented oak.
Fife, the founder of famous Yarra Burn wines in Victoria recently invited
Ranjith to taste the wonders of Australian wines from Yarra Valley.
The hallmark wine that I believe really brought
Australian wines to the world’s attention probably is Rosemount Shiraz,
which is considered by most to be a “reference wine” for Australian
Shiraz. It is consistently well balanced and rich with ripe, intense fruit
flavours, but its power and grace are equally proportioned. And, best of
all, you can still buy it for under Australian $30.
Australia is not a one-grape wonder by any means. It
also does well with most of the other familiar grape varieties, including
Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay, and Riesling. Australian wine
makers are fond of blending Shiraz and other well-known grapes varieties
in just about every possible combination to achieve a wide range of
styles. For example, you can find blends of Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon,
Shiraz and Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, and so on. An Australian
peculiarity is to blend two grapes and name the wine after both, the
dominant variety first, for example: Shiraz / Cabernet Sauvignon or
Cabernet Sauvignon / Shiraz.
As for white wines, they produce big, buttery
Chardonnays that have lots of oak. They like to blend it with Semillion to
make a leaner, less rich wine. They have also invented several completely
original formulas; Riesling blended with Traminer grapes to give the wine
a nice spicy snap. For example, Rosemount makes a Traminer-Riesling blend
that is one of the best cocktail wines available, and I highly recommend
There are lots of other Australian producers who make
great wines that are widely available in Thailand. Look for wines from
Lindemans, Hardys, Leeuwin Estate, Wolf Blass, Petaluma, Katnook Estate,
Tyrrell’s, Xanadu and Penfolds, to name just a few.
Penfolds has a staggering array of wines available that
range from cheap, basic cask or bag-in-box wines to the legendary
“Grange,” which has an international following among wine collectors
and was named Wine of the Year by the influential Wine Spectator magazine.
It is one of the greatest wines in the world that rivals the great wines
of Bordeaux and Burgundy in price and mystique.
For most wine drinkers outside Australia, the whole
discussion of Australian wine regions is academic. Even Grange, for
example carries the broad South Australian appellation, which covers wines
produced anywhere in the state of South Australia. Commercial wines such
as Jacob’s Creek have even more all-encompassing appellation in the
shape of “South-Eastern Australia”, which could be used for grapes
grown in South Australia, Victoria or New South Wales - three states that,
between them, produce over 90% of the annual harvest.
Almost all Australian wineries use the “Bin”
labelling system on at least a portion of their wines; for example, Bin 2,
Bin 389, Bin 707. I think this is a quaint throwback to older times when
the term “bin” referred to what is called a “lot.” Therefore, Bin
2 would refer to a specific blend or lot of Shiraz and Mourvedre, and Bin
389 is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz.
You might also run into another designation called Show
Reserve. In Australia the term usually does mean better quality wine. In
wine shows it is often stipulated that any entrant must come from a batch
of so many thousands of bottles, and this is kept in reserve by the
various wineries. They are usually released following the wine’s show
career and winning medals. So some of the Show Reserves can be very
handsome, not to mention expensive.
Generally, however, the Australian labels are easy to
understand and are informative. Wines are labelled with the name of the
grape variety stating the grape or combination of grapes used which must
constitute at least 85% of the wine. It is the taste that you drink, not
the place mate.
Australian wines epitomize user-friendliness and are
pleasant to drink from an early age. So, if you get bored with what you
are currently drinking, take a look at what is coming out from down under.
You are sure to find something interesting.
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@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
Website: http://www.royal cliff.com/rcwineclub.htm
Woman's World: Stress Busters
by Lesley Warner
I wonder if any of my readers tried recording the meditative
poem I printed for you? I would be interested to know if any of you did
try it and what you thought of the experience.
‘Out of body experiences’ - are they real or crazy?
From personal experience I have to say that I feel
confident that I am a very down to earth person (excuse the pun). You have
to have an open mind to experience those things that there is no
One of life’s most stressful experiences are exams,
and to many the driving test is one of the worst. As a young person I was
a little feisty and due to this found it somewhat difficult to pass my
driving test, so I gave up, until years later when taking my children to
play school in the pouring rain I appeared to be the only mother dripping
wet. The other mothers were all getting out of their cars tidy and well
groomed, and I was a soggy messed surrounded by 4 miserable wet children.
So I decided it was time to try again.
I felt confident that with my more mature attitude and
approach I should do ok. I got myself into the correct frame of mind and
made a plan, 10 driving lessons and the test booked in advance. It had
been 10 years since I last tried so it was a lesson for every year. When
the day of my test dawned I tried consciously to breath deeply and shut
out every other thought. I got into the car with the instructor and
literally went through the motions. I seemed to be watching myself from
somewhere up above. I know many people will say ‘poppycock’ but the
instructor said he could not fault me, it was a perfect test? I know for
sure that my nervous spirit was not in that car.
Another time an acquaintance of my husband’s from the
tiny village in Devon that I was living in came to exorcise the ghost that
we were convinced shared our old house (another story and no I am not a
fruitcake). While she was there we got chatting and I happened to say that
I could not be hypnotized. She gave me a large crystal to hold and carried
on talking about various things, she then asked me how I felt and I said
slightly light headed. She suggested I might like to open the door in the
top of my head and venture out; this seemed slightly bizarre but I decided
I’m game for most things. Well I was as surprised as anyone when I
literally felt myself float out of what seemed to be the top of my head. I
turned and looked back, I found myself looking down on to the top of the
head of my husband and the woman. I was afraid but decided to go on, it
was dark at first but seemed to be getting lighter. The woman was talking
to me, asking me what was happening and then all of a sudden I was sucked
back into my head. I was most disappointed and asked her why? She said I
was far too susceptible and had no idea what I was doing, and therefore it
I have always been proud to say that I have an open
mind and I feel that we do get the opportunity to experience more life if
we do not close our minds. I am not a weirdo or someone living in a dream
world, but I am someone who does not judge other people’s beliefs and I
like to try new things with an open mind.
The experience with the crystal had made me interested
enough to want to try it again, but could it be dangerous? I have to say
that I am not really into putting my health at risk, apart from the
occasional sunbath, cigarette or drink, but remember everything in
Floating around in the astral is all very well but
without our bodies we wouldn’t be able to enjoy the physical pleasures
such as eating or sex, among many other physical sensations. After all,
how could the spiritual body devour chocolate? So I had no desire for the
door to shut behind me.
I decided to take some advice and find out if this
‘out of body experience’ was dangerous. I was told that done in a
controlled fashion the experience is safe and fulfilling but that there
were risks. The person I asked said, “One should cherish one’s
physical body as a place to return safely home to after the spiritual
journey, not as a place to run away from.”