Monday, November 5, 2012

Best Spots in Khao San Road


The clubbing scene at Khoa San Road is best described as completely exhilarating, varied and pulsating. Some of Bangkok’s most exciting clubs and pubs are located on this road and the patrons are pretty cosmopolitan and completely hip. You will be able to explore a diverse variety of setups from Gazebo’s Shisha Bar on the roof right through to Lava’s under-floor music lounge.

Café Democ


This is a fairly unassuming restaurant/ café during the day but transforms into a strong player on the Bangkok nightclub scene every night.  It has been around for a while and has really found its niche. During events here, the patrons are treated to a good mix of dance and house music – ranging from old school house to trance. This is situated on Ratchadamnoen Road right next to the Democracy Monument – just ten minutes from Khao San Road.
Opening Hours: 11:00 - 01:00 Tuesday - Sunday
Tel:             +66 (0)2 622 2571      

Club Culture


This is best described as a musical sanctuary and allows you to enjoy some truly exotic music. Originally started by the Club Astra team after it fell victim to the fickleness of RCA’s crowds. The Club Culture is now being managed by the owner of Café Democ and headlines some of the best international live bands and DJ’s. These include Madness, DJ Toby White, Sutcliffe Jugend and DJ Nakadia. There are four floors and each feature a separate music theme that give the visitor a taste of everything from live acts to techno disco. Most of the time admission is 500 baht or less and you usually get a free drink. Depending on what night it is, you may even get in for free.
Opening Hours: 21:00-02:00 (closed Mondays)
Location: Rajdamnoen Klang (behind Rattanakosin Exhibition Hall, close to Democracy Monument)
Tel:             +66 (0)89 497 8422      

The Club


You can go back in time when it was music such as Trance and not pop like the Black Eyed Peas were played all over Khao San. The visitor gets to experience a full on rave and are even given free glow-sticks. You would be forgiven for thinking you’d been magically transported to one of the sleek clubs you find in Ibiza – less the self-centred DJs and masses of drugged up clubbers. There is a huge dance floor with high ceilings, UV lights, a giant disco ball, lasers and, best of all, a DJ booth that is raised and that has excellent visuals that play against the backdrop.
This all combines for an almost hallucinogenic extravaganza. The laser beams glide through the louvered Mediterranean styled doorways and tourists seem to float through clouds of dry ice. Some take a time out on the chic couches and wait to be served. The sound of silence is nowhere to be heard here so expect to have the music pounded into your system. Not the ideal environment if you are looking for a chat but perfect if you want to dance like a maniac or howl at the moon during a classic full-moon beach party.
Opening Hours: 20:00 - 02:00
Location: 123 Khao San Road
Tel:             +66 (0)2 629 1100      

Immortal

Immortal seems to have found the fountain of youth and is one of the legends of the Khao San music vibe.  Popular music is played very loud for a long time. This club tends more towards an alternative metal vibe and this has guaranteed its longevity. The club is not very pretty but is everything a nightclub should be – dark and lots of fun. There are several special offers for Happy Hour and you will usually find that you get a free drink with your entry fee. The entry fee varies depending on the night.
Location: 1st floor of the Bayon Building, 249 Khao San Road
Tel:             +66 (0)5 812 9111      

Gazebo

This is a bar/ club situated on a rooftop allowing you to enjoy pleasant evening winds and great city views. You may feel that you have stumbled into an incomplete pleasure palace. You may feel as though you are entering an upmarket Moroccan loft at first – just relax and go with the flow as you imagine yourself to be in an exotic bar in Cairo.
There is also the Zed Bar which features a state of the art DJ room – belly dance all your stress away. The evening breeze tends to perpetuate the idea that this is a setting out of the Arabian Nights and enjoy the juxtaposition of the live Reggae Band against this ambience. Once you are completely relaxed move into Gazebo’s inner sanctum – a small, dark room with loud dance music. You will pay 300 baht to get in after midnight.
Opening Hours: 20:00 - Late
Location: Upstairs, 44 Chakrapong Road
Tel:             +66 (0)2 629 0705      

Lava Club


You will be forgiven for thinking that you are traipsing into the underworld when you enter the dungeon world of Khao San. The waitresses are dressed suggestively and this all adds to the underworld theme. The music is decidedly hip-hop in nature and the place really only starts pumping after 11:00. There is no entry fee.
Location: basement of the Bayon building, 249 Khao San Road
Tel:             +66 (0)2 281 6565      


Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Dinner on Top of Bangkok


This enormous city can be best described as one of the most trendy rooftop venues in Bangkok from where you can expressly enjoy the eye view of a bird on the sprawling metropolis as you sip a refreshing cocktail. The best time to get in is the afternoon as you will witness the sun setting behind the scenic Chao Phraya River that attracts many tourists.

D’Sens Bar and Restaurant


This elegant French-themed bar and restaurant is highly recommended with its three Michelin stars, perfect view of the Lumpini Park from the 22nd (top) floor of the Dusit Thani Bangkok. Order some Jacques and Laurent Pourcel from Le Jardin fame. Most of the people who come in here are young high earning professionals.

Gazebo


This is a restaurant club cum bar that will give you’re the real upscale Moroccan loft ambiance. The shisha pipes, soft lamps and plump cushions are very Cairo. Add to this the belly dancing performer and it is like being transported to another time and place. They also play a reggae music which makes the place a bit more eclectic.

While the reggae adds much to the eclecticism, the sultry evening breeze gives you a taste of an Arabian Night’s feeling. You can then move on to the next door to meet the raucous alter ego in Gazebo once your eyes glaze over. After midnight, the entry is 300 Baht to some small dark club room with loud dance beats and nocturnes at 3am.

The Long Table

This is a hidden jewel in Bangkok’s crown that resides on the Column Tower—25th Floor.

The concept of the restaurant is unique. They have one long table that sits about 70 people. It gives people who dine here more chances of meeting new people. However, it is important to note that the long table is spacious. You don’t have to worry about being crowded by people you don’t know kno.

The walls are glass which makes the place look bigger than it is.

Three Sixty


The Millennium Hilton Hotel is the latest addition to the skyline of Bangkok. It is located on the Chonburi side of the Chao Phraya River. You will need to take a short ferry ride across this river from River City Pier.

You have to take the elevator all the way to the 31st floor and then go up one more floor through the staircase. It is a sophisticated jazz lounge with 360 degree views. There is a smoking area.

 

Vertigo


This open air bar-cum restaurant is raised 61 floors above the great and bustling streets of Bangkok. You will enjoy the sophisticated, stylish and romantic scene. You should actually indulge in some of the world’s finest exotic cocktails, champagne, nonalcoholic beverages in the bar section, wine by the glass or you get on for the most memorable dinner composed of some barbecued seafood.

There is also a telescope is available for most nights if you want to go a bit closer to the stars. During the weekends, they also have a live jazz band but don’t worry, the band is not too loud to put you out of your peaceful zone. 

Monday, September 17, 2012

Truly Thailand Things You Will Find in Khao San Road


Khao San is known for its booze, music, and partying but its shopping area is hardly mentioned. Yes, Khao San also offers some items for sale. The whole Khao Road stretch is filled with different vendors. Things being sold include clothes, food, and some unique and truly Thailand items. These are the times that you will hardly find anywhere else in the world. Some stuff are crazy, some are weird, and some are downright funny. 

Actually, prices here are not as affordable as Pratunam and Chatuchak but it is still more affordable than the items you will find in malls.

Tours and Travels


If you are looking for bus tickets, travel tours, hotels, plane tickets, and other things related to traveling, you will find it here in Khao San. Travel agencies here also offer packaged tours and customized tours. That already includes food and the drive to and fro you hotel. If you do arrive in Bangkok without any hotel accommodation, you will also find a lot of hotels here or agencies that could book and take you to your chosen hotel.

Many travelers prefer to stay in Bangkok and do day trips to different sights. Khao San is the perfect place to stay in because it puts you right where the party is, a fitting closing to your day of touring.

Antiques


Many of the city’s second hand book shops are also located here. The book shops also sell old magazines, graphic novels, and other antique toys. Like everything else in Bangkok, you will be able to buy it at a reasonable price. You will find firs issues of legendary comics that may be sold for thousands of dollars in the open market. There first issues books in perfect condition too.

Spoof Shirts


Asians are the best when it comes to copying popular international brands. They are also the best when it comes to spoofing them and Thailand is the best when it comes to selling them. You will find shirts with the spoofed version of their brand names printed on it. It is a great gift for your friends when you return back home. Most of these shirts have a vintage look and not exactly suitable to be worn during the winter.

Hand Crafted Exotic Items


This is the only place where you will find hand crafted ashtrays shaped like naked people. Some of these items were made by members of the Northern Hill Tribes. Aside from ashtrays, they sell hammocks, croaking ornament made from frog skin, and one-of-a-kind jewels. It is also a perfect give away to your friends back home. The designs are good conversation starters.

Unique Belts and Accessories


You don’t have to spend hundreds of dollars to get your hands on those intricately-designed belts usually worn by pop and rock stars because Khao San has them for much less. They have tribal designs inspired by Polynesian, Borneo, Maori, Haida and others. You will also find contemporary graffiti-inspired designs on belts, bags, and headbands.


Thursday, August 9, 2012

Galleries in Bangkok that Feature Asian Artists


Internationally, Thailand is known for great horror films and rightfully so. But Thailand is more than that. Bangkok, in particular, is the home of many galleries that give space to Thai and other Asian artists some space to get noticed.

H Gallery


This was established by H Ernest Lee, an American, in 1999 and specialises in modern art. The work of emergent Thai and Asian artists takes centre stage. This gallery is situated in central Bangkok and is based in a colonial style mansion that is over 125 years old. The atmosphere is less formal and pretty amiable. There are two different exhibition spaces and the art on display covers two floors. Paintings, photography and textiles are displayed. There are regular exhibitions – sometimes once a month.

Opening Hours: 12.00 - 18:00 (Thursday - Saturday); Sunday - Wednesday by appointment or by chance
Location: 201 Sathorn Soi 12
BTS: Surasak
Tel:             +66 (0)1 310 4428      
How to get there: From BTS Skytrain Surasak Station (exit 3), walk about 10 minutes towards Narathiwat Road.

Tang Gallery


This gallery, as the name suggests, focuses on contemporary Chinese artworks. There are varies types of art on display and all sorts of mediums represented. There are exhibitions on a monthly basis by noted Chinese and Thai artists.
Opening Hours: 11:00 - 19:00 (Monday - Saturday)
Location: Unit B-28, The Silom Galleria
BTS: Surasak
Tel:             +66 (0)2 630 1114      
How to get there: From BTS Surasak Station (exit 1), turn right into Surasak Road and continue walking until you hit Silom, then turn right, walk pass The Holiday Inn Silom, and the building will be on your right.

Thavibu Gallery


This gallery presents contemporary art mainly from Vietnam, Thailand and Burma and its name is a compilation of letters from each of these countries. There are works from different Asian countries as well. The main focus is on artists who are young and upcoming and whose work  the gallery feels portrays the imaginative aspects of the culture and also make a statement about a broad range of social issues. Exhibitions are held on a regular basis.
Opening Hours: Mondays - Saturdays (11:00 hrs. - 19:00 hrs.)
Location: Suite #308, 3rd Floor, The Silom Galleria (Jewellery Trade Centre Building)
BTS: Surasak
Tel:             +66 (0)2 266 545-4      
How to get there: From BTS Surasak Station, take exit 1 and turn right into Surasak Road. Continue walking until you hit Silom, then turn right, walk pass The Holiday Inn Silom, and the building will be on your right.

Toot Yung Gallery


This was originally the vision of a Frenchman and this is and somewhat uplifting mix of gallery and meeting place that promotes young local artists and also brings in works from foreign artists. The gallery has partners both in Thailand and abroad and so can present a wide range of contemporary art that spans all media platforms – performing arts, mixed  media, live music, etc. The aim is to create a space for artists of all kinds to meet without borders and can be accessed by anyone with an artistic bent.
Opening Hours: 10:00 – 20:00
Location: 19 Prachathipatai Road (near Wat Tri Tossathep and Wisut Kasat Road)
Tel:             +66 (0)84 914 5499       

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Proper Etiquette in Bangkok


Although Bangkok may seem a city apart, it is still a part of Thailand. Westerners, called “farang” in Thai, flock to the city and a lot have chosen to take up residence there. In Bangkok, farangs are pretty much a normal part of everyday life and most citizens have become used to the mistakes foreigners make. It should always be remembered, however, that etiquette is important in Thai society and is much appreciated. Whilst most Thai are too polite to point out gaffes, they may go down badly. Any small gesture that shows some respect for Thai culture will, however, make your stay a lot more pleasant. Here’s how you can avoid the worst gaffes:

Smiles

Smiles are pretty much a good way to communicate with anyone and a good rule of thumb is to smile when you are not sure what else to do.

Wais

Wais are pretty complex to master because of the social standings of all parties. Foreigners are generally not expected to start one off but you could return one if offered. This is done by holding your hands in front of you as if you are praying and bowing slightly. In Thai society, one only offers wais to people who is your equal or who are of greater social standing.

Keep it cool

When it comes to a quintessential Thai expression, “Mai pen rai” is probably the best example. It basically means “Don’t worry no worries or never mind.” You should never let yourself get angry or show anger in public. You should not shout in public either. This will just lead to embarrassment all around.

Your head

In Bangkok someone’s head is considered sacred and you should never touch someone’s head or pass anything over it.

Your feet

Feet are generally considered dirty. Never use your feet as a means to point out something or to move something. You should also never point your feet at anyone or reveal the soles of your feet. Make sure in temples that you point your feet away from any Buddha.

Your shoes

Just like feet, shoes are considered unclean and should be taken off at the door. There are a number of places where it is good etiquette to remove your shoes before going inside. If you see a shoe rack outside, you should be prepared to take your shoes off.

Public displays of affection

PDA’s are discouraged. You seldom see Thai couples holding hands. Make sure to avoid touching anyone of the opposite sex in public.

Dress

It is easier to dress properly in Bangkok than you might think. Think about how you would dress if you were off to meet your new in-laws for the first time and adjust this for warm weather. Thais always seem to look polished despite the awful humidity and you should aim to emulate them. Women should generally look to cover up their shoulders and cleavage but can wear shorts and short skirts. You need to wear a top over your bikini top.

Temples

Temples generally have strict dress codes and these should always be adhered to. You should be barefoot and should not touch any of the monks. Don’t point your feet at any religious icons and, when in doubt, follow what the locals are doing.

Photos

You need to ask permission of people before taking their photos. Consider the spectacle if you went up to a group of stranger’s kids at home and started snapping photos. How would your local hot dog vendor like the same kind of attention?

The Royal family

Be respectful or risk landing up in jail. Whenever the Song for His Majesty the King or the Thai national anthem is broadcast or played you need to stop whatever you are doing and stand. Do not deface images of the royals.

At the BTS

People are very polite on public transportation in Thailand. People form orderly queues when waiting for the train. It is considered polite to offer your seat to the elderly or those that need to sit.

Tipping

Tipping is never essential but you should tip when a job has been done well. Like everywhere else a tip is expected in the hospitality industries and a lot of places incorporate a service charge into the bill so check for this before you add any more money. 

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Bangkok’s Most Popular Parks


Bangkok has several lush, beautiful parks available for the use of residents and tourists alike that want to experience the natural beauty and splendor of this fine city.  Many of these parks have excellent facilities, such as swimming pools, tennis courts, picnic areas, and more.  Whatever outdoor activities your family likes to do, there will be a Bangkok park that would accommodate them.

The best-known park in Bangkok is Lumpini Park, a tranquil place that is the oldest of the city’s many parks.  It covers more than half a million square meters (57.6-hectare (142-acre)) and was established in the 1920s as a craft and flower market.  This never came to be; Lumpini Park instead developed into a go-to spot for various outdoor activities.

Chatuchak Park


Chatuchak Park, located next to the market of the same name, is within downtown Bangkok and contains a beautiful Thai Literature and Herb Garden that visitors absolutely must experience for themselves.  Visitors can take a row boat onto the pond or watch the fish swim and eat; they can also visit nearby soccer fields and tennis courts to take in a little more intense activity. 

This place can be really crowded in the weekend as tourists flock to the Chatuchak Market. This park is open from 04:30 until 21:00 every day.  Visit the Youth Traffic Garden and Train Museum while in the area.

Queen Sirikit Park


Queen Sirikit Park was established as a tribute to Her Majesty the Queen on her 50th birthday in August of 1992.  Visit the tree garden, where the trees of Thailand’s provinces are arranged to represent the shape of Thailand itself!  Don’t forget to check out the nearby Children’s Discovery Museum and take in the park’s Lotus and Water Lily Yard, botanical gardens, and gorgeous pond.  This park is open from 5:00 until 18:00 every day.

King Rama IX Park


King Rama IX Park was built to commemorate His Majesty the King’s 50th birthday in 1987, and was commissioned by Suan Luang Rama XI.  There are several zones within this park, each with different attractions: ‘Sanam Rat’, which contains areas for sports and festivals; Rommanee Garden, which is an imitation of the various landscapes of Thailand; ‘The Garden of the Great King’, with its Ratchapreuk trees, whose yellow colouring represents the King.  The park has several other attractions that must be experienced, including a Lotus Garden and Rock Wall Garden.  This park is open from 5:00 until 18:00 each day.

Santichaiprakarn Park


Santichaiprakarn Park is unique in construction as it is centered around one of the city’s old fortifications – few of which still exist, making this park a very special place.  This place is popular with street performers and artists.  Bars and restaurants are very close to this park, as is the Khao San Road, which makes Santichaiprakarn a very popular destination; it’s right in the middle of all the action!

The next time you visit Bangkok, take in one of its beautiful parks and escape city life for a day. Bring a blanket, some snack and a book and you’re all set to enjoy the sun. 

For more articles on Bangkok and surroundings also see http://blog.bkkcondos.com

Monday, July 16, 2012

After-Dark Shopping Experience in Bangkok


If you want to spend most of your day in Thailand meeting elephants, touching snakes and watching shopping in the floating market, you may do so without ever having to worry about not having the chance the shop. There are a lot of night markets in Thailand that are open until 12 midnight. You can finish your tours in the day, head to the night market for shopping, before hitting Khao San for some drinks.

Below are some of the night markets you should check out.

Major Ratchoyothin Market


Major Ratchoyothin Market and Khlong San are very similar in terms of the merchandise they sell. Whatever you find in one will mostly likely be sold in the other too. However, the Major Ratchoyothin Market is becoming more popular because it is closer to the the Major Ratchoyothin Cinema as well as the IMAX Complex. Some people opt to shop while they wait for their movie or go straight to shopping right after the movie.

Ratchada Night Bazaar


Formerly known as Ratchada-Lad Phrao Junction Night Market, the Ratchada Night Bazaar is often called the ultimate night market in Bangkok. You will find some ridiculously low priced shoes, leather bags, books, jeans, CDs, home decorative items, assortments of knick-knacks, furniture and antiques. There are a lot of pre-owned goods as well.

The Ratchada Night Bazaar actually started off as a market for the second-hand vespas as well as used car parts but it is has now evolved to become one of the best night markets in Thailand. When you enter the market, you will be welcomed by some of the best food stalls in the country. Some people find it impossible to go through all the stalls in a single night. It’s a big market and there are many items to check out.

Sanam Laung / Khlong Lod


They are best known for their second hand items. Expect to find some brassware, old magazines, old books, motorbike parts and remote controlled toys in addition to the usual handmade trinkets, fashion accessories, T-shirts, sneakers, clothing and other items. However, it is very important that you know how to examine the items you want to buy. Many of the items on display look perfect but they don’t necessarily function perfectly.

Saphad Phut Night Market


Except Wednesdays, the area around Memorial Bridge along the Rattankosin side of this river is packed with shoppers and sellers looking to trade entertainment items and apparels including CDs, DVDs, jeans, sneakers, T-shirts, video games and many other items.

You can also find some counterfeit brand names such as Armani, Fred Perry and Ralph Lauren and other creative pieces. The prices are exclusively cheap and bartering is actually not necessary. The Saphad Phut Night Market is quite popular among the teens. It normally opens from 17:30 or much later in a rainy day. It stays open till midnight. Rush now and get your goodies.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Martial Arts Schools in Bangkok


Bangkok is a popular destination for individuals who want to learn different types of martial arts, as the country is a melting pot of martial arts schools and is known as the birthplace of many world-class fighters. Here are some of the more prominent martial arts schools in Bangkok:

Fighting Spirit Gym


Bangkok is the country of origin of the Muay Thai (kickboxing) discipline, and as expected, it is home to many world-class schools that offer Muay Thai classes. Fighting Spirit classify their students into three categories: Beginners, Intermediate and Advanced.

For the advance levels, they can offer camp. This means that training for advance Muay Thai students is live-in. They live in the school during the course.

Fighting Spirit is located in Bangrak, Bangkok. The camp is equipped with a full-featured training camp with as many as 5 training rings, an MMA/BJJ facility, a swimming pool, and a gymnasium.  The rates in Fighting Spirit is tailored according to the classes that a student wants and the amenities he or she wants included – with the lowest being 1,100 Baht per day for a Muay Thai, BJJ or MMA program with a shared fan accommodation, to 2,950 Baht per day for a combination of both MT/MMA/BJJ and private air con accommodation. All the prices are inclusive of 2 meals per day and use of the facilities.


Shaolin WuShu Thailand Co. Ltd.

Those who prefer to study Shaolin Wushu can instead go to Shaolin WuShu Thailand Co. Ltd, which is located in Seri Village. They offer training in basic kung fu, qi gong (internal power techniques such as patuanchin and tai chi), shaolin weapon skills, and the more practical sanda, which is a modern Chinese hand to hand self defense system. The one good thing about Shaolin WuShu Thailan Co. Ltd is that instead of being exclusive to presentations and contest, they also teach practical applications of Wu Shu, which means the martial art can be used for self defense and real life protection.

The basic rates for SWT is 1,700 baht for one month for a weekly session, while the bi-weekly session costs 3,000 baht per month. Each period runs for 75 mins. SWT also offers a special promo in which paying for three months in advance will entitle the student to one more month of free classes.


Jaroenthong

Jaroenthong serves both as a fitness gym and competitive training facility. They teach Muay Thai for fitness and train students who want to pursue Muay Thai as a career. The head instructor is a multi-awarded Muay Thai World Champion and Boxing World Champion.

Bangkok Fight Club


Individuals who want to master both Muay Thai and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu can enroll in Bangkok Fight Club, which is one of Thailand’s premiere schools for the two Martial arts. Recently, BFC has expanded their curriculum and now offers training in Eskrima Kali Arnis, KenPo Karate, Submission Grappling, and even Street Self Defense making them one of the most prolific gym in the world.
Their classes are geared towards developing a student’s street fighting skills and train them for competition. These two are most often different as competitions are bound by rules and code of honor. On the other hand, training for street fighting/self-defense involves mastering killer moves or attacks or counter-attacks that can kills or injure an opponent with one blow.

They have one of the most prolific course offering.


Thursday, June 14, 2012

International Building Standards in Thailand


Yanyong Phuangrach, the secretary of the Commerce Industry, said at the “Thailand Economic Profile, AEC Adaptation and Housing Development Direction” seminar, that home-building companies and related services need to increase their standards if they are going to meet the requirements of the Asean Economic Community.  The AEC will give more business opportunities to this market, so attempting to meet its requirements is quite desirable.

The Asean Economic Community does not take complete effect until 2015 and will open up the entire region to the home-building business.  This will aid all related businesses as well, including construction material suppliers, engineers, architects, contractors, and more.

The former president of the Association of Siamese Architects, Taweejit Chandrasakha, agreed with this assessment, adding that they will need to learn the rules and international standards when they choose to expand into member countries of the AEC.

Each company will be required to study each AEC country’s building rules and have concern about product quality for the protection of the people that will be using those buildings.  In order to ensure safety standards, all steps of the design and construction process will be studied by a variety of experts.  Companies that don’t adjust their systems in order to meet these standards will not benefit from AEC, and will face major competition from companies that do – not just domestic housing companies and related services, but those from all over the Asean.

 

Positive and Negative Aspects


The AEC will provide positives and negatives to the construction business, with the most obvious benefit being that the market for construction will be increased beyond Thailand’s borders and make for a greater number of business opportunities.  It will mean that companies will have to work very, very hard to remain competitive and those that don’t put in the effort to remain at the head of the pack will not survive.  These rules will also serve to expose companies that do not put safety as their number one concern.

The president of the Home Builder Association, Dr. Patchara Tantayanyong, said that all of this will also have an impact on her sector.  The expanding ofthe residential industry also involves the home-building market, and while small companies face issues surrounding service, quality, and design, these standards will be facing a major revamp this year.  Changes are incoming, for better or for worse (presumably for the better).

The industry’s expansion relies on keeping consumers confident in their local home-builder’s quality of service and reliability.  It is hoped that the change in building standards will help maintain or improve consumer confidence, and prepare these smaller companies for the up-and-coming AEC.
Bangkok’s home-building market was worth an impressive 55 billion baht last year, with companies of the Home Builder Association making up about 20 percent of this market.  Independent companies make up the remainder of the home-building market.  The impact of the AEC on these small companies has yet to be seen, but if they choose to keep up with building requirements, they should be able to remain competitive.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Thailand’s Rise After The Flood


The first quarter saw the unexpected increase of the baht’s value and the expansion of Thailand’s economy as factories returned to work after the previous year’s floods. The GDP grew by 0.3 percent in the three months since March of last year since contracting an 8.9 percent increase during the quarter beforehand. Many estimates believed there would be a decline of half a percent instead of an increase.

This is a pleasant surprise considering many economic analysts doubted the country will recover fast after the flood last year. Others estimated that it would take half a decade before Thailand could ever make new investors look their way.

The Bank of Thailand has said that there will not be further rate cuts this month because recovery is proceeding beyond expectations, even with outside risks to Thailand’s growth such as increased oil prices. Output from the country’s manufacturers has been boosted since the disruptions caused by the floods, and Honda Motor Co.’s factory will return to running at full capacity on March 31.

Despite the SET Index’s drop of a full percent, the baht had a half percent increase against the US dollar by noon.

Growth for 2012 has been predicted to be six percent, and once Thailand’s economic recovery gains strength, it will be prepared to increase interest rates again.

Unfortunately, Greece’s political troubles may lead to further problems with Europe’s own debt crisis, which could have an impact on Asian nations. This is just one more challenge on top of China’s growth slowing and the U.S. recovery not proceeding quite as well as desired.

Less demand from Europe for Thailand and Singapore exports is an issue since these countries rely on such exports for a large portions of their gross domestic product, but these exports will get better as more companies recover from the floods. As the automotive and electronics sectors go back to full capacity, growth will increase and gradually pick up speed as we approach the next quarters.

Mild Recovery


Arkhom Termpittayapaisith, who is the secretary-general of the National Economic and Social Development Board, has stated that Thailand’s recovery is still a relatively mild one. Support from the central bank in the form of interest rate cuts – or holding to current interest rates – will be extremely important for the economy’s continued recovery.

According to the Thai Finance Minister, exports could achieve growth of 15 percent, while automotive production has already increased by 11 percent and automotive sales have had a 19.3 percent increase.

Everything under control


Overall, spending in the first quarter has improved, which has in turn aided the economic recovery, though inflation risks are still there due to higher wages, higher oil prices, and the speedy economic recovery. The Prime Minister has expressed worry about an increase to the cost of living as a result of all of this.

With the minimum wage increase to 300 baht per day, some companies, such as the factories of Hana  Microelectronics Pcl, are running into issues returning to their full production capacity. Despite this, Thailand’s economy has seen an 11 percent increase.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

How Thailand is Recovering


In the first quarter, the economy of Thailand has expanded unexpectedly despite last year's floods. Factories have resumed production, domestic consumption has revived, and the Baht rose.

According to the National Economic and Social Development Board, there has been an increase of 0.3 percent on the Gross Domestic Product in the three months through March from the previous year, after a revised contract of 8.9 percent in the prior quarter. In a Bloomberg News Survey, the median of 18 approximations was for a decline of 0.5 percent

Governor Prasarn Trairatvorakul of the Bank of Thailand said that this month, further rate cuts will be refrained by the monetary authority because recovery pace is exceeding its expectations, even though there are risks to growth such as higher oil prices and Europe's debt  woes. Despite the country’s worst floods in almost 70 years, causing shut plants and disrupted production, manufacturers have been boosting output during recovery. Honda Motor Co. says that on March 31, its factory in Ayutthaya province will run at full capacity to cater to the rising demand.

Sacha Tihanyi, A senior currency strategist in Hong Kong at Scotiabank(a unit of Bank of Nova Scotia) said that: “The post-flood rebound is progressing nicely, with a stronger-than-expected rebound likely to keep Bank of Thailand focused on future inflation risk,”... “We are going to see recovery ramp up. However, it’s not going to be at such a massive rate of growth.”


Stimulus of Exit

For a second meeting on May 2, the Central Bank left borrowing costs unchanged, who later raised the growth forecast to 6 percent for 2012. This month, the International Monetary Fund said that when economic recovery strengthens, Thailand should be prepared to exit fiscal stimulus and raise interest rates

Risks are faced by Asian nations arising from international problems such as Greece's inability to form a new government after an inconclusive election that could worsen the debt crisis in Europe, not to mention the hurdles from the growth slowdown in China and an the unstable U.S. recovery.

The decline in European demand is particularly troubling for countries such as Thailand and Singapore, since their product exports make up about half or more of the gross domestic product.

In a media briefing in Bangkok, Arkhom Termpittayapaisith, secretary-general of the National Economic & Social Development Board, said that in the second quarter, Capacity utilization and exports will pick up while more companies recover from the floods.

According to him: “Auto and electronics sector will return to full capacity and that will boost growth in the second quarter”. In addition, he said that “Growth may be 4 percent to 5 percent and will pick up speed in the third and fourth quarter,” saying that the agency is maintaining a 5.5 percent to 6.5 percent growth forecast for this year.

Recovery is 'Still Mild'

He said that the recovery is “still mild”, adding that the central bank must make sure that the monetary policy “remains supportive” to the economy, by way of cutting or holding interest rates. On May 23, Malaysia will report that its GDP growth for the first quarter has slowed to to 4.6 per cent as compared to the previous year, according to the Bloomberg News Survey's median forecast, as compared with the 5.2 percent expansion in the previous three months.

 Last week, Thai Finance Minister Kittiratt Na-Ranong said that the country could achieve an export growth of 15 percent this year. There has also been an 11 percent rise in car production, with a record of 190,935 units in March from the previous year, with a jump of 19.3 percent on sales, the Federation of Thai Industries said last month.

In April, inflation slowed to its lowest for more than two years on easing food prices and state subsidies, said by the Commerce Ministry last May 1. Even though exports and industrial output fell in March, business acumen and consumer confidence has bounced back.

Under Control

According to Sukhy Ubhi, an economist at Capital Economics Ltd. in London: “Manufacturing output, tourism and private-sector spending look to have risen strongly in the first quarter, reversing their slumps late last year,” “With inflation under control for now, we think the BoT is likely to stay on hold at least until the third quarter.”

Higher wages & oil, and a faster-than-expected economic recovery are causes why inflation risks remain, according to the central bank. Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra expressed her worry about an increase in the cost of living.

Chief Executive Officer Richard Han said in a Bloomberg Television interview today that Factories of Hana Microelectronics Pcl, the largest semiconductor packager of Thailand, are operating at between 50 percent and 55 percent of their production level from before last year’s floods.

He said: “We didn’t have support in terms of relief and tax”, “A lot of SMEs are also struggling because of the 300-baht minimum wage increase,”. In April, the pay rose to 300 baht ($9.6) per day in Bangkok as well as in six other provinces. As with the rest of the country, it will climb to an average of 40 percent.

The economy in Thailand is the biggest in Southeast Asia following Indonesia. From three months earlier, it grew to 11 percent compared with the previous period's revised 10.8 contraction. The Bloomberg News survey's median forecast was for a gain of 10 percent.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Low-Key Bars On Sukhumvit


Bangkok is known to be overwhelming and when night falls it becomes even more crammed with clubbers and neon lights. It would seem that nightclubs and the X-rated clubs are the fare of the day but you may be looking for a quiet drink. If you want something a little quieter and off the normal tourist track, visit Bar 23, WTF and Cheap Charlie’s on Sukhumvit Road are charming enough to fit the bill.

Bar 23


Make sure to look carefully for the sign – it is easy to miss.

The best description is grunge mixed in with cool high school décor. The bar is pretty cosy and not well lit – it is easy to miss because it looks perpetually closed. It is a very relaxed atmosphere and the staff are extremely friendly. The art on the walls showcases local artists and an eclectic mix of collections. The bar is at times packed and at other times it is empty but you can always be assured of having a relaxing evening amongst friendly people. Beers are about 100 baht and cocktails will set you back a bit more. Thursday nights, at about eight, feature free swing dance classes.

Located on Sukhumvit Soi 16 about 500 metres from the mouth of the soi on the right-hand side. Look for the sign that says 23. A 15-minute walk from Asok BTS station or the MRT station at Sukhumvit. Open Tues-Sat from about 19:00 to about 02:00.
  

WTF


This is skewed towards the upper market.

If you want something that is slightly classier but still has a bit of an edge, WTF is a well-established favourite. The drinks are substantial and there are gallery spaces and tappas. The walls are adorned with retro movie posters and the retro soundtrack gives it a more classic feel. The cocktails are top-class – one special being The Orchard made up of gin, lychee and lemongrass. WTF has an itinerary of weekly events so check out their calendar. Poetry nights are on every sixth Thursday night. You are looking at about 200 baht for a cocktail and about 150 baht for a plate of tapas.   

Located on Sukhumvit Soi 51, a roughly five-minute walk from Thong Lor BTS station. Turn onto Soi 51 and WTF will be your second left on Soi 51. Open Tues-Sun 18:00-01:00. T: (02) 662 6246.

Cheap Charlie's

Cheap Charlie’s is a typical Bangkok dive that is loved by backpackers. There are a few well-placed stools and a bar and very little else. The bar is located on the street and has been there for over thirty years. It has become a tradition for patrons to bring souvenirs to be attached to the bar as a piece of the décor – the end result looks as though someone has taken a pile of rubbish and tacked it onto a shack. Cheap Charlie’s is always good for a fun evening and drinks that are pretty cheap – beers cost only 70 baht.

Located on Sukhumvit Soi 11 a short work from Nana BTS. The bar is on a small alley on the left-hand side about 100 metres from Sukhumvit Road. If you reach Suk 11 Hostel you have gone too far. Open daily from mid-afternoon until midnight.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

High End Bars in Khao San Road


The electrified atmosphere of Khao San usually attracts backpackers and travellers from all the corners of the world. Bright neon signs then begin flickering to life after sunset. The whole society then becomes a multicultural party with all the vibes you can imagine: the great chill out style, loud and raucous environment. A venture to Khao San in the evening will leave you wanting more fun no matter how late into the night it is.

However, not everyone feels comfortable with the noise and the chaos. If you are one of those, check out the bars listed below.

Gazebo 

Gazebo is a roof top bar and club with nocturnal city views and balmy winds that mixes and serves a unique menu of cocktail drinks. The food isn’t so bad too. It is a perfect feel of the half built pleasure palace you can expect. Here, you can enjoy the booze and share some laughter with your friends without having to scream at the top of your lungs just to be heard above the noise as you sip cocktails with a feeling of upscale Moroccan loft.

Gazebo also houses The Zed Bar which is a state-of-the-art DJ room where you can easily belly dance for a few hours. The sultry evening breeze here heightens the feeling of the Arabian Night as the live reggae adds on to the eclectic feeling. Once the cocktails start pouring in and your eyes glazed then you can move to the next door to meet Gazebo’s raucous alter ego. It is a small, dark club room with loud dance beats and thick 3am nocturnes.

Here, you can let loose and get your friends to dance with you.

Cinnamon Bar


The Cinnamon Bar is actually not located in the main party street of Khao San. It is on the road that is parallel to the Khao San Road and Soi Rambutri. Many actually find this place by accident. It is easy to get lost while partying and many end up in the Cinnamon Bar.

The wall fountain adds to the inviting atmosphere of the bar and the narrow pathway entrance gives it a subdued feeling. But the interior is a different story. Go in and you will find some chic modern interior. It looks sleek with the steel and glass materials that are festooned with funky furniture. They have one of the best cocktail menu and if you feel like dancing, there is backroom that can cater for all the dancing needs you may have.

Silk Bar 

This is the new favorite of the 20 something foreign visitors of the Khao San. The house music is loud enough to keep the ambiance alive but not too loud to make meaningful conversations impossible.

Buddy Beer 

This is a colonial-era style bar and restaurant that is bright, spacious and gives a more homey rather than elegant feel. There are two floor with white walls, old fashioned ceiling fans, and wooden floors. Many consider this an escape from the zoo that is Khao San. There are several pool tables inside, too.


Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Gourmet Markets in Bangkok


There is no other country in the world where fresh fruits are sold as much as streets foods are. It’s one of the reasons it’s easy for visitors to stay healthy but if you are staying longer and would rather buy your fruits and prepare it yourself, you will be happy to find out that it is easy to find wet markets in Thailand – the huge Khlong Toei simmers in the southern part of Bangkok by the river and Huai Kwang simmers in Ratchada. For those with a more orderly frame of mind, Or Tor Kor is the ideal destination in the north.

Or Tor Kor (pronounced Aw Taw Kaw) is run by a famer’s marketing association and the well-managed space and operating conditions have led to a unique space being created within Bangkok. It’s a quintessential fresh food market and meat is butchered, fish are cleaned and fruit and veg are peeled and cored out in the open. The produce is stacked into pyramids but the lighting is good and the building is clean. It has been, since its establishment, a more upmarket venue than the others on offer in Bangkok and has become noted for the top quality fruit sold here.

The prices reflect the upmarket conditions making Khlong Toei the less expensive option but you can’t beat Or Tor Kor for quality, freshness and variety. You can find a lot of cooked food as well and can sample some excellent Thai sweets such as khanom krok – puddings made with coconut mik that are caramelised on the outside and smooth on the tongue on the inside or khao taen which resemble rice cakes that are on offer at your local health food store with one important difference – these have been drizzled with caramelised palm sugar and are a delectable sweet.

Towards the rear of the market is a food court that unfortunately doesn’t have enough tables to cater for those having lunch there but despite this you should still get your hands on some skewers of grilled meat to munch on while choosing your second course. You won’t go wrong with the kway tieow ped – duck broth soup, thickened a little with blood (don’t let that put you off) and served chock full of fat rice noodles and finished off with sliced duck breast and braised leg of duck. There are any number of desserts available and coconut seems to be a firm favourite on the menu – There is a stand in the middle of the market called Khanom Thai Khao Pee Nong which has piles of just about every possible recipe of coconut and palm sugar known to man.

Or Tor Kor is a firm favourite with two of Thailand’s good food writers – Look out for Leela’s Memories of Or Tor Kor and the gorgeous photos of the market by Austin Bush.  Or Tor Kor Market is open daily from 08:00-20:00, but most lively on the weekends.

You may get there through the MRT. From the Kampheng Phet Station, take the exit marked Marketing Association of Farmers which will put you directly in front of the market. It is across the street (and about a five-minute walk) from Chatuchak Market.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

First-Home Scheme Reinforcement


Due to the failure of the Finance Ministry’s first-home buyers scheme to attract attention from homebuyers, there are plans to revise the rules. So far, only 2 billion baht has been disposed. This is 18 billion baht short of the projected 20 billion baht. The original plan makes the plan available only until the end of 2012. This may be extended.


Details of the Scheme

This policy encourages new-home buyers by asking banks to provide interest-free loans to mortgage applicants.  The mortgage only lacks interest for the first three years.  In six months, this scheme has only managed to receive 2 billion baht of applications out of a budget of 20 billion.

This has frustrated Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra to the point of demanding that his finance officials work on ways to encourage more people to participate in this scheme.  Failure of the operation has been traced to the low 1 million baht home price ceiling, because Bangkok does not have many homes that are selling for below that price.  People in the city have more spending power than what the government is allowing for.

The additional million baht will not be interest-free and will instead have a normal rate, while the first million will retain the interest-free condition. The government’s populist policies have been criticised by both economists and academics, but the Finance Minister and Deputy Prime Minister has disagreed and attributed first-quarter growth to these new policies.

Proposed Changes 

Finance Minister Kittiratt Na-Ranong said that they are taking several steps to determine why the application for the loan is low. However, they are already ready to implement several changes including raising the price cap to 2 million baht. This is because 2 million baht is the baseline price of homes being sold in the market. They determine that many lose interest in the current scheme because they have no other means of paying the balance of the home price.

Kittiratt believes that this entice more Thais to avail of the scheme especially during this time when the market is slowing down. The first quarter is moving slower in than it did the same time last year. The change is anticipated to ignite the market’s interest to purchase homes instead of renting. This should be enough to reignite the market in the 2nd quarter.

The government are also planning to cooperate with different agencies and other companies for marketing and sales drives. Last March, different developers showcased their properties at the Queen Sirikit National Convention Centre in Bangkok. There were more than 600 properties were displayed The government is also approaching different financial firms, including banks, to offer different financials schemes to further encourage Thais to look into buying homes.

So far, several banks have responded by offering zero interest rates for the first six to twelve months.
The First-Home Scheme has received different criticism, specifically from the World Bank. The World Bank discouraged the Thai government to offer or extend populist projects. Kittiratt insisted that this project will help Thais improve their productivity and quality of life. 

Monday, June 4, 2012

Bangkok’s Baan Bat Temple: Frozen in Time


No matter which country you are in, historic sites often get a lot of attention from foreigners. However, it could be even more exciting to explore ancient neighborhoods that surround historic landmarks because these are the places that reflect the authentic culture of a country. For Bangkok, it is the less visited places that could give you an accurate picture of the old Bangkok like the Wat Saket. There, a stunning but old and neglected temple serves as the “industry” of Baan Bat. It has been on business since the 1700’s.

The Shophouses

The Sino-Portuguese Shophouses have been standing long before the capital of Bangkok was moved downstream from Ayutthaya about 250 years ago. These are some of Bangkok’s oldest structures, built before the tourism became a major source of income for the country, before foreign culture and beliefs influenced the country, and even before technological modernization started changing how the country lives.

Even though most of the houses look incredibly worn out and old, they still have this silent warmth and charm. Most of them have continuously been in use ever since it was first built. It wasn’t till the second half of the twentieth century that Thanon Bamrung Muang was converted into a small central road from its natural state as a canal.

What You Will Find

Supply shops along this road include products like orange fabric for monks robs, candles, Buddhist chanting books, incense and a vast variety of amulets. One of the more popular products in the area is an alms bowl. Visitors may buy a bowl. The bowl may then be given to monks who use to ask for “donations” from people.

Every morning, before the sunrise, monks collect these donations from the community. Donations usually come in the form of food as monks are not allowed to have any “possessions”. This is a 2,500-year tradition and one that truly makes Thai culture unique.

Some tourists, in fact, choose to stay in the area for a night just to witness the monks collect alms. Buddhist or no Buddhist, the site of men, stripped of all their possessions, walk around to ask for food, brings a certain kind solemnity.

Modernity is also taking its toll as companies are starting to mass manufacture alms bowl. It is the Baan Bat Temple that is fighting to keep it simple and true. Bowls sold here are still made by hand.

Thailand is not purely Theravada Buddhist. It has a mix of Mahayana Buddhist and Hindus, Bamrung Muang. This is why visitors will also find images of important disciples of Buddha such as the Hindu deities, famous Thai forest monks, Kuan Yin and protective spirits.

The Baan Bat Temple Aura

Just walking through this part of town takes you through a journey in the ancient times. This little place seems a frozen living memory of the old Bangkok. In fact, some of the things they are selling are more than 50 years old which qualifies it as an antique.

If you want to see Bangkok in its purest form, head to the Baan Bat Temple.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Focus on Foreign-Worker Scheme


Thailand’s Board of Investment has recently agreed to provide an extension to the 101 companies that wish to employ foreign workers, with the companies being given until next year in an effort to solve the manpower shortage problem that the country is currently suffering from.

Under the country’s existing system, local companies that participated in the BOI promotion were required to end the contracts of employees who are foreign by the end of the month, with about 9 thousand foreign laborers being affected or laid off.

Thailand’s Industry Minister Pongsvas Svasti has said that the BOI needed to relax the regulations even if just for a short time, since Thailand is facing a serious labor shortage and they need to rectify the situation even if they must rely on foreign workers. The labor shortage is compounded by the economic crisis brought on by last year’s floods, which the country is only starting to recover from.

The BOI’s Long Term Plans


In order to support Thai workers for the long term, the BOI is planning a programme that will encourage employers to invest in skill development programs for Thai laborers. The board will also take another look at the country’s economic conditions and employment statistics in order to ensure that the decision to employ foreign workers en masse will not negatively affect the Thai economy and society.

One of BOI’s key projects designed to alleviate the country’s labor shortage, is to create recycling plants that will recycle metal fillings, which are known as electric arc furnace dust (EAFD), which will eliminate said hazardous residues from industrial production while also benefiting from the recycled products.

The plans and investment promotion for the new recycling plants will be finalised in the coming months, and there are currently four companies – with one of them being a Thai firm – asking for the BOI’s permission to set up EAFD recycling plants in Thailand.

Only 2 EAFD Plants to Be Approved


Unfortunately, BOI will only allow a maximum of two plants to be set up in the country, due to the limited amount of metal dust available. The board has not made an announcement on which companies will be approved, nor if it has already reached a decision.

Based on the plans, each plant will have the capacity for corrugation production of 30 thousand to 200 thousand tonnes of metal dust per year, while the entire country is only producing 100 thousand tonnes annually. The entire country’s supply of metal dust will be distributed between the two planned recycling plants, although there is no confirmation of the distribution will be equal or not.

BOI’s data shows that they have already approved 13 projects with a combined investment worth of THB 48.13 billion this month alone. Of the amount, THB 2.25 billion were made up of the Rojana Industrial Estate in Ayutthaya, which is one of the places that was hit hard by the 2011 floods, the funds will be used to expand the state by an extra 283 hectares.