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.