Bangkok Real Estate: Help a fellow reader..

As one of my readers (who is also a good friend) commented the other day, I seem  to be in a good mood. Yes I am.  It’s a good day, not because I was efficient  and got many things done, but because I have received and heard interesting  stories from my readers.  It is always a pleasure to hear comments or recieve emails.  It’s one of a writer’s little joys in life.  Tonight I write about an email I recieved from a reader (“S”) earlier this week with regard to where one should look to purchase a condominum in Bangkok.    Although this is not  directly my field, I will try my best to help her. 🙂

Of course the condominum one ultimately ends up purchasing,  depends upon your lifestyle, your needs and your budget.  It also depends on what purpose you are buying the condominium for.  Are you buying it for yourself?  Are you buying it for rental? or are you buying it for speculation in the hopes that the real estate price will go up?  What is your budget?   These are the questions you have to ask yourself.  Once you have the purpose, the goal of the purchase thought out, then comes the question of what area one should buy the condominium?   Bangkok is so diverse and each area has its own particular characteristics.  Even with the BTS (skytrain) and MRT (underground), one end differs day and night from the other.  Of course, this happens in many large cities where intercity life and life on the outskirts diverge.

Now where should “S” buy a condominium?  I went through the qualities she is interested in.  She and her husband enjoy travel, good food and the local cuisine.  They enjoy eating local authentic foods and even hawker shops.  That is the lifestyle, the desire to be within walking distance of a little part of authentic Bangkok.  Not the business nor the commercial side of Bangkok.

Having shared information with me that she enjoys eating local hawker foods, while at the same time would like a modern luxury condominium is indeed a difficult question to reply to.  I cannot say exactly which condominiums would be the best ones but I can give my opinions upon the location where quite a few luxury condominiums are located so here goes:

There are a lot of modern luxury condominiums along the sukhumvit road.  However, in my opinion, Sukhumvit is a great place to be if you are an expatriate and want to live the expatriate life.  There are lovely restaurants for brunches, more international cusines, boutique shops and spas that cater to the expatriate kind of lifestyle and budget.    It’s a wonderful place to be, and almost all the shops speak english.  However, it doesn’t get very “local local.”  It’s where Thais go when we want to enjoy the clubs, the  music, and the food.  It’s buzzling at night.  It’s great if you are young (or young at heart), enjoy the night life and the convenience of having lots of shops all around.  There’s everything from salsa clubs to local food.

Then there’s the Sathorn Area.  This place is in the heart of the business area.  Accessible by skytrain, it is adjacent to Silom Road and most of the major banks have offices in the area.  High rise office buildings rise up into the air amidst four to five lane roads.  Some major embassies also reside in this area.  It’s clean and has the air of a central business area, but I am not sure if it is some place I would want to live in.  On the weekends, it gets a little quiet and there are no local markets for me to walk to.  No stalls to where I can just hop over to buy fruits or other local snacks.  If that’s not something you do anyways, then that’s not a problem.  You could almost always dine out, or just buy food from supermarkets.   It’s a clean and safe area.

Lumpini Area.  This is not too far off from Sathorn Road, but it is near to Lumpini park which is one of the few parks in Bangkok.  This is where locals and expatriates alike go exercise, have a walk and enjoy being shaded underneath tall tall trees from the hot Bangkok air.    Local stalls and foods can be found lying along its outer edges.  It is indeed a place where locals also go have some good local cuisine.  However, the BTS (skytrain) doesn’t reach this area and the nearest station would be the MRT underground) station.  I think the MRT is a great thing for Bangkok especially since it links the
residential areas to the city centre.  However, if you want to go shopping at Siam and the main shopping malls, it still requires a connection to the BTS.   If you don’t go anywhere along the BTS that much anyways or always prefer the taxi, then I suppose it’s not that bad.

Another area is the Langsuan area.  It is in the middle between the local and the commerical areas.  On one  end of the road, you have the BTS and the major shopping malls. On the other end of the road, you have the park and the local food stalls.  It’s not too far off from the BTS station which means that it is easily accessible to the main shopping malls and financial districts.  It’s also walking distance to the Lumpini park which means that you can enjoy the park, the local stores as well as the convenience of supermarkets and other eateries along the skytrain station. However, Langsuan is a one way road which means that if you are going by car, depending upon the traffic, the ride by car could be a bit inconvenient during rush hour.

Other areas of Bangkok though also charming in its own way, still do not possess luxury modern condominiums.   They usually comprise of smaller units and target a different market.

If you ask me, (and I must first say I am no real estate guru here)  I would say that “S” should opt for a condominium along the BTS route.  It is still basically the main road that links the suburban local areas of Bangna to Sukhumvit, Siam and the weekend market which is a must for all tourists.   If you plan on having guests from out of town staying, these are the places that tourists are most likely to visit.  If  they go to visit temples, they can hop off the BTS station at Phyathai or Siam square for the Jim Thompson house.  It’s also connected to the Airport Raillink at Phyathai so that is a plus if you are traveling light and taking a weekend trip to Chiangmai or Phuket.

For me, the MRT seems to be more for locals. It’s the route that links the outskirts of Bangkok to the city centre.  For me, there are very few places that I have actually taken the MRT to.  I still mostly take the BTS.

If you can’t already tell, I think from all the above areas…I like Langsuan the most.  It’s not too densely populated, it’s not too full of clubs and night life, yet its not far from the main shopping areas and the Lumpini park.

What do you think?   Are any of you knowledgeable about real estate?  Where would you recommend our reader “S” to invest in? Please share you opinion.  Thank you!

Please “alight”

Languages are funny things.  They evolve and transform over time.  Different countries use different versions of the same language.  Cleaning up some things from my previous trip to Singapore, I was reminded of this funny word I noticed while I was there.  The word “alight.”  Now I haven’t been to England for over a decade so I’m not sure if this word is still used widely there, but in Singapore it is used when you take the underground or as they call it the MRT. 

Upon approaching stations where you can take connecting trains, the speaker will announce “Please alight at XXX station for XXXX.”  It comes out in a clear, crisp and perfectly accented english. It’s easy to understand and the word makes perfect sense, but somehow everytime I hear the word, it makes me grin.  It sounds like a different world. A different time.

I don’t remember having heard the word “alight” being widely used in the US when I was there, but that was a long time ago. (Not on the East Coast or in Philly anyways)  Do you know where else “alight” is widely used?  Or are there other words that somehow pique your interest as “alight” did mine? 😛  Please share 🙂

iPad: Singapore or Bangkok?

When traveling, everyone always tries to buy goods that are cheaper than what they can get back home.  Being in Singapore, where a lot of people come to buy electronics I had to go check out the prices.  My mission was to find out if electronic products (especially the iPad) are cheaper here or in Bangkok.

Singapore has a mall that specializes in electronics called Funan. It’s easily accessible by MRT (undergound), just get off at City Hall and exit on North Ridge Road.  Funan is just down the street.  It’s like Fortune and Panthip Plaza in Bangkok, but its more quiet and more orderly.

There are a zillion shops selling laptops and computers.  I walk around and just enjoy browsing through all the gadgets and gizmos.  I always had a particular fondness for electronics and the techonology always fascinates me.  Its actually more fun than looking for clothes… 

I check out the price of the ILuv clock radio for iPod and iPhone dual charge. It’s S$399.  With exchange rate of 23.1 thb to 1 SGD, it’s consderably more expensive than the 6,100 THB price tag in Bangkok.   Then I spy beautiful cases for the iPhone and want to get some for my lovely iPhone, but sadly the same brands and design too convert to be slightly more expensive than in Bangkok. 

Not significantly different, but why pay more if you can pay less right?

Anyways, I make my way to the Mac Shop and check the iPad price.

16GB Wifi it S$728,
32 GB Wifi S$878
64 GB Wifi S$1028

Converted to THB, Thailand still remains slightly cheaper.    As I walk around Orchard, I check out the iPad at all the shops I spy..There is practically one at every mall. There is a Mac shop at 313Somerset which is packed with people, but if you want personal time to play around the iPad without interruption, head to the neighboring mall which is opposite Robinsons. Its so quiet there and you can spend a good ten or fifteen minutes playing with the iPad.

What about the iPhone 4? I check out the price and that too is equivalent to the iPhone 4 in Bangkok.

I am tempted, very tempted but I still have time to decide… if I want I can also go buy it in Bangkok.   So in conclusion,  if you want any apple product, between Singapore and Bangkok, it is now currently cheaper in Bangkok. (Exchange rate of 23.1THB to 1SGD)  🙂

Shopping on Singapore’s Orchard Road: Tips and Ideas

Most people who come to Singapore either Eat then Shop or Shop then Eat or if you are not a big fan of eating then you’d Shop.  Most girls I know who come here go crazy with all the shopping malls and variety of brands.  So today (and yesterday) I went round exploring the shopping scene in Singapore as well as to buy everything that’s on my shopping list for friends and family.  I discovered some new malls and also a new route for which to shop.

Route:
Before Id ‘always just get off at Orchard MRT for shopping at Orchard Road, but this trip I discovered Somerset MRT.  Somerset MRT actually gives you access to the East side of Orchard road which is awesome if you want to shop at Robinsons, Centre Point, 313@ Somerset before making your way to Paragon, Takashimaya, Wisma and ION.

What and Where:

Robinsons is great if you want to buy Vitamins and other health related products.  They have a section in most Robinsons on the same floor as the comestics and there are almost always some kind of sales or promotions.  Compared to Thailand, there are more brands and the promotions are good. Three bottles of 90 gelcaps Alaskan Salmon Fish Oil was on sale for S$57.   Cross the street once you are off the Somerset MRT on the Orchard Road side.

Centre Point is actually the plaza in which Robinsons is located. I ventured out and discovered the HK brand Sasa cosmetic shops which sells cosmetics at a discount to the department stores.  They had some sales of 15% to 20% for products that were normal priced elsewhere.

313@ Somerset is a newly opened shopping mall (for me anyways) and what stood out was the HUGE Forever 21 shop.  This is great if you are a Forever 21 fan.  It goes up 4 stories but beware, on weekends there was a long line to all the dressing rooms.

By the time you’ve walked through all these crowded shopping malls a great place to relax and have some respite from the chaos of people is at Paragon. Just across the street, it is a fairly peaceful shopping mall with slightly higher end brands.  A great place to have lunch though is at P.S. Cafe which is on the 3rd floor.  It’s part of the Project Shop which sells funky clothing, but their cafe is good and sells great food and cakes.  Dishes range from S$15 upwards . (They have a website of course: http://www.pscafe.sg/)  They have other locations too.  If  you want simpler foods at Paragon, they also have Crystal Jade and a basement which has a number of restaurants and coffee shops.  Oh, and if you have kids, Paragon has a Toys R Us shop on the top floor. 😀 

Now to the mega shopping mall of Takashimaya which is a must visit for me.  For girls, I love their shoe section.  There are lots of different brands and everytime I come there is always some promotion.  If you like brands, Tods was fairly crowded and had some lovely shoes and bags to tempt.   Knowing guys (who find it hard to understand why women shop) there is Kinokuniya bookstore on the plaza side of the third floor I think. It’s absolutely huge and I was told one of the biggest in Asia.  So if you don’t want to shop, you can spend a good deal of time browsing through the books.  Note it also gets very crowded on weekends.

In the basement of Takashimaya, I am in happy land  where there is a large section on cooking utensils and housewares.  I love pots and pans and all the baking stuff.  Then on the lower basement there are food and snacks to tempt me.  They have a wonderful Cold Storage Supermarket there which has lots of scrumptious food, and outside there is a variety of japanese cream puffs, takoyaki, hokkaido ice cream..cookies, Royce chocolate, tea as well as a huge section of Harrods.  It used to be a small section, but this time it has significantly grown.  There is also a new more orderly foodcourt where all the korean, vietnamese and other foods have been relocated.  It’s a great place if you want to sit down and have a simple meal.  It’s just very crowded and the noise level can go quite high on weekends.

From Takashimaya, I walked along the underground levels which connect you to Wisma Atria and eventually Ion.  Walk underground, there are lots of shops ranging from Zara, Bossini, Guess, Charles and Keith, Pretty Fit, and Forever 21.  Depending on what you want to look at, there is everything.  Wisma also has Topshop.

Then I arrive at ION which is one of the newest additions to Orchard Road.  If you look at it from outside, it is a beautifully shaped building full of curves and windows.  On the stops up to the entrance where Louis Vuitton and Gucci just blind you with their displays there is a beautiful scultpure of people going about their business.  There is a man reading a newspaper, a lady shopping and a business man rushing by….each in various colours.  Lovely. Ion has a wonderfully large Sephora store where I spent a good deal of time.  They have OPI nail colours and all the usual brands.  Oh, there is also Uniglo 🙂

ION for me is a great place to end the shopping route.  It is directly connected to the MRT station so just follow the signs or ask someone and you can just hop back to your hotel 🙂

Pricewise, I have to say that Bangkok is cheaper.  Bangkok too has a wonderful shopping scene, yet the variety and the intensity in which people shop cannot be compared to Singapore.  Singaporeans go to Orchard to shop, expatriates go to Orchard to shop and tourists go to Orchard to shop.  Even if you don’t plan on shopping much, its definitely a road you should visit to just experience how people can go crazy shopping. 🙂  Happy Shopping!!