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Bangkok Motor Show 2013

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The Bangkok Motor Show this year was as good as ever, saw some great cars, bikes and the usual sights,  it runs through until April 7th so there’s still some time to go and take a look for yourself.

But if you can’t make it here’s a few pics to tide you over


Fishing with kids

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I am the father of a wonderful four year old boy, and this past Sunday a few friends , brought our little ones along to Pilot 111 for a half day fishing.

Fishing with kids has several challenges. Not the least of which is the fact that they have an attention spam approximately equal to your target species.

This means that its important to be sure that they are always doing something. This is why lure fishing is, in my opinion the very best way to get them started.

At first we removed all of the hooks from their lures, and set the kids a challenge with the reward being to attach real lures, with hooks and the possibility to catch a fish!!

The challenge sounded simple enough: ” Cast the dummy lure far out straight ahead, three times in a row”.

So for the first half of the morning we found a quiet pond at Pilot 111 and got to work to teaching the little one’s the finer art of casting. We chose the Asian redtail catfish pond, which also happens home to some rogue barramudi and striped snakeheads. The fact that it doesn’t have any overhead cables, very few obstacles and is rarely fished played a big part in that decision.

It was great fun to see confident kids boasting about their casting prowess (before they had ever actually tried) meet reality, and then watching as they went from over confident, to humbly dropping the lure behind their backs, and asking for or just accepting assistance.

After a few helping words, it was wonderful to see huge smiles from their sense of achievement as they made their first ever good cast, or even just managed to cast the lure into the water.

After a few hours most of the kids succeeded in their challenge and were rewarded with a nice shiny lure with real sharp and pointy hooks, which all were keen to explore. Thankfully none of them stabbed themselves, but more than a few shirts got hooked!

My little one took a little while longer to get the hang of casting, at just 4 he was the youngest of the group, who were at least 7 years old and up.

I equipped my boy with a rod rated for 5-10 lb line and a Shakespeare E-Z cast spincaster reel preloaded with 8lb line to which I attached a Texas-rigged Berkerley Powerbait plastic worm, of the stinkiest variety I could find, in this case one meant for salt water fishing.

I did this because it enabled him to be fishing even after he wandered away as he left his lure out, so he could still effectively be ‘dead-sticking’. Which is exactly what happened.

We got a bite, and moments later my boy was desperately trying to reel in a fish. But it soon became very apparent that he wasn’t going to manage to bring this one in on his own, it was as you might be able to appreciate from the pic below, simply far too strong for him.

After an electric fight that seemed to take forever, with several dashing runs, (and next to no drag on his reel!) the end result was an 8lb Asian redtail catfish.

Soon afterwards, now excited with “having caught a fish” my son’s attention returned and he set about casting again. Then one final time he cast his lure and as he reeled it back in, yet another 8lb redtail catfish took the bait and screamed off.

This time he had cast the lure, reeled it in and set the hook. I still had to land it as it too was making the same scintillating runs that made suspect it may have been the same fish. But for me and in my mind it was this second redtail that counted as his first, and will do so until the day that he can reel one in and land one himself.

I can honestly say that catching these redtails with my son, on this light tackle was just about the most fun I have ever had fishing.

At the end of the morning our group caught lots of fish (redtails, barramundi and a few giant snakeheads) and proved to the kids that fishing games on the iPad are not nearly as much fun as doing it for real, and we dads got to spend some real fun quality time with our kids. (Both boys and girls I hasten to add)

Fishing with kids is rewarding for all involved. The children learned new skills, which they applied to challenges that they met head on, and achieved their goals, and all whilst having great fun, outdoors.

Patience is certainly needed to teach them, and they need constant supervision at the water’s edge. But remember this is not your fishing trip, its theirs. But the time you get to spend with them and the joy you get from sharing in the pride they take from their achievements is worth every moment untangling lines, removing hooks from clothing, etc. (just about!)

2012 in review

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The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 6,100 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 10 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.

Update on my Big Quit

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So its now a little over a year since I stopped smoking, during that time my post on giving up smoking has been one of my most read posts so I thought you all deserved an update.

The good news is I haven’t smoked at all since I stopped, and the truth is it has been a lot easier than I was led to believe it would be.

I think the proper motivation was the biggest help. It’s strange how the health benefits was never enough to get me to quit, rather, for me, it was the time I caught my son putting his fingers against his mouth mimicking me by pretending to smoke.

That was it for me and I will never go back.

If you are here looking for advice on how to quit, you already know how bad it is for you, but  perhaps like me, that is probably not enough motivation to keep you going, I can only offer a few words of advice,

  1. Find your source of motivation, whatever it is (there’s no shortage of reasons if you look for them. I wrote my top 5 on a photograph of my wife and son and used it as my background on the computer. It helped!)
  2. Read that book by Allen Carr as I mentioned in my previous post
  3. Don’t be intimidated, it’s not as hard you think.

Finally some truths from the myths about smoking.

Does giving up smoking really give you more energy?

Hmmm well for me, not so much that I notice it, but I have certainly been a lot busier at work than I was and find it easier to cope and to focus.

Have I gained weight since stopping smoking?

Yes, I have. I’d like to blame it on stopping smoking but am not really sure that’s true. I’m not substituting ciggies for food, but I cant dispute gaining a few Kgs, which frankly are a lot harder to shred than giving up smoking ever was, but that’s my new goal.

I hope that helps and if you have questions speak up!


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Yes you read that right, Cliplets.

But what on earth is Cliplets? I hear you cry.

Its a free program developed by Microsoft Research available here that makes it super easy to create animated gif images that have become known as Cinemagraphs, just like the one I created below

Click the image to allow the animation to run

My speech to the RICS on the AEC’s effect on Thailand’s industrial property markets

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I recently was asked to share my thoughts on how the formation of the ASEAN Economic Community in 2015 will affect the Thai industrial real estate market at the RICS ASEAN conference held in Bangkok earlier this month (edit:July 2012)

What follows is more or less the transcript of my speech.

The AEC certainly seems to bring about a sense of optimism, perhaps it’s the free flow of skilled labour and the opportunities it will bring? I think so long as barriers such as language and culture can be overcome, skilled workers will seek out opportunities and better pay.  For example, accountants can demand much higher salaries in markets such as Singapore and Malaysia where they can command almost three times as much.

After the formation of the European Union their share of the global FDI inflows rose from about 30 percent in the 1980s to about 50 percent in the 1990s and has until recently remained there since.

The formation of the AEC, which aims to create a single ASEAN market and production base, is also expected to lead to greater economies of scale that would improve its competitiveness and make it more attractive to foreign investors.

Industrial properties caught up in the ever growing realms of global production networks, are at the forefront of globalization and as such this is the sector that we expect to be the most directly affected by the formation of the AEC.

To assess how much FDI will come to Thailand and affect the real estate sectors here I think it’s useful to understand how Multinational Manufacturers select which country to invest in.

Knight Frank helps firms to do just this. In our experience firms have four major criteria that they use to assess and select a country for investment; Cost, Capability, Market Access, and Risk.

Cost is perhaps the most obvious and accounts for about half of the total weighting in the firms’ decision making analysis.

They seek to reduce set up costs and so look for markets with the lowest capital expenses, (such as land acquisition & construction costs),

They seek out the lowest operating costs (wages, utilities, rents, taxes etc). and it is in this category that they account for the impact of investment incentives from governments and developers.

After which firms look at the depth of capability that the country has to offer its manufacturing operations.

The Quantity and quality of the Human Resources: their skills, qualifications, productivity, and standard of English.

They require world-class infrastructure, in the form of roads, rail, ports and the access that subject locations have to these transport modes.

They seek data on the interruptions and availability of utilities: water, power, natural gas

They prefer markets with established production networks: where an agglomeration of efficient suppliers, competitors, support institutions and service providers are present.

The next category that they look at  market access, where they seek the lowest lead times through close proximity to their customers or suppliers in the local or regional markets

Then finally, risk is considered. In our conversations with manufacturers the biggest risk that they seek to mitigate before all else, is the security of their intellectual property.

Before they invest they will look at the willingness and effectiveness of government to provide written IP protection commitments.

They will then consider other risks such as government stability and the frequency of natural disasters.

I have read this week that some are concerned that demand for industrial estates in Thailand will fall after 2015: I don’t share that view. Investments continue to flow to Thailand despite rising land values and wages, in fact Thailand already finds itself in the position where it has become difficult to compete on cost with countries like Cambodia Laos Myanmar and Vietnam. The sunset of the Thai garment industry is a testament to that.

For firms whose sole driving force is cost, and only require low or semi skilled labour the CLMV nations will look increasingly attractive as their physical and legal infrastructure and linkages with ASEAN improves.

But, this will take time, and whilst cost is important, from a manufacturers perspective, the other criteria (capability, market access & risk) when taken together are given just as much weight in their decision making analysis, and it is here that Thailand competes today, and not just with its ASEAN neighbours, but on the world stage, against such countries as China.

To attract more manufacturing FDI after 2015, the challenge then for Thailand will be the same as it faces today: to compete higher up the value chain.

It is not reasonable to expect to turn back the clock and compete against CLMV on costs, so implementing well thought out policies designed to upgrade the industrial infrastructure and human capital will be vital. But it certainly won’t hurt to reduce expenses either.

One of the stated aims of the AEC is to create an integrated and harmonized customs landscape to promote the Free Flow of Goods.

It will take time to iron out the kinks, but improved logistical linkages with the member states of the AEC should reduce the transportation costs of goods and raw materials, boosting ASEAN competitiveness.

So as countries invest in infrastructure and create new trade routes, we can expect to see demand for integrated-logistics space increase at strategic transport hubs, but

We believe that most of the growth will be organic, increasing in line with manufacturing FDI centered close to existing industrial hubs, however we may also expect to see some growth in distribution centers as more ASEAN made products find their way to the Thai market.

BUT I don’t expect 2015 to bring about rapid change.  We have been moving towards the AEC since 2006.  Its effect is already being felt; it seems that every week another firm announces an investment that positions them for future growth due to the AEC.

Last year Thailand’s biggest export destination (24%) and its second biggest supplier (after Japan) was ASEAN itself, and as the ASEAN economies continue to mature, and the inter-industry linkages deepen, the opportunities should grow too.

So the three key takeaways that I’d like to leave you with today are:

  1.  The AEC increases competition for all and therefore creates opportunities both at home and abroad.
  2. The impact on the industrial real estate sector is already being felt today, and the growth will continue as we move towards 2015 and beyond
  3. But it is the implementation of policies to upgrade infrastructure and human capital that will be vital if Thailand is to capitalize on all that the AEC has to offer.

So how about you? How do you feel the AEC will affect your country / market / business?

Big Buildings, Booms and Busts

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The Daily Mail once interviewed the deputy editor of The Architects’ Journal, who said

“‘The race to build the highest skyscraper is quite futile – where do you stop? …These buildings are missing the point and are a symbol of an old fashioned way of thinking.”

The futility is as debatable, as the concept of the feasibility of a vertical city, personally I find the race to build the world’s tallest building a curious one.

What drives that decision?

Displays of wealth, and influence, their architectural styles are almost always divisive; after all its quite difficult for a 100 story building to be sympathetic to it’s surroundings! Yet, by dominating the city’s skyline, they lend it gravitas, helping to define them.

I don’t know about you but when I think “Kuala Lumpur” the visual I get is the Petronas Towers.

That’s an amazing accomplishment, but are these reasons enough to invest hitherto unheard of sums? After all these properties still have to deliver a sensible yield.

Yet, their sheer scale means that they risk toppling the delicate balance of supply and demand that govern most property markets.

Just as Petronas Towers struggled to find occupiers after it was built, a year after the Burj Kalifa completed, their rents dropped by 40%  and “that about 825 of the tower’s 900 apartments remained vacant.”

But was this just about scale or something more sinister?

You’ll recall in my last post I referred to the SKYSCRAPER INDEX OF DOOM!

The theory goes that the completion of the world’s tallest building usually precedes economic calamity, the Burj for instance completed just in time for the theory to hold for another cycle as we entered the global financial crisis.

So are they harbingers of doom? No, not really, at least not per se, as imposing as these towers are, they are still just reflections of the ambition, determination and the dreams of the people that bring these towering edifices into the world.

They are built then on foundations of optimism and confidence. Two items that are in abundant (perhaps even over) supply during economic booms, which as Mr Aldersley my A level economics teacher taught me, inevitably precede busts in the economic cycle which it seems the world would like to forget exists.

So what next?

Ahh yes that’s right, Sky City One, the 838m, 200 storey Chinese behemoth that the Broad Group promises will be built in just 90 days …. 90 (ninety) DAYS!

So then I guess it must be time to batten down the hatches and watch as China’s economy topples? Well, whilst some foresee problems it might perhaps still be a little too early, after all Dubai will answer that with Kingdom Tower,

Exact planned height is still a secret but estimated to be 1000m

The Kingdom Tower is widely expected to be the first property to break the 1 kilometer barrier sometime in 2018.

But that’s just the start if the CEO of the Broad Group has got anything to do with it, the race to build the world’s tallest building is turning into a land based space race, according to Reuters he has even bigger plans on his wall; a design with 636 floors with its peak towering two kilometers over the ground!

Let me say that again two kilometers! The engineering challenges will be substantial, heck look at how difficult it was to design a system to pump water up the Shard to say nothing of the other stuff

Europe’s Tallest Building, The Shard, London

On the bright side if any country has the capability of putting all that space to use its China, and nobody has yet proved any correlation to the size of the building to the size of the bust!