In Focus, Bangkok Photography Blog August 27th, 2011

Random Cambodia/ Sony NEX-5 LCD Repair Experiences


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Feature Photograph *menu

By Tom Tweedel


Nikon D300, 18-200mm F4-5.6 VR, @F10 1/500th 18mm ISO 200

When enjoying photos you occasionally come upon an unusual one that leaves you asking “Why does it work?” or “Why does it look like that?” It can be a fun an educational exercise to examine the photo closely, break down the elements and figure out what makes turn out like it does.

I took this shot strolling through a temple complex in Suphanburi Province. I took other, stronger photos, but looking at it after the fact something always attracted my attention to this one.

After some thought I figured out that what grabbed my interest is the glow effect which is very unusual. It’s the lighter areas that are surrounded by the darker areas.

You can see by the lens flare that I was almost shooting into the sun. This means most of this shot is in the shadows. Normally shooting into the shadows produces less dramatic results than directional light from the side or rear quarter. Especially if you have bright blue skies to expose for. But in this case the shadow worked because it set a darker base for the glow to contrast against.

The glow itself is the most mysterious. It seems to be coming from inside the “bell” of the roof and manages to only illuminate the words of the sign at the entrance. It also seems to reside on the tiles on the front of the “bell” and the gold scrollwork around the frame of the door.

Trying to figure out how this glow occurred and why it comes out the way it does was a challenge. After much contemplation my best guess is that this “Bell” is catching reflected light from the roof. Most of it coming from the rear which explains the glowing rear corners. The shape of the bell is such that it gathers light and reflects it back down fairly evenly in a diffuse manner. Since the structure is in shadow the light coming out of the bell is strong enough to make a difference where it falls onto the darker foreground.

The fact that only the words and scrollwork are illuminated is because of the secondary shadows cast by the eaves of the lower roof. The light only comes through the break in the roofline above the door. But it is subtle and diffuse enough to not be readily obvious which contributes to the mysterious glow.

The glow on the tiles on top of the roof is a little more subtle and perhaps more mysterious. Why isn’t the entire top evenly lit? My best guess was that I got lucky with the clouds. If you look on the lower roof on the right hand side you see some evidence of direct light hitting some of the tiles. I’m guessing the clouds were just right to allow some light, but not too much on that spot.

Adding to the picture are the dragons on the top of the bell are in shadow which contrast them against the bright blue and white of the sky by them. This adds another level of transition and interest.

While not related to the glow the wide angle (about 28mm Full Frame) tends to emphasize the closer glowing parts of the photo as well as spread the clouds out giving the feeling of motion and energy.

There are a lot of things you can take away from this shot, but the biggest lesson is to look more carefully and think about all the possibilities when shooting or scoping out a location. Normally shooting a very detailed object into a shadow gives inferior results but if the conditions are right and you can get enough light in the shadow to provide interest it can give a completely different effect.

Random Cambodia *menu

Description: Eyal hails from Israel where he works hard half the year, saving to spend the other half of the year using Thailand as a base to travel throughout South East Asia. Eyal has had a strong interest in submission writing and phtoography and has corresponded with me for years, asking questions, taking notes, and working up to this submission. Writing in a second language is never easy, and often it's very difficult. For some of us impossible. To keep such good records and document the trip so well, and then to put the work in to share with the readers is very much appreciated. I hope to see more of his work grace future columns. You can contact Eyal via email at lotfaifa@yahoo.com

Eyal hails from Israel where he works hard half the year, saving to spend the other half of the year using Thailand as a base to travel throughout South East Asia. Eyal has had a strong interest in submission writing and phtoography and has corresponded with me for years, asking questions, taking notes, and working up to this submission. Writing in a second language is never easy, and often it's very difficult. For some of us impossible. To keep such good records and document the trip so well, and then to put the work in to share with the readers is very much appreciated. I hope to see more of his work grace future columns. You can contact Eyal via email at [email protected]

After a whole day long traveling around the city and close to the port I got some pictures but there is no U.S navy ship in the port. The ship is in the sea and ferries bring the soldiers to shore. The local told me that helicopters bring them to shore. I didnt see it, but I heard helicopters around the area.

Here is what I found in the news of Essex.

Sony NEX-5 LCD Screen Repair Experience *menu

Rickster has been a frequent contributor to our weekly column and when he offered to write up his experience between Thailand and America in regards to repairing his Sony NEX-5 I couldn't resist. This information I'm sure will be useful to many who access warranty repair in both countries. Thank yo Rickster!

I purchased a Sony NEX-5 in October of 2010 here in California. It is a very good reliable camera and produces great pictures. In December of 2010, I noticed that the LCD screen was beginning to delaminate around the edges.

This condition continued to worsen as time passed and upon my return to Bangkok in March I approached the Sony repair facility in Siam Paragon.

They indicated that I must have done something to cause this situation, and therefore it would not be covered under the 12-month warranty. The estimated cost for repair was somewhere between $100 and 150 USD.

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I decided to pass on the repair in Thailand, and after returning to USA in May determine how to obtain warrantee repair. In searching the web,I found many other Sony NEX-5 owners that had experienced the same LCD situation.

There are various suggestions on the web describing how to repair the LCD screen, but I decided to pursue repair thru Sony. I located a Sony repair facility in Laredo, Texas named Sony LCSC Repair Operation. (866) 357-6230)

After sending in a request for repair, they E-mailed a prepaid UPS shipping label and directions on how to ship the camera to Sony. It was shipped to Sony, arrived in 5 days and they acknowledged its receipt.

After 5 days, I checked on the progress thru the web site and was advised it had been repaired and was being shipped back.

Upon receipt, I opened the box, inspected the camera, and found that it had been repaired as requested under warranty/

The entire process of having the NEX-5 repaired thru Sony was seamless, smooth, trouble, and question free. My total cost was $3.95 for a small roll of bubble pack.

I have also purchased the Sony glass screen protector for $11.95. (Part # PCK-LM1AM)

The only things I would change on the NEX-5 would be the location of the video button on the upper left corner of the camera. While it is easy to use when shooting video, it is very easy to accidently turn on the video when while various adjustments to the camera. I find this to be a constant source of delay when getting ready to take a picture.

The other would be to have a way to disable the shutter "sounds" when shooting at a concert or other situations requiring limited sounds. Sony tells me there is no way to mute this sound on the NEX-5.

Photography News of Interest *menu

Photo withdrawn after child prostitution claim. Across the globe people are being increasingly sensitive to how children are portrayed in the media, internet, and social networks. Still, some artists push the limits past the point of what many see as unacceptable. This “international superstar” of a photographer is allegedly the Czech Republic’s most important photographer. I’m speechless. I’ve written on the subject before with my piece Lolita Scourge which has turned out to be a very popular short essay on the subject.

Photographer Refuses to Take Portraits of Facebook Bullies. An interesting stand. With all the competition that’s sure to be in any good sized city, do you think she might have served herself and her beliefs better by still shooting their portrait and then taking the face to face opportunity to discuss what was bothering her? Just seems silly to handle it the way she did.

Images By Photographers of the Farm Security Administration Office. These are some of the only color images from the depression era. Very interesting gallery presentation.

Cops Confiscate Cameras at Ohio Congressman’s Town Hall. Really? Under what authority? I hope someone takes the effort to sue this jerk of a Congressman for enough to set a strong example to others. This sort of silliness shows just how much bad judgment a single politician can have. Is it any wonder our country is in trouble with people like this running things? Stand up for your rights before you lose them, actions like this are becoming more common than we’d care to admit.

The Surprising Way a Photographer Found his Stolen Camera. This is VERY interesting. This professional’s gear was stolen, and through a tracking website called Gadgettrak.com a year later he was reunited with his stolen camera gear. With serial numbers in the firmware of most every significant electronic item, this seems to be an excellent way of getting your gear back if stolen. Especially with cameras where the serial number is embedded in the exfil data attached to every image. Post the image anywhere on the web, and Gadgettrack.com can find it. Idea of the year!

Readers Submissions *menu

Steve

I was out in the back yard pulling up a bunch of California Golden Poppies that had died when I saw these two Mantis so I went in and got my camera and my macro lens [Nikkor 60 mm 1:2.8 and took a few shots. Kind of interesting.

When I looked at this on all I could think about was the line from Taxi Driver "you looking at me…YOU LOOKING AT ME

Kind of looks like a three point football stance.

This was a smaller one that was running around in the same area. I was a bad guy because by pulling up the dead plants I distroyed their hunting area.


Mike

Mike –

Very nice!

You’re making me feel good.. like maybe I actually had a small part in your rapid progress..

Steve

Steve

Glad that you liked them. It was fun shooting them. I am learning that you have to take the opportunity when it is presented to you. And yes you did have a lot to do with my progress.

Mike

Mike –

You’re right. Opportunity is a key factor.

Keep sending them in!

Steve

Steve

Thanks, I didn't want to feel like I was stretching it.
I just finished this one. I started out with a fairly large downed log and keep working with it and cropping more and more. Then I got to the point that I thought it just might look interesting in black and white. I love the grain and the knots that are in this one. What do you think?
Thanks again

Mike

Hi Mike –

I don’t think you were stretching it.

I like what you’re doing with this wood pattern a lot. I especially like that you’re looking more in your scene. I think this is great.

But. I think you overdid it a bit.. okay, maybe a lot.. in the processing for the wood grain. We all tend to do this when we learn a new effect. Back it off a bit and see hwo it looks.

I hope you had a great weekend,!

Steve

I’d like to mention that everyone, myself included, is really enjoying the current trend of readers submissions. Everyone loves them, but remember we can really use more. I have only another week’s worth in my queue, so please take the time to put together a few images and words if you can and send them in. Thank you. [email protected]

Readers Questions *menu

I’m always happy to learn my articles are helping people, and it was nice to receive this correspondence with a reader building his first system. I’m sharing this here because it’s good to show that someone with no experience can build their own system, and because Carsten was kind enough to share his experiences and even sent in a few really well taken photographs for illustration. Thank you Carsten!

Hi Steve,

Thanks again for all your info on this great machine!

I bought the parts, waited 2 weeks for the case and finally got it. Unfortunately in Black (I wanted red). But never mind.

Since I was not so firm I googled for days about the wiring, which seemed to be the most difficult but I managed, its running. Although
that was not so easy, the case is "small" and the ATX Power cable (Corsair 850) is stubbornly thick and once the board on the right alu-plate is installed and screwed to the case it is difficult to change any cables.. Guess you know.

Got the Led's wrong first time, forgot the beeper; finally found that adapter in the Rampage box… and so forth.

Not sure how all could possibly fit without removing the lower case though.

Look at this "semiprofessional" fifth fan which I suspended with foam between the CD and, very softly, down on the RAMs. No other way to get decent cooling.

Have you put the CPU Fan between Cooler and upper Outlet; sucking air with two fans? Didn’t seem proper enough for me, but lets wait till it falls down…. Or I just detach the CPU Fan electric and wait for 85 Degrees, for a moment only, so the fan case will melt and be stuck with the heat sink..

Might get really expensive if the CPU goes…..

This is how Builders attach a 2.5 Seagate Hybrid without the upper case. As you know in Thailand Cable binders and double-sided sticky tape is always handy. And working! Under the CD, leaving better air intake, and right now I don’t need the case.

The Revodrive was a headache but finally I could install the drivers and then windows. Interestingly it shows in the Device manager some win driver from 2006; but in system 32 I could locate the "more up to date" ones.. So I hope the Revo is using them.

One important thing: You have to tick "Turn off windows write cache buffer" under Device Manager, Disk Drive, Properties, Policies.
The windows experience index went from 5,9 to 7,9 for the Hard disk after this!

Great machine I have now, thanks again, and take care,

Regards, Carsten

Carsten –

I was smiling the entire time I read this. It’s great that you built your own machine and were able to sort things out for yourself. This is how experience is born.

Yes, you supported your CPU cooler fan in much the same way I supported mine. There isn’t a lot of room in the case and even a low profile CPU cooler (I tried 8 of them) doesn’t have much room for a fan, so I figured why not use the biggest cooler and simply suspend the fan to the side.

Your case has four areas to screw 2.5” drives directly to the cages. You’ll see the holes are perfectly spaced for this. Double sided tape works well too.

As I mentioned in my article, routing the cabling/wires properly can make or break your cooling results. If you don’t get super good cooling (40-50c at least) then you’ll need to work with your cables making sure to route them as close to the sides of the case and out of the way as possible. You should be able to keep the top drive cage at a minimum, and the bottom one too if you route the cables ideally.

I noticed you mounted a top venting power supply. You’ll notice in the article I recommended a rear venting supply like the PCPOWERANDCOOLING Silencer 900. This one allows venting to the rear as your side panel doesn’t allow venting. An option.. would be to take your case side panel to a skilled metal worker and have them either cut in a grill (a water jet machine would be ideal, but good luck finding one in Thailand) or press in louvers. It would have been a lot easier to mount the recommended power supply. Without venting heat and noise will be extreme.. though there ‘might’ be enough of a gap between the supply and side panel to pull air.. you just don’t know without trying.

Yes, the Revo is different to install. I put the drivers from OCZ’s site on a SD memory card and put it in the card reader.. the card reader (as a drive) is available at the Windows level for loading drivers. If you use the drivers from OCZ’s site you’ll be using the most current drivers. If you are, don’t worry about the dates. Sometimes that date indicates when they were granted their WHL certification and not when the driver was actually built.

Once installed it really screams! I love that drive.

On the power supply I used, the cables aren’t modular.. which means they stay attached and you need to be able to do something with them. I was able to keep both drive cages and I carefully and neatly folded the unused or extra length cables.. and tucked them under the bottom drive cage. I spent a lot of time carefully bending and routing cables.

This is a really powerful system with a full 1366 CPU, six RAM slots, etc, etc, in a very small case.. as you saw when ordering parts, there is only one Micro-ATX motherboard with these specs made.. and it’s a bonus you can use a full size power supply and full size video card.. so you’re putting a lot of full size power in a Micro size case. And then to have it cool so well is a bonus.

Let me know how it goes after you use it a while.

Steve

Hi Steve,

Yes, experience is something. I am learning.

Some thoughts:

– the Power supply is exactly made for this box. There is a lot of misunderstanding, (check the link below; it’s a page from an Engineer who should know … the fan of the Power Supply SUCKS air, it does not blow it to the side!) a Power supply like you suggested with a rear vent would have been perfect.

Now there wasn’t one, so I bought this one anyway, figuring I would twist it and turn it to fit, a Corsair 850 Gold.

When you attach it like I did, facing the side cover there is still 2 cm space or so for it to breathe in. And the way out is through the PS to the back of the case. That’s how it was meant, not to be turned around sucking in warm air from the CPU or whatever is there in the way.

In German though, it has 48 pictures, mentioning he would not want to face the power supply towards a closed side of the case. Which I think is nonsense.

When starting the new system I noticed that the PS fan hardly ever started. After all that’s why we have 850 Watts. In a few years that might be different but for now it is sufficient, cool and quiet.

Now we have 2 Fans for AIR IN Front. (That might be not enough?! still testing..) One for out on Top, the largest one. One extra out on the back above the power supply (Mr. Compute & More gave me two fans, now I know why, maybe he was anticipating this, or he remembered some people buying this box?! ) One out through Power Supply
One out through the Graphic card. Little, but it adds up. So maybe more fan power out than in??

So far quite good. But I have not not run the Processor at full power for a prolonged time. Hmm, its like driving a Ferrari in HongKong…

I installed a few temperature measuring programs plus I have the one from Asus. Have you noticed how high the temp gets at the ICH and IOH (Southbridge)? 60c to 70c is "normal?! Maybe that needs a little better cooling.

There is a Heat sink from Asus already in place but rather small. Google says a notebook CPU is made for 100 degrees, aha, so maybe this board is just "warming up…" Hmm.

Pic is from the aforementioned link




Not clear for me, there was no space to put 2 x 2,5 Drives down there (Graphic Card is in the way plus the two fans I have came with another speed control that just fitted with the Graphic Card, (needs two slots), not to mention a few cables/motherboards in that area) or maybe I didn’t see it. And you can never reach them again once installed..

Forgot to mention, got the Logitech Performance Mouse MX 950 and Keyboard K 800, how could I have done the last 15 years without it? Very good recommendation.

It’s a totally new experience, just perfect! And I get 14 days battery performance, I don’t even switch them off anymore, great stuff, and that tiny USB stick works.. (worked even when installing windows/revodrive)

All these improvements happened because I read your reviews, thanks again.

Regards, Carsten

Carsten

This is worth a lot. Many are afraid to even try and I do my best to encourage them to make the attempt. Others are busy working and would just rather pay to have me build one and I respect this too.

Yes, the power supply is a standard ATX power supply so in that respect it meets the specs for the case, but due to the case design it isn’t set up to exhaust the air.. Almost every review on the case mentions this and Lian-li acknowledges this is an issue and hopefully will offer a replacement side pant with a filter covered vent soon.. at least if they followed my suggestion. They asked, so maybe.

As you said, the fan side is the exhaust. But since it can be flipped over either way this is immaterial. What’s important is that the exhaust has a place to go, to exit the case, and not be recirculated back through the case. You might not be pulling enough power from it at this time for the venting to be an issue, but if you run it up to full spec I’d guess you’ll start seeing problems.

This power supply vents the air out the back: http://www.pcpower.com/products/description/Silencer_910W/index.html They don’t make many with this design anymore, everyone has moved to the new top/bottom fan style because the bigger fan makes less noise. It’s an option, but an option which produces a bit more noise.

Bottom line: I hope Lian-li offers a replacement panel soon. If not, it’s a fairly easy task to cut a vent hole, or slats, and cover it with a filter screen. You can find them anywhere. OR, just use it as is and hope your specific use doesn’t tax the system enough to cause an issue.

I think.. if you face the exhaust near the other exhaust fans (in the center near the CPU where the top/back fan pulls air out), then in a closed system you create a thermal loop consistent with the system. This might be what he’s trying to say.

I have the two front fans, the top fan, CPU cooler fan, and I added the extra one for the rear like you did. My system in Bangkok on a 33-35c day ran at 40-45c.. at night it would drop down to 37-39c.

Small cases must flow air more efficiently than large cases and subsequently are more particular about placement. Keep the ‘thermal loop’ in mind when running cables, adding fans, and orientating your components and you’ll be fine.

60-70c isn’t bad.. and it certainly won’t hurt anything, but keep in mind heat reduces the lifespan of an electronic component. Even if they’re rated for say 100c, running it at 70c will help it last longer. So, it’s all a tradeoff with design and component selection. My ICH/IOH runs at 50c pretty regular. I would look for blocked airflow across these components, if there’s a cable or something impeding flow..

These are two spaces, but there are also two more sets of holes on the drive bays themselves. A good quality double sided tape is just as good, especially if it allows you to locate the drive where you have lower temperatures or to relocate a cable blocking air flow. Mounting method aside, just mount them where it makes the most sense for thermal flow.

I love both of these too. In fact, I just ordered an extra set. I tend to wear out keyboards and mice every 2-3 years so I like to have a new set ready to go when I start having issues. If you watch, you’ll find some great sales on these items. I just paid $52 for the mouse through Logitech.. $60 for the K800.

I’m glad you found the review. Of course we can apply the basics to any number of cases and components and that’s usually why I publish a build every 18 months or so. But this particular build was special because everything came together so nicely. I’m happy you were able to build your own.

Take care

Steve

Steve,

Thanks for your answer, let me give you just a quick thought.

Every review mentions this "problem" with PS air ventilation… None of them had a look at a Power supply it seems (or at this one). It has a sucking fan on the left side, means it takes air from wherever inside the case. All other sides are solidly closed except the side at the back where the switch/cable is, there is the exit for the air should the fan move. Intake from inside the PC case, out at the back of the PS case, not blowing anything inside the case. That’s what I got from looking at it. And LianLi has a small space between the side-cover and the fan grid, not perfect but should do. I hope.

So do most graphic cards.

A side vent/opening in the case makes only sense with limited controlled air streaming in as we have to consider the rest of the flows.

MOMENT:
Just read again

Now I get it, of course that’s correct. But this corsair PS has no way out for the air but the back of its box which means exiting the case! Is this a new build? The fan is no exhaust but intake!

That was my thinking before, we have 4 fans exiting, (Top, additional back fan, PS, Graphic card) one CPU fan in the middle but only two fans for air in at the Front. There might be one intake missing unless we enjoy this whining noise when air gets sucked in from all edges, thru the CD and USBs, under full power of course.
Even turned to face the CPU it would probably help a little as it then would take warm air in to spew out backwards, noticing that it doesn’t cool well, thus speeding up the fan, then noise and turbulence would raise followed by cooling……………. Romantic!

Conclusion: A PC is just producing warmth/heat. So what.

Keep me informed whenever you have a new review of something! Its very interesting to go beyond the usual "user" experience and to learn more. Are you going to update bangkokimages or is this over?

Regards, Carsten

Carsten –

Visualize the air flow. As the case is designed, it’s blowing hot air out of the top and back fans and sucking it in via the front fans. Mentally visualize the airflow.. If you’re sucking in air from the side of the power supply facing the center area of the case where the CPU is, then you’re sucking in the hot air and blowing it towards the side panel where it just recirculates back to the center because it has no where to go.

To properly fix this, you need one of two things. A power supply that sucks in air from the same area but then vents it out the back (the power supply I linked you to), or a vent in the side to suck air in and then vents it to the center of the case to be exhausted through the top and side fans.

If you look at a regular case, the power supply is mounted in the bottom with the fan facing up, so it sucks in air from the bottom vent under where the power supply mounts.. and then exhausts the hot air into the center of the case where it’s picked up by the top and side fans. A limited number of cases allow for the power supply to be mounted on top, but not many. In any case you need to maintain this flow. If your power supply exhausts air from the fan side, then it’s backwards from what it should be if there was/wasn’t a vent on the side. It may be working and not overheating, but it might give you problems if you fully tax your system (put it under full load), and it is for sure running more warm than it needs to be which will reduce the life.

If in doubt, call Lian-li and ask them which way the air flow is designed to flow. Scroll down:

I hope this clears things up.

"I think.. if you face the exhaust near the other exhaust fans (in the center near the CPU where the top/back fan pulls air out), then in a closed system you create a thermal loop consistent with the system. This might be what he’s trying to say."

Yes, this is the “new style” of power supply which is why I stressed in my review to use the PCPOWERANDCOOLING model.. I should have shown a picture of it, I failed the readers by not showing a picture. I apologize for this.

LOL! Yes.. energy, watts, horsepower, is nothing more than producing heat at its most basic level. Even humans.. when they measure how many watts it takes say for a pro bicycle rider to maintain a certain speed up a hill, what they’re really measuring is the heat produced.. this helps make a formula..

I get the feeling we’re just starting. To be honest after three years of the weekly column on Stick’s site which I would break into 5-7 individual articles for my site.. I was getting burned out. Since I started my move I’ve received a lot of feedback from the readers asking to continue and sending in work of their own so we can keep the Thailand slant.

And then.. after 4-5 weeks of a break, I really started to miss it! So, as soon as I finish hanging pictures, building shelves, and all the stuff my wife has me doing at our new place.. and I have free time again.. then we’ll start up with the column. I already have 17 pieces of new equipment to review and manufacturers keep offering to send more. Look for the column to continue towards the end of the month.

I love the monsoon season.. I really miss it. I’m not sure if you read my photography stuff, but I talked a lot about heading out during monsoon weather to get the best pictures.

I hope you have a good UPS.. at its best Thailand electricity is just plain terrible, lots of ripple, spikes, varying voltages.. but when it gets bad it’s just downright destructive. I’ll be reviewing three levels of UPS devices in the next few months. I use them religiously.

Steve

Please submit your questions to [email protected] All questions will be answered and most will show up in the weekly column.


A Snapshot of Bangkok Images Week in Review *menu

I almost didn’t get the column up this week. I found myself facing unexpected events that took priority which took a lot of my time. Fortunately I got things cleared up in time.

Tom Tweedel is back from China and he’s already sent the Fuji x100 back, but not without expressing his regret he won’t have it anymore. He’s made thousands of interesting captures and during the coming months I’m sure he’ll start submitting interesting narrative and images from his travels. I can’t wait!

As summer nears it’s last month I’m told now is the time to get a good deal on a snowblower and winter parkas! It’s going to be interesting for sure, while I’ve spent a lot of time skiing and hiking in the snow, I’ve never lived in it for an entire winter. No fear, I’ll be spending a month of that winter back in the Kingdom.

I’ll be in Thailand during the month of January, if you’re interested in taking a workshop now would be the time to secure your desired date. January is the best month all year to be out and about in Thailand taking pictures. I’m also going to try and schedule a group tour (at least 4 people) up in Mae Hon Song working out of the small town of Pai. It’s absolutely beautiful up there during this time of year. If you’re interested shoot me an email and we’ll go over the particulars.

Next week there will be no column. I simply don’t have enough material to put out a column. While I’d like to put out a column every week like I’ve done for the last four years, if there’s not enough submitted material from the readers I’ll simply cut it back to every other week.

So, if you have readers submissions, questions, a special photo you’d like to write up as a Feature Photograph, or if you’d like the challenge of writing your own Feature Destination please email me the material and I’ll help you get it done. I guarantee you there are many readers who would really like to view your work.

Infocus Blog, The Opportunity Costs of Being an Expatriate *menu

Last week I touched on the number one question people ask about my move back to the states “do you miss Thailand yet" in Transitions. This week I want to discuss the number two question. “Was it Worth it?”

To answer this I’m going to approach this question from the perspective of what you have to give up to live the expatriate existence. In economic terms we call this “opportunity costs.”

The interesting part, I know of at least 3-4 individuals who are considering moves back to their own countries and are perhaps watching how my move goes and asking the sort of questions you can tell are important for them to form their own choices. Of course I’ve listened to why hundreds have moved back before me, most in the last 2-3 years. We’ll discuss why that is later in this essay. For many it’s new territory, you spend 10+ years living in a foreign country and you’re just not sure how things will work out leaving your host country behind and trying to integrate back into your home country.

Really, it’s a different set of circumstances for everyone. An obvious observation for sure, but let’s take a closer look from the perspective of what you lose vs. what you gain between both your host and home countries. Please excuse the generalizations, but they are only just that. Generalizations. I’ve lived in the Kingdom long enough to acknowledge the many exceptions.

Let’s face it, unless you’re very wealthy and well-connected you’re not going to do very well financially in Thailand. Even so, there have been many wealthy people who have lost their fortunes in Thailand for various reasons, so being wealthy is no guarantee you’ll do well, it merely ensures you have the means to give it a fair shot.

I don’t count making baht 30,000-100,000 a month as a teacher or bar manager as doing well. Of course this is relative to your education and job prospects in your home country, but for most unless you’re lucky enough to land an expat package position you’d do much better financially in your own country where you’re not fighting restrictive and often illegal labor practices.

I was fortunate enough to find a niche which allowed me to do well, yet without a doubt I could have done much better financially in my home country. I was also prepared with a rock solid retirement package which included medical insurance and other benefits which came in helpful during slow times. But there’s no doubt I gave up considerable earned income during my stay in Thailand, not to mention a big blank spot on my resume/CV.

In my own country my primary investment vehicle has always been real estate. I ‘expect’ to make capital gains on the home I’m living in, and additional homes I selectively pick up and flip after a bit of work. This has always, 100% of the time, resulted in significant gains. With the recent housing market maybe it wouldn’t have, but I’d like to think I’d have been on top of the market and limited my losses initially before making the market work for me and climbing back on top.

In Thailand it’s a rare person who doesn’t lose money on any type of real estate or business they purchase. Ownership restrictions, dishonest dealings, and a very different market than what we’re used to all conspire to restrict or eliminate any real earnings from real estate.

Cost of living comparisons have been done to death, you can either go native and live on very little, or spend more to maintain the western lifestyle level you were used to in your home country. If you have school age children who you want to attend decent schools, or the need to frequently travel back and forth, the cost of living differences can be quite high.

There are only two main groups/types of people I know of who are better off financially in Thailand. The first group are those with very small savings or retirement incomes (and subsequently basic lifestyles) who move to one of the popular low cost areas like Korat, Chiang Mai, or Nakon Nowhere to live out their twilight years near their spouses family. These people usually live very frugal existences, yet from what I’ve seen they’re usually quite happy with their lives. Providing the marriage works out and they don’t lose what little they had or worse.. end up a statistic.

Then there are those who “winter” in Thailand, usually in Hua Hin at what for them are very reasonable prices for nice villas with pools, house maids, and the nice stores and restaurants Hua Hin provides. This group usually comes from cold countries and find their rent for a nice villa can be less than their heating bill back home. They have substantial savings or retirement portfolios and enjoy an comfortable existence for very little compared to how they normally live back home.

Of course there are other groups from those who move to Pattaya for the benefits of that particular location (along with significant personal risks), to those like me who choose to live a comfortable western lifestyle in Bangkok which isn’t an inexpensive endeavor. Like any big city, rents and all costs for goods and services, are much higher. And there are also better professional opportunities and a never ending source of interesting things to do and places to see.

I’ll be very honest on this, and I apologize in advance if I upset anyone. But 95% of those I knew in Bangkok lived FAR below the living standards I’ve been able to afford in the states since my early 20’s, and that was on a serviceman’s salary so I wasn’t and am not well off by any means.

Their homes are very small and of low quality, the furnishings are usually included with their apartment, or if their own, very inexpensive furnishings. Most don’t own cars, and their free time is spent doing things I could only be bothered doing on the occasional basis. The odd part to me, is they were willing to forego living standards for what they see as lifestyle improvements, i.e. what Bangkok offers during their free time.

Bottom line: Unless you belong to one of the two groups above, the poor retiree’s or the wealthy winterers, then you are most likely giving up considerable earned income and capital gain opportunities for your expatriate lifestyle. You’re also probably giving up significant quality of life benefits, though this is the most difficult to quantify. Expecting to flourish financially would be on the same odds of a successful relationship with a bar girl. Yes it happens, but it’s a rare exception. So there are ‘some’ exceptions, just don’t count on being one.

I briefly mentioned the blank spot on your resume/CV. If you’re planning on going back to the professional world of your home country, you’d better have a graduate level or better education and quality professional contacts, or be young enough to work your way up from the bottom, again. Employers just won’t understand why you chose to drop out of your professional life to go teach English in a third world country, or worse they’ll think they understand and label you.

Another area to consider is professional growth. As your career progresses you’re expected to grow professionally. I can hardly know all careers, but my guess is that it’s hard to grow professionally at an equal or greater rate than you would in your home country.

Personally I believe I grew professionally right along with my global peers, learning the new technology, equipment, software, and refining my workshop facilitating skills. Yet, I was out of the professional loop and the few offers I received to be a guest instructor on Antarctica or African workshops were too costly from a logistical standpoint. I believe I suffered ‘some’ professional growth opportunity costs.

I reckon for the overwhelming majority of those who live a decade or longer as an expatriate, you will never find your way back into the professional existence you would have otherwise had. For most your professional life will be over, and employment opportunities will be limited to lower end blue collar positions . If you’re lucky.

Of course if your family owns the corporation or you have the sort of contact where you can always be given a position based on that contact, then none of this applies to you. I’m just talking about your average guy.

And none of this applies to those who have what it takes to start up and make successful small businesses. But please don’t think starting up and running your own business is easy, or even possible without a certain background and skill sets. Small businesses, depending on which sets of numbers you believe, have less than a 10% success rate. And that’s in your home country. Want to guess what it would be in Thailand?

If I had one piece of advice for someone who is still of working age, say in their 40’s, and wanted to go back to their home country and work in their profession, I’d recommend going back to your country and completing a recent graduate or doctorate degree program in your field of choice and network like hell while doing so. It’s a tough world out there. Taking 10-20 years off from your professional life is normally insurmountable. It’s a career killer of the worst type.

So far we’ve determined your opportunity costs probably include severe financial, professional and lifestyle costs. Debits you’ll probably never recover from. What else is there to lose?

How about family and friends? Take a decade off from your friends and you may never fit in again. Your family will always welcome you, hopefully, but if you missed your kids growing up or your parents last years, then you’re losing what can’t be replaced no matter who you are or how much money you have.

You all know I moved back to be with my son while he attended university, and live close to my older son who’s a high school calculus teacher. How is this working out? I’m pleased to say it’s working out well. I’ve always had a great relationship with my sons and I count them as my greatest accomplishments and assets. Nothing means more.

I left Bangkok in late April, hoping to have enough time to buy a home, set up house, buy cars, and have a “home” ready and stable by the time my youngest started university this fall.

Today was his first day. He was so excited about his first day of college he couldn’t sleep the night before. Watching him prepare the night before, and then get up early the next morning to eat, pack his books, and head out for school was priceless. It was even better when he came home this afternoon and normally a quiet kid, he couldn’t stop talking for nearly an hour as he told me all about his first day. Nothing, and I mean absolutely nothing in this world, could have been worth more to me.

For the last few weekends both sons and I have driven out to a private farm area where we take our different firearms and compete against each other, talk, and share.. it’s a treat. And we’ve spent a lot of time working on the house and cars together. Basically, we’ve been a family and there’s nothing better.

THIS is why I packed up after 24-25+ years in Asia, left a very comfortable lifestyle, a growing business, and what many have told me is the dream life. And so far it’s been worth it 1000 times over. Losing these opportunities would have been the opportunity costs which would have bankrupted my soul.

Something else not often discussed is medical care. I’ve heard some say you can receive great affordable medical care in Thailand. I do know Thailand has some very good private hospitals which cater to foreigners, providing you can pay. It’s not cheap. I know, because I received my medical care at Bumrungrad which is considered by many to be the best, and the bills while less expensive than I’d pay in the states, weren’t ‘that’ much less expensive. If you consider my insurance covers me 100% in the states and only 70% overseas, then it’s now more expensive.

After 6-8 visits a year during my entire stay I felt I received adequate medical care in a first class hospital. But this was routine treatment. I’d decided early on if I needed anything serious and it could wait long enough for me to fly back to the states, then I would. The “business” aspect of medicine in these hospitals is much more keen than I’ve experienced in the states, and the part which really bothered me is that the doctors feel much more privileged. In other words you won’t be getting one off the golf course in your time of need if there’s a junior member available. Probably not even then.

And let’s talk about emergency or trauma care, or even the sort of standardization or organization, which allows a consistent high level of standards during all hours of the night and day. It’s very poor. Doctors throughout Thailand look at themselves as very special and very privileged and the vast majority won’t be coming in after hours to treat your acute or emergency needs. The junior doctor on duty, most often unsupervised, will do what he can until the next normal working day when the privileged doctors can make it in. Seriously.

We also know there are no trauma centers and “emergency” care is severely lacking. Not to mention qualified paramedics or ambulance staff to get you from the point of your accident to the ‘right’ hospital in the first place. And the “right” hospital is very important in Thailand.

So yes, there might be lower levels of medical care available at affordable prices under the best of circumstances. But when circumstances go bad, as they often do, I feel you’re opportunity costs now become your life. Or the life of your wife or children. I feel strongly about this. I’ve read of others on the Thai-Centric forums who have had more serious procedures at inexpensive public hospitals and claim they received great treatment. Perhaps. But is this them being glad they’re alive speaking, and how would they know if they didn’t get great care? It’s a crap shoot at best.

I’m not a doctor, but I did serve two years as a department head in a major VA facility responsible for two successful JCAHO accreditations, I’m EMT qualified, and my mother and sister made their careers working in hospitals, and I have a fair amount of time being a patient. With such experience you learn to evaluate such things with some accuracy and I really feel one of the major risks you voluntarily accept, is risking your life with substandard medical care. In many cases non-existent medical care. The older and more of a medical risk you are, the more this applies. If you have any type of serious accident I shudder to consider the odds of everything going right in a third world country.

With all the above considered, why did I become an expatriate in the first place? Because I’d prepared, earned a lifetime government secured retirement, amassed personal savings and investments, prepared with skill sets which were unique enough to be fairly certain I could still eek out a comfortable living while keeping myself busy doing something I love, and because for a large part of this time I had my family with me, and the times I didn’t couldn’t have been changed.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had clients and friends tell me “man, you’re living the dream life, I want to do this someday too..” My response is to think this through very carefully and try not to fool yourself. I spent decades preparing, I had a single goal in mind and I never lost track. I worked hard to prepare myself for this lifestyle choice, yet as I demonstrated above I still gave up much for my time as an expatriate.

Like I’ve said above, I’ve watched hundreds return home in recent years, most because they weren’t well prepared and a turn of the economy and/or shift of exchange rates caught them flat footed.

There’s little so sad as watching a man late in his career or of retirement age take an economic beating and return home humbled or perhaps more accurately humiliated. Now sentenced to a much lower lifestyle than when they left, or more often to take their place alongside their countries poor. I wouldn’t be surprised if this single factor is responsible for the swelling ranks of the Pattaya Flying Club in recent years.

Will I be back? Sure. When circumstances allow, perhaps as early as 4-6 years from now. I love the expatriate lifestyle. But while there are certain financial and professional opportunity costs I’m willing to endure, I am not willing to pay the costs involving family. If I can’t make both work together, then I’ll stay in America with my family.

Everyone needs a code to live by, a set of priorities. It’s when you stray from these priorities or deviate from your personal code.. that your life becomes off-balance and less than complete.

Is it your dream to be an expatriate? Does the exciting and romantic lifestyle appear to you? Great if it does. But never lose sight of your opportunity costs.

Until next time..

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