Stickman Readers' Submissions August 12th, 2009

The State of Thailand and Partial Rebuttal to “Lost Opportunities”

It was with no small amount of unease that I have been reading about Thailand becoming “yesterday’s great destination.” That there have been a small number of minority opinions to the contrary is somewhat heartening. Some brief background to set up my main point, ask for some feedback from the readership and to offer a rebuttal to the author of “Lost Opportunities.”

“The Set Up”:

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Commencing in 1994 I have made +-30-trips to Thailand, which ranged from 1-week-1-month (including 3 visits to Pattaya, 4 visits to Phuket, 3 visits to Ko Samui and 4 visits to Surat Thani). Bangkok has always been my base camp for all of my / our trips to Thailand. My wife is Thai (married first in the USA in 1999 [K-1 Visa] to be followed by a Thai ceremony in Surat Thani). I met my college-educated wife (as of July 20, 2009 an American citizen) in Bangkok courtesy of a blind date, where she was working for the Thai subsidiary of a Japanese company. Anecdotally, in that we were both in our 30’s at the time there was no “sin sot” (though I did buy her mother a gold necklace which I believe cost 9,000 baht). We have a daughter that is now 6 years old.

My trips between 1994 & 1999 were predicated on the obvious reasons (food & temples) and while never at risk for being patroned for sainthood, subsequent trips were predicated towards visiting my wife’s family and several expat friends that I had cultivated over the years.

“The Real Cheesecake”:

In looking at Bangkok as a locale for semi-permanent residence (visa issues aside) and in consideration of our willing to pay +-10mTBH for a residence or +-60kTBH / month for a serviced apartment and housing costs aside, 100kTBH per month for all other expenses. My math is going to be much less complex than “Lost Opportunities.” Without being able to forecast future conversion rates (though I am confident I could work in some form of hedge if I had a committed outflow) let's use 32TBH / $. Rounding up housing expense to 64kTBH / month = $2k (I have done some research and found that given a lease, I can find extremely nice “digs” with multiple amenities [including free breakfast and health club] i.e. The Ascot Sathorn). The 100kTBH that we would be willing to allocate for additional expenses = $3,125. Adding the 2-figures on my HP 12C = $5,125 per month ($61,500 per year). Frankly, I can’t imagine spending $3,125 per month in non-housing living expenses while being based in Bangkok, however, let's assume that the number covers some travel and a few trips per year to / from the USA. While I may choose to entertain some form of business venture with my expatriate friends, I see it as ancillary to the equation. To help support savings, I would anticipate doing some day trading, as well as, wagering on sporting events / horse racing (yes, there is a way around the Thai government blockade of gambling sites), but again any income derived from this source would be ancillary. Finally, I don’t expect to have need of a permanent car or motorcycle (AKA should be immune to vehicular shake downs), will rarely if ever have the need / desire to visit any of the 3 clearly defined entertainment areas (AKA no concerns with supporting a “mia noy’s” sick buffalo, the price of beer or random violence) and will not be managing a business. As previously referenced, I am not a candidate for sainthood, so yes, having options at my disposal that can be both discrete, immensely satisfying and are offered at a rate 1 / 8-1 / 10 versus the States, is in fact a major plus.

“Kill Time”:

Being an infrastructure guy, I don’t see where in any major metropolitan area and / or high end resort area in the USA, that we could live even remotely the same relative quality of life (housing, dining, entertainment, health club equivocal to what is available at The Ascot Sathorn, “extras” and some travel thrown in) for $5k per month. Especially, given that I am being extremely conservative with this figure. So my question to “Lost Opportunities” and the readership: under the aforementioned auspices, has Bangkok degenerated to such an extent that family considerations aside, my analysis is flawed? My last visit to “The Kingdom” was August 2008 where we stayed at a serviced apartment on Thong Lo / Soi 11 (on the fringe of [though clearly outside of] the “farang ghetto”), which other than an attractive general location, was walking distance to probably my favorite Italian restaurant in the world, La Villa, (not a misprint and I am ½ Italian that grew up and lives in the NYC area – it is simply that good). So again, I ask, since my last visit, have things gotten so bad that Roberto (the Manager @ La Villa) is no longer getting his weekly delivery of goodies from the “Old Country?’ Has the iced cappuccino @ Black Canyon been discontinued? Is the coffee press, grilled chicken “Thai” style & som tum @ Kuppa no more? Has the skytrain and subway stopped running? What about the IT / Software / Video Mall at the Fortune Hotel? Have the reclining leather assigned seats at the EVG Theaters @ Siam Center been taken out? Tulip's is still open?

Stickman's thoughts:

Sorry, but I don't think you really managed to refute the previous submission at all. He made many points which you simply did not address.

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