Thailand Number 1 Na
Let’s put the record straight here.
Thailand is an amazing place to live well for a semi-savvy expat from the west (or east for that matter). The lifestyle afforded to myself and countless friends who’ve lived here circa 20 years is, ounce for ounce as good as, if not better than anywhere. San Francisco, Cape Town, Amsterdam, London. Notice no need to compare to Singapore KL, Shanghai, HCMC etc. No point. Life in Thailand for those who know how to play the local game is world class.
Firstly, you come here and you learn the language, study the culture, the politics, the business world. You learn the lay of the land, maybe with the help of some of the friendly locals, and you quickly come to some general truths about the country, and if you’re the full shilling, probably come up with a pretty aggressive plan on how to do business here.
You will have gathered that just a few hundred families control pretty much everything in the business world. After a short while the workings of the civil service will be clear(ish), and if you make good local contacts and nurture such relationships, the unseen Thailand opens up like an enchanted garden from the concrete jungle that is Bangkok.
You might be working for a big law firm or you may be an on the make sales person, technician or whatever. What’s important is that you chose to live in Thailand, and if you are sensible you will put in much effort to move ahead in your new country of residence.
Teaching English is not part of the plan. Neither is living in a shithole Thai studio apartment. Think X games for boys, with huge houses, oodles of cheap high-end smuggled booze, eye candy galore and an indecent rap sheet of babes, oh and driving like a lunatic whilst hammered with near impunity. Marriage is not out of the question either, just shop around a bit first. And not at bars or massage parlours.
You came here, or I did anyway to take as much advantage of what Thailand has going for it, and if we are honest, not to change the place to be like home. Those of the do good ilk miss the point and should just fuck-of back to bible thumping land.
We came here for debauchery, riches, freedom, the beaches, the girls, the drugs, the wild party scene, the lax laws and bendable rules, and some of us found paradise was real, and a fantastic quality of life could be had – for less. With THB 100k a month in the 1980’s you could live amazingly well. And that’s with a house in a single digit soi on Sukhumvit. A Merc 230 (W123 model) was expensive but affordable and put you right up there in terms of cred, with plenty left over for 10, 15 if not 20 days of debauchery. Parties filled up the rest of the month, as did beach bumming and getting to know the many parts of Thailand that were just beginning to realize the potential of tourism (pre Visit Thailand year).
Back in the early to mid 1980’s, and up until 1986 the country was still a backwater, and was about to explode with growth, with opportunity for anyone who was half right in the head and with a few baht in the bank.
For those who saw the country approach take-off point due to all the talk of development and employment of both public and private capital and of course the Japs' help in their first big move to use Thailand as a manufacturing base, it was a time to make a fortune. The time will come again to get on the right side of a major move in this country, but the first one was an amazing lesson, and one that made many of my friends considerably richer than myself. I am a slow learner, but not a retard.
Put it this way, the SET was trading well below 200 points back in 1986, and 4 years later it was at 1000. The first big wave, accompanied by a massive property boom which would later drive the SET to its all time high in early 1994, albeit after the peak in property, which was 1991-1992 if I remember.
Many just caught the summer 1993 to early 1994 rally, but there are lots of them still around, well known expats who made a killing because they played the game right.
Whether you made it on the markets where insider trading was the norm, or by flipping condos, land plots, or going a step further and actually developing something, it was hard to miss out on the boom years part 1 & 2. Pattaya was mostly built to what it is today from the 4-5 year binge back in the late 80’s, early 90’s. Ditto the vast majority of golf courses in Thailand.
If you were here during the good old days, you would have had to be permanently stoned on Thai sticks and heroin not to notice what was going down, and thereby profit by it.
Again, after what happened to the Japs and given the property and stock markets had crashed by early 1997, well before the Asian crisis started mid year, it became crystal clear to many that things were not going to be good for a while. Things were going to get even cheaper. Most sold their stocks, although not all, but many, including myself were stuck with property bought at inflated, albeit not top of the market prices, and indeed we were all in or an extended hold on such assets. Those who bought in the more obscure places suffered most and longest, with those holding prime Bangkok, Phuket, Samui and Pattaya all fairing better.
Come 1997-1998 many of us lost jobs, or were having serious trouble in business, what with non payments, the Baht going to hell, a country in shock, and pretty much the entire business community in tatters. During 1998-1999 the clever money started to flow back in, taking distressed assets at huge discounts to replacement cost, and the distant effects of the dot com boom helped spark a modest fire of enthusiasm again. It was a time when Bangkok Bank came off to 20 Baht or so, with Siam Cement hitting 16 and change. TTA traded under 1 baht, and subsequently went on to 51 just four years later. The third wave of Bangkok Good was from just before Y2K, with a peak in 2003 – the Thaksin rally so to speak. This again afforded a fantastic wealth creation opportunity, and this time a lot more expats got on the bandwagon with reasonable timing, and made good from the market and from a fresh wave of property enthusiasm, in central Bangkok and Phuket for the initial stages of the resurgence.
The time running up to Thaksin getting booted was less good for the market, but it was a time of much opportunity for ‘real’ businesses and in many towns and cities also property development.
Once again many went short Thailand when the Thaksin thing started getting rather nasty, which ended up being a good thing given the whacking the country took from the US housing crash and banking meltdown. The fourth big wave on the market – which followed the global trend and then some was also caught by many, and luckily, not so long from now there will be a fifth wave to ride, taking even more smart expats and Thais alike to new found levels of wealth.
The reason I harp on about the general moves in the Thai market since the mid 1980’s and not so much re the charms of the country and its ladies, is because it’s the obscene level of opportunity I want to make clear, not how easy it is to sleep with top notch pussy, even though it was (and is) very.
Thailand was and still is a land of massive opportunity and freedoms, a place where you can live your dreams out far easier and in my opinion better than one can do in the west, and indeed anywhere. Nowhere in Asia comes close. Australia and Europe have too many laws and are overly PC, the States is off the radar for all but holidays and business trips, and Africa and the Middle East have too many enemies of the white bloke to put them in contention. So where then can you live in luxury, be taken in as almost part of the general business community, pay your way out of trouble and solve problems that the PC crowd back home would lynch you for? Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Vietnam, or God forbid the Philippines? Not a chance. Good as many of them are as compared to living, working and paying tax in the west. China anyone? Tried it, and I am even more convinced Thailand is the best place to live and do business. And that’s just for straight expats. For poofs it must be an even bigger paradise.
Those who bitch about the country tend not to know the real inside deal, and never will if they don’t make a serious effort.
As we approach a watershed election on July 3, what I can say, for what it’s worth is that the next wave of Thai prosperity is at most a few years away before the big one, the fifth wave of wealth generation in the Kingdom takes hold. It is one you really don’t want to miss. If you’re lucky there will be a crash in prices and property first, probably by 2013-2014. Sooner if things get very ugly post July 3.
A crash is avoidable but it seems more likely, and when the reshaped Thailand comes out of the next difficult period, it will be a sight to behold.
In simple terms, if you see the SET back at 650-700 points after a major issue or three in the not too distant future, buying the market will be rewarded with a rally to and quite possibly well above 2000 points by 2018-2020, and with it Thailand will have provided the smart expat with a far healthier retirement plan than the British, American, Japanese or German governments ever will be able to afford.
In the meantime buy hugely undervalued land in certain parts of Thailand, not too far from the capital. Even agricultural land with water is a no brainer for those with some foresight. As an example one can purchase such land with a crop output value per rai of less than 2 years output and still within 200 km of Bangkok.
Opportunity is everywhere. Those who take it find Thailand to be a wonderful home and the place where dreams do come true.
Hell, if you miss your civil rights, you’d be amazed at how enfranchised a farang can become here if they really want to vote. “ I’ll take the whole village please.”
Very interesting indeed, and I agree that for those willing to take a punt – and let's be honest here, prepared to take a few risks along the way – there's much opportunity and potentially riches and rewards!