Friday, January 30, 2015

Back in the Mango....

Got back to the Big Mango yesterday afternoon.  B had an appointment Friday morning so it was either leave very early (like 5am), or come back Thursday.  I chose to come back early and get my beauty sleep Friday morning.

Met up with Bangkok Buddy for dinner at the Sizzler on Silom yesterday.  Its a great venue to eat and watch over the crowds getting off work.  The lines are not too long and the food is the same fare as in all the other restaurants.  Afterwards, we had a cup of coffee at the new True Coffee located on the ground floor.  This is a new place on the other side of the doorway of the McDonalds at the CP Tower building.  Both are directly across the street from Patpong. Its a strange setup however as the coffee shop closes at 7PM, just when all the action starts on Silom.  The McDonalds next door is open 24 hours and is a great place to people watch in the evening.

Da Foot in das mouth.....

On an unrelated topic, Thailand filed a complaint about critical comments made by US diplomat Daniel Russel on Monday during an university speech.  I happen to agree that his comments were not appropriate for the given situation.  Once again, this administration's lack of understanding and ignorance of the real situation is pushing our former friends and allies away to our rivals, such as China.  

Instead of finding out exactly how the people are feeling and how things really are running for the masses, they seem to be listening to who know what....maybe special interest groups associated with the prior government officials?    Don't they realize that imposing political ideology on countries is seen as meddling?  Plus our inconsistent application of our democratic values to fit the political venue seems so self serving.  On one hand we are commenting about Thailand's transition while at the same time we opening up relations with Cuba and supporting and funding puppet dictators in the middle east.  Why can't the US diplomats just keep their mouths shut and focus on shortening the lines at the Embassy?

Life in Thailand under the junta hasn't been bad.  The people that I talk to and live with everyday don't mind the situation and in fact, think the military is doing an excellent job or cleaning up corruption and keeping the order.  Give them some time..Life goes on.  Foreign companies still operate the same way, the tourists are happy, the beautiful girls are still beautiful,  and the delicious food tastes the same.  Granted some or most of the politicians are not happy that they can't express their views and steal any money, but they are the ones that created the mess that we were in before remember?...maybe they should shut up for a while or find another profession as they were failures.   Its just too bad we can't do the same in the US and throw out the whole bunch of politicians who run the country and do a reset and start over like here in the land of smiles.

Enough rambling, time to get ready for the free buffet tonight.  

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

A new project: Upgrade of the plaza

When we were building the resort, one of the features that I wanted was scraped due to budget.  I wanted to both meet our budget and at the time, large discount builders such as Global House had not come into town yet.  The only supplier of tiles and building supplies quoted me a decent price, but his choice of styles was limited to a couple of companies. There was nothing that I really liked. So we chose not to do the feature and instead opted for a cement base with some stamping to make it more attractive.  We would put on the tiles at a later date.

The Plaza at Marina Palms


Unfortunately, after some wear and tear the painted cement flooring is  starting to look a bit shabby.  Its an outdoor area that is set up for parties and receptions so we need a lot of flexibility in our design.  Here is an example of how its used for a large party.


Small reception and party

Anyway, I made the decision during the last two days to re-tile the entire plaza.  Its around 5000 square feet or 460 square meters and will be a major investment.  Once done, it will add a lot of elegance to the plaza which was how we wanted it to be in the first place.  I'm estimating the total cost should not exceed 110,000 baht (approximately $3,500 USD).  That comes out to about 60 cents per square foot.   Compared to  California, where the equivalent would cost me well over $50,000 USD,  ($10 per square foot) and you see why its such a bargain.

We ended up deciding on this tile design

Just for those interested, the cost for the tile will run about 150 baht per square meter and the cost for installation plus cement, etc. is another 100 baht per square meter.  I am adding another 10K for incidentals and contingency fund.  Any left over I think I will use to buy the workers something to eat and drink each day.  We are doing the material purchases and contracting ourselves instead of using the store services.

It will take about two weeks to deliver the tiles and so I will definitely be back in a couple of weeks to get the project rolling.  In the meantime, there is more work to do.....work never ceases for the wicket.  I will be looking forward to getting back to the mango for a bit of rest.


Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Bringing a bow to gun fight?

As regular readers of this blog know, I've started to take up archery a few months back.  Both Bangkok buddy and I bought bows and we try to get out to the archery range when we can, to hone up our shooting skills.  We see archery as a sport and a fun thing to do for recreation.  We also see it as a potential survival tool..something for self defense and hunting for food.

But is it really practical as a means of self defense?  At my present skill level, I would say "absolutely not", but take a look at the following video.  I think this guy can take his bow to a gun fight and do quite well on any given day....plus the weapon is absolutely silent and lethal.   If I could only muster about 30% of this guy's skill and talent I could get into a lot of trouble......


As they say folks....don't do this at home.

In the meantime, its just target practice with paper targets and standing still.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Spent the day revising the menu

Spent a big part of the day revising our food menu and making it look pretty.  We've started to serve some food items here at the resort due to popular demand.  Its pretty much been an informal kind of menu, with offerings depending on what we have on hand.  We never intended to run a restaurant at the resort and expected most of our guests to buy food from around the area, but we've found most just don't want to bother.

How about some French Toast for breakfast?


Anyway, we are now offering about twenty standard items that will be available 24 hrs a day.  From breakfast items (full American and Continental) to snacks, guests can order off the menu and get either room service, eat outside at one of the huts, or inside in the main room.  Its a wise move as beverages and food have become very good profit items, steadily increasing to nearly 30% of our total revenue.  Its would be foolish to not make it better and take advantage of the need.

Spring rolls for a quick snack with soda or beer

Snacks are very popular.  We will be offering spring rolls, French Fries, and even chicken wings.  They go great with beverages like beer, sodas, etc.  Makro turned out to be a great resource for food service items such as the pre-made frozen spring rolls in the above picture.  We just take them out of the freezer, plop them into the fryer and a few minutes later they are ready to serve hot! 




We will also have a couple of Traditional Thai dishes, sandwiches, spaghetti, and even microwave popcorn.  All of the items were designed to be easy to make as we don't have a full kitchen staff.   Our pictures are not pretty yet, but that will come later.

Anyway, enough talking about food...its time for a quick snack and some rest.


Sunday, January 25, 2015

Upcountry.....

Its about 8PM and I'm comfortably resting upcountry at the resort.  We got off to a late start today, and with my jet lag and all, I started a nap that ended up to be three hours long instead of one.  Anyway, everything is safe and secure and the trip was rather uneventful, except that there is a lot of activity on the road for a Sunday.

The difference in air quality is very apparent as we got further and further away from the Mango.  when we left late this morning, a brownish haze could be seen in the skyline and there was little or no wind.  The haze was present for almost 2 hours NE of the mango until we began climbing up into the high plateau.   Haven't seen it so bad in many years since the country implemented its program to replace the old diesel buses and trucks.   

We have only one room available tonight...not bad for a Sunday.  With the present situation, I have to think very hard about adding a couple of more bungalows.  The big fly in the ointment is not the cash required, but the fact that it changes our resort status from a guest house to a hotel classification.  That changes involves a whole lot of extra rules, reporting, and fees.  It may not be worth the effort for a couple of extra bungalows...if we had 15-20 rooms extra, that might make sense, but there isn't the demand for that big a place up here. 

Time to catch up with emails, the news, and get some food.  



Going up to the country

After taking care of a few things here in the Mango, its off to the country for a few days.  Just how long depends on how bored we get at the resort.  There is always plenty of work, but we do want to mix in some fun and recreation when we are there.  Unfortunately or should I so fortunately, its high season now and the resort has been nearly full every day so B's mother is looking for some help and reinforcements.  We gotta make the money when we can right?  So I expect our time there to be mostly work.

The tourists are definitely back as it was crowded at the salon today and when I took a stroll down to Khaosan Road, the outdoor restaurants and bars seem to be busy.  Everyone is looking for a business revival after the last few years of political turmoil.  Talking about political turmoil, Yingluck was indicted today by the NLA and OAG.  She says she plans to fight it, but its probably best for her to join her brother and enjoy their billionaire lifestyle abroad rather than being in jail.  At a future time when things are better, there might be an opportunity to return once things have settled down.  But that is my opinion, and its not worth a satang anywhere except here.

The 24hr Oneplus One invite has already been claimed, but I received three more yesterday for 5 days this time.  If you want one, please contact me before they expire.  I was told that you could buy the cheaper version with these invites also, namely the 16GB version for $299 plus shipping.  I'm temped to buy them myself just to resell locally in the LOS, but I can't get them shipped here.  If someone in the States is coming over in the next few weeks or month, and has some room in their bags, maybe we can work out some kind of deal.....

More later from the resort.





Friday, January 23, 2015

An Invitation to Share - 24 hours only!

The 64gb version has a Black Sandstone finish, not like this one shown.
I have an invite to purchase a OnePlus one, 64GB sandstone phone and will make it available for any reader of this blog if you are the first to contact me in the next 24 hours.  The invite is good only for only 24 hours so that is why there is a time limit to the offer.  

If you want the phone, I will give you the invite code if  you respond to my comments or email me.  I will not publish your comment or email info.  The catch is that you must be living in one of the following countries:

OnePlus is available in the following countries and areas at this moment:
  • United States 
  • Sweden
  • Denmark
  • Netherlands
  • United Kingdom
  • Spain
  • Germany
  • France
  • Italy
  • Finland
  • Belgium
  • Austria
  • Canada
  • Hong Kong
  • Taiwan
  • Portugal
  • India
If you want the specs for the phone, they are here:  http://www.gsmarena.com/oneplus_one-6327.php  The price is $345 USD plus and shipping.

I have one and love it so far.  And no, you cannot purchase them here in Thailand at MBK.  Checked out the entire place yesterday and they are not available!


Thursday, January 22, 2015

Perfect Weather



The weather in the big mango has been perfect the last two days.  Its been 70 degrees in the morning with a high of about 90 during the hottest time of the day.  Most of the time, its in the 80s with not a drop of rain in sight.  Still as I was out and about ;yesterday, the locals were in long sleeves and complaining about the cold.  For me it was shorts and polo shirt time again!

The man that I buy Moo Bing from in the morning was asking if it was snowing in the USA and I told him, in parts its snowing so bad that there were pile ups of cars on the highway due to storms, but I was in California where it was better.  He thinks we are crazy to be living in someplace so cold - just like we, from the colder places on the planet, think the locals are unlucky to be stuck in the hot sticky climate of the mango.  

Met up with Bangkok Buddy yesterday to deliver his goodies that he ordered online.  Also added a couple of surprises - some cans of SPAM and a two pound bag of Jelly Belly Flops.  We spent a few hours by the window of a coffee shop on Silom sipping coffee and looking at all the eye candy.  The cool weather changes the fashion of the girls working down here in the business district.  They are wearing longer dresses with long sleeves, etc., and they look amazing.  It could also be my depraved state after being away from the land of smiles so long - but it sure is a big change over a cup of coffee at a Starbucks in California.

With today's availability of communications and transport, there is no reason anyone (except those living in Hawaii)  with the proper means and freedom could not always be in the 'sweet spot' of the best weather.  So now is the best time to visit the mango if you want good weather!  So come on over and hang out with us.

Lastly, paid a visit to the local Makro to stock up on supplies.  Bought diapers, formula, drinks, water, etc. sticker shock again....bought a whole cart of stuff and it came out to less than 2000 baht.  I'm used to double or triple that amount for a typical visit to the local Costco.  

So after 48hrs on this side of the bookend...life is good again 

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Home in the Mango

Posting from home in the big mango.  The trip from Taipei to BKK was rather uneventful except for a bit of turbulence just outside of Vietnam.  Got into the airport on time and was through immigration in 10 minutes.  Got my luggage and was on my way back to the condo just after noon time.  Its like old times, but the airport was full of people and the flight was also full.

Beware of this new airport scam.  As many of you are aware, they have put in a new system at the taxi stands at the airport.  Previously, you got a ticket from a girl at the table who wrote you out a ticket manually and then you were assigned a taxi driver.  The new system was supposed to eliminate the favoritism and letting drivers cherry pick fares, etc.  The way its suppose to work now is that a series of  kiosks  will automatically assign you a taxi in a predetermined lane.  You walk up to the kiosk, pick the destination and type of taxi you want, push a button and out comes a ticket with the taxi lane number.  You take the ticket and off you go to the taxi in the lane assigned and they have to take you.  

the old system that was set up for abuse

Well, they will always find a way around any system here in the LOS, and the scam goes like this:  First, they somehow have put most of the machines out of order.  On the remaining machines, they have someone who pushes the button on the screen as someone approaches and then hands them a ticket.  Sounds like good service right?  But all is not as it seems.  

Out of the side an official looking girl will hand out tickets to those with larger bags or those that look like first time tourists.  She did not get these tickets from the machine where this other guy is pushing the screen.  These other 'tickets' are for the larger taxis only...the ones with room for nine passengers, etc. and those charge a whole lot more.  They tried this scam on me at two different points in the area where one waits for the taxis.  On the second time, I handed the ticket back to the girl and asked for a regular taxi from the guy at the machine.  After heated words in which I told the girl that I've been taking 'regular' taxi with my three bags for more than ten years with no problem, so bug off.  You are supposed to be able to choose the type of taxi you want, not have someone assign them to you!  Also, you should be able to push the button on the Kisok yourself and not  allow someone to do it for you...who knows what destination they have selected and the size of the Taxi they have chosen.  AS THEY SAY, This is Thailand so for our blog readers, this is a heads up for airport taxis.  

Anyway, got a great 'regular' taxi guy and am now safe and sound at home.  Marina is making a racket and its hard to sleep, but I really don't care...its home and a nap is in order.


Taipei

Chilling out in the EVA lounge.  Very routine now since I've been going this same route for many years now.  With my gold card I get three bags, which are usually full, plus priority boarding, check-in, and use of the lounge.  I am a happy and loyal customer.

Seems like the stop over is short this time because of DST, plus an earlier flight.  Will only have a 2 hour layover for a bite to eat and some quick shopping.  


Kind of a bumpy flight, especially the leg between Alaska and Russia.  Kept having those thoughts of the lost Malaysian and Air Asia flights...we were in the middle of no where, late at night, and by the on board tracker, it was -61 degrees outside.  But all was well and there is only one more short leg left.

There is nothing new to report from Taipei.  More later from the Mango

Monday, January 19, 2015

Last Day!


Today is the last day on this end of the bookend for a while.  It will be good to get back home to the Land of Smiles;  home to family, friends, and warmer weather.  Had a good holiday season visit here in California, but is just not like being at home.  In a few hours, I will heading off to the airport and taking that ride back home on the silver bird.  

Spent the last couple of days shopping, but I did have a chance to have one final outing yesterday.  Always wanted to visit the Ritz Carlton at Half Moon Bay.  They have a spectacular golf course set along the coast, very similar to  Monterey. Did not get a chance to play however.  They also have a couple of great restaurants that overlook the ocean and the course that is perfect for a lunch outing.  It was a chance to take out Velda after getting her steering redone.  In both cases (lunch and Velda), it turned out very nice indeed.  

View from the back of the hotel (see below)
There are fire pits and seats for a glass of wine and something to eat


I opted for something more substantial 

The weather was perfect as it was clear along the coast while it was fogged in elsewhere.  What is little known is that the best time to visit the coast along the SF Bay area is winter time.  Its the time when there is the highest chance of sunshine as the summers are almost always fogged in.

Anyway, back to packing and maybe will post some more when I get into Taipei.


Thursday, January 15, 2015

Belly Flops


Did you know that Jelly Belly Flops are made in Thailand?  In fact, a lot of Jelly Belly Jelly Beans and other products are made from the company's factory in Rayong.  The products that are made in Thailand are sold to all the international countries outside of the USA.  The factory in Fairfield, Ca., however, continues to serve the US market.

Jelly Belly jumped to stardom when then Govenor Ronald Regan had them regularly shipped to his office in Sacramento and then later to the White house.  He used the beans to help him kick his smoking habit.  They became so popular in fact, that they had a special flavor, blueberry, made up for his inauguration in 1981. The blueberry beans made up one of the three colors (red, white, and blue) in the 3 1/2 tons of candy that was shipped to the various inauguration activities.  Today, the jelly beans are world famous.

I had some business to attend to in Fairfield today and so I thought I would drop by the factory and visitor's center to pick up some gifts to take back to the Land of Smiles.  I do not believe there are any factory tours in their Rayong plant, and the candies are not widely available or popular in Thailand.  

Velda came along today for the ride


Candies and gifts at the visitors center store
Took a quick walk through of the store but did not want to wait for the factory tour.  Picked up some belly flops and 1/2 pound of the more exotic flavors from the various bins along the wall.  Belly flops are $3 USD per pound if you buy 5 bags.  Each bag weighs two pounds and you will get a total of five bags for $30.  Loose, mini beans are $5 per pound by weight.  For a long time fan of these beans, I've noticed that they have dramatically risen in price over the years.  Back in the early days of their development, the belly flops were only 50 cents per pound.  You could get a 10lb box for only $5.  


The irony of this story will be that I will be taking these beans, made in Thailand, bought in the USA, back to the land of smiles....555

The Factory Tour Bus

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Enjoy the cheap gas prices while you can....

Unlike a lot of analysts, I don't believe that the price of oil will stay this low for any length of time.  There is too much in junk bonds and derivatives that will blow up if this continues.  Imagine all those companies that bought hedges in their prices and those bankers and financiers that issued those guarantees.  There is usually a time period when those come due -- and that is approaching very soon.

Unless I am wrong, those that are losing all this money will be doing what they have done throughout history.  They are going to protect themselves and pull every string they can to avoid a bloodbath...especially their own.  They are going to pull on the politicians, and they along with the defense contractors are going to push hard for them to 'do something'.

From my vantage point, there is only one solution for these powerful financial interests:  War.  

History has a nasty habit of repeating itself

Yep, my prediction is that there is going to be war again in the Middle East.  Specifically, I believe there is going to be some kind of false flag incident involving the Saudis.  Take them out and the market can return to its normal level - bankers and hedge funds are saved, the market will be saved,  and people will be making money again from overpriced oil.   War has always been the tool for failing economies of the countries in power.  So history will again repeat itself...

Sevenwind's sad prediction for 2015:  War again in the Middle East.  Its about oil, and was always about oil.   They say it will be about 'terrorists'  and 'extremists', but there always has to be some kind of cover for the real reason to go to war.  Sad but true, just like the unnecessary American blood that will likely flow in the dessert again.




Tuesday, January 13, 2015

If only Animals could talk....

Well, its high tourist season in the Land of Smiles.  Every year it seems, there is some kind of incident regarding tourists and the local animals.  In this recent case below, an Elephant is taking out its frustration on a passing car in Khao Yai National Park, which is about 2 hours from Bangkok on the way up to the resort.  Its very popular with the well to do Bangkok locals, especially on the weekends.  

Looks like it might be a Mercedes or Volvo from the shape of the lights.....He must be really pissed at something.

Look dude...don't bring your Bangkok traffic jams up here  OK?

Talk about animal abuse.....maybe they have a point


Anyway, must be me being a bit silly and mostly happy that this is going to be my last week here in krazy Kalifornia for a bit.




Friday, January 9, 2015

A bit over a week to go...

Just a few more days and I will be boarding that big silver bird back home to the Land of Smiles.  I can't say that its not soon enough...because the sooner the better.  Will be spending this week getting all my shopping and last minute errands done so that I can start packing next week.  And then there is the list of stuff for family and friends that need to be either obtained or packed...For example, B ordered two pairs of special sandals, special vitamins and supplements for one of my Thai Friends, B's mother wants some Glucosamine, etc...

Got my blog books from Blog2Print.  They look great and I'm glad I made the investment to preserve it for the future.  The quality is excellent and my photos also came out great.   Might bring them over to LOS, but they are a bit heavy.  Will likely split them up and bring one or two volumes on each trip.

five volumes of blog posts and ramblings 
One other product that is worth commenting on is the new Oneplus One phone that I got last month.  After using it for almost three weeks now, I can only say that the hype about this phone is true.  Its not hype, but its for real. Its fast, its solid, and its real.   Its by far not the best in any category (speed, UI, battery life, camera, etc.) but its very very good in nearly every category for 1/2 the price of the equivalent top flagship phones by the major brand names (i.e. Samsung, HTC, Apple).  Its unlocked and ready to be used on most GSM carriers and it will soon be getting Android 5.0, lollipop.   I am going to use it in place of my Samsung if B doesn't want it, which I seriously doubt.

penny or baht or whatever...who's counting????

Yep,  as you can see I am missing the land of smiles big time....



Friday, January 2, 2015

Cold Start to the New Year

Its been cold here in the Bay Area - freezing in some parts.  It may not be a big deal to those from the Midwest or back East, but to us California wimps, its cold.  To a guy who calls Bangkok home, its not fun at all.  I enjoy being outdoors, but having to wear layers and layers of clothes just doesn't make it fun anymore.

But I only have about 2 weeks left on this end of the bookend.  Talk daily with B and Marina and both are sick from a cold.  Seems like Thailand is going through a cold spell - its getting down to the 70s at night and even the mid to high 60s at times!  Talk about California wimps....  60s is short sleeve weather around here now!

The next couple of weeks are going to be busy.  Aside from wrapping up business on some income property, I have to get some work done on my new toy, Velda.  I've been trying to schedule this work for some time now with a local Mercedes mechanic.  Mr. L, was a former lead mechanic for a local MB dealership and now he owns his own independent shop.  His shop is very reasonable and his work top notch so there is always a queue to get on their service calendar, especially this time of year.  I am finally on their appointment calendar for next Monday to completely refurbish my steering system and to replace all four of my shocks.  With these changes, my little 560SL should feel like the day she came off the showroom floor - not that the ride isn't good now, but after 25 years, its doesn't have that  precise, crisp steering and smooth Mercedes ride anymore.  Everything else seems to be fine - the engine can really haul on the roads and is so quiet at idle that one doesn't even feel it running.

Electric hoist system to remove and store the hard-top
I also ordered an electric hoist for the hardtop this morning from  hoistlifts.com.  With the hoist, one person can take the hardtop on and off.  It will also provide a place to store it when I go 'topless'.  Plan to store the top up in the garage at our cabin at the lake.  Might never put it back on as I think the soft-top is fine for almost year around use here in the Bay Area...even in our coldest weather like today.