Farang Lady House Hunts…
The International Herald Tribune, in August, had a magazine included that
was showing houses for sale in America. We are all aware that house prices
have gone down the drain and now is the time to snap up the bargains.
So, since most of you didn’t have the opportunity to see this amazing
magazine, I thought I would share some of the offerings with you. Get out
your pen, and jot down the ones that sound good, call me, and I’ll send you
the contact information.
First, if you want to live in California, although that seems déclassé for
some, there is an adorable French country manor in a gated community. It is
located in Montecito, the little get-away from the doldrums of Beverly
Hills, especially for the rich and famous. This amazing bargain cottage has
4 bedrooms and 4.5 baths within 5,000 square feet. I know it’s on the
smallish side, but it is located near the exclusive Valley Club. There you
can get away from your tiny home to play golf and rub elbows with those
bored by their Hollywood existence. Oprah would be your neighbor. It’s
offered at the rock bottom price of $4,950,000.
If you really want to get away from it all and not be bothered by pesky
neighbors next door, you could buy a 48 acre island near St. George Maine.
It has an elegant main residence, guest cottage, caretaker’s apartment, boat
barn and two docks. The amazingly low price, for a whole island is,
If you get lonesome on your island, Boston offers a good getaway on
weekends. This real estate gem is a 5,000 square foot penthouse with 1,000
square feet of terrace. From its 850 square foot rooftop garden you can
probably see Montreal on a clear day. The elevator to your penthouse is
private, heaven forbid you should have to share. This three bedroom and four
bath gem is offered at the reduced price of $12,500,000.
No matter where you live, it would be handy to have a small condo in New
York City, if just for shopping sprees. Two choices I can alert you about
are: A loft-like condo, on 73rd Street, 1, 600 square feet with 2 bedrooms
and 2.5 baths. An open kitchen (obviously a budget condo) complete with
balcony. It is offered for $3.2 million. You do get what you pay for!. Or,
there is a sprawling prewar condo, 2,750 square feet, oak floors, large
windows, pantry, library, and maid’s room. This larger condo is yours for
If status is your thing…I have just the place for you. Only an hour from
Manhattan, Cassiobury in Bedford, is an illustrious brick Georgian estate.
The original Cassiobury House dates back to the 1500’s in England, and was
once the ancestral seat of the Earl of Essex. Can this get any better? In
1920’s, the house was dismantled and and selected elements moved to the
colonies. It has rose colored 16th century bricks, 18th century paneling,
and carved fireplace mantels. You can wander with your morning coffee
through the 6,700 square feet of classical ambience. You could enjoy 24
acres of land bordering the Beaver Dam River, with riding trails. Twin brick
gatehouses, would welcome you to your pool and large barn. This touch of
class is offered at $11,500,000.
Lastly, if you want the luxury you deserve, and live in the big apple,
here’s what you would just love, although you may have to cash in some bonds
for this one. A superb penthouse duplex on Fifth Avenue. It has 17 rooms,
including 6 bedrooms. The ceilings are 17th century Venetian palace
transplants, completed with an Italian staircase reputedly carved of marble
from one of Michelangelo’s quarries. Three windows look over Central Park,
where you can view the peasants having picnics. Of course the obligatory
wrap around terrace has a massive view of the park, and more of Manhattan
than you would ever want to see. Priced at $46,000,000, this might be out of
reach of some of our budgets.
So there you are. They are giving houses away in America, it is time to
invest for your future. After all, if you don’t go first class, your kids
town girl, country life
Only slightly late for an appointment in town, I’m driving
carefully—it’s a very narrow road—down to the junction with Highway 118.
Past the village shop—only two guys trying out the local lau, but it is
9.a.m, after all… around the 90 degree bend by the Wat, and—straight
into a traffic jam, inexplicable as there’s not a single cow in sight!
Inexplicable until I shake off that ‘early morning’ feeling, (yes, 9
a.m. is early for me…), and spot the cause of the line of two battered
and one smart pick-up trucks interspersed with the usual five Honda
Dreams with assorted passengers, human and canine.
The cause of this Thai village version of chaos is a huge lorry, almost
on top of which is an even huger combine harvester. I say ‘almost on top
of’, as, surrounding the dual behemoths are at least 8 Thai guys waving
their arms and shouting instructions. Then I realise what’s going
down…literally. The combine harvester! These guys are trying to get a 20
foot long combine harvester off a lorry and onto a 10 foot wide road,
before turning it round 180 degrees and getting it into the rice field
on the left hand side of the road. Right. Oh, did I forget to mention
the rice field? I also forgot to mention the very close, very wide, very
deep klong, on the right hand side of the road…
15 totally absorbed and fascinated minutes later, I realise that a
miracle has occurred—they’ve done it! The gigantic machine is where it
should be, in the rice field, and not where it shoudn’t be, in the
klong! I’m not even quite sure how that happened. Everyone, including
the occupants of all vehicles, me included, is smiling and laughing,
watching the huge harvester trundle into position, and waiting for the
signal. No, not the signal for us to continue with our journeys, the
signal that the machine gives as it begins its job—an incredibly loud,
joyous series of four hoots, totally celebratory of another harvest
about to be safely gathered in! It’s one of the most glorious, evocative
sounds I’ve ever heard, and I’ve had come all the way from London, UK,
to Chiang Mai, Thailand to hear it.
Sound evokes memories from our tribal subconscious, going back through
the ages to a time when the seasons had a real meaning. It’s the trigger
that sets our minds off on journeys into the past, and sometimes even
into the future. All our significant occasions are marked in our minds
by sounds. Driving down 118 towards town, my head was filled with that
joyous noise, and my mind was automatically spiralling back to a time,
long before I was born, when the harvest wasn’t just an event celebrated
in a hymn and no longer witnessed or involved in by most of my own
people, but was a true, heartfelt link to the earth and its bounty. I’ve
had to come all the way from London, UK, to Chiang Mai, Thailand, to
feel that link in my own heart.
Is Thailand becoming
more unsafe for women?
A recent report from the World Health Organisation may indicated that
Thailand is becoming far less safe for women, with worrying increases in
the number of domestic abuse cases, gang rapes and violent attacks. At a
recent seminar in Chiang Mai, held to mark International Day for the
Elimination of Violence against Women, a women’s rights activist stated
that Thailand was now on the list of the 10 countries with the highest
number of reported domestic abuse cases. This number, of course, does
not include the unreported cases, of which it is suspected there are a
great number, due to victims’ embarrassment or fear of further attacks.
Sexual assaults are also on the rise, as are the numbers of abused or
abandoned children. The speaker added that a disturbing number of videos
are emerging which depict rape, fights amongst schoolgirls, teenaged
girls being gang-raped and obscene clips taken by peeping toms.
With street violence and unrest due both to political differences and
terrorism in the south now commonplace in a country once known for its
peaceful nature, the above shocking report comes as no surprise.
Opinion: Shooting the Kingdom in the foot
It’s obviously not over yet, even although Suvarnabhumi
and Don Mueang are now open. But, how much more damage can a
minority group of supposedly mainly educated, middle-class
people do to the country they profess to love?
Last Tuesday, the expected announcement was made by the
Constitutional Court in Bangkok that the PPP and two of its
supporting parliamentary parties must disband and that a large
number of its representatives, including the Prime Minister, are
to be banned from politics for 5 years. Basically, no surprise
there then, the reason for the court’s decision being
inappropriate behaviour by PPP politicians during last year’s
Similar, perhaps, to what millions of right- minded USA citizens
were discussing, online and offline, after the election of
George Bush to his second, disastrous term as USA president or,
possibly, the ‘election’ of Russian president Putin’s successor.
However, the USA and Russia are not Thailand - they are both
highly sophisticated and enormously wealthy first world
counties. Thailand is an ‘emerging economy’, largely reliant on
exports and, to a lesser but essential extent in the coastal
resorts and the north, on tourism.
The invading and closure of the two Bangkok airports by PAD
protestors would not have been permitted to continue to damage
the economies of either the USA or Russia for more than a day.
The inability to deal immediately with the situation by
government or police, apart from stranding at least 350,000
passengers and possibly ensuring that they never set foot in the
Kingdom again, has ‘lost face’ worldwide for Thailand as a
country. More importantly still, the stand-off between the
warring factions has cost the export sector at least 3.5 billion
baht per day, and will also, no doubt, have an effect on
much-needed long-term foreign investment.
This latest, so-called ‘victory’ by the PAD in its long-running
war with the majority of the Thai people, therefore, is certain
to result in an alarming economic downturn, even before the full
effects of a massive loss of purchasing power in the West hit
home hard in Thailand’s export-led economy during 2009.
In their much trumpeted attack against the Thai version of
corruption – endemic worldwide in its different forms - the PAD
have been allowed to created a country, now in a power vacuum
and without even a Prime Minister, slipping irrevocably into
economic disaster. Tourists, frightened off by exaggerated media
reports and ill-thought out warnings from various Foreign
Offices that the country as a whole is a dangerous place, are
cancelling in their droves.
Now, as a final blow to Thailand’s ‘second city’, Chiang Mai,
the ASEAN summit, recently relocated from Bangkok, has been
postponed until March 2009, and will, presumably, be held in the
capital as originally intended. The summit would have provided a
brief financial respite for many businesses in the northern
city, already suffering, as are the tourist destinations in
other areas of the Kingdom, one of the worst tourist high
seasons in living memory.
It would be naïve to think that the court’s judgement will bring
to a close the difficulties facing the kingdom, even with the
airports now open and essential trade and passenger services
re-established. A constitutionally correct interim government is
being formed, and the PPP itself is reported to be reforming
under another name - to which the PAD will, no doubt, also
Stalemate, therefore, must be considered as a long-term result
of these last several months, culminating in the actions and
reactions of the last week, with neither side prepared to put
the country’s welfare before its political convictions. At any
time in Thailand’s recent past, the actions of both warring
factions would have been damaging. At this, the most difficult
time for the world economy for more than 80 years, such actions
are truly disastrous.
Surely, it is time to make certain that a similar situation is
never allowed to occur again, no matter what seemingly insoluble
political problems lie ahead. The present government, such as it
is, should consider its responsibility to the Thai people as
paramount; as should its opponents, and take steps to remedy the
damage caused, both economically and, most importantly, to
Thailand’s tragically diminished worldwide image.