‘West’ is best - for good food, good service and good prices
The Secret Eater
Following on last week’s focus on an economic lifestyle, here is a
review of a much-enjoyed and affordable meal - all the ladies who went are
determined to go back! More on enjoying yourself for less in future issues.
of the wonderful desserts on offer at West Restaurant.
With so many choices available here in Chiang Mai, how does one decide where
to eat? What’s the priority - type of food, or price range, ambiance or
location? What makes one place a favourite and another just a one-time
To my mind, the most important factor is value – what do you get for your
money? In our city, one of the best values around is West Restaurant,
located on Soi 7 just off Nimmanhaeminda Road. West is situated in a
pleasant, covered garden with a waterfall backdrop; it has enclosed indoor
spaces for dining in the hot weather. The service is quick and friendly; the
prices are reasonable. And, of course, the food is good. Really good.
David, the chef/owner of West, has designed a menu that is a mix of Western
comfort foods – fish & chips, spaghetti & meatballs – along with original
dishes drawn from his travels and experiences in many parts of the world.
But what many friends comment on, and what keeps them coming back, are the
desserts: fabulous hot fudge sundaes – sticky date pudding with vanilla ice
cream – chocolate/banana cake warm from the oven – and daily specials based
on what’s best in the local markets. Recently, David has added another
aspect to his menus with the addition of a fine Thai cook, Neepah, who has a
wonderful way with Northern Thai favorites.
To get a feel for West, try out one of their daily luncheon specials for
only 160 baht, a three-course meal of salad, entrée and dessert. There are
four or five choices every day. For a light meal in the evening, try one of
the delicious appetizers or salads, like the warm chicken salad or mussels
with white wine and garlic, or pick one of the pastas, like my favourite,
the Pasta Puttanesca – just the right mix of spice and flavours. Add a
(generous) glass of good house wine and prepare to enjoy a most pleasing
culinary adventure. Just remember – try to save room for dessert!
West Restaurant – Tel. 080-122 7136 - 120/2 Nimmanheiminda Road, Soi 7.
Thai isn’t Double-Dutch
- just listen
So you’re trying to learn Thai? And it’s giving you hell with
the tones, and the words, and the grammar, and the context, and the
syntax, and you’re beginning to think about giving up? Right. Haven’t we
Perhaps we should remember, if we were blessed (or cursed) with kids of
our own in another world, how, all of a sudden, the little darlings
started to speak our very own language. How did they do this? We hadn’t
taught them! We didn’t see them listening since birth, connecting sounds
with objects and putting two and two together. We just sat there in
amazement and joy when they came up with Dog, Daddy, Mummy, and lots of
other words, which became sentences very quickly. Clever little loves …
but so are we, even if we think we can’t learn languages.
Of course, we’d be wrong about that - and it’s been proven by new
research at a New Zealand university, which states that those attempting
to learn a foreign language should listen – just like babies do - even
if not a word is understood. Apparently, the sounds we hear without
understanding their meanings set up a new pattern in our brains - terms
of reference which will lead to speech in the same manner as when we
were very young children.
Listening, this would suggest, is absolutely critical to learning, as it
gives exposure to the combination of sounds which make up words. This
learning ability - which we all retain - is contained in our brains as
neural structures, which are created and develop to order when we
concentrate on listening. These newly formed neural structures develop
in exactly the same manner as when we were babies, and make the
assimilation of a new language faster and more accurate.
In other words, it’s pretty useless going to Thai class twice a week or
more, listening to your teacher speaking correctly, and also listening
to your fellow students’ attempts to pronounce a word they, and you,
can’t spell yet - you’re just not getting enough exposure to those
all-important sound structures and your brain isn’t responding as a
What to do? Easy. Thai movies with subtitles, Thai radio stations, both
speech and songs, Thai TV channels, music CD’s of Thai songs - even your
Thai wife and mother-in law’s conversations - you get the picture! Or,
rather, the sound. Good luck, and don’t give up - you know it makes
Tough times - tough decisions
- tough truths
In these days of financial uncertainty, expat investors,
particularly retirees badly affected by falling exchange rates, will be
experiencing grave concerns about the state of their on- or offshore
funds. Many of us will have been totally ignorant about investments,
and may well have made unwise choices. For those who are recently
arrived and who may be considering investing, even at this time, perhaps
the guide below may help.
It has been estimated that over 65% of expats who ‘bought’ an investment
policy from a broker or financial institution did not fully understand
what they had purchased, and a staggering 80% were found to be totally
in the dark about the extent of the charges applied to their product or
plan! Nearly 70% had received no contact from their broker or financial
institution in the last 6 months, and 45% had never heard from their
broker or financial institution since the day they signed up!
So, how do you navigate the financial services minefield and find
someone that will have your best interests at heart? You’re right -
these are horrendous statistics. Due diligence is paramount - there are
professional and well-qualified advisors out there that provide
satisfactory and professional services - unfortunately, it’s up to you
to search them out. Getting the wrong advice could cost you thousands.
Here are a few important questions that you should be asking anyone who
offers you financial advice.
How safe is my money?
First things first - if you are making an investment, opening a
savings account or buying shares, no money should ever be paid directly
to a financial adviser or broker. Any transfers you need to make should
always go directly to the financial institution with whom you are
investing - they will then in turn pay a management fee or commission to
the advisor, where applicable. If an adviser or broker asks you to
transfer any money directly to them for any reason whatsoever, DON’T DO
IT, and follow up by questioning them closely about any advice they may
already have given you. If you are paying by cheque, make sure that it
is made payable to the financial institution with whom you are
How can I be sure that an independent financial adviser, (IFA), is
actually any good?
You need to know your IFA’s level of experience and expertise, and
the reputation of the brokerage. Study the company’s website carefully,
and if the advisor is British, search for his name on either
www.thepfs.org or www.cii. co.uk. All registered, qualified IFA’s will
be on these databases.
The advisor’s qualifications should also be on his business card. Ask
for details of, and speak to, the IFA’s existing clients; if testimonies
are positive then you can be more confident you will be offered
professional services based on a solid reputation.
Size is not necessarily important as, with larger organisations, the
level of service can sometimes be affected. In a perfect world, you
want your advisor to be with you from cradle to grave. Your chosen
brokerage should offer a regular review to their clients and an on-going
service. Sadly, investors have no redress should a brokerage not
provide any service following inception of a policy, hence the
importance of performing your own due diligence.
How much will good advice cost me?
There are a few brokerages that work on a fee basis but the majority
will be remunerated by the financial institutions with whom IFAs place
business. It may be worth mentioning that most financial institutions
remunerate IFAs at roughly the same level, thereby removing the
temptation for advisors to show any bias. A reputable financial adviser
builds his reputation through the referrals and recommendations he
receives; you should be alert for any negative comments. If in doubt,
don’t trust your instincts and just keep looking.
How do I know that my adviser is providing me with the right advice for
A professional advisor will offer full advice through completion of
a written ‘fact find’, which helps the advisor collate information to
illustrate a current snapshot of an individual’s financial
circumstances. This should ensure that ‘best advice’ is followed.
A ‘Reasons Why’ report, also written, should be presented to the client
after the completion of the ‘fact find’, explaining that the IFA’s
recommendations are based on client needs and requirements highlighted
in the ‘fact find’. Armed with these tools, you should now be able to
make sure your potential advisor can go the distance and provide
positive answers to all points raised.
However, please remember that financial advisors and financial salesmen
are not the same! In Thailand, there is no compliance regarding advice
and financial services provided by IFAs; it is, therefore, individuals’
responsibility to protect themselves in order to ensure that they
receive the right advice, whatever their circumstances.
This can be difficult, as a salesman will make his recommendations more
appealing rather than being honest about such matters as ‘potentially
better returns’, and may well offer inappropriate investments or verbal
‘guarantees’ of high returns.
If your advisor gives you a verbal guarantee, ask him to write and sign
to this effect. There are no guarantees in the financial world at
present and this will not change for some time. Even structured
capital-guaranteed investments have their risks.
Always read the small print and never sign anything until you are made
aware and fully understand the Aims, Commitments, Risks, Charges, Tax
liabilities and what happens in the event of death. This is standard
compulsory information which must be disclosed at ‘point of sale’ in
regulated jurisdictions - but, sadly, not in Thailand.
If you do find yourself the victim of mis-selling, you should contact
the ombudsman in the residential jurisdiction in which your investment
policy is held. For example, if your investment is with Royal Skandia
or Friends’ Provident, the jurisdiction is the Isle of Man; if you are
with Generali, it will be in Guernsey.
Should you contact the company’s compliance department direct, they are
likely to tell you to contact the ombudsman. In the past, when
complaints have been filed with companies, they have been referred
directly to the ombudsman’s office for legal investigation -
complainants have then been contacted with the ombudsman’s decision and
the comment from the company that there is no point in seeking further
advice from the ombudsman, as the company is aware of its position.
Even more reason to be very, very careful how you choose your advisor!
Thanks to the Bayswater Group’s Bangkok office and its ‘holistic’
approach to its clients for the above advice, essential in these
difficult times. For further information, please email Colin Johnson on
[email protected] bayswater-group.com, or visit the company’s website at