Chiang Mai FeMail  by Elena Edwards
HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

‘West’ is best - for good food, good service and good prices

Thai isn’t Double-Dutch - just listen

Tough times - tough decisions - tough truths

 

‘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.

One 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 thing?
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

Elena Edwards
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 all…
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 result.
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 sense!


Tough times - tough decisions - tough truths

Colin Johnson
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 investing.
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 my circumstances?
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 www.bayswater-group.com.