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Why the only direction for Thailand is up


November 4, 2009

I arrived into Thailand at 3am this morning from Shenzhen, and instantly I felt a bit happier. China is undoubtedly a booming colossus full of opportunity, but culturally it can be a bit grating after a while.  After a month on the mainland,  I needed a break, and Thailand was the perfect choice.

Aside from being one of my favorite countries in the world, I wanted to spend some time scouting Thai investment opportunities.  I think the country is ripe for growth, but there are signs of a short-term correction.  I want to be ready when that happens because there will be a lot of buying opportunities.

Additionally, some friends from Europe have met me here, and we’re putting in for visas to Burma. Thailand is the best place to apply for a Burmese visa, and if approved, I will be hopping over there for a few days to get a feel for the place and its opportunities.

Meanwhile, I’m spending the next few days hiding out in Pattaya, a great little Thai beach town that ranks among the cheapest civilized places in the world.

Aside from a few marquee western brands, it’s practically impossible to spend more than $100/night in accommodations here, and everything from drinks to taxi rides to motorcycle rentals is so cheap the prices are almost cute.

There are a lot of westerners here, mostly older men who troll around the city looking to pick up younger Thai women.  You see it everywhere– the proverbial ‘age mismatch’ between a pasty white gentleman in his 60s with a beautiful young thing in her 20s.  The Thais don’t seem to mind, and neither do their male companions.

As such, the place is fabulous for hedonists and retirees… you can live on the cheap and have a great deal of fun in Pattaya, regardless of what you are into– outdoor sports, firearms, aquatics, food, nightlife, spa pampering, exotic animals, etc.

I would say that it’s probably the only place in the world where you can get a massage, play with a tiger, shoot an assault rifle, ride an elephant, and bungee jump– all within about 3 hours and $50.

More importantly, though, Thailand is one of the easiest places in the world to relax. The culture of service here is one of the most deferential in the world– Thais will wait on their patrons hand and foot and cater to their every possible whim.

For example, Thai bathroom attendants give backrubs to grown men who are in the middle of using a urinal, and everyone from elevator operators to hotel porters will snap their heels together and render a formal military salute to patrons who pass by.

To say that the Thai people make you feel welcome is a massive understatement… sometimes it can even make you a bit uncomfortable, especially when you consider the price (or lack of) that you are paying.

In the long term, I don’t see any direction for Thailand but up… it’s hard to imagine things becoming much cheaper here, but more importantly, the country controls vast quantities of two resources that will be absolutely critical in the future– productive agricultural land, and fresh water.

Given the extreme pricing imbalance in Thailand as well as the country’s natural resource wealth, I believe there is strong support for long-term investment here, despite any short-term fluctuations that occasionally arise due to geopolitical instability.

I will be discussing this more in future letters, but as I mentioned last week, an easy way to take a position in the country is through its currency, the baht.  You can buy baht through an online FOREX platform like GFT Forex (www.gftforex.com) or at major banks.

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About the author: Simon Black is an international investor, entrepreneur, permanent traveler, free man, and founder of Sovereign Man. His free daily e-letter and crash course is about using the experiences from his life and travels to help you achieve more freedom.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Jess Peery

    Hey Simon,

    Our paths have crossed a few times, and I find Thailand is no exception! I am sitting in a hotel in Bangkok with a wicked case of jet lag as I write this. Thank god for room service and satelite tv! The first time I met you, I was with my father, and you were speaking at the Denver Crisis summit, with Fitzroy. I was moving to Panama at the time and although I received your info from Fitzroy, somehow we never connected there. I have since left Panama, and moved back to San Diego, where, surprise…I remembered why I left the US in the first place. My search for a second home has turned into a search for a 1st home – being utterly disgusted with life in a country so fraught with non-sense and headed (despite the cheer-leaders in the financial media) straight to state sponsored hell. I find myself, like other members of this “international family of fringe-dwellers” on yet another search, this time in another hemisphere, inspired in part by your reports from this side of the world. As a long time Casey research subscriber, I wanted to thank you for the actionable intelligence that has become more and more valuable, as the Matrix becomes ever more apparent, restrictive and widespread. As the world becomes ever smaller, the crimes of the “elite” become ever more appalling. I am reminded in reading your missives that I’m not alone in my search, in my philosophy, and my politics. I just wanted to let YOU know that you are not alone either, and you are being read by a large audience of people like me and my family – people who appreciate your efforts to spread a little freedom.

    Your International Friend and Supporter,
    Jess Peery

  • Greg

    “Thai bathroom attendants give backrubs to grown men who are in the middle of using a urinal”

    That’s a bit creepy. Please tell me that’s not widespread.

  • Anwar

    I would like to know more about the “Official diplomatic programs ” that you mention.
    Best regards.


  • Howard Rhorque

    Greetings from Thailand.
    Thank you, Simon, for coming to visit here.
    Your comments sound like you are very enthusiastic about Thailand — as are most short-time visitors.
    And your comments seem copied from the “Lonely Planet” guidebook, because so politically correct in tone.

    However, please allow me — with all due respect — to offer a slightly different view of things here for investors or businessmen, a situation very different than that of the short-time visitor.
    Several crucial points were not mentioned in your report above.
    Probably you were saving those topics for later reports, so forgive me if I’ve jumped ahead of the plan.

    1) The Thailand currency (“baht”) is not strong.
    It has been falling consistently for the past five years.
    If one compares to the USDollar, then the baht appears strong, but that is a false impression.
    Both currencies are falling, just that the Thai baht is falling slightly slower.
    Both are falling against the only money that matters: gold.
    Today, the Thai baht buys only half as much gold as it did five years ago.
    In addition, Thailand’s central bank holds the vast majority of its reserves in US Treasury bonds.
    As the USD declines, the Thai baht has no place else to go but down with it.

    2) For investors and businessmen, Thailand is an entire culture based on deceit and power.
    To accomplish anything here requires one or both of the above.
    The Thais and the Chinese here have been practicing deceit for countless generations.
    For a Western investor to simply come in, make an investment, and expect positive returns would be naive.

    3) In Thailand, rule of law means nothing, including contracts.
    Sure, there are laws here, but if one ever needs to use those laws, they will be found to be a sham.
    The key to results is connections to power.
    Any newcomer here — even using “networking” tactics — won’t have such connections.

    4) A major business expense here is corruption payments.
    The more profitable a business, the more corruption will be demanded.
    That is the reason why so many businesses here look so shabby, as if they are about to fail.
    It is a carefully cultivated appearance to minimize demands for payments.

    6) Nothing here is clear, honest, or straight-ahead.
    Once a contract is signed, then they start negotiating all over again.
    There is nothing in the culture here that is our equivalent of, “keeping your word”.

    There is one more point worth correcting in the report above.
    You wrote: “There are a lot of westerners here, mostly older men who troll around the city looking to pick up younger Thai women. ”
    Well, that is the “politically correct” angle, but it is not the reality of the situation.
    It is the younger Thai women who flock to Pattaya — and every other tourist city here — in order to troll around looking to pick up older, Western men.
    Prostitution is a huge industry here.
    Young women come by the bus loads from small towns up-country — paying their own bus fare — desperately hoping to find men with money to spend.

    I am a retired businessman from the USA, now living in Thailand for over five years.
    I’m willing to answer questions about Thailand.
    My email is below.

    — Howard

    email: howardrhorque@123mail.org


    • http://dailycrux jack

      Thanks Howard, for the pertinent info.

    • Capt. BOB

      Hi Howard !
      I retired here as long as you and share exacly the same views.
      Even though I visited many times on a regular basis, the REALITY, came to my eyes only after staying long enough as there is an INTERNATIONAL consensus, ( probably driven by the US who need the country as an advanced base), to promote it with PINK GLASSES.
      I’ll put it straight: you may take CHEAP vacations here, right. You get for your money worths…But risky indeed…
      As for PLANNING anything, stay clear, in ANY field including love affairs, and even more “business”. Future is a word : anacote. Not a concept…
      Yes, as a foreigner ( pejorative: “farang”. The highest rank a “farang” can reach is “farang kii nok” – farang bird poop-) you can become a millionnaire. Very easily even: you land as a billionnaire, and let it go…
      Guiness book record could look around here: some succeeded to loose a marriage, a dowry, and a brand new house, all in one week only. Better than Las Vegas, Nevada, USA…
      Run man, run, til you got legs, ever heard of the quick sands ?
      I plan to relocate to Panama. Any opinion around ?

  • T Crown

    @ Howard,

    Love the insight you gave above. What you have said is exactly what I would have written down.

    @ Simon,

    I am actually surprised at what you wrote. With the king later in years…it seems to me that when he is no longer – there will/could be a big period of turmoil.

    When that happens – the Thai Baht will decrease more – the investment climate will sour – and the country will be in limbo.

    Once a few things are situated out – at that time – would be ideal to invest, no?

    @ Jess

    Geez – you have my identical story…wierd.

  • Tony McManus

    You wrote an excellent article on property and visas in Thailand. I am building a classic Lanna style home on 4 rai outside Chiang Mai. I went into it with open eyes, fully aware of the pitfalls involved. I am married to a (young!!) Thai lady, a university educated sensitive girl. I feel confident with her.
    Thai visas are restrictive, frustrating and difficult to fully understand. They are also subject to frequent change. Although married I presently hold a one year Non-Immigrant “O” Multiple Entry visa. One can never become Thai of course. I have an American friend who has been married to a Thai for 34 years, has two children and several grand-children and every 90 days Ken has to present himself with Lamom his wife and prove they are still married and cohabiting!! If you have ever visited the Thai Immigration office in Bangkok you will be aware that the whole thing is a commercial operation; you see cash being handed over for visis, extensions, re-entry permits and such. And it’s always cash. In addition it’s worth noting that Thai Immigration is a Division of the Royal Thai Police Force; every immigration officer is also a cop.
    An interesting book for you is “Retiring in Thailand” by Phillip Bryce. You see it around. And Simon, as a man who obviously loves life, be aware that motorcycling in Thailand is very dangerous. Take care.

    Tony McManus

  • Jack

    Howard’s observations are very similar to mine. Having lived in Thailand for the past year and a half, both the business culture and the immigration rules are very frustrating. I can say however, if you are lucky enough to find a Thai woman who is sweet and wholesome, you have truly found a treasure. Thanks, howard for keeping it real.

  • Michael

    Jess Peery – what did you not like about Panama? I’ve just about to decided to relocate there…

  • Capt. BOB

    Gentlemen, if there is something to do about here, is wait a while til it hits the bottom, and would ever be a chance for a rise ( not quite sure: everything here has been supported from Viet Nam war and Japanese heavy investment. The rich Thais save their money abroad, or at least did , so far they were still accepted. From now on, on the international scene you are supposed to prove from where is your money coming, but some countries – including the UK- are still very complacent).
    Then could be time to invest. If you enjoy playing the Russian roulette.
    If you want to make your money grow, a choice of could be a 100 other countries.
    Including the US, at least for the next 20 years.
    The US are standing on rock, not on quick sands…
    No, I am not an American, and I am not paid to promote.
    Warren Buffet makes an average 50% profit a year. I do, me a mister nobody, about the same, even better, as I can move in and out more freely.
    I would never trade a foreign company, not listed on the NYSE. I am not gambling. I am investing…
    Good investment folks !

  • toeser

    I agree that Thailand is a cool place, and may present good investment opportunities. But don’t expect to find anything in Burma. Take some cheap crap along so you can bribe your way through customs. They will undoubtedly ask for something as you leave the country. It is the most fascinating country (out of 35) I have ever visited. But invest there? No way.

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