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.