Archive for 2010 年 01 月

The carrot didn’t work, so stick now?

I read with interest over the recent comments made by our dear MM Lee KY on the impending elections and prices of HDB.

I extract out some part of the text here.

THE current contentious issue on the affordability of public housing was given another airing by Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew who cautioned Singaporeans not to cast a protest vote against the ruling party over this.

As Singaporeans lament rising flat prices, he said they ought to understand that the Government sells them at a subsidised price, below market rate, so that they can own an asset that will appreciate in value over the years.

It adds to their wealth and this is an asset-enhancing policy Mr Lee believes citizens should not find fault with.

If they do, they must be ‘daft’, he said, at a dialogue during a housing conference as part of a series of events to mark the Housing and Development Board’s 50th anniversary.

And if National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan is unable to defend this policy, ‘he deserves to lose’ at the next general election, he quipped, to laughter from the participants, including a chuckling Mr Mah.

But if Mr Mah loses to the opposition, he warned that Singaporeans better sell their flats fast as they would no longer be of any value.

Firstly, i still cannot understand why PAP insists that the flats are sold at a subsidised rate. The meaning of “subsidised" is already more or less twisted in my opinion, since the amount of subsidy one can get depends on how much the prices of a resale flat is. Its all a simple equation.

Price of a new HDB flat = Price of resale flat in current market – “subsidy"

Since the price of resale flat keep rising due to a couple of reasons (more of this later), and the amount of subsidy is a figure no one actually knows, one’s best guess is that prices of new HDB flat will only rise in tandem. Any lesser mortals can understand this simple logic, really.

And how does a “property" like HDB flat be considered an asset to a ordinary lesser heartland mortal like you and me? MM Lee claimed that HDB flat will only appreciate in value over time, but failed once again to see another simple logic.

I buy a new HDB at price $XXX,XXX.

Lets just say that over the next 10 years, the price of the flat has grown to $XXX,XXX + $YYY,YYY.

So if i decide to sell and make a profit from it, the amount of profit i will get back is $YYY,YYY minus the interest and whatever processing fees and crap that i need to pay.

And i look for a new house.

Wait, buying a house in the market then will mean that everything will have grown roughly $YYY,YYY, which would effectively cancels out the “profits" that i have gained. Whats worse, i get myself into another decades of debt plus more interest to be paid.

As a ordinary lesser heartland mortal, i do not have the luxury of having another place to stay while i wait for the market to fall, meaning i sell on a high and need to buy on a high. So how does “owning" a flat really puts me in a profitable position? And i am not even owning, its a 99 year lease, so we all are just “RENTING" a flat from the gahmen, on a false front that we actually own it.

And why does the prices of resale flats keep rising?

Because there is a shortage of supply. Why?

Because HDB decides to stop building new houses. Why?

Because with the shortage in new flats, couples need to buy from resale market, thus pushing the prices up and the prices of new flats can follow suit.

And thus, while claiming that HDB is not going to control the market, it does have another way of manipulating it.

All this while, on seeing the rise in the market prices, HDB decides to do their part by releasing Build-To-Order (BTOs) projects nearly on a monthly basis. National Development Minister Mah BT claimed that these new flats will cater to the demands of singaporeans, and once again failed to see the 4~5 years wait a young couple has to take before moving in. My mum used to say, don’t wait to dig a hole until you need to shit. A solution that takes 4 years to manifest is not really a solution at all. For someone who take a million dollar salary, his response is disappointingly slow.

MM Lee seems to take the upcoming elections pretty seriously. He should, afterall, PAP won by a “mandate" of 66.6% the previous round. The goodies handed out before then didn’t work well apparently. So when the carrot failed, the stick has to come. MM Lee is openly threatening you and me, the lesser mortals not to be idiots, cast a vote to protest against all the shit we are seeing, or face the consequences.

For now, what we can see/feel, are the consequences when we voted for PAP the last time round.

Saab – Revived!!!

Remember less than month ago when i mourned over the end of Swedish car-maker Saab? Seems like it is not yet to be, with the latest deal of Dutch brand Spyker.

Read it here and here.

Nice.

Bangkok trip – Day 3

The trip to Bangkok was not all about shopping. Buddhism is the main religion there and temples, shrines are everywhere, more than one can imagine.

We took a cab to Wat Pho, The Temple of the Reclining Buddha.

Beware of touts that tell you a certain temple is not open (yet) for the day and try to hard sell you his short tour package. More on that later.

Inside the temple.

The Reclining Buddha is really impressive. Gold plated and the feet are decorated with mother of pearl.

The length of the Reclining Buddha hall.

The full length view.

We pay 20bahts to get this small bowl of loose change, it to throw into the row of copper bowls lined along the hall.

More pics of the temple.

I have never seen so much gold on buildings before. So bling until my eyes start to hurt.

We left the temple, planning to take a short walk to the next one nearby, the Temple of the Emerald Buddha.

Bought a coconut from one of the many vendors along the road.

We walked for about 15min, missed the entrance of the next temple. Although i rather we find the way ourselves, my gf insisted we ask someone. It was at this time we encountered a tout.

I knew he’s a tout because one of the first things he said was Wat Pho and the temple we were looking for were closed for the morning, due to some national holiday. I didn’t want to expose him, felt like just leaving but my gf was as usual in a dazed state and didn’t bulge. So when he tried to pull us to one side to begin his sales pitch, i was turning extremely impatient and pissed when my gf stupidly simply followed him.

He was trying to get us onto a 1~2 hour tour, along the river, visiting some sites (no doubt to be shops selling souvenirs) and returning back here where we can then visit the temples when they are opened. I wasn’t really listening to him, trying to come out with some crap excuse to leave.

He never was to get any business from me. I left him eventually, irritated by the whole incident.

We turned back and found the temple. However, from a helpful drinks seller auntie, we got to know there is a dress code for entering the temple. Wearing berms, which we were, were not allowed. The heat just got into me and we left the place.

Went to Chatuchak again. I wanted to get more clothes for myself, having seen how sad it was at Platinum Mall and MBK.

This time, it was more of a grab and go thing. Since i already have a rough idea of what i want, and where the stuffs are located, skipping around the area was much easier.

We can’t do without these when we reach Chatuchak.

Saw stalls that sell seafood.

The heat was pretty unbearable and we went to the nearby Platinum Mall to take lunch.

Saw this Chester’s Grill which is something like a cheaper version of Kenny Rogers.

Ordered a 2 pc set and a grill chicken rice set.

The damage. Very easy on the wallet lah.

After lunch, we reluctantly left the air-con mall and once again dived into the sweltering heat. Bought a couple of shirts and left. Had an appointment with the tailor to get my first fitting.

Saw this stall at the skytrain station.

Very common around Bangkok and very useful against the weather.

Ice Tea. I need to take a few of these everyday.

The Narin Couture tailor that i spoke about on my day 1. Closed on sunday as mentioned.

Actually, we alighted at the wrong station. I mixed up the station of Milan Tailor with that of Narin.

Inside the tailor shop.

I was expecting a fitting session only. The tailor, saw that his shirts fitted me nicely and said i can just bring them back. Was pretty surprised, since i read somewhere that good quality tailors always asked for at least one fitting before delivery. Was a noob here so didn’t ask much.

Back to the hotel to unload and change. I ran out of clothing from home so had to change into those i just bought.

Dinner was to be at Chinatown.

Took a cab down and the nice driver dropped us at the start of the street that was otherwise known as Chinatown.

Basically, Chinatown is a large one way street filled with many shops and eateries along it.

Chinatown is famous for two things. Sharks’ fin and bird nest. Being a shark lover (to some degree), i would never order shark’s fin on my own. So i die die must try the bird nest.

But first, dinner at T&K Seafood.

The menu.

Judging from the crowd, i think T&K is popular with locals and tourists alike. Was lucky and found a small table for us.

Never drank Singha beer before.

Fried rice. Not much considering this was for two person. The portion of food in Bangkok is small and maybe this is the reason why i never see any fat thai girls.

Sambal morning glory, close to our 馬來風光.

Deep fried squid.

Salt grilled sea bass. Really cheap. Nowhere in singapore can you get a whole fish like this for $10.

Omelet with oysters.

After dinner, we went to this nearby shop 林珍香 to buy some local food as gifts.

Durians from thailand are big but fragrance-less.

Roadside stalls.

Ate bird nest at this desert stall.

Was really tired from the day’s activities. So after we went back to hotel, the bed was especially inviting.

Knowing oneself

I was that close to my second job change a couple of days ago.

The company is a respectable and multinational company, and in a few months time, one of the only two in the industry at our local scene. The job was similar in duties and scope, albeit the subject is totally different. As they mentioned during the two interviews i went, this was a complete career change.

Was i ready for it?

I don’t know, seriously. I guess from my own body language during the interviews, i was not the most enthusiastic interviewee they can have.  I didn’t have that kind of eagerness, that anticipation I thought i should have. And all these didn’t come because i thought i had enough experience with interviews. It was because deep down inside, it didn’t matter.

And when they called me to inform me that they cannot agree to my terms, i actually felt relieved this little incident was over for good.

So even though i could be saying all the nice fanciful words, my attitude and the way i feel cannot be more true that what i actually think.

Like i always believe in tossing a coin whenever i cannot decide. Because i know that whichever side it comes out, i will know exactly what i wants.

Bangkok trip – Day 2

The hotel we stayed in, Baiyoke Boutique, gave us a room which we felt was not the one we paid for. Worse, at only 3 floor, the traffic and din from the streets can be heard. The occasional rumble of the train was still bearable.

The hotel breakfast was ordinary. Although the spread was much more than what i got at Ao Nang Paradise @ Krabi, the taste was not even half as good. One get a choice of two types of noodles, fried rice, seasoned veggies, some stirred-fried chicken, the usual pastries etc. Had not been i was not able to find any decent noodle stalls around the hotel, i wouldn’t have eaten there.

First stop of the day is the famous weekend market, Chatuchak, or Jatujak as its locally known. We took a cab from the hotel entrance. Even though i had read stories of horrible experiences from taking a cab from hotel entrance, I was too lazy to walk through the narrow backstreets to reach the main road. It was a lucky decision though, the cab driver was friendly and in retrospect, the best driver i had for the whole trip.

We reached the market entrance, or one of the entrances. Supposed to get a map so that we can have some idea of where we were so we looked around for a “main" entrance.

You can actually come via the underground train. The station exit is at one of the “main" entrance.

The auntie in the middle of the pic was selling icicles in assorted flavors.

You can see this pretty often in Chatuchak.

Good place to shop for a new home.

I realised that Chatuchak is a very a good place to look for decors for a new home. I really liked the paintings of Buddha on wood, canvas. I think they will go well if i design my house with Zen concept.

Now, regardless of what i heard before i came Bangkok, December is still a hot month for me. I was basically sweating non-stop since alighting from the cab. Luckily, drinks stalls are aplenty and very cheap too.

Since i dun take milk, we had for ourselves…

Iced tea and milk tea.

The color of the milk tea was so orange because carnation milk over there are damn cheap. So the milk tea over there are very sweet. Too sweet for my liking.

We covered almost the whole of the market, from 10am till like 2pm. Exhausted from the heat and shopping, we went back to hotel to recharge.

Along the way back, we had to look for lunch. Being slightly adventurous that day, we bought some food from roadside stalls.

Looks good. We didn’t take well to the Tom Yum taste though. Lucily, there is always a fruit juice stall for this…

Refreshing orange juice.

Back at the hotel, I had to change out of my clothes. It was wet, from all the sweating. Soon realised that the 4 shirts i brought won’t be enough. Excuse to buy more!!!

Next stop, Platinum Mall.

Heard a lot about this shopping complex before i came, about its rows and rows of small shops/stalls that sell at distributor prices.

With great expectations come even greater disappointment. We didn’t managed to buy anything there. Perhaps we are not the target market.

Walked to Central.

The reason we came to Central was because of this shop.

Naraya, also known as 曼谷包 for those taiwanese, hong kongers, sells affordable bags, purses, carriers etc. There are quite a few outlets just in Bangkok alone but we can’t seem to find any beside this one.

The shop was packed with tourists, each holding a full basket and trying to squeeze more. I can empathize with them, for handbags cost around SGD$10, way much cheaper than you can get in Singapore.

After like tussling with other shoppers for like thirty min, we joined the queue to pay and get out of the madness.

We bought like 16? bags in assorted size altogether. I bought them too as gifts.

Bangkok do take Christmas quite seriously. The decorations at Central and on the streets are no paler compared to those at our Orchard road.

MBK next.

While walking towards MBK, we saw this grilled squid stall along the road and decide to try.

Very bad decision.

The grilled squid by itself is a delicacy. The added sauce, a mix of chilli padi, lemon and some dunnoe-what was extremely tongue-cutting. One piece was all i could take.

We reached there around 8pm local time. Which wasn’t late, and somemore the following day was a Saturday. So it was extremely disgusting to see shops closing when we just reached.

Dinner at the foodcourt was an unpleasant experience. Only one stall was still selling, lacked the main ingredients yet still selling at same price!!!

ONE thing i cannot understand, is why one has to buy food vouchers at a booth before purchasing food, then refund back the unused value back to cash at another booth which is far far away.

So when we were trying to get vouchers, the auntie behind the booth told us we only got 15min before the far far away booth close and we cannot refund back the unused vouchers. Damn pissed. Anyway, the food we bought sucks big time so no pics.

So it was like 9pm there in a closing MBK. So turn-off.

We went back to the hotel. I called the room service to reward myself after that disappointing trip.

This sauce looks hot but isn’t. But i kenna jialat by a similar looking sauce at the grilled squid incident. Bangkok is full of deceiving sauces.

One last thing before we rest and get ready for the next day.

Movie review – Sherlock Holmes

Even though Sherlock Holmes was and is a rather well known fictional character, not many people knew him well. Many seem to have a rather clean impression of him and can at best remembered that he liked to smoke from a pipe.

Good thing is, the movie has done a rather accurate interpretation of the character, so much that I am surprised by Sherlock Holmes’ martial arts ability. His intelligence, eye for details and the wide knowledge base are something I have come to expect from a brilliant detective.

Storyline: 4/5

What seems like a case closed with the murderer hanged, developed into something more sinister. And the story paves very well for a sequel.

Entertainment: 3/5

The bromance between Sherlock Holmes and John Watson is interesting to watch, love and hating each other at the same time. Holmes’ love interest, Irene Alder is also another character which draws you in, unable to tell which side she is on.

Cast: 3/5

Robert Downey Jr and Jude Law are quite good in their roles, although i would come to expect someone leaner, taller and more shrewd looking for the role of Holmes.

Pace & Flow: 4/5

128 min. The whole story kept nice and tidy without much lag that will bore me.

Nice movie on the whole. The sequel should be something to watch out for.

Movie review – Avatar (3D)

This is the movie everyone was talking about recently, from its fictional world Pandora and the local natives and wildlife, to the computer graphics used. Avatar promised to be one the main blockbuster of 2009.

I wanted to watch the show in 3D as i felt it would bring out the best in the graphics. Got into the Plaza Sing GV theater which was using the XpanD system (the other two are RealD and Dolby 3D) that requires viewers to put on a heavy set of glasses. They are not uncomfortable but nonetheless made one conscious that something is weighing on the nose bridge. But i feel, as someone who doesn’t wear specs, the glasses are still bearable.

Storyline: 4/5

I like plots in which human are the villains overcome with greed and evil. This sets the show apart from the other run-of-the-mill shows. The Pandora world captured in the show is also interestingly unique.

Halfway into the show, I start to feel the difference when scenes switched from the cold offices in the human compounds to the wild of Pandora. The mood switch is noticeable but may not be wholly intended.

Entertainment: 5/5

Maybe it was the 3D effects, or the CGI used, it was hugely entertaining to watch Na’vis in their homelands, the flora and fauna of Pandora.

Cast: 3/5

The good story, coupled with superb CGI can still make a great movie without A-list actors.

Pace & Flow: 4/5

I didn’t feel the 160 min of this show. Events come and pass fast without much noticeable draggy stuffs.

Avatar is definitely one of the must watch movies from 2009.