Saturday, November 29, 2008

Bangkok Lumpini Phahon-Saphan Khwai

Lumpini Phahon-Saphan Khwai condominium is quite strategically located at a working class and matured part of central Bangkok. Bangkok? Isn't that in Thailand? This is Realty Malaysia Blog, then what the hell am I doing blogging about a property in Bangkok. I stayed here the past week and for me to write to share with all of you about it shows how impressed I am with this place. This is a medium cost condominium equivalent to Casa Mutiara or Maytower in KL but yet it is so well designed, well built, well occupied and very very very well managed which totally can put even the top end condos in KL to shame.
First of all, the location is superb. It is within walking distance of the famous Chatuchak weekend market. There is also a shuttle service that takes you to the nearest Sky train station which is Saphan Khwai, the Chatuchak market, the Otokor wet market, the Bang Sue (pronounced Bang Ser) underground train station and the Big C hypermarket.
picture above: View of Chatuchak Market and the Saphan Khwai neighbourhood
picture above: The Big C Hypermarket
picture above: The shuttle van that takes you around the neighbourhood

How is the investment sentiment in Thailand?
This week has been a very bad week for Thailand. Anti-government protesters are taking their last stand to force the resignation of their Prime Minister by literally invading and occupying all their international airports. As of today, more than 100,000 foreigners are stranded as all flights out of the 2 city international airports are cancelled amidst talks of looming violence and another possible bloody coup de tat to end it all. I chose to fled Bangkok today when Malaysia Airlines announced sending 2 planes to the little U-Tapao military airport 200km from Bangkok to help our evacuation. The scene at the airport this morning was chaotic. Arriving at 7.30am, I only managed to check-in at 12pm and the flight only took off at 4.30pm. Such is the extent of this review being brought to you through Realty Malaysia!

picture above: The chaos outside U-Tapao airport, our only escape route that morning

Picture above: Thousands of passengers crowding a small airport built to cater to 300 passengers

picture above: Boarding the flight

Back home in KL, I saw headlines screaming "Bangkok Dangerous". But really, apart from the chaos at the airport, I throughly enjoyed my stay and the city was just as peaceful yet vibrant. The troubles were mainly confined to pockets of Bangkok probably representing less than 0.00001% of the total square foot of the city. Really there was no reason for me to "evacuate" as I said but rather for the need to get back to work in KL.

Currently, the property market don't seem to be taking much hit. Bangkok has somewhat reached saturation point a few years ago. The rental market has been reduced to low returns due to the competition. Typical returns are in the low 4-5% yield per annum. Yet, property sale prices hasn't really fallen but this situation is not likely to continue into next year as Thailand is badly affected by their export market and of course, their volatile political situation. My good friend who is in the senior management of a Thai bank doesn't agree with me. According to her, there are many large foreign and local funds currently waiting to grab any cheap sale that may come along next year and hence property prices may not be falling very much.

Anyway, back to the main story. In my opinion, there is much for us to learn from this developer in Thailand. LPN specializes in low to medium cost condos which are located near public transport i.e. Bangkok's BTS and MRT system (a better and more resilient version of our LRT system). The target market are middle income earners but some of these locations become so popular, the prices have increased up to three fold and fetching many 1st owners good rental income from expats as well as locals.

The condo I stayed at have mostly studio units and most of these are occupied. From the information I received, they are also very fast moving as they provide very convenient, clean and comfortable accomodation for the young and increasingly trendy executives of Bangkok.

The design of the studios is suited towards the Asian lifestyle. The main feature is the separated dry and wet kitchen from the rest of the studio allowing for some heavy duty cooking if required. the larger 650sf and 900sf, 2 bedroom and 3 bedroom units respectively adopts this feature too.

picture above: the fire escape plan shows the floor layout clearly

picture above: Inside a typical studio unit, the door to the left is the bathroom and the right is to the kitchen

LPN is really good at what they do. As they have the demand and volume, the high density of their condos trade off with better facilities which includes a shuttle service to the stations and hypermarkets, 2 restaurants, 2 laundreattes, full club house facilities and 24 x 7 security (see pictures).

The most amazing feature I think of most managed condos in Thailand is the army of workers - cleaners, security guards, receptionists etc. As I regularly used the clubhouse, I noticed every morning the cleaners wiping the leaves of the potted plants with a special chemical, this is after their routine cleaning of all the facilities. They even bothered to put cut flowers in the bathrooms and flower petals in the foot pool (where you clean your feet before entering the swimming pool). when you walk home with a lot of shopping, the receptionist or the security guard will run up to you to help carry your things to the lift! They smile and greet you every morning when you step into the lobby.... All these for RM90 a month in maintenance fees!

picture above: A 24 x 7 convenience store conveniently at the main entrance to the condo

picture above: The spa

picture above: The library

picture above: Security center and reception

picture above: Post boxes

picture above: Recycling bin at every floor

picture above: The community notice board inside the elevators are regularly maintained

picture above: 2 laundreattes operate here and seems busy competing with each other picture above: Basketball shooting ring pictures above: The dry sauna and steam room rotates between men and women usage on alternate days picture above: well equipped fitness room

picture above: Security key card required to enter parking

picture above: The swimming pool and the club house

In my opinion, the Thais excel very much in the service industry. They are so good at it which makes Thailand such a pleasant and fun place to live in. I believe despite all the shortcomings of Thailand, tourists and investors will continue to go there. The country holds much future and is developing fast, despite one recent coup de tat and emergency rule. This is a sign of investor confidence.

picture above: An odd couple spotted in The Paragon shopping mall in center Bangkok

picture above: A more natural couple....

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