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A village on the edge: San Tin

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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A village on the edge: San Tin | The Thaiger

PHUKET: In the bad old days of the Cold War and Mao’s Cultural Revolution, this part of Hong Kong, San Tin, used to be called the “Bamboo Curtain” – the 30-kilometer border, and a few kilometers either side, between what was a British Crown colony and the People’s Republic of China.

Just to the southwest of the Lo Wu border-crossing between Hong Kong and mainland China – the second-busiest land-crossing in the world after San Diego’s San Ysidro into Mexico – lies a remarkable village that time seems to have forgotten.

There are no ATMs or convenience stories or glaring illuminated shop-signs here. And in futuristic, fast-paced Hong Kong, San Tin is the largest of now just a handful of villages that are unique in their total lack of modernity.

San Tin literally means “new rice-paddies” – and was named by the first inhabitants, members of the Man clan who arrived in this swampy corner of present-day Hong Kong, in the 14th Century, from their homeland in China’s Jiangxi province, approximately 700 kilometers to the north-east.

At that time, Kublai Khan and his hordes were rampaging through the Middle Kingdom, and the Man Clan was one of many Han Chinese clans displaced by the Mongolian invasion.Since then, San Tin has been the turf of this clan, one of the five major historical clans of Hong Kong, who are all descendants of the 13th century scholar-general Man Tin Cheung. More on him later.

Today, San Tin – in places a shantytown – is a time-warp border-village with an long, epic past and a precarious future. At night the skyscrapers of the China’s Shenzhen City cast reflections in neon colors on the duck ponds between San Tin and the mainland. And yet 21st century China seems eons away, as dragonflies flit in elliptical circles above the greenery and wetlands around the village, the kinetic clatter of mahjong playing reverberates through the the maze-like alleyways, and feral dogs yip-yap in the distance.

Since the 1980s – the blink of an eye in the history of one of the world’s longest continuous civilizations – Shenzhen has mushroomed out of the paddy-fields north of what is now simply called “the boundary” by both the mainland and Hong Kong governments, and into a city with a bigger population than Hong Kong itself. This boundary however is still very much a border, and a rather expensive one to cross for non-Chinese visitors.

San Tin’s population hovers around just under three thousand, and the majority of inhabitants here are still surnamed Man. While most of the New Territories – the rural land between the sky-rises of the Kowloon peninsula and Shenzhen – has become increasingly urbanized as Hong Kong’s suburbs encroach northwards, San Tin remains quirkily undeveloped.

Indeed, many parts of the town resemble movie-sets for productions of the Hong Kong of the 1960s. There’s not a single dwelling over five-storeys, and large number of centuries-old, uninhabited buildings are crumbling to the ground, especially in the heart of the village. These give San Tin the appearance of a ghost-town when the sun arcs down into the nearby Mai Po marshes at the end of each day.

A still-intact protective wall constructed by villagers during the Yuan Dynasty of the 14th century, can be found in the village’s center, though it takes some effort – and often the assistance of an obliging Man – to find it.

During the day in San Tin, there’s a gentle buzz in the streets. Old-timers play mahjong in the open-fronted fan-cooled ground-floor rooms of Qing Dynasty shophouses. Young children make their own fun, playing tag, catching frogs, fishing, playing cards, riding their bicycles and enjoying other non-digital joys long-forgotten by the rest of Hong Kong’s youth.

The village is a pocket of poverty in a wealthy city, and very few people of working age can be found in this corner of Asia’s most economically dynamic city (as the city has dubbed itself). There are simply no employment opportunities in San Tin or its environs, except for drivers for the shuttle-buses to the nearby Lok Ma Chau checkpoint, and the village’s two cha chaantengs (cheap, no-frills eateries). Most of San Tin’s denizens are poor, but community life is rich.

Neighbors natter about the weather instead of the Hang Seng index. Traditional festivals are fulsomely enjoyed and feature communal feasts prepared by the clan’s welfare organization. And residents watch out for each other, and their children. Mandarin has a much greater verbal presence here than other parts of Asia’s premier Cantonese city. Indeed, San Tin is basically bilingual, and linguistically feels like an offshoot of Shenzhen, which is a 15-minute bus ride away.

The non-human sounds of San Tin are pleasing to the ear. Plovers and lapwings tweet away in the boughs of vast centuries-old banyan trees, and in the bamboo groves that flourish between old masonry. And bullfrogs croak at dusk. The village truly belongs to an earlier, gentler, less consumerist age.

Unlike most other Hong Kong communities, San Tin is not a 24-7 beast. She sleeps soundly from dusk to dawn, when the only sounds are the faint traffic noise carried on the breeze from the mainland. The most unifying aspect of the village is hereditary. The Man Clan cherishes its past. And because many Mans stay here for evermore (or return on retirement), the village is home to one of Hong Kong’s best-preserved ancestral halls. The Man Lun Fung Ancestral Hall was declared a historical building of notable merit by the Hong Kong government in 1983, nearly 400 years after it was constructed in honor of Man Lung-fung, an 8th generation Man patriarch of great distinction. The building, a baked-brick structure, features exquisitely ornamented fascia boards depicting scenes from Chinese folklore.

The “soul tablets” of ancestors are placed in the middle hall to honor deceased Mans in the after-life. The hall remains in use in the traditional manner, as a place for worship of ancestors and a focal point of which there seems to be one every other week.

Nearby stands the Tai Fu Tai Scholar’s House. Built in 1865 during the Qing Dynasty, this was originally the residence of the bookish Man Chung-luen. Recently restored, this most impressive structure is one of the best-preserved examples of traditional scholar-gentry Qing architecture in greater China, and features a beautifully decorated roofless room that Chuen-luen retreated to in order to pen poetry under the moonlight and the stars.

The most famous Man, though, throughout the clan’s long history remains the scholar-general Man Tin Cheung, one of the great heroes of the Song Dynasty. And a memorial statue of the great soldier – revered for his strict moral righteousness – stands atop a hill just east of the village. Perhaps the second most famous Man is Wen Qimei, who was the mother of Zedong (Wen is the Mandarin form of the Cantonese surname Man).

Life in San Tin has changed little over the centuries – with one abrupt exception – the dark days of the Pacific War. The Japanese occupation of Hong Kong was especially harsh here, with random killings of villagers of all ages being a routine occurrence. So many were slaughtered that a mass grave had to be dug behind the ancestral hall.

In the post-war years, the Man clan has spread overseas, principally to the United Kingdom and the Netherlands, where westward-travelling Mans have opened and operated a large number of Chinese restaurants. As such, the first question a rare western visitor to the village is asked is the quaintly odd: “Are you Dutch or British?”

As timeless and restful as this unspoilt village feels today, a faster pace of life is rapidly approaching. Work has already started on a mass-transit rail link that will join Hong Kong’s West Rail route to Shenzhen by means of a spur-line with three new stations. And one of these proposed st

— Nick Walker

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Bangkok

Calls to restrict foreign property purchases in Bangkok

The Thaiger

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Calls to restrict foreign property purchases in Bangkok | The Thaiger

Dr. Sopon Pornchockchai, the President of the Thailand Agency for Real Estate Affairs, is calling for controls to restrict foreign property buyers.

Thailandproperty.news is reporting than he is justifying his comments saying the growth in income of Thais is slower than the property price rises being pushed up by high foreign demand.

“Some measures should be adopted, such as higher stamp duty for foreigners,” he said.

The article says that this is the first time an industry figure has spoken out about the need to restrict or reduce the amount of foreign investment in the Bangkok property market. Dr. Sopom says he believes that foreign buyers account for around 20 percent of all Bangkok property purchases.

He noted that Chinese purchases account for about 80 percent of foreign buyers.

Read the original story HERE.

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Food Scene

Savoury staples with a touch of the finest Swiss chocolate 

Tim Newton

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Savoury staples with a touch of the finest Swiss chocolate  | The Thaiger

Chocolate… mmmmm. But did you consider it as part of a broader savory menu? I enjoyed an evening of chocolate-infused cuisine and, well, it really works!

Mövenpick Resort & Spa Karon Beach Phuket is treating guests to a new menu of savoury dishes with a sweet twist as Mövenpick Hotels & Resorts launches its ‘Chocolate on the Salty Side’ promotion.

In celebration of Swiss cuisine and the wonderful versatility of chocolate, the brand’s talented ‘food artisans’ have made Mövenpick chocolate the hero of seven dishes in its latest global campaign, which runs to 20 November, 2018.

From salmon fillets enlivened with dark chocolate to a savoury tarte tartin with a white chocolate flourish, each new creation offers up something distinctively flavourful and showcases chocolate in new exciting ways to guests dining at Movenpick Karon Beach El Gaucho Restaurant.

Savoury staples with a touch of the finest Swiss chocolate  | News by The Thaiger Savoury staples with a touch of the finest Swiss chocolate  | News by The Thaiger Savoury staples with a touch of the finest Swiss chocolate  | News by The Thaiger

The seven chocolate-inspired creations include: marinated ‘beetroot salmon’ with root vegetables and 72% dark chocolate to enhance the meal’s rich earthiness; ‘tomato tarte tartin’ where ‘white lemon’ chocolate complements the goat’s cheese, pine nuts and coffee beans; ‘sea bass and green tea’ – a light foam of green tea, almonds, nuts and Mövenpick ‘Maple Walnut’ is the star; ‘minute beef goulash’, with a traditionally-made Hungarian goulash sauce, enriched with dark chocolate; ‘lamb shank and pesto’, slow-roasted and then refined with pistachio and hazelnut chocolate pesto; and ‘duck breast and potato pie’, with white chocolate, lime and pepper giving the pink-roasted meat a delicate yet spicy freshness.

Whilst the dishes have been infused with chocolate, it’s barely noticeable in most cases but makes for some subtle new tastes on European classics.

Less subtle are the exquisite desserts which are a blatant celebration of all things chocolate. Guests can finish their meal with a tempting ‘chocolate pavés au chocolat’, combining milk chocolate, crispy cocoa bean fragments, sizzling pecan nuts and slightly bitter matcha powder, all with a hint of green tea and paired with an espresso.

The quality of Swiss craftsmanship is world-famous and even the country’s chocolate is produced with legendary precision. Mövenpick chocolate is made in keeping with the tradition, as well as its own culinary values that date back 70 years, and is produced in Switzerland using 100% cocoa butter.

Make a booking HERE or find out more about the El Gaucho Restaurant HERE.

Savoury staples with a touch of the finest Swiss chocolate  | News by The Thaiger Savoury staples with a touch of the finest Swiss chocolate  | News by The Thaiger Savoury staples with a touch of the finest Swiss chocolate  | News by The Thaiger

Tim Newton was a guest of the management of Mövenpick Resort & Spa Karon Beach Phuket

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Property

Goodbye – Evicting a tenant in Thailand

Robert Virasin

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Goodbye – Evicting a tenant in Thailand | The Thaiger

It’s a goal for many people to become a landlord. They purchase property for the purpose of renting it out for passive income. The property owner interviews prospective tenants and ensures that they sign a lease agreement and put down a deposit. However, all of this doesn’t prevent bad tenants from revealing themselves after they have moved into the property – all the smiles can disappear once they get the keys.

There are several possibilities. The tenant may stop paying the rent, the tenant may not maintain the property or theymay violate the terms of the lease, such as allowing multiple families to move in or allowing pets to live in the home.

So what does the landlord do and what are your rights?

The first thing the landlord needs to do is to review the lease agreement. The lease agreement generally contains the terms by which the tenant agreed to abide. A properly prepared lease should contain the grounds for termination of the lease and the notice requirements for eviction, if the tenant does not respond to the notice.

It is also important to review the length of the lease agreement. If the end of the lease term is near, it might be easier to just send a notice to the tenant that the lease is not going to be renewed and the tenant will be required to leave the premises at the end of the contract.

There are many foreign nationals who lease property on a 30 year lease. One of the important elements of a 30 year lease is that it must be filed with the local land office. Under Section 528 of the Thai Civil and Commercial Code, if the lease agreement is not in writing, signed and registered with a ‘competent official’, then it is not valid for more than three years or the life of the parties.

After the end of the lease period, the lease agreement is generally extended for an indefinite period. This allows any of the parties to provide notice of termination of the lease with a minimum of one rent term or maximum of two months notice. If the tenant refuses to leave the property, the landlord can file a lawsuit against him.

If the landlord is able to establish in court that the tenant violated the terms of the lease agreement and that the landlord abided by the legal requirements for eviction, the court will rule in favor of the landlord, unless there are extenuating circumstances. If the tenant refuses to abide by the order of the court, the landlord can request an enforcement of the judgment.

The landlord can then request that police remove the tenant from the premises. They can also terminate electrical and water services to the property. It is important to note that the landlord cannot enter the property, remove the tenant’s belongings or change the locks on the door, unless it is allowed within the lease agreement, or with a court order.

During the entire legal process, the landlord can file a claim for the rental costs and opportunity costs as a result of the tenant refusing to leave the premises.

Leasing property is a popular way to obtain passive income or to pay for mortgaged property. However, as with any type of income-generating business, there are risks, especially in a foreign country. For landlords, there is the possibility of renting to tenants who do not maintain the property, violate the rules of the lease agreement or stop paying the rent.

The legal process for evicting tenants is painstaking and can take many months. It is important to scrutinise potential tenants and check their rental history and current financial status prior to entering into a long-term lease agreement.

Additional reporting by Yutthachai Sangsirisap.

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