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Gardening: Phuket, some call it “fuk thong’

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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Gardening: Phuket, some call it “fuk thong’ | The Thaiger

PHUKET: Halloween, the eve of All Hallows Day, has come and gone. Long ago, my family spent a year in California, where the kids made lanterns with ghoulish faces and scary costumes for the evening house-to-house visitations.

Here in Phuket, there has been no “trick-or-treating”, no Jack-o’-lanterns, no pumpkin pie, no monster pumpkins. Incidentally, the world record weight for a pumpkin – held by Swiss Beni Meier – is an astounding 1,054.01 kilograms.

Nonetheless, pumpkins are a fact of life here. They thrive everywhere in Thailand’s climate. Often cut into sections with their bright orange flesh offering a vivid contrast to the dull, warty, wrinkled shell, they offer a presence in every food store and fresh market.

The fruit features in pumpkin soup, is cooked with prawns in Vietnam, can be fried with eggs and is an enriching addition to mashed potato, salad or nam prik.

Good for you ? You bet… But then, name me an edible fruit, herb or vegetable that is not healthy. If we all ate more of this natural stuff – and the recommended minimum is six portions a day – then we would all benefit.

So what’s beneficial about pumpkins ? Fiber for a start. They contain, as do most fruits of the earth, lots of natural fiber, the stuff that helps to keep your innards in good working order. And if you cook some of the dense, fleshy shell along with the flesh , the level of fiber will increase hugely.

In fact every bit of curcurbita pepo, a member of the vast squash family, is edible. In parts of America even the flowers are cooked, in Kenya the leaves. As a snack, the small flat seeds are a useful substitute for sunflower seeds.

The seeds are even a possible prophylactic against diabetes, one of the curses of a modern civilization hooked on sugar. Fed to affected rats, the seeds reduced glucose in their blood and lowered dangerous cholesterol and triglyceride levels.

The orange flesh, moreover, is a good source of lutein and both A and B carotene, which the body is able to convert into vitamin A. This vitamin, so effective as an anti-oxidant, also helps to improve our immune function and keeps our eyes and skin in good order. Also available in carrots, sweet potatoes, mangoes and apricots, it occurs in most members of the squash genus, but in none so liberally as in pumpkins.

If you want to grow these monsters, remember a few basic rules. Like marrows from temperate climes, they are vines that snake along the ground and consequently require lots of room – at least 10 meters.

Plant the seeds a few centimeters deep in good soil – it will need to retain water – and the seedlings should sprout after seven to 10 days. Water heavily whenever the soil gets dry or when the leaves show signs of distress. A pumpkin is more than 80 per cent water, so it needs plenty of it.

When the yellow blooms appear, they will be of both sexes. Distinguished by a bulb at the base of the flower, the female flowers require pollination. Normally this is performed by insects and especially bees, but since they are in such short supply, it may be necessary to hand pollinate by using a fine brush and mingling the pollen. The female flowers will die within a few hours if fertilization has not taken place.

The whole growth cycle may take in excess of a 100 days, but the smaller tropical varieties should mature more speedily.

When a pumpkin is ready for the table, cut the stem as far from the fruit as you can – maybe six inches. This procedure will help to preserve it. Left without a stem, it will rot away. That is, if you leave it that long…

Catch Patrick online here Sunday morning next week, when he explores the world of the sexually ambiguous papaya.

If you have a question or a garden that you would like featured, email: drpaccampbell@gmail.com. Further information about this gardening series and Patrick’s other work can be accessed here.

— Patrick Campbell

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Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

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Property

Guaranteed rental returns – Are they real?

The Thaiger

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Guaranteed rental returns – Are they real? | The Thaiger

If you’re looking to invest in overseas property, search the market and it’s not unusual to find condos for sale with guaranteed rental returns of 40%, and some even higher. Yes, it DOES seems too good to be true, but the offers are out there and the packages often come with free legal fees and other such benefits. Clearly, before diving in, you need to seek some expert and professional advice.

So, what is the debate about? And what questions should you ask prior to investing?

Guaranteed rental returns are obviously enticing for investors and purchasers alike, with standard net returns usually being advertised below the 10% mark.

In the opinion of many, this is not a cheap marketing trick. Yes, it does have ‘marketing power’ and it might just be the additional financial package that helps developers and agents clinch the deal. But for the investors, they genuinely are guaranteed a minimum return on their investment. Surely that’s positive. It eases the concerns of investors and keeps the market buoyant. And why wouldn’t buyers prefer to go with the property that guarantees this return, over the property that does not?

Other experts are not so sure. While acknowledging that a rental guarantee clearly offers agents and developers an advantage in marketing and selling, there are voices within the industry that urge caution. There’s a suspicion that developments that come with a guarantee may be overpriced and that the developers may have factored the cost of the guarantee into the actual price of the property that is being offered.

Those that hold this negative opinion about guarantees suggest that a better strategy for any investor might be to really understand the market in which the property is being offered, aim to get the lowest price possible, do the deal and then organise the letting independently.

Other cautious voices wonder if investors aren’t being tantalised with a vision of unrealistic long-term returns. The question that is asked is what happens when the guaranteed period ends? It’s not unknown for the guaranteed period to expire, and for the investor to suddenly realise that the true rental value of the property is much lower than they believed. Rental incomes suddenly drop, and they suddenly realise that they have overpaid into the wrong investment.

But still, many deny that developers overprice properties when offering guarantees. And no matter what, it’s clear that a rental guarantee is important for certain investors who need the security that it offers. And genuinely, it appears that there are some good guarantees out there on the market. So what to do?

The trick is to apply common sense and due diligence to the situation and examine the legal, commercial and financial strength of the guarantee and the market in which it is being offered. Here are some questions worth considering:

Legally, how is the guarantee structured?

Is it underwritten with a contract in which legal recourse is an option, should you not receive the income that is guaranteed? This is clearly important.

Commercially, is the guaranteed rental figure in-line with the rental market in which the property is situated? Basically, are the developers offering you more rental income than is actually achievable in the current market? If they are offering you more, then once the guaranteed period expires, you’ll probably see your returns on investment drop.

Financially, how does the guarantee work?

Is the guaranteed return dependent upon the commercial success of the project?

Some guarantees are based on projected annual revenues and are subject to these revenues being achieved. In other words, if the expected revenues aren’t achieved, the full guaranteed amounts might not be paid to the purchaser.

In addition to this, some guarantees may also come with the proviso that the amount being ‘guaranteed’ is ‘subject to the competency of’ the management of the complex. This may seem vague, but it’s possible that if the expected revenues aren’t achieved, then the blame for this failure is going to be put solely on the management company.

The vagueness of such a ‘competency’ proviso might also be used to cover all manner of issues. For example, is it possible that forecasted rental revenues might fail to materialise, not because of the bad management of a complex, but because the original forecasts were set too high? It might be easy to blame all manner of poor results on the incompetence of how an apartment complex is managed and to do this with no liability.

With this in mind, once again, it’s very important to look at the rental market in which the property is located, and then ask: are the projected annual revenues realistic in the current market? And of course, you will have to do some research on the developers.

Do the developers have a track record of successfully managing properties, renting them out and ensuring that incomes are generated?

If the answer to this is ‘no’, how then will they be able to generate the income that they are guaranteeing? This may be a sign that the property price has been ‘artificially’ increased to cover any foreseen shortfall in future income.

All-in-all, there’s a lot to consider. Guaranteed rental returns do offer investors a level of security, and it is natural for people to feel compelled to buy into them, and yes, there are some good offers on the market. But it’s worth remembering that in the right location, you’ll always be able to rent out a property.

As we always recommend at The Thaiger, do your homework!

To find thousands of available rental properties in Thailand, click HERE.

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News

30 dolphins greet visitors to Similan Islands

Greeley Pulitzer

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30 dolphins greet visitors to Similan Islands | The Thaiger

Tourists were treated to the sight of a school of dolphins in the Similan Islands off the Phang Nga coast on Sunday.

Tour organisers said that around 30 dolphins swam close to the boat six or seven miles offshore, creating excitement for passengers. It was the first time dolphins had been seen in the vicinity since October 15.

The Similan Islands National Park director said they were bottlenose dolphins and were among several species now returning to the area following a five-year closure of the park for environmental rehabilitation. Food is again plentiful there for them, he said.

Tourists are forbidden to feed wildlife lest the free handouts alter the animals’ natural behaviour, and the park’s waters are also very sensitive to contamination from human disease and marine debris, according to the director.

SOURCE: nationthailand.com

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Business

500 people own 36% of equity in Thai companies

Greeley Pulitzer

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500 people own 36% of equity in Thai companies | The Thaiger

Roughly 36% of Thailand’s corporate equity is held by just 500 people, highlighting wealth inequality in the Kingdom, according to a study released by the Bank of Thailand’s research institute.

Each of these 500 amass some 3.1 billion baht (102 million USD) per year in company profits, according to the report from the Puey Ungphakorn Institute for Economic Research. In contrast, average yearly household income in Thailand is around 10,000 USD.

A report out this week from the Economic and Business Research Centre for Reform at Thailand’s Rangsit University also pointed to divisive and polarised politics being another root cause of the economic divide.

Thailand’s private sector is dominated by tycoons running sprawling conglomerates. According to the World Bank, the gap between the mega-wealthy and the rest of the Thai population of 69 million is among the many economic challenges for Thailand. According to Bloomberg, the perception of a divide, exacerbated by an economic slowdown, is a major political fault line.

“Magnates arise in Thailand from institutional factors that privilege certain businesses,” said the executive director of PIER, author of the study.

The institute said Thailand needs to promote competitiveness to reduce profits from monopoly power and bolster entrepreneurship to create a more equitable distribution of corporate wealth.

The research is based on analysis of 2017 Commerce Ministry data on the 2.1 million shareholders in Thai firms, and was funded by the University of California San Diego.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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