Coast to Coast
Despite sibling rivalry, which often results in bouts of tantrums or slaps, my two young daughters both share one thing in common.
It's watching the Cartoon Network episodes of that ever-fighting cat and mouse duo – Tom and Jerry.
Reading about the new Bt1-billion branded cartoon theme park the other day on the Eastern Seaboard let my thoughts from one side of Thailand to the other. Coast to coast as it were, landing near Rayong at Mae Phim.
During our consulting assignments across Thailand in the past six month and on more occasions than I can recall, prospective hotel and property investors have been talking about the area. They wax poetically about easy access from Bangkok with a short two-hour drive on good roads. There is always the disclaimer thrown in, that you don't even have to pass through Pattaya: door to door from the world straight to a big airport and millions in the catchment area.
Deciding I had to check this out for myself, I took a spin on Highway 344 down to the coast. Recently the Marriott opened a 206-room upscale hotel that is part of the Phuphatara mixed-use residential project.
Putting on my real-estate hat, the beaches are clean and swimmable; there is a marina at Ao Kai so, yes, good demand generators. Nice hills and an aspect which is not just an anonymous ocean but outlying islands.
My mind is buzzing. Instead of dozing off under a nearby coconut tree and counting sheet, I start multiplying key selling points. Checking off access, infrastructure, views and a growing amount of critical mass on the list.
If you want to be Robinson Crusoe though, it's a bit late in the day for that. French chain Accor have a Novotel, Thailand's X2 and a number of villas just staring to dot the hills. I have a hard time putting my mind on how to describe the area when comparing with Pattaya, Wong Amat, Jomtien or even Bang Saray.
Destination creep and the ant line of progress are not unique to the Eastern Seaboard. Hua Hin is virtually bursting at the seams – to Cha-Am, Pranburi and up into the hills. It won't be long before the sprawl goes all the way to Burma.
It remains an interesting trend how Bangkokians have been spurred by last year's flooding and continue to look for second homes outside the city, most for weekend and holiday jaunts along with seafood fest, but others as a Plan B – just in case.
Mae Phim remains for the moment an area of enormous promise. As my own Phuket landscape is changing by the moment, other parts of Thailand continue to lag the breakneck speed of the two P's (Pattaya and Phuket, with Hua Hin thrown in for good measure).
Land remains at reasonable levels but that may very well change in the blink of an eye. Travelling coast to coast, checking out Thailand's property scene, continues to offer pockets of relative serenity and upside.
Sometimes, just getting in the car and driving around is the best way to find great new opportunities. It's as simple as that.