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Confessions of a Bubble Boy

Author: Bill Barnett. Category: News Column - Property Report SEA. Posted: 10th May 2013

It's a strange bizarrism that today is today and tomorrow is tomorrow, no matter if it's this very minute or ten years later.

I'm sitting sky high and the the pilot has taken a sharp left out of Kuala Lumpur heading to 37,000 feet. Soothing the savage beast is sounds of the Arctic Monkey's "Suck It and See". It's loud and noisy but not nearly enough to muffle the sounds of the jet engine, which is oh so close, and oh so far away. Brick by Brick goes the next track as I try to recall if Malaysian Airlines serves alcohol.

My inner beast, longing for a tasty beverage turns to thought of all things bubble. Not that silly singer Michael whatever his name is (I can't recall and the lines all tend to blur anyway when it comes to suit-wearing youths trying to do a Sinatra), Sammy, Dean and the Rat Pack would sort him out in short order.

During my travels through Asia this year at various real estate and hospitality conferences one topic that often comes up in softly spoken tones, generally behind closed doors, is concerns over an impending property bubble.

Developers of course fear the bubble in a huge way. More so than cheating businessmen fear their wives or tepid travellers garner sweaty palms whenever bumps start to shake things up on a rainy nighttime trip to nowhere.

I like the bumps. Bring it on. But the larger world of institutional capital, stock exchange and bankers live in terror of the unknown. Life must be scripted and don't deviate from the plan. Singaporeans know such a scenario all too well.

Ah, my mind drifts as I spot wine bottles being rolled down the aisle by the tropical clad flight attendants. Drinks are on the way, yet the menace of overheated property markets gone mad with success and greed continues to find its way into my subconscious.

Sadly in the west, those colonial misfits who remain living in the past have cast great sheets of bubble wrap across their own landscapes and now have reverted to dinosaur mode with the impossible task of popping each and every bubble. It's not going to happen, no way, despite the gigantic feet the size of a largish SUV.

Asia's more highbrow, mature, stabilised markets have of course brought in a few ice cubes to chill out surging property speculation. While the guys in the emerging markets, hell they take their drinks straight and are out back downing shots like there is no tomorrow.

Clearly the fear of the bubble remains an underlying concern and as the big machine known as property pumps long into the night, the inference of a too far, too fast bubble effect remains only a reality to those sorry paranoid souls who worry about global warms and true democracy.

My own fears go much deeper. Will Bella the flight attendant be back for refills before we descend into the carmageddon traffic chaos of Jakarta? Did I pack my black shoes for tomorrow's conference or will I have to don the same black slippers I am wearing on the plane?

I don't want to be the one who popped the bubble, but if all else fails I may just have to wrap my feet in that bubble wrap tomorrow and hope for the best.

And yet, no matter what - tomorrow is tomorrow and today is today.

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C9 Hotelworks Founder and Managing Director Bill Barnett is a noted columnist, author and leading authority on travel trend, hotels and property.

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