Wednesday, April 29, 2009

S.M. Grande Apartments Bangkok

For the last two years I have kept a rental apartment in Bangkok due to the amount of time my business requires me to be in that great city. Unfortunately I made a very poor judgement in selecting the S.M. Grande Apartments on Soi 4 (Soi "See") in the Klong Toey district.

Based on my limited experience I've concluded that selecting an apartment can be as challenging as hiring the right person for a job. As much as one may try to objectively evaluate an apartment, there are always some things you will learn only after abiding in the place for a while. Sadly, any one of the things that I have learned about S.M. Grande Apartments would have caused me to walk away had I known them in the first place. The inertia that one has to overcome just to move a few possessions into another place is greater than I would have guessed. I always felt too busy. However, I have recently overcome that inertia and am busily finding an alternative. It occurred to me that I might be doing someone a favor if I listed out my observations of S.M. Grande's shortcomings.

My largest concern has been the fact that the front desk at S.M. Grande is not manned by professional property management people and at evenings and nighttime is not manned at all. English as a second language is not a priority among them and communication is particularly difficult. However, even a person who speaks and understands English only little can be a big help in an emergency. Sadly, the S.M. Grande closes their front desk at seven each evening and it doesn't re-open the desk until the following morning at 9 am (or at least that is the policy). A lot can happen in 14 hours, including one the several power outages I have experienced since I began to use the apartment. I am here approximately 25% of the time so that having been through seven power outages in two years is far too many. I might add that I mention only those outages that effect this building and are not systemic.

A major second concern is that I have yet to experience a full day of uninterrupted internet access. That this has been a continuous problem for the duration of my stay here suggests the lack of management resolve to fix problems as they arise. Interestingly, their solution is to give you the number of the contracted technical support person, whom you may be able to reach, and then again, may not be able to reach. The extent of the support for the internet access (both wireless and cable are available) is a reboot of the local server by desk personnel. In the evening, with no attendant on duty, you are simply going to have to do without. Forget late night catching up on emails or scheduling skype conference calls to the states when this happens.

No surprise, because it is virtually impossible to speak to the management here. They are either "in a meeting" or "out of the office" 100% of the time. The only course for problem resolution is one of the young desk clerks that speaks English poorly as I alluded to earlier. While these folks seem to want to help, they are often lacking any authority to effect a resolution.

This is a location that shows especially well. The apartment building is fitted with an attractive pool area, a well equipped fitness center, as well as steam and sauna. Oddly I find them seldom used and have enjoyed the perk. The apartments themselves were refurbished two years ago and also show well. However, be advised that the walls are paper thin and the corridors and elevator lobby have zero sound suppression considered in their design. The design of the doors and their locking mechanism requires that one must close the door firmly. This always sets off a loud reverberating bang through the hallways that can be easily heard throughout the floor. At 2 am when holiday makers are returning, it will wake you up, guaranteed. Also be advised that the apartment policy allows kids.

For these reasons, and a plethora of much smaller issues, I would give the S.M. Grande a pass whether I was renting by the month or by the day. Oh, did I mention that? While S.M. Grande is intended as a residence, management rents unoccupied apartments by the night to holiday revelers. This can be problematic due to the noise problem I mentioned earlier.

Bangkok is a wonderful city with excellent shopping, superb hotels, and exquisite restaurants. Living here and working here, however, presents challenges to the most experienced ex pats. A good home base, free from the above concerns, would go a long way towards making life here far more pleasant. Good hunting.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Better late than never....

It has been months since I posted here. It isn't that I ran out of steam because of the election. My previous posts were pretty fixated on the recession and the election. However, in November I started a project for a new client that took way more of my time and I simply never found a moment of my own that I didn't just want to collapse into a chair and chill. That is still pretty much the case today except a lower back problem has me on a mandatory chill. With the new found time on my hands I thought I would break the silence (partially in hopes that you will follow in kind).

Following are just some random items. These are posted with the thought in mind that this is what I intended when I started the blog. That it evolved into a running rant about politics and the economy wasn't so much a betrayal of my intentions as much as letting my mind do the walking (and talking). That too is what a blog should be I suppose.

I continue to be mesmerized by great rock guitar and have been downloading music from iTunes and Amazon at a rapid rate. One of my guitar heroes is Jeff Beck who was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame for the second time last week. At the bottom of this page you can find his performance (as found on you tube) accompanied by former Yardbird mate Jimmy Page at the induction performance. His musicianship never fails to thrill me.

A week ago I came to Thailand for business and ended up going to a doctor. I knew when I left home that I had an irritating case of sciatica but by the time I reached here and after having made my way through two airports, I finally had to throw in the towel. As a result I have been back to the clinic every day for physical therapy in treatment of a slipped disk that is pressing against the sciatic nerve causing shooting pains from my lower back down the right leg. My lower back has always been a weak link for me but until recently it didn't occur to me that there was actual stuff happening in there. That sounds silly but there are aches and pains you just come to accept as you get older. I guess I will be more alert to this in the future.

This month Nicholas will reprise his role in a locally grounbreaking play called "Aircon". The first run of the play, a year ago, created quite a stir in Malaysia for it's honest and open treatment of homosexuality (a rare thing in this conservative Muslim country). To read about the play and the interview in the local paper of Nick and hiss fellow thespians you can visit this link. I posted the ppicture that Veronica scanned from the newspaper on my Facebook gallery here.

I haven't heard from Kathleen or Jim since before Christmas or from Don for quite a while so I am making a point of poking at them here in hopes of getting a rise. I send the "poke" along with "I love you and miss you!".

In keeping with my temporary sedentary lifestyle I have been watching a lot of television and ploughing my way through movies I have recorded on my disk drive. Last night I watched (for the second time)the most recent Woody Allen feature "Matchpoint". I confess that I have never seen a Woody Allen movie that I did not like and Matchpoint is one of his best. If you haven't seen it I would urge you to do so.

Before I came to Thailand I made a credible jambolaya at home. I think it is the first time I have made it since marrying Veronica and moving here. That was an oversight because it was a huge hit with everyone. Do any of you cook jambolaya at home. I can remember Mom making it frequently in our house.

One of the more interesting news stories of the day involve the taking of an American ship by Somali pirates and the resulting stand-off. I find it appalling that Somali pirates have terrorized a major shipping lane with impunity. I think it is time for that to end and hope there is some punishment meted out to them as a part of the resolution to the current stand off. The latest headline has the pirates issuing a warning to the Americans against any rescue attempts. Utterly infuriating.

Well, I am off to my lazyboy, (the perfect vessel for a body with a bad back).