Thursday, March 31, 2011

Untold secret of Forex: Make rich quick

FOREX( Foreign - Exchange) trading is probably one of the most well known get rich quick dream scheme on the planet.It is still luring a lot of people into it, there are many "gurus" and FOREX training centers out eager to sell you their wining, secret formula for Forex. Most promises are very very attractive: "Get rich quick", "escape from the rat race and earn thousands of dollars from home", etc. Some even do not request any effort, they have autotrading systems which can trade and earn money for you. Earn money while sleeping! Sounds too good to be true. Well it probably is.

To be fair there is a well kept secret about FOREX. You may wonder what is this secret of the FOREX trading? The secret is this: FOREX market is a zero sum game! Yes, FOREX is a zero sum game. This means in FOREX market your earnings and losses will add up to zero in the long run. You will either wipe out all your money in a short period like 85-90 percent of retail traders do thanks to high leverages or lose it all slowly thanks to spreads you are paying to brokers in each trade.

So does this mean you will have all the fun and lose anything because it is a zero sum game. It would be if you were not paying to play! Even your earnings and loses add up to zero, you will lose money because in each trade you are paying a commission as spread. Do not believe in the FOREX advertisements, you pay commission in FOREX, high ones indeed, as spread.

So secret formula of FOREX trading is this simple equation:

Your Earnings = Wins(t) + Losses(t) - Commissions(t).
(t) is the number of your trade. As (t) increases Win(s) + Losses(t)  goes to zero and formula becomes:

Your Earnings = - Commissions(t)

But although a quick internet search would show that 85-90 percent of the retail traders lose all their money in this market, people still want to believe that they belong to the lucky minority of 15 percent. Bankruptcy rate is so high in this market because traders without any notion of risk uses 100-400 times leverages and are wiped out with small fluctuations. Traders who do not use high leverages usually lose their money slowly to the spread between buy and sell prices. Losing money sooner or later should not be the  main target in any investment!
"I had a bad streak," says Matthew Smith, a 23-year-old personal trainer in Colorado Springs, Colo., who lost more than half of the $10,000 he had in an online account while trading 17 currencies. Now that he focuses on the British pound versus the dollar, he thinks he can make it all back. "I'm hoping to do [currency trading] as my most significant source of income," Mr. Smith says. 
Professionals don't think that is such a good idea. Kevin Morrison, head of the U.S. foreign-exchange desk for Citigroup Private Bank, says many of his clients trade currencies. But he advises that this trading come from the 10% of overall capital that investors put aside for riskier bets. "This is not a core asset," he says. 
Even people running the trading shops warn clients against trying to time the market. "If 15% of day traders are profitable," says Drew Niv, chief executive of FXCM, "I'd be surprised."

So who do you make rich? Who can make steady income from Forex? Well your broker company will definitely do. Every time you trade, you win or lose they earn the spread (remember the house always wins). That Forex training course provider will do. And the writers of the books which promise to teach you earn money while you are in sleep will have steady income thanks to Forex.

As a result, FOREX looks like a "get rich quick" tool but it is actually a "make rich quick" tool where small traders makes others rich.

Currency trading risks abound by CNN_International

Think it again: at the opposite end of the table there are those bright wall street types who funds speculations from Shanghai real-estate to Russian stocks with cheap Japanese carry trade and in this side there is you. Doesn't it remind you the infamous poker quote:

"Look around the table, and if you can't tell who the sucker is, it's you!"

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Singapore air-conditioners, cooling without burning your pocket

Air-conditioner is a real life saver in hot and humid and crowded Singapore. Without good air-conditioning, it would really be difficult to work in offices, take bus or MRT rides, stay indoor in the crowded shops.  And I must admit there are days in Singapore when a fan is not enough to sleep and air-conditioner is a must.

But this luxury comes with a price. In a typical Singapore house, air-conditioner uses more electricity than anything else. If you are one of many who cannot sleep without air-conditioner,  you will most probably end up paying more than 100 SGD per month to air-conditioning alone! If you are serious to save energy in Singapore, you need to address your cooling cost first. And even if you have money to spend for air-conditioning, think about how much unnecessary carbon dioxide is produced to produce the electricity consumed by your air-conditioning habit.

The reason you pay a lot for air-conditioner is that it sucks most electricity at a given time among all your house appliances (except the kettle and the iron but you do not use them for long). But you can easily reduce your air-conditioning cost by simple habit changes:

Buy a fan (ceiling and/or floor) and use until you cannot be comfortable without air-conditioner. A typical window AC unit uses 1400 watts per hour while an AC ceiling fan (Alternate-Currency) uses 70 watts per hour. So it is much cheaper to operate. You will be surprised that you can do away without AC and only fan most of the time. And for even more energy efficiency, buy a DC ceiling fan (Direct-Currency) which uses only 30-40 watts.

Many people uses fan in the daytime and switch to air-conditioner while they are sleeping. Although it is better than using AC all the time, it still means using AC 25-30 percent of the time. So switch to fan while sleeping.

If you are renting, rent high floor. Yes, it is windy up there and I have seen a lot of flats above 10th floor with great wind and no AC or even fan requirement during the night.

If you run your AC, run it at 25-27 Celsius degrees. A temperature setting of 25 degrees and more is enough for most homes because air-conditioner units not only cool, they also dehumidify. You definitely do not need to set the thermostat to 22 or even to 18 degrees! A lot of people in Singapore set the temperature to 20-22 degrees and then sleep under thick cover! What a waste! You can save more than 15% on the utility and produce less carbon dioxide by just setting the temperature to natural room temperature of 25 and more. I personally set my air-conditioner to 28 degrees. It took me only 2 weeks to increase it from 25 to 28 without recognizing the change.

DC Ceiling Fan Singapore
A DC ceiling fan will use 30 - 40 watts per hours compared to 1,400 watts per hour needed by an air-con unit.
Consider evaporative cooler if your house has good ventilation. This option can be used in many high floor flats. Evaporative coolers cools the space by spraying a fine mist into the air. This mist is so fine that it immediately evaporates. Evaporation consumes heat in the room and cools the room. Although for most of the flats, it is not practical due to already very humid air in Singapore, there are many flats out there which can take advantage of these coolers.

Service your AC regularly. Clean or replace your AC filter every month. A dirty filter makes your AC work harder, which uses more electricity. Your home improvement store sells permanent filters which you can wash with a garden hose so you don't have to replace the filter each month.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Rents in Singapore softens in 2011

On March 7th we have wrote about the rents in Singapore in the article named "Rent in Singapore may fall in 2011".  We have written that supply (rental flats and houses) and demand (tenants) head to an imbalance state where supply will exceed the demand and rents would fall in 2011.

Now 3 months into 2011, Knight Frank reports at  0.4%, 3% and 0.8% quarter-on-quarter increase in high-end, mid-end and mass market segments. Although these figures shows rents were flat in Q1 2011, they are significantly lower than 5.6%, 2.6% and 4% recorded in 4Q 2010 and may well point to a rental fall in the near future.

Knight Frank points several downward pressure on the residential rents:
  1. Stricter criteria for foreigners working in Singapore
  2. Shrinking housing allowances for expatriates
  3. Increased supply from newly completed residential homes
Will the rents in Singapore fall? If there will be a fall, when? It depends on the demand side, which in turn depends on the response of businesses to stricter foreign employee criteria. There will still be foreign influx but probably less than the previous year and the rentals will fall if new the influx is not fast enough to catch up with new home supply.

OrangeTree in a report dated in October 2010 predicted a softening in second half of 2011 (which came one quarter earlier):

"With overall occupancy rate at 94.8% remaining above historical average of 93% and lower completions in 2011, the rental market could remain tight at least until 2nd half 2011. Thereafter, we expect rents to soften in view of the surge in completions in 2012-2014." 
Source: Singapore Rental Market

See related articles:
  1. Bumper supply is on the way for Singapore private property
  2. Rent in Singapore may fall in 2011

This blog article is to provide general information only and should not be treated as an invitation to buy or sell any property or as sales material.  Users of this report should consider this report as a one of the many factors in making their investment decision. Users should make reference to other sources of information and specific investment advice to obtain a more objective view of the property market. Asia Singapore shall not be responsible for losses suffered.

Singapore property cooling measures are effective, shows Q1 2011 data

It has been more than 2 months since Singapore government introduced last round of property cooling measures; and now enough data is available to answer the question of whether they were cooling the property market can be answered.

The answer is yes according to the flash estimates of , NUS Singapore Residential Price Index (SRPI). This index tracks the month-on-month price movements of private, non-landed and completed residential properties in Singapore. Flash estimates show that non-central property prices declined -1.5% m-o-m in February 2011 after a 2.8% m-o-m increase in January 2011. These 2 figures actually tell the story. Last property cooling measures were introduced in mid January 2011 and due to the first half of January there is an increase. But the month immediately following it, Feb 2011, has a decline of 1.5%.

Central units still recorded m-o-m increase of 1% in February 2011, down from 3.1% increase in January 2011.   These figures are interpreted in Singapore media as "stabilizing". Thanks to central properties, which are targeted by buyers with more cash (so not effected much with lowered LTV ratio)  overall prices recorded a 1% m-o-m increase.

"The Jan 13 cooling measures are certainly working. The lower loan-to-value limit has affected investors with outstanding housing loans even if they have some financial capacity to purchase another residential property. Home prices in Singapore are likely to drift at current levels unless the government opens the immigration tap again and removes some of these very severe cooling measures such as seller's stamp duty rates and 60 percent LTV for those with existing housing loans".
Tan Tiong Cheng, Knight Frank Chairman 
Source: The Business Times
But this data may well signal decline in the near future. Although developers have great holding power after the buoyant year of 2010, now they look like in a mood of rush to sell their projects before demand declines more. We should not forget that we are sitting on a highly unusual 17% year-on-year price rise so the developers as well as sellers have room to "discount" to sell fast. This does not mean the prices will fall fast like a crash, because that needs another financial crisis, but buyers may well expect a buyer's market in the next few months.

Knight Frank, points to a slowdown in their Singapore Residential Highlights 1Q 2011 report dating March 30th 2011:
"Buying activities in the primary property market showed signs of cooling down after the fourth round of government cooling measures in January this year.  Notwithstanding this, the number of new launches did not decline where more than 4,400 units were launched. About 3,300 new homes were transacted over the 3-month period, a  dip of 22% q-o-q or 25% y-o-y. On average,  around  1,100 units were sold every month, 12% below that of 1,382 units in 2010.  A good number of showflats saw a drop in visitors in contrast to the buoyant situation in the second half of 2010. Buyers and investors were deterred from property market partially due to having to pay higher seller’s stamp duty and  a higher down payment as a result of  a lower loan to value ratio." 
This blog article is to provide general information only and should not be treated as an invitation to buy or sell any property or as sales material.  Users of this report should consider this report as a one of the many factors in making their investment decision. Users should make reference to other sources of information and specific investment advice to obtain a more objective view of the property market. Asia Singapore shall not be responsible for losses suffered. 

Monday, March 28, 2011

Asia's largest boat and luxury lifestyle show - Boat Asia

Singapore will host Singapore yacht show between between 8-10 April 2011 in ONE 15 Marina Club in Sentosa Cove. Unfortunately this show will accept guests by invitation and it is not open to the general public. But for those who are eager to see the new boats of the world, there is another show in the following month, Boat Asia. The show will start on May 12th 2011 and continue until May 15th in Keppel Bay and Marina Bay. The guest will be allowed between 2 pm to 9 pm (8pm on Sunday).

Wide range of boats and related marine accessories, and to complete the boating lifestyle, exclusive resorts, fine wine, marinas, clubs and properties will be on display on land. Showcase of extensive fleet of sailing yachts, powerboats and super yachts. Yes there is still something for those who are not interested in boats, Jazz bands and sexy fashion shows, but the real attention drawers of the show, extensive fleet of sailing yachts, powerboats and super yachts will be sailing in the bays.

Admission ticket price will be 15 SGD per adult in weekdays and 20 SGD in weekends. Due to increased popularity of boating in Asia, for the first time this year, Boat Asia will be expanding beyond the shores of Keppel Bay. Concurrently with the main Boat Asia at Keppel Bay, the new show will be held from 12-15 May at The Promontory@Marina Bay. The Promontory@Marina Bay, formerly known as Central Promontory Site is just in the heart of Singapore's Central Business District (CBD).

Two show venues, Keppel Bay and Marina Bay, are quite apart from each other. Fortunately for visitors’ convenience, there will be free shuttle bus services between Marina Bay and Keppel Bay so visitors can visit both shows without hassle.

boat asia Singapore 2011, sexy woman on the deck
Luxury meets sexy

Last years show was a success with achieving a record number of boat sales:
"Dealers from Fairline, Horizon, Integrity, La Marca, Grandbanks, Rinker, Riviera and Swan saw themselves taking orders for more than 10 boats worth over $20 million and gathering over $30 million  of sales interest. Despite scorching afternoons and overcast evenings, the event attracted over 10,000 visitors over the duration of the four-day event. Boat Asia 2010 saw a huge upsurge of potential boat buyers amongst boating enthusiasts and lifestyle aficionados throng the four day event. Featuring more than 100 exhibitors from the high-end property, boating, marine equipment and luxury lifestyle sectors, visitors were delighted with the wide array of exciting showcases both on-land and on-water.

The Next Financial Crisis in 2015? Or nearer?

I really do not like doomsayers, particularly famous Dr. Doom Nouriel Roubini, who is always pessimist at a given time and when he is right about his predictions(!) like a broken watch showing the time correct twice a day, he is famed as "the economist who has predicted the last recession". There is also a now infamous Roubini's Sentiment Index[1] which predicts the future of market by looking at his popularity in Google search (when people are more pessimist he is popular, and when people are bullish they simply forget him). Anyway Roubini is a professor who makes money with selling subscriptions to his web page, not really risking billions every day to make a living by investment. So it is a different story when a fund manager talks. For example, take it more seriously when cofounder and president of nearly $7 Billion Greenlight Capital, David Einhorn, who is famous to predict Lehman Brother's fall or Baupost’s Seth Klarman predicts financial crisis:

"I think what we did in the last crisis in resolving it was rather than go to the root of the crisis, tally up the damage, allot  the losses, clean up, fix things, and move on, I feel like a lot of what we did was sort of sweep things under the rug and put short-term bandage fixes on things.  And I think we managed to transfer a lot of the problems sort of from the private sector to the public sector. The problem is that it’s such a large problem that eventually, I’m concerned that will eventually threaten the public sector as well.

 …what we decided to do was sort of paper over the problems. We bailed out a lot of institutions.  We bailed out a lot of people that had positioned themselves incorrectly — ostensibly incorrectly in the crisis, whether it was individuals, whether it was institutions, whether it’s investors and so forth.."[2]

"Most of us learned about the Great Depression from our parents or grandparents who developed a “Depressionmentality,” by which for decades people shunned leverage, embraced thrift, and thought twice before quitting their secure jobs to join risky ventures. By bailing out the economy rather than allowing the pain of the economic and market collapses to be felt, the government has endowed our generation with a “really-bad-couple-of-weeks-mentality”: no lasting lessons are learned; the government endlessly intervenes in the economy, and, ironically, the first thing to strongly rebound from the 2008 collapse isn’t jobs or economic activity but speculation."[3]

Economists fear that China sits on a bubble now which would painfully burst.
Lately Oliver Wyman group jumped into the debate by releasing an interesting report named "The Financial Crisis of 2015: An Avoidable History"[4]. There they explain a possible bubble creation scenario, which matches the real-time process of early 2011 perfectly. They describe the solutions implemented globally to cope with the financial crises of 2008 were largely to save the day rather than resulting in long term positive effects and effectively rises on the hope that China with a huge demand for commodities will drive the entire world out of recession to a new boom. This is unfortunately more wishful thinking than careful analysis as transferring private debt over the shoulder's of tax payers and then printing money to kick start the western economies leads to the natural result: inflation. But in this well connected world, the inflation creating policies by western countries do not create inflation at home; they create inflation in the emerging markets such as China and South  East Asia. And inflation is reducing Chinese demand for commodities which was hoped to revive global economy. Add the huge public debt of western countries to the equation and you will see the picture of the near future as a new Financial Crisis.

Cullen Roche from Orsus Investments does not agree with the worst case scenario of the report, a USA bankruptcy, but still acknowledges that the global markets are heading to crisis[5]:

"... The flaws in the Euro, China's misguided economic policy and endless financialization of US are the three primary factors contributing to what is unavoidable future calamity. It is clear that none of these countries are interested in any sort of near term pain that would be required to fix these structural imbalances so it is not a stretch assume that we will continue the boom/bust cycle that has become a trademark of the last 25 years of global economic growth".[5]

[1] - Make Money with Roubini Sentiment Indicator
[2] - David Einhorn Predicting Another Crisis Like the Great Recession 
[3] - Baupost’s Seth Klarman Expects Another Great Recession
[4] - The Financial Crisis of 2015
[5] - Singapore Business Review, March 2011

This blog article is to provide general information only and should not be treated as an invitation to buy or sell any property or as sales material.  Users of this report should consider this report as a one of the many factors in making their investment decision. Users should make reference to other sources of information and specific investment advice to obtain a more objective view of the property market. Asia Singapore shall not be responsible for losses suffered.

Saving energy in Singapore beyond Earth Hour

One more Earth Hour is over with some real savings on building facade lightings and increased carbon emission by switching from a light bulb to a candle for an hour. Every year, I never fail to see a company announcement/advertisement prior to this highly sincere but symbolic event which always reminds me an episode of fantastic show Two and a Half Men. Here Charlie stalks his ex-fiancée Chelsea and suspects she dates with a man. He waits for her parking in front of her apartment with his brother Alan is on board. Chelsea comes with the man and Charlie nervously wonders: Would they go in together? He tells his brother:

"Look at that thing he's driving. Alan replies, "What? It's a prius. of course it's a prius."

Charlie (cynically): "I'm saving the planet, could i play with your boobies?"

Alan    : "Hey, do not put down the green lifestyle. i have worked very hard to reduce the size of my carbon footprint."

Charlie:  "You're a mooch and a miser. Don't try to make it sound hip."

Here is an announcement from a large five star hotel about their effort to trim lights during earth our (we are saving the planet) followed by several advertisements informing us that they are also kind to provide a premium dinner options on Earth Hour day for us to enjoy food with candle light (can we play with your credit card?)

Do not get me wrong, I am neither insensitive like Charlie nor a mooch and miser like Alan. I do my best to save energy. And in Singapore the most serious way to save energy for individuals is not turning off the unnecessary lights but to limit the use of air conditioning and while using to set the temperature to higher degrees.

Air Conditioning Servicing
Up to 66% off General Aircon Servicing for Wall Mounted Unit or Cassette/Ducted Unit (2 Price Options)
Mr. Electricity, Michael Bluejay, explains it:
"In the typical home, air conditioning uses more electricity than anything else -- 16% of total electricity used. In warmer regions AC can be 60-70% of your summer electric bill, according to Austin Energy. If you're serious about saving energy, address your cooling costs first, since that's what uses the most electricity.
Source: Saving Electricity"
You will save most if you can do without air conditioning as much as possible. It is even very possible in Singapore, a ceiling fan or a standing fan will be sufficient for most of the time. I am telling this by experience, I hardly use AC till I sleep and occasionally continue the night with only using a fan.

If you need to use AC, set it to higher degrees. 25 Celsius plus will be good and it is better if you keep the temperature at 27 degrees. Since AC unit also dehumidifies the room, i can comfortably sleep at 28 degrees Celsius.

The trick is you start with 25 degrees and increase it up to 27-28 degrees step by step. For example 1 degrees up in every week. This will save you significant amount of money since increasing AC temperature from typical 22 to 27 will save 15 - 20 percent of AC electricity which sucks more than 100 SGD in most flats in Singapore.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Forecasting future of Singapore property market

In the first year of second decade of 2000s, two major extremes in Singapore property supply and demand ruled the prices:

On the supply side, significant cutback in public housing supply by HDB to melt the oversupply of end 90s (the average number of HDB units completed fell to 8,260 units per annum between 2001 and 2008 from the average of about 25,700 units per annum between 1991 and 2000)[1];

On the demand side, the demand increased by increase in population (1 million in 2000s over 4 million) and artificially decreased interest rates in the global markets implemented by FED twice; first not to take the pain of 2001 dot-com bubble and then 2008 financial melt down. This let to a cheap money (credit) available in most of the years between 2001 and 2010.

Singapore took action quickly to respond to the problems which it can solve. First, projected supply is increased by private property developers and HDB and there will be plenty of Singapore property supply in the near future (especially by 2013 and beyond). Second, Singapore Government played its role to cool the demand, by property cooling measures and also decreasing foreign intake to sustainable levels.

So we know, there is more supply projected for the first half of future 10 years (an increase from 13,500 units per year between 2005 - 2010 to 32,700 units per month from 2011 to 2013)[1], less foreigner intake, less speculation due to cooling measures. But we need to still be careful to drive a conclusion that the prices will come down soon. Supply increase does not drive the price alone and as long as the largest component of the equation, global quantitative easing (a cute name given by FED to money printing) and foreign interest in Singapore property (by Chinese due to restrictions at home and global investors diverted from middle east) is there, demand will be there to take up the supply. So since, Singapore property market is much driven by money inflow for the last 2 years, it is very important to forecast money inflow before forecasting the future of the Singapore real estate.

Potential buyers at a Singapore property launch
First scenario is that money printing and historically low interest rates can continue for long since FED has a special position in money printing, it is the only central bank in the world who has right to print world reserve money, US Dollar. In this case although there will be a very painful end to FED's game, it may be far in the future.

Second more likely scenario is that FED will not extend the money printing and in the next 6 to 12 months there will be an interest hike. This will be a hard axe on the demand both from foreign buyers as well as Singaporeans since interest rates back here at home closely follows global rates driven by FED.

To conclude, as long as interest rates are at these historical lows, the property prices in Singapore will stabilize but not fall significantly. A interest rate hike is very likely in the near future and it is the only powerful enough force to drive prices down. And any decision by FED to continue the game for long and keep interest lows will prevent a price decline.

[1] - DTZ Insight Singapore house price debate Liquidity rules the market

This blog article is to provide general information only and should not be treated as an invitation to buy or sell any property or as sales material.  Users of this report should consider this report as a one of the many factors in making their investment decision. Users should make reference to other sources of information and specific investment advice to obtain a more objective view of the property market. Asia Singapore shall not be responsible for losses suffered.

Global real-time market data to any mobile device in Singapore at a fraction of the price

Real time market data is expensive, very expensive. A Bloomberg or Reuters terminal per seat can cost 2,000 dollars a month and even for a mid-sized financial firm the cost can easily add up to millions of dollars per year. These terminals work like a traditional TV channel subscription where you subscribe for whole hours of the channel and even if you watch one show or all the shows, you pay the same price.

There is an alternative to this approach where you only pay for the data you need, CarryQuote Professional CNBC Edition. CarryQuote, the company, is headquartered in Switzerland and has offices in
the United States, the United Kingdom, Hong Kong, and China. They have just launched this CNBC edition in Singapore and currently have 400 users in Singapore. CarryQuote, makes financial data of the world on any mobile device with the fraction of the cost (500 real time snapshot quotes and streaming TV for $24.99 a month). The trick is explained by Singapore Business Review:
"The trick is that instead of a continuous feed of data, which a professional would pay for, users can request an instant ‘snapshot’ of a live data price for about 5 cents. CarryQuote CEO and co-founder Michael Stennicke told Singapore Business Review it was analogous to the iTunes of financial information. 
“Instead of having to buy the whole CD you can just buy the track, and with CarryQuote instead of having to subscribe to the whole live data feed, you just pay each time you want a live quote.”[1]
This is possible thanks to hard work of CarryQuote team, who made it technically possible for all mobile platforms and also convinced hundreds of exchanges around the world to make financial data available to non-professional investors.

Financial data to smartphones and tablets

Vast majority of real-time market data users only need on-demand “snapshots” of real-time data and have no
need for streaming tick data. For example when you mostly need to look at spot price of gold, and all the data streamed between your two queries are not needed. You can sure look at time delayed data free from internet but if you want timely data you can use an application like this. When you query the snapshot CarryQuote provides this on-demand  real-time financial data to you for 5 cents.

This is also a unique Software as a Service (SaaS) model. This offers fi nancial institutions a highly-advanced solution, fully compatible with major mobile and online platforms, and scalable to handle the largest possible deployments. All with no signi cant IT investment or in-house mobile expertise. Further, enterprise-level solutions can be deployed in weeks, rather than years.[2]

[1] - THE ITUNES OF FINANCIAL QUOTES LAUNCHES, Singapore Business Review in March 2011.
[2] - CarryQuote Professional CNBC Edition™ Brochure

Friday, March 25, 2011

ipad2 will be in Singapore in April 2011

When will iPad2 arrive Singapore for sale? This is a question I am regularly asking to a reseller since iPad2 is announced. I held my self off buying a tablet for a year and I am now waiting for ipad2 to hit the shores in Singapore. Today, they have told me that it will be sold in Singapore in 2 to 3 weeks time (by mid April 2011). Price? Not announced yet. Demand? A lot. I have registered anyway to buy one but I can still catch the second batch if the first is sold off before I can get one.

Why iPad but not a Google Android device? I personally had chance to try iPad and several tablets in the market in several IT shows and the main difference between Apple (particularly Steve Jobs) and its rivals is the focus on user experience. There are some great android tablets out there with great hardware, greater than iPad hardware, but when it comes to user experience, Apple products are superior for now. Also i find 10'' screen just optimum for my user experience and 7'' small to use. For these reasons, despite 2 major drawbacks for me, iPad lacks smartphone functionality and flash support, I will probably buy iPad2.

iPad2 is slimmer than iPad which is good because although i like 9.7'' large screen, it is really hard to hold it for a long time. iPad2 will hopefully be better in this. I really do not care about the back camera because iPad is not something I will naturally use to take photo but front camera is good for video chat, which will be very useful for me to keep in touch with friends who are thousands of mile away.

I would really like to have flash in a tablet I use, android tablets beat iPad here since iPad2 also do not support flash. It is an inconvenience but not a big deal if you do not have a habit of watching streaming video.

Many iPad users out there are a little disappointed with this new iPad2 since it looks like an upgrade rather than a radical new version. Digital Life (The Straits Times) summarizes this quite well:

"The iPad2 is a different animal to different users. Those who have held off buying the iPad will find this second-generation tablet, with its additional features and more powerful hardware, a very good buy. But if you already own an iPad, the iPad2 will feel more like a version 1.5 than an all-new second generation product." 

No Flash Support in iPhone and iPad. In the image above, all superheros can be displayed by an Google Android device
but in the bottom one Flash has gone and it is replaced with a "lack of flash support" icon which is familier to iPhone and iPad users :)
So for people like me, who did not enter into tablet world, iPad2 will be a definitely good buy. But as long as a new iPadX does not come with Retina Display (as in iPhone), USB port, SD card slot and something catchy, a lot of existing iPad users probably will not upgrade.

Thursday, March 24, 2011


The term "coolie" is probably of Indian origin and is thought to be derived from the Hindi word "quli" which means "hired labourer". Coolies were labourers imported into various colonies in the Americas, Africa, and Asia during the 19th and 20th centuries. Most of them were recruited under indenture, though some entered the colonies as free men.

Periodic poor harvest, famines, increased stress on agricultural land and political upheavals are some of the factors which drove people from places such as China and India to the colonies which needed vast number of manual labourers.

The key ports from which coolies were shipped abroad included Xiamen, Shantou, Hong Kong, Macau, and Nagapatnam. The journeys made by the coolies to Singapore were terrifying. The coolies were herded across the sea confined in crowded, squalid, and unsanitary conditions. Hundreds died on the journey. On one junk that arrived in Singapore from Macau in 1863, only 120 of its 300 passangers were still alive.

By late 19th century, Singapore had become the center of the import of Chinese coolies to work in mines, plantations and ports of colonial South East Asia. Coolies were also retained to work in Singapore. Indians and Javanese also joined the vast number of Chinese coolies in Singapore. The coolies heaved coal, carried goods, tapped rubber, worked on plantations, worked on lighters, ladi cables and tracks for trams, built and repaired roads, and were also involved in construction and reclamation projects. Many also worked as ricksaw pullers.

With some exceptions, coolid led bitterly hard lives. Retiring to cramped living quarters after toiling hard work, several sought relief in opium smoking. Many stayed on after serving out their indentures and pald up the debts owed to their recruiters and labour brokers. Some were cheated of their life savings just before they were due to return to China.

Chinese coolie
Chinese coolie - Source: Wikipedia
The newly arrived coolie recruit was called sin kheh which meant "new arrival" in Hokkien. The secret societies and clan associations were involved in controlling and regulating the immigration of coolies from China. Secret societies would help the peasants pay for their journey to Singapore. Upon arrival, the majority of the early coolies would be handed over to employers of the same dialect, The kongsi, or a "clan association" was either an organisation, a group or a network of like-minded individuals speaking the same dialect or from the same province/part of China. The secret societies therefore acted as agents helping the peasants to come to Singapore, and to find employers from a certain kongsi, depending on the dialect of the particular peasant. Recruitment was carried out based on dialect connections. The secret societies helped support the coolies financially in times of illness, defended their livelihoods and organised final rites. The British however felt threatened by the rising power and prominence of the secret societies, and made these societies illegal in 1890. An official Chinese Protectorate was set up to handle the immigration and official procedures for coolies. Voluntary associations also arose, supporting the coolies in their immigration and transition into Singapore.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Singapore small studio and one-bedroom condominium apartments

Small studio and one-bedroom condominium apartments are a new and hot topic in Singapore with their increased popularity and calls from their opponents for more regulation on these units. These condo units are also called shoebox apartments or mickey mouse (MM) apartments, usually by their opponents, I guess to ridicule them and their buyers.

These condo apartments are generally below 500 sq ft but there are many of them which are significantly smaller. For example at Suites@Guillemard, a boutique development, the smallest condo unit is 258 sq ft. (See floor plan of these below).

Small studio and one-bedroom condominium apartments are selling hot. "In 2009, according to caveats lodged with the Urban Redevelopment Authority's Realis system, a record of 696 flats which are 500 sq ft or less in size, were sold.  As of Oct 2010, the median psf price of such apartment has risen to S$1,314 psf as compared to 2009’s average of S$1,190 psf."[1]

But there are many who criticize these flats. In Feb 2011 Dennis Chan wrote an article against these units and claimed that the buyers of these units propably do not know what they are getting into [2]:

"Do the buyers and others who bought similarly small units elsewhere know what they are getting into? Perhaps not. 
I believe the over-exuberance over shoebox apartments is one reason for the recent push, by the authority that oversees private housing, for greater transparency among developers in depicting their showrooms when selling uncompleted homes.  
For the uninitiated, new homes in Singapore are sold off the plan. But unless you are an architect or skilled in technical drawing, it is hard to visualise the house from merely looking at a floor plan. Hence, developers build showrooms to help prospective buyers see the unit in the right perspective."

He also mentions that "it never fails to amaze him how popular shoebox units have become with home buyers." Well it would not fail to amaze me if they did not became popular! When I first came to Singapore in 2006, my project manager was living in a 3+1 condo flat (rented back in 2003) for 1800 SGD per month. The usual price was 2,000 SGD per month for this unit in Pasir Panjang Road. My boss was in Leonie Gardens for 4,500 SGD per month (left in 2007 when his landlord asked 7,000 SGD per month to renew contract). Now you can hardly rent a 2+1 HDB, outside the city center for 1,800 SGD. Leonie Gardens flats are hardly below 10,000 SGD per month range! City center and any conveniently located flat became just to expensive to rent and buy flat. Property sales prices also went up accordingly. It is very natural that this price hike would put "normal" properties out of reach of many and these many would create a demand for smaller units, both to buy and rent.

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Most of these people think all folks out there look at a house with their perspective. But there are a lot of people, very young as well as old couples living without kids who appreciate the location and price over the size of the unit.

There is also a feeling that these units will be hard to rent out. I believe opposite is true. Back in 2009 when I was single, I rented out a single room unit (not a room) from a studio development for 1800 SGD per month and all the 600 units were rented out in a month. You would be amazed how many expats as well as Singaporean youngsters were happily renting common room units, and master room units. There was a huge demand for those small units because the location was amazing, Grangeford Apartment right next to the Orchard Road. These units were not shoebox apartments and divided against URA guidelines so the project shortlived. But my point was there was a rush of demand, also from expats, I guess a little scary for those who are trying to rent out their overpriced units to expats.

Those who think small condo units are not easy to rent ignore thousands renting rooms here in Singapore. They also do not recognize rents in Singapore went from expensive to ridiculous region a couple of years ago and there will be a lot of people out there who would happily sacrifice the space for price and location. Won't they have enough space? Well they will. Not enough for you but definitely enough for them. New generation usually relaxes and sleeps at home, they meet outside, they hardly visit each other but go out together. It is absolutely convenient here in Singapore to never have visitors to house, and do not forget,  there is no winter in Singapore to lock us to our homes.

258 square feet (24 square meters)
floor plan of small condominium units at Suites@Guillemard - Source:
Suites@Guillemard - Source:

On the other hand small units have a lot of advantages for owners, tenants and I believe they are good for Singapore. Good for Singapore because we all know and always hear that Singapore is land-scarce and it is a real waste of resource when a single person or a new wed couple occupies units larger than 700 sq feet. Smaller units use the scarce land in the most efficient way. I am actually amazed how many 4+1 and 5+1 units out there in this small island while land is scarce and expensive.

It is good for buyers because they provide cheaper private home ownership. Good for tenants because they offer cheaper rent in more central places[1]. The only danger is if they are overbought (unlikely under property cooling measures).

Yes there are many people living in shoeboxes in major cities and as young generation marry and have kids later and they do wanna have a private place earlier there will be plenty of demand for smaller but cheaper units.

Smaller units also mean less mortgage (risk) to take, earlier payment of debt, easier access to private housing. Do not think these units are only for young people. They are also very suitable for older people whose kids left home or singles.

Nevertheless, there are people out there calling regulations on small condo units. Most of them just think people buying these units do not know what they are doing. National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan in an interview gives these people the answer they should get:

"If people want to buy shoebox units and prepared to pay those prices, why should we stop them? Some have called us to intervene, to prevent people building and selling such units but how can we do that? ... There are many other things to worry about. "[3]

Yes if there is a demand for these units, what is wrong to prevent them? Mr. Mah also mentioned that these units are only 5 to 6 percent of all transactions.  These units are already covered under private property cooling measures with others to prevent a bubble.

This blog article is to provide general information only and should not be treated as an invitation to buy or sell any property or as sales material.  Users of this report should consider this report as a one of the many factors in making their investment decision. Users should make reference to other sources of information and specific investment advice to obtain a more objective view of the property market. Asia Singapore shall not be responsible for losses suffered.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Singapore private property unsold unit supply by February 2011

When February 2011 Singapore private property sales data was released in early March 2011, people tried to find out whether Singapore Government property cooling measures of January 14th 2011 were taking effect or not. Although sales figures were strong, London based independent global property consultancy Knight Frank thinks that "cooling measures are taking effect":

"Notwithstanding the cooling measures and lower sales in January, launches increased by 38.1%. In a
bid to catch the still positive sales momentum, developers  are  launching new projects  offering
incentives and early bird discounts to attract buyers.

Developers’ sales contracted for the third consecutive month, indicating the softening market sentiments. Take-up rate fell to 64% in February, against the  average monthly take-up rate of 99% in 2010. The fact that activities in the CCR and RCR slowed down the most (sales dropped by 30% and 44% respectively) shows the weakened sentiments among investors. Only 43% and 33% of the units launched were sold in the CCR and RCR regions.  Greater sales were observed in the mass market (103% take-up rate), as proxied by OCR, partially due to more initiatives offered by the developers. In light of  the new measures and record-low interest rate, affordability remains the main demand driver; hence houses of smaller price quantum are more popular. Based on data collected on 15 th March 2011, we also observed that only OCR properties saw decrease in the average transacted prices in February (6.5% drop).

Although the low figure  can be attributed to the traditional Chinese New Year; on a year on year basis,
sales in February 2011 are also lower compared to the same period in 2009 and 2010.

Source: Knight Frank"

This analysis is very important if your question is "will the property prices in Singapore go up or fall in 2011 and beyond?". The price depends on the supply versus demand not only the absolute supply and demand numbers. If there are 500 of an item sold and 1,000 people demands it the price tend to go up but if there are 2,000 of that item sold and 1000 people demands it the price tend to fall. In Singapore there are several signs that the supply is increasing in a way to put pressure on the private property prices.

There are several reasons for supply increase:

  • Number of launched but unsold units are increasing
  • Developers, scared with the uncertainty of the global economy and property cooling measures, are rushing to launch more projects
  • Singapore Government is rumping up land sales for development
According to Business Times, ratio of units unsold to units launched dipped to 64 percent in Feb 2011:

"The ratio of units sold to units launched by developers in February was 64 per cent - well below the 82-113 per cent between January 2010 and January 2011 and the lowest since January 2009 (when the ratio was 53 per cent) during the global financial crisis.
Looking ahead, there should be no dearth of new private homes launched for buyers to choose from, thanks to the government ramping up land sales since last year.
The concern developing in some circles now is whether this may create a glut later.

Private property units launched but unsold.
The trend in the unsold to launched units is an up trend. And given the fact that slightly panicked developers are rushing new projects these numbers are destined to increase more:

Property developers in Singapore are racing to launch as many as 15 new projects over the next few weeks. 
Some real estate analysts said this array of offerings could face the uncertainty that lies ahead for the market, including the unknown impact of the recent disasters in Japan. 
Ms. Chua Chor Hoon, Head of DTZ Southeast Asia, said the number of units from residential projects released in February increased 45 percent from the past two months. Ms. Chua noted that if the cooling measures implemented in mid-January take effect ahead of the government’s expectations, developers will likely sell units early, as they will expect sales to decline.
So what does all these mean? If the trend continues and there is no increase in demand, there will be an oversupply of unsold private properties. According to BT, "DTZ head of South-east Asia research Chua Chor Hoon predicts that developers would sell 9,000-12,000 private homes excluding ECs this year, down from the record 16,292 units in 2010". This would pull down the prices to earth from current ultra hights, which is fueled by the opposite trend up to now, undersupply.

Terms of use
This blog article is to provide general information only and should not be treated as an invitation to buy or sell any property or as sales material.  Users of this report should consider this report as a one of the many factors in making their investment decision. Users should make reference to other sources of information and specific investment advice to obtain a more objective view of the property market. Asia Singapore shall not be responsible for losses suffered.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Good morning yesterday

It is incredible to look at old Singapore photos and kampong days pictures. You realize how Singapore has changed since 1960s, from kampong days to a first world city state. This change fascinates even the ones who have not been here for a long time, think about the generation who have lived through this great change. How do they feel when they look back the past 30 years? Well actually there is an excellent blog where some of them shares their feelings and memories of the past as well as the photos from past: Good Morning Yesterday.

Good Morning Yesterday is prepared by Lam Chun See who was born in 1952 in Singapore. He says that "this site is for Singaporeans and friends of Singapore of his generation to share stories of Singapore back in the kampong days when we were kids. I started this blog because I realised how much our country has changed in our life time, and it would be good if our kids can visit this site and learn a bit about our past. Please feel free to share your experiences". Younger people will also love this site, because it contains stories from the now extinct past of Singapore, kampong days.

Lam Chun See decided to start his blog when he came back from Myanmar in 2005. On his way back to the airport, he shared the hotel car with a Japanese visitor and during their conversation, he remarked that Yangon was very much like Singapore during the time when he was a kid. Many of the old British style buildings resemble those in Singapore. Japanese visitor was surprised and said that Singapore must have changed a lot during the past few decades.

It indeed changed a lot and too during a life, the physical landscape especially, has changed a lot. He then started this blog to share his memories of life back in the 60' s and 70's when he was a kid.

Kampong Buangkok, last surviving kampong on mainland Singapore
What I like most about Good Morning Yesterday is that great effort is put to detail the stories of the past. The content is just awesome, I sometimes loose my self in it for hours. Just a couple of days ago I met with my Singaporean landlord in his early 60s and shared the blog with him. Stories opened stories and we have lost ourselves in the blog for 2 hours! It was a great emotional experience for him, he does not use internet and did not see most of the old Singapore photos before.

By the way, if you are interested in to see what was life in Singapore in Kampong days, you do not need to head to Pulau Ubin, there is also one surviving kampong on mainland Singapore, Kampong Buangkok.

What is an Executive Condominium (EC)?

Time to time you will encounter this housing type called Executive Condominium (EC) or exec condo in Singapore. What is an executive condominium/exec condo (EC)? Where are they? Who can buy them? If you wanna know the answers to these questions you are at the right place.

First definition of Executive Condominium:

Executive Condominiums (EC) were introduced to cater to Singaporeans, especially young graduates and professionals who can afford more than an HDB flat but find private property out of their reach. ECs are comparable in design and facilities to private condominiums as they are developed and sold by private developers. - HDB Glossary

Although these are condos, they are still public housing flats, they are at the posh end of public housing in Singapore. To buy a brand new executive condominium from developer you need to be either Singapore Citizen or your nucleus family have at least one Singapore Citizen or Singapore Permanent Resident. As for HDB's once you buy an EC, you cannot sell it for five years. But after that if the EC is less than 10 years old you can see it to a Singapore Citizen or Singapore Permanent Resident. If an EC is older than 10 years, it can be sold to a foreigner. There is also an income ceiling for new Executive Condominiums. Your household income should not exceed 12,000 SGD per month to buy EC from developer.

They become very popular when the price index between mass market condos and HDBs widen. Since 2009 we are in this situation they are popular again. But new tight rules on HDBs also make them more popular among foreigners and permanent residents. One such new rule is that a buyer of an HDB cannot have a private house even abroad. This throws a significant portion of PRs out of HDB resale market and for the ones who cannot afford a condominium, EC is a good but limited option. Good because they are approximately 25% cheaper than mass market condos, limited because there are currently only around 6,000 of them.

You can find more information on Executive Condominiums in Buying EC (HDB web site).

Simei Green near Simei MRT is an executive condominium
Interest for ECs are increasing as more units are passing 10 year age mark (eligible to be sold to foreigners) and public-private housing price gap is widening:

"Foreigners, including permanet residents (PRs) bought 321 ECs or 33 percent of all resale homes last year ... This is up from 18 percent in 2004, when PRs became eligible to buy executive condominium units.
Source: The Strait Times"

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Singapore Property Gurus
Real Property Guide

Singapore Yacht Show April 2011

As Singapore realizes the yacht tourism potentials of this small island state, especially after opening of two integrated resorts and their casinos, Singaporeans are also increasingly interested in owning a yacht. You can see this in the memberships of Singapore marinas and their collective construction race to add more berthing capacity to their premises. Take One 15 Marina at Sentosa Cove. This top end luxurious marina was charging 24,000 Singapore Dollars for membership when it started to recruit members in 2005 but the demand pushed this up to 61,000 Singapore Dollars.

Increased interest in yachts, increase wealth of Asians and increased realization of yacht sellers that they need new markets presented a luxury yacht show to Singapore. Singapore Yacht Show will be held between 8-10 April 2011 in ONE 15 Marina Club in Sentosa Cove. This is not a normal yacht exhibition, this is a superyacht exhibition which will be only open to those who are invited.Thos who are not familiar with boats, yachts also have their classes; your ordinary(!) yacht, superyacht and megayacht.

Some signature yachts will be anchored to ONE 15 during the event. SY Montigne, 57-metre sailing
schooner and one of the world’s largest sailing yachts available for charter will be in Singapore. Actually this luxury motorsailor will be based in South East Asia in 2011.This is a very young yacht, built in 2009 and will carry a price tag of 16,500,000 Euro. This elegant superyacht is heir to the famous 50 meter SY Galileo. She belongs to Aegean Yacht and is the largest superyacht of its class built in Turkey, one of the top 10 yacht producing countries in the world.

SY Montigne superyacht

Another signature superyacht of the show is the 33-metre MY Nymphaea. This superyacht went to an 8 month major refit which was completed at the end of 2009 and the yacht is now chartering local Thai and Malay waters. Nymphaea (Water Lily) was built in 1984 by the famous Broward Marine shipyard in Florida to the highest standard of seaworthiness, luxury, and comfort. She will be based in Singapore, and will be available for private charter in the Andaman Sea all year round and is one of the few yachts of her pedigree, size and comfort dedicated to luxury charter in the region.

MY Nymphaea - Source: yachtsolutions

SY El Aleph a 37-metre traditional Phinisi sailing yacht which will make its debut at the show. This unique yacht from Konjo Boat builders of Tana Beru Village, Indonesia has not been seen at any other show in the world:

EL ALEPH is probably the newest and most spacious traditional sailing yacht available for charter in the exotic Indonesian archipelago. Broad-beamed and well-ballasted, she offers unmatched stability and comfort. No detail has been left to chance in ensuring the utmost comfort, safety and enjoyment in some of the most exciting and less explored parts of the world. 
The combination of traditional Phinisi design and 21st century technology in EL ALEPH makes her a totally unique luxury yacht. Beautifully handcrafted in 100-year old teak and ironwood, and finished by the finest cabinetmakers in Bali (who spent more than 200,000 man-hours on the final fit-out!) the attention to detail is unmatched by any other Phinisi schooner ever built.
EL ALEPH offers every modern convenience, from individually controlled air-conditioned cabins to satellite communications. Also,unique among such traditional boats, EL ALEPH has quiet boat mode where she can cruise for prolonged periods under electrical power with all her engines shut down. 
A charter on EL ALEPH is a unique opportunity to explore the fascinating Indonesian archipelago and beyond, to Thailand, Burma and the Andaman islands in total luxury and privacy. Whether diving in some of the world's richest coral reefs, climbing smoking volcanoes, anchoring in secluded lagoons, or experiencing the fascinating cultural and natural diversity of villages and islands rarely seen by outsiders, EL ALEPH offers the ultimate escape.

SY El Alep - Source:
 The show will be full of yacht builders, brokers as well as some luxurious automobile brands like Rolls Royce and BMW to complement the show. It is sad there is no public date, I definitely would like to see SY Al Alep, it looks very interesting. Maybe if you are on the south shores of Singapore you can get a glimpse of these luxurious ladies sailing elegantly along Singapore coast.

See also Luxury yacht charter like experience with Orion article depicting an interesting Asia-Pacific cruise service.

Singapore businesses make use of tablets and mobile apps

Technology and innovation first shrunk our desktop PC to sit on our laptops and just recently our laptops to our pockets. Smartphones and tablet computers are getting more mainstream and powerful (iPhone has more CPU power and memory than my first work PC where I developed and ran commercial applications) and people and businesses are getting more innovative to make use of them. I have started to see some Singapore businesses jumping to the wagon, very good for them and IT companies developing apps for smartphones :)

According to Digital Life (The Straits Times), ERA Realty Network, yes the ERA of those property agents, developed a mobile application called ERA Tab for its 4600 local ERA agents to visit office less and be more productive. The application, which is developed for 100,000 dollars, enables an agent to search for an get information to close a deal faster and complete paperwork without being in the office.

ERA Tab runs on Google's Android operation system and designed to be used on a Samsung Galaxy Tab tablet device. The Galaxy Tab has a 7-inch LCD touchscreen, and runs the Android 2.2 (Froyo) operating system. Its screen is smaller than an iPad screen (10'') but unlike iPad it is also a smart phone.

Samsung Galaxy Tab Source:
ERA Tab enables property agents to connect to ERA's online database of properties with their information and photos through 3G wireless connection. Without the tablet and the mobile application, an agent needs to find internet hotspot with his laptop or call another agent to find information on a property.

Even small businesses are trying new innovative mobile applications to make their business more efficient. According to The Straits Times, a local hair salon, Mode Hair Gallery has replaced stacks of magazines with iPad. This does not only provide more value to their customers. The mobile app also connects to company CRM and record customer preferences to be used in marketing in the future.

Singapore restaurant chain, Fish & Co, has placed iPads on each table at its Glass House outlet, allowing customers to send their food orders straight to the kitchen wirelessly from their seats. The company selected Singapore based application development company to make the mobile application (Source: Zimerick Facebook).

And we have previously reported, iPad is used for teaching in Singapore school.

Luxury yacht charter like experience in Asia with Orion

As Asian incomes are rising, demand for luxury travel in Asia from Asians, particularly Chinese and Indians is also rising. For those who have enough money and time there are more options now to explore Asia, with 5-star luxury.

Orion Expedition Cruises with its second ship in its fleet, Orion II, will be an new luxurious option. MV Orion and MV Orion II are private yacht-like expedition cruise ships. Orion II is 88 meters long and is built by Cantieri Navale Ferrari of Italy and it actually spent some years as a private superyacht.  Now it will offer an experience between a luxury super yacht charter and a mass cruiser to its guests.

This is not your typical cruiser experience. With a purpose built vessel designed to access the inaccessible with 5-star luxury, guests travel with up to 100 others in 50 ocean view suites, 215 to 218 feet each.

Cruise destinations are the Russian Far East's Ring of Fire; Inland Sea of Japan; Vietnam, Thailand and Cambodia; Borneo; New Zealand and sub-Antarctic islands that so few can visit; Papua New Guinea's ancient and primitive cultures; the grand frontier of Australia's Kimberley region and the Antarctic Continent.

A 10 night Russian Far East expedition or a 10 night Borneo voyage from Singapore will cost around 10,500 SGD per person. Orion II will be making 3 stops in Singapore for its expedition to Thailand, Borneo and Bali.

Andrew Evans reviews Orion experience in

"Perhaps most important is that the Orion experience is intimate. While the cruise ship industry is trending towards behemoth floating cities (population 6,000) the MV Orion carried only 75 passengers (during my expedition) along with a crew of 75 (not such a bad ratio). Over the course of two weeks I had the chance to get to know every single passenger on board and what's more, we all liked each other.

Indeed, it's not where you travel, but who you travel with that matters. The two weeks I spent on the MV Orion were blessedly asshole-free. In fact, my fellow shipmates were all really cool people--not the rich and famous or the kind of spoiled, pretentious passport-boaster you find flying first class--just passionate, smart travelers chasing their wanderlust down under. Enamored birdwatchers were in search of the rare species, retirees were living out their lifelong dreams, a honeymooning couple was being unconventional, map nerds like me kept checking the library's atlas against our personal GPS, and everyone showed an authentic lust for life. (It helped that most of my fellow travelers were Aussies--who are just born cool.)

Source: Expedition Review: On Board the MV Orion"

Singapore will be starting point for some expenditures while it will be the final destination in some others. For example Gulf of Siam explorer will depart from Singapore to Bangkok on October 10th 2011 and from Bangkok to Singapore on December 22nd 2011. It will visit Tioman Island, Kuala Terengganu, Ko Samui, Ang Tong Marine Park and Ko Kut on its way.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Lion King musical is in Singapore

The Lion King musical, based on the 1994 animated film of the same name is in Singapore for a while and will be in Sands Theater, Marina Bay Sands. This is the first time this successful Disney musical is in South East Asia.

The story is simple and loosely based on Bible stories of Joseph and Moses and the William Shakespeare play Hamlet. A young prince loses and then reclaims his kingdom after learning from his mistakes and regaining his sense of self. The animated feature film of The Lion King is one of the highest grossing films of all time and it won two academy awards and the golden globe award for the best motion picture. This film was translated into 44 different languages including Zulu.

The ticket prices for The Lion King musical ranges from 65 SGD (E Reserve, last rows) to 240 SGD (Premium). The seating plan and prices can be seen from The Lion King musical seating plan.  The performance is scheduled Tuesday to Friday at 8 pm and Saturday and Sunday 2 pm and 8 pm. You can buy your tickets online from

To adapt the animation to Broadway stage, Disney Theatrical Productions gathered a wide range of artists who created a stunning show with with unique stage, costume and dance designs. The Lion King is truly an international production. The cast of the Singapore production come from 10 countries including USA,  The UK, South Africa, Canada, France, Australia, Brazil, Germany, Italy and The Philippines.

The animal characters are brought to life through the masks. Working with co-puppet designer Michael Curry, Julie Taymor created masks and costumes that would not hide the human beings. The audience sees both the fixed mask and the changing face of the actor creating a unique theater experience.

The Lion King Musical
The Lion King Musical
The masks are painted to look like wood but they are actually made of carbon fibre so they are much lighter than they look. Masks are carefully designed to reflect the nature of the characters. For example the mask of Scar is off-center and looks dangerous, while Mufasa's is round and serene, with a mane radiating out like rays of light.

Patterns and the textures in The Lion King musical are all based on traditional African textile, including Kuba and Kente cloth. All of the corsets worn by the lionesses are hand-beaded using range of different materials including shells, glass, ceramics, fish bones, copper and bronze.

The sneak peek below gives idea about what kind of experience is waiting for you in this great show (not the 8th longest running show in Broadway).

For the next show see Wicked musical is in Singapore.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Singapore population, citizens, permanent residents, non-residents

Have you ever wondered what is the population of Singapore, how many of the people leaving are citizens, permanent residents or non-residents? How the population and the mix of the population have changed over years? Below is a table showing the numbers by years.

The first "Total" in the table is the total population, residents (citizens and PRs) plus non-residents. The second "Total" column is the total number of residents, citizens and PRs.

By 2010, citizens are 63 percent of total Singapore population while PRs form 10% and non-residents form 25 percent.

The source is "Monthly Digest of Statistics Singapore February 2011" from Department of Statistics Singapore.

Singapore Population by Years
Singapore Residents Non-Residents
Year Total Total
Singapore Citizens Singapore Permanent Residents
Number (Thousands)
2010 (Census) 5,077 3,772 3,231 541 1,305
2009 4,988 3,734 3,201 533 1,254
2008 4,839 3,643 3,164 478 1,197
2007 4,589 3,583 3,134 449 1,006
2006 4,401 3,526 3,108 418 876
2005 4,266 3,468 3,081 387 798
2004 4,167 3,413 3,057 356 753
2000 (Census) 4,028 3,273 2,986 288 755
1990 (Census) 3,047 2,736 2,624 112 311