Friday, June 22, 2012

Bay South Garden of Gardens By the Bay will open on June 29 2012

The largest of three gardens that make up the 101 hectares Gardens by the Bay, Bay South Garden, will be officially opened next Thursday and will be open to the public next Friday. With 54ha area, Bay South is the largest of the three gardens and designed by UK based landscape architecture firm Grant Associates[1]. The garden has 18 man-made vertical gardens called Supertrees which range between 25 meters to 50 meters high and hosts some 160,000+ plants and 2 Cooled Conservatories – The Flower Dome and Cloud Forest.

Singapore's ambitious Gardens by the Bay is a 350 acre development composed of three distinct waterfront gardens park – Bay South, Bay East and Bay Central  in the heart of Singapore’s new downtown Marina Bay, adjacent to the Marina Reservoir. It is built on reclaimed land and features waterfalls, lakes, green houses and lots of plants from all around the world. The main attractions are 18 stainless steel super trees some of which are 50 meters tall. When they are opened next week, visitors will be able to walk in a sky walkway suspended between these super-trees. There are also 2 large greenhouses called Flower Dome (23 - 25 deg C inside) and Cloud Forest (23 - 25 deg C).  

Bay South Gardens are 10 minutes’ walk from Marina Bay Sands through Garden Bay Bridge (can be accessed from the forth level of Expo) and Dragonfly bridge. The nearest MRT station is Bayfront MRT Stations. You can take Exit B and by an underground linkway reach to the Dragonfly Bridge. 
Bay South Garden, a section of the waterfront gardens in the new Downtown @ Marina Bay, will open on June 29. It is the largest of the three gardens that make up Gardens By The Bay, Singapore's new green oasis in the city.
 The sprawling 54 hectares Bay South features man-made, tree-like structures known as "supertrees". Visitors with a taste for heights can take to the aerial walkway that links two of the supertrees. There is also the Dragonfly Lake, where visitors can stroll along the promenade or rest in the four heritage gardens which reflect the history and culture of Singapore's main ethnic groups.
 Bay South also features two cooled conservatories. Dr Kiat W Tan, CEO of Gardens By The Bay, said: "We have brought (in) two glasshouses that'll give you a touch of perpetual spring. So this is excellent in that here in the tropics, we have a touch of the seasons. It allows us to also look at plants from different continents, brought here from fragile habitats that are disappearing very fast."Source : BaySouth Garden to open on June 29

Gardens By The Bay Supertrees
Bay South Garden - Source :
Gardens will be opened daily from 5am to 2am and admission to the gardens will be free.  Cooled conservatories and aerial walkway will be open for public daily from 9am to 9pm with admission charges. For example, one observatory visit will cost 12 SGD for residents while two conservatories will cost 20 SGD. See here for the pricing of Gardens By The Bay.

[1] - To see a world in a grain of sand, The Straits Times Special Gardens By The Bay

Singapore is now the most expensive Asian city for a night out

Singapore is now the most expensive Asian city for a night out, pushing even Tokyo to the second place, according to TripAdvisor’s index. A night out in Singapore costs US $374.94 (a room for two at a four-star hotel, a round-trip taxi ride of about 3.2 kilometers each way, cocktails for two at a five-star hotel bar and dinner for two with a bottle of house wine)  while it costs US $349.62 in Tokyo. This also makes Singapore 10th most expensive city in the world. London is the most expensive city according to the index and a night out in London costs US $518.01 for a night out for two! It looks like falling Euro did not shake Europe’s domination on the top 10 most expensive cities; seven cities in the top 10 are from Europe.

Although Singapore is a very expensive destination for tourists, South East Asia still hosts most number of cities in the 10 least expensive list. Hanoi, the capital city of Vietnam, for example is the least expensive city, with a cost of US $141.12. Bangkok is the third most affordable city (US $161.90), Kuala Lumpur is the fifth (US $194.43) and Jakarta is the eighth least expensive destination (US$204.59).

Singapore Marina Bay Sands Hotel and Casino - Source : Wikipedia
According to the study, hotel room prices are the single most important factor determining the affordability of the destination city and savings on this cost item will have a big impact of the finances of the travel.
TripAdvisor’s spokesperson Jean Ow-Yeong said that TripIndex helps travelers see where they would get more value for their money.

“Interestingly, once on the ground, European cities such as Budapest and Warsaw turn out to be as affordable as some Asian cities, while Singapore and Sydney are in the ranks of London, Paris and New York as some of the most expensive cities”, she said[1].

Least expensive cities for 2012
Rank Country City Hotel Return taxi trip Cocktails Dinner for 2 A night out Total
1 Vietnam Hanoi $85.31 $4.95 $22.56 $28.71 $141.53
2 China Beijing $106.31 $1.71 $23.63 $27.41 $159.06
3 Thailand Bangkok $81.13 $2.03 $9.45 $69.30 $161.91
4 Hungary Budapest $104.51 $9.83 $35.34 $43.32 $193.00
5 Malaysia Kuala Lumpur $113.52 $3.67 $19.68 $57.55 $194.42
6 Poland Warsaw $109.34 $12.32 $12.32 $65.51 $199.49
7 Taiwan Taipei $141.76 $3.70 $26.36 $31.81 $203.63
8 Indonesia Jakarta $124.24 $1.92 $20.00 $58.43 $204.59
9 Bulgaria Sofia $116.29 $5.23 $40.86 $46.73 $209.11
10 Tunisia Tunis $151.18 $5.23 $9.97 $50.27 $216.65

Most expensive cities for 2012
Rank Country City Hotel Return taxi trip Cocktails Dinner for 2 A night out Total
1 UK London $361.64 $34.69 $39.07 $82.61 $518.01
2 Norway Oslo $219.94 $52.19 $47.19 $245.03 $564.35
3 Switzerland Zurich $292.00 $37.76 $27.03 $129.03 $485.82
4 France Paris $306.71 $15.06 $57.44 $101.55 $480.76
5 Sweden Stockholm $218.73 $47.16 $34.95 $171.53 $472.37
6 USA New York $341.63 $15.00 $32.00 $67.87 $456.50
7 Russia Moscow $245.96 $14.26 $43.40 $125.45 $429.07
8 Denmark Copenhagen $227.15 $21.61 $40.35 $137.73 $426.84
9 Australia Sydney $172.99 $19.62 $43.22 $156.17 $392.00
10 Singapore Singapore $233.14 $6.58 $34.40 $100.81 $374.93

Although Singapore is the most expensive city to visit in the region, there are some ways to beat the average prices: you can choose to stay in a budget hotel or you can even skip staying in a Singapore hotel when you visit Singapore! You can for example stay in Johor Bahru (Malaysia) which is basically right next to Singapore and take a taxi trip to Singapore.

[1] – Kuala Lumpur amongst least expensive cities for a night out

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Microsoft Surface - The tablet I was waiting for?

I am one of those dinosaurs who can have but do not have a tablet computer yet. I just could not justify any reason to carry it around. If I could work and play on it, I would replace my laptop with it but since neither iPad nor an Android device is a productive working environment, I have to carry my laptop around anyway. Yes, I have seen these Windows tablets but they run on an operating system which is basically touch unfriendly. I long for a tablet, who runs windows (my work operating system) and I can carry around instead of my heavy laptop. I should be able to dock it to docking stations, one at work and one at home. When I go to customer, I should be able to do presentations from my tablet (I should connect it to projector also). So no more carrying around the heavy laptop. Actually I prefer the good old PC days where the computer was not mobile so your boss did/could not expect you to deliver something in the middle of the night (in unproductive work culture monument Singapore your boss even expects you to carry it to your holiday destination so you can deliver something in case it is needed)  but unfortunately those days are over.

So yes, an iPad or an Android is not practical for me. And yes, I am excited with the new Windows tablet, Surface. It will be able to run on Windows 8 Pro and Windows RT and will be super-thin at 9.3 mm. Although Microsoft has not revealed any price for the new tablet, Microsoft says the tablets will be “priced to competitive rates with ARM tablets.”[1]

Microsoft Surface Windows Tablet - Source : Microsoft
Surface has fulls sized USB port and can connect to printer. It has a built-in kickstand to keep screen erect while using on a flat surface. A cool magnetic cover named Surface Touch Cover acts as a keyboard and is one of the most impressive aspects of the new tablet. Touch screen is very painful to work on real work content like Word Documents and MS Excel documents and this new keyboard concept seems to solve this problem.

The tablet will come with 32 and 64 GB memory for the Windows RT version and 64 GB and 128 GB for the Windows 8 Pro version. Windows 8 version will run on standard Intel chipset while Windows RT version will run on ARM chipsets optimized for tablets. The screen of Surface Windows tablet will be 10.6'', larger than 9.7'' iPad screen. And the aspect ratio of the display will be industry standard HD ratio of 16:9.

If somehow Windows 8 Pro Surface can be docked to a monitor, keyboard and mouse which will transform it into an actual computer is available, I will be waiting for the day Windows Surface tablet is released in Singapore. When will microsoft surface be available in Singapore? We will hopefully know soon.

Update 1:
Microsoft Surface will be launched on sale on the same day as the launch of its new Windows 8 operating system. We do not know that when it will be launched/released in Singapore.

Update 2:
You can pre-order Microsoft Surface with Windows RT now for delivery by November 26th from Microsoft web site. 32 GB without Black Touch Cover costs USD 499 while 64 GB with Black Touch Cover costs USD 699.

Microsoft Surface with Windows RT Preorder page
Microsoft Surface with Windows RT Preorder page
Update 3:
Microsoft launched Windows 8.

Unlike the more expensive other 2 versions, cheapest version of Microsoft Surface on the web site has gone from guaranteeing for delivery by Oct 26 to requesting that customers "order now for shipment within three weeks". This, according to the media, suggests that the first batch of Microsoft Surface with Windows RT 32 GB without Black Touch Cover has sold out, at least in the United States.[2]

[1] - Microsoft Unveils Surface Tablet
[2] - Cheapest Surface tablet may already be sold out

Crowne Plaza Hotel Changi Airport

If you are looking for a Singapore airport hotel for a convenient stay at a stop-over on an international flight or a luxury transit accommodation, Crowne Plaza Hotel Changi Airport may serve you well. This relatively new luxury airport hotel is practically in Singapore Changi Airport (not near it, just inside), Terminal 3. It is linked to Terminal 3 by covered walkways. The hotel has 9-storey and has 320 rooms; a 100-seater Crowne Plaza Club Lounge; and executive class amenities such as restaurants, meeting rooms, conference rooms, spa lounges, a swimming pool and a health and fitness club.[1]  If you are arriving to or departing from Terminal 1 or 2, you can use Skytrain Service linking all three terminal buildings. If you need parking, you can use Terminal 3 Car Park 3B.

Many business travelers also prefer this Singapore airport hotel especially if their business meeting location is in the city or in the east. The hotel is just 10 minutes away from Changi Business Park, which increasingly houses multinationals, and Singapore Expo, . It is very easy to access to city from the hotel either by a short taxi ride or public transportation. It takes a 25 minutes taxi ride or approximately 45 minutes train ride to the city center which is 18 km from the hotel. Terminal 3 has a direct access to Singapore Metro/Subway (called MRT) green line. This line takes you to city business centers, Raffles Place and City Hall but the you need to transfer to another train in Tanah Merah MRT station.

Crowne Plaza Hotel Singapore Changi Airport
Crowne Plaza Hotel Singapore Changi Airport - Source : IC Hotels Group
And negatives? It is quite expensive and you need to pay some big amounts for basics like internet access (no wi-fi and you need to pay around 34 Singapore Dollars for wired Internet) and the restaurant is expensive. If you need to save some money after paying to a luxury hotel, you can head to food court in Terminal 3 which is quite cheap. For the internet access, you can buy 3 days worth of local data plan (sim card) and use internet from your mobile device (I am not sure those plans lets you to turn your mobile device to a hot spot, check with vendor).

See also these hotels near Singapore Changi Airport.
Capri by Fraser - Changi CitySanta Grand Hotel East CoastLe Peranakan HotelChangi Village Hotel by Far East

[1] - Singapore Airport Hotel

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Singapore new private residential property sales down 32 % in May

Singapore’s property bubble took a breather last month as new private residential property sales in Singapore has plunged 32% in May from a month earlier. Although the numbers fell from 2500 units of April to 1702 units of May (excluding the Executive Condominiums), the numbers are still record high compared to the last year. [1]

One of the interesting highlight from the numbers is that only 13% of the new sales last month were shoebox apartment units, significant fall from 27 % in April. It seems like extensive state media coverage of these units with some hint of new cooling measures targeting them made both developers and buyers hold back for a while.

According to Singapore Business Review, “new launches are unable to sell more than 50% of their units in the initial launch phase”:

According to a release, new private home sales (excluding ECs) look to be taking a respite as May saw a plunge of over 31% M-on-M to 1,702 units transacted.

“The private housing market seemingly took a breather last month due to the anticipation of more new launches in the road ahead, which caused buyers to hold back their home purchase decisions”, states PropNex CEO Mr Mohamed Ismail, “May was also not a bumper month in terms of new launches, thus resulting in the drop of new private property sale.” 

These days, it is common for new launches to not be able to sell more than 50% of their units in the initial launch phase—which is unlike the past where there usually is a ‘rush’ to grab new units,” continues CEO Mr Mohd Ismail, “this is because buyers are more cautious and price sensitive than before, but however, projects that are priced reasonably will still continue to enjoy high take-up rates.”[2]
Although the drop is significant, experts have pointed out that only one month of decline does not show a trend and the coming months will show the direction of any trend. Even with this decline, developers has sold 10,880 private residential properties in the first 5 months of 2012, exceeding full year’s sales of 2000-2005 period and year 2008!

Since the western governments will obviously and stupidly respond to Europe Debt Crisis and Greek polls with another round of huge money printing, there will probably be enough fuel to feed the global asset bubble in Asia for a while. On the other hand it can also end at a bang event like 2008 Lehman Brothers collapse and if this (also likely) scenario happens, the asset bubbles, including Singapore property, will probably burst. So there is a huge uncertainty in the air and this may affect the buyer’s sentiment at the moment.     

Although there seems to be a big demand for property in Singapore fuelled by ultra-low interest rates, high inflation and “prices cannot go down” sentiment, more than 40% (44% exactly) of private homes in the market remained unsold according to URA figures released this month:

“There is a large supply of about 86,000 private housing units (including about 7,000 EC units) in the pipeline, of which about 38,000 units (including 1,800 EC units) are still unsold. However, demand for private housing remains strong.”[3]

People also look resistant to some unrealistic prices. For example much hyped Sky Habitat, a 509 unit condominium project in Bishan, was priced at a record for a sub-urban project at  $1,700 psf. And the project has sold 125 units in its initial launch week in mid-April and then sales stalled and only 4 more units were sold until end May.[4]   On the other hand another overpriced Singapore condominium project, 20-storey freehold development 8M Residences at  Margate Road could only sell 4 of its 68 overpriced units since their launch on May 25. The units are overpriced at $2000 to $2300 psf while an observer said that price psf for 8M Residences should not go beyond $1,600:

"Estimated price for the smallest unit at 527sft of 8M Residences is $1.1m but an industry observer who requested anonymity commented that it should only be $700,000."

Singapore boutique hotel Naumi Hotel

If you are looking for a luxurious hotel at a central location in Singapore, this 5 star small boutique hotel designed for business travellers may be an excellent choice for you. Naumi Hotel is located in the heart of Singapore, just opposite to the historic Raffles Hotel.  Established in September 2007, this 5 star hotel is refurbished from the previous Metropole Hotel and offers 40 luxurious rooms and suites designed with the business travellers in mind. The hotel offers 6 categories of rooms; premium room, corporate suite, executive patio suite, luxury suite, deluxe room and two bedroom suites.  Naumi Hotel is the first Singapore business hotel to implement a ladies floor which offers deluxe Rooms.

The address is very central for both business travellers and leisure travellers. City Hall MRT Station is walking distance away to reach other parts of the city and business centers like Singapore Business District and Suntec City (Suntec Singapore International Convention & Exhibition Centre) are nearby. Shopping heaven Orchard Road and gambling heaven Marina Bay Sands are also nearby. Many famous museums of Singapore like National Museum of Singapore, Singapore Arts Museum, Art Science Museum are easily accessible and the hotel is surrounded with very good restaurants like Garibaldi Italian Restaurant & Bar, Rang Mahal, Royal China Restaurant and infamous premier lifestyle destination, CHIJMES is just walking distance away.

One of the most distinctive offering of this hotel, in my opinion, is its gorgeous Rooftop Infinity Pool which provides an unobstructed panorama of Singapore city skyscrapers. The pool side is one of the best places to watch spectacular fireworks shows in Singapore such as National Day Parade (NDP) Fireworks Show and New Year Fireworks show.

Naumi Hotel Infinity Pool - Source :  MyLittleBits.. Blog
Naumi Hotel is a partner of Small Luxury Hotels and has been awarded numerous local and international accolades such as CNBC Asia Pacific Property Awards “Best Small Luxury Hotel” 2009, Best Boutique Hotel voted by Time -Out magazine, President’s Design Award 2008, Conde Nast Hot List 2008. The hotel has been awarded with TripAdvisor’s Certificate of Excellence award for the second year running.

The room prices in Naumi Hotel are 350 SGD++ per night with luxury suites going for over 700 SGD++ per night.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Big Bang to rock Singapore Indoor Stadium on September 28

Big Bang fans will have a chance to rock the Singapore Indoor Stadium on September 28th this year as South Korean boy band Big Bang, composed of  G-Dragon, T.O.P, Taeyang, Daesung and Seungri, has just confirmed that Big Bang Alive Tour Singapore leg will be on September 28 2012. They will perform the concert in Singapore Indoor Stadium. They have announced Thailand and Singapore as tour locations for their concert ‘Alive Tour 2012‘ back in May. They will have stops in a total of 25 cities and 16 countries in Asia, North America, South America, and Europe.[1]

During a press conference held before the start of their tour, leader of the band G-Dragon expressed that their Alive concert would be different from what they have shown in the past. 
"It will feel like you're watching a musical with a well thought-out story line," revealed G-Dragon. 
Aside from performing songs from their latest "Alive" album, Big Bang, who debuted in 2006 with their "Bigbang Vol.1" album, will also be singing some of their older songs handpicked by the members themselves.[2]
This Big Bang concert will be just one year after the previous one; they were the headline act at last year's Formula 1 SingTel Singapore Grand Prix[2]. Singapore alive tour ticket prices will be $288 , $228 , $168 and $128 and will be available at all SISTIC outlets from 28 June. There will also be priority ticket sales (only with OCBC Cards) which will start on 25-26 June 2012 . 

Big Bang on September 28th 2012 - Source : Big Bang Updates
Although Big Bang boys were criticized for being "too short" and "too ugly" for an idol group in their first year and sales of their early hip-hop singles and first studio album BigBang Vol. 1 were disappointing,  they have grown up to one of the most  successful Asian acts in the world. [3] They are best known Best known for their infectious songs and electrifying stage presence and touted as the revolutionary group of the Korean music wave, BIGBANG boasted several chart-topping hits such as "Blue" and "Bad Boy", and won both the "Best Asia and Pacific Act"  and "Best Worldwide Acts" prizes at last year's MTV Europe Music Awards.[2]

[1] - Big Bang adds Thailand and Singapore to ‘Alive Tour 2012′ list
[2] - BIGBANG to rock Singapore again after one-year wait
[3] - Big Bang's first world tour lands in Singapore this September

Discover Brunei: A Brunei travel guide as an iPad App

If you are planning to travel to Brunei Darussalam, a small country  on the north coast of the island of Borneo, in Southeast Asia, you should take a look at this free iPad app called Discover Brunei from  Brunei Tourism Board's (BTB). In fact, Discover Brunei iPad application has already been a hit in iTunes and at a point in time, it was in the Top 10 Free Applications list according to the BTB CEO. The application is developed by a young start-up company named MeSixty founded in Brunei and built upon the company’s geo-social media indexing technology. According to The Brunei Times, the geo-social network integration is a unique feature on the Discover Brunei app that makes it stand out from the crowd of tourist and travel apps of various countries in the app store.[1]

Discover Brunei iPad app has 12 sections including where to stay, shop and eat, as well a photo gallery and useful tips provided by Instagram and Foursquare users.[1] The application includes detailed write ups of places to stay, shop, eat and visit; full of high quality professional photos and videos and useful tips about getting around, national holidays, local customs and amenities. The guide also provides information on tour guides, travels agents, shopping malls, hotels and service apartments.

Discover Brunei iPad App
Discover Brunei iPad App
While providing tourist information, the app also offers a fun way to learn about Bruneian culture through its interactive content. Users can learn useful phrases and tips by tapping to hear what they sound like in Malay, the local language of Brunei. Users can also experience the traditional Gulingtangan instrument by tapping on the different gongs to hear what they sound like, or swipe across the image to see a full 360-degree view of them.[2]

MeSixty heavily integrated their Chatworthy app, which uses a patented technology enabling users to discover and share Instagram posts by their location, to the Discover Brunei iPad app.

Brunei worth to visit:

Visit Brunei Malaysia Singapore and Brunei
(Country Travel Guide)
A Self-guided Walking/Public
Transit Tour

Google Search Engine Tools

Google search engine is the most popular tool on the web, used by hundreds of millions as a start point to access to internet. It is so integrated in our lives that many of us use it to access to a web page even if we use it daily (for example I usually google “Bloomberg” to access its web site instead of typing it on the browser’s address bar). And of course many of us say “googled” instead of “searched”.

But Google’s search engine is much more than a search engine! It has many cool features not known and used by many people. For example, it can perform currency conversion and mathematical calculations!
Just search 100 USD IN EUR and you will see the conversion as in the below image. Although the rates used by Google's built-in currency converter are not real time and as accurate as the ones provided by specialized services (see Google's disclaimer here) they are good enough to give some idea about the rates.

Online Currency Conversion with Google Search
Actually, Google's search engines built-in unit conversion functionality is not limited with currency conversion. It can convert between many units. For example below is the result of searching 30000 feet in meters. Of for example if you search kg in pound you will get the following result : 1 pounds = 0.45359237 kilograms.

Online Currency Conversion with Google Search

Google search engine has many built-in functionality like this. One of them, which I frequently use due to the nature of my work is Local Time function. Simply type in time in [City/Country] and Google will give you the local time for any city in the world. Below is the result of searching Time in Kuala Lumpur.

Some examples are:

A potential Europe Crisis will hit Singapore hardest

If Europe enters a full blown crisis, Singapore will be the worst hit Asian economy, according to a newly released Credit Suisse report. Singapore is exposed to Europe by several ways; Eurozone banks also make up a bigger proportion of domestic bank lending in Singapore than other Asian economies, the Eurozone directly account for more than 12 per cent of its GDP and private sector holdings of Eurozone debt and equities are the highest in the world outside of Hong Kong.[1]

Below is a chart from IMF, which shows the Consolidated Foreign Claims of European Banks on Asia (claims are on immediate borrower basis) as a percentage of GDP as of Q3 2011. Hong Kong has a stunning 160% plus of GDP tied up in European bank claims and Singapore has almost 80% of GDP tied up in European bank claims! The nearest to these 2 in Asia, Malaysia, has only 20% of GDP tied up in European bank claims. This means a rapid contraction in western European banks' balance sheets pose a greater risk to Singapore and Hong Kong:

"An escalation of the crisis with a disorderly, large-scale, and aggressive trimming of balance sheets could have a serious impact on Asia," the IMF said in a report released on Friday. 
Memories in the region are fresh of how quickly banks drew in their horns after the collapse of Lehman Brothers in September 2008. From peak to trough, the foreign claims of euro area and British lenders fell by around 37 percent and 21 percent of outstanding claims, respectively, the IMF estimates.  
World trade shrank by 30 percent. Asian economies slowed to a crawl, prompting China to start transforming the yuan into an international currency to reduce its reliance on fickle dollar funding. 
"If European Union bank deleveraging accelerates and even prompts banks from other regions to cut back, this will amount to a real pinch for Asia," HSBC economist Frederic Neumann in Hong Kong said in a note to clients. 
"A pinch, of course, is not tantamount to a systemic collapse, but it is uncomfortable nonetheless." [2]

Source : IMF

According to IMF, European banks play an important role in supplying credit to several Asian economies. As a result of a euro area financial turmoil, these banks could pare back foreign assets and a sharp deleveraging arising from an intensification of the euro area crisis could potentially cause a shock to credit supply in Asia:

" Such a credit crunch could arise from a withdrawal of wholesale funding to the domestic banking sector—and associated derivatives markets—or through a direct reduction in credit supply to the nonbank private sector.
Australia, Hong Kong SAR, Korea, New Zealand, Singapore, and Taiwan are the largest borrowers from European banks, while China, India, and the ASEAN countries generally have smaller liabilities. ... The financial centers, Hong Kong SAR and Singapore, which play a regional intermediating role, have much higher liabilities to European banks than do other regions of the world, with the exception of emerging Europe (which is far more interlinked with the euro area).[3]

Some must reads to understand the dynamics of current and upcoming financial crisis:
This Time Is Different:
Eight Centuries of
Financial Folly
Endgame: The End of
the Debt Supercycle and
How It Changes Everything
The Theory of
Money and Credit

[1] - Singapore could be worst-hit Asian economy in full-blown euro crisis: Report
[2] - Emerging markets hold breath as EU banks shrink

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Asus tweet from behind and then apologizes

"We apologise for the inappropriate comment on Twitter earlier. We will take steps to ensure this doesn’t happen again." This was from the tweeter account of electronics company Asus, referring to a previous tweet which has been found by some sexist. In that tweet, Asus said "the rear looks pretty nice. so does the new Transformet AIO" with a picture taken from behind of a booth babe demonstrating Transformer AIO tablet at Computex 2012 with a white gown (see the picture below):

"A company's misogynistic tweet admiring the 'rear' of a booth girl at a technology conference has ignited a sexism row in the technology industry as thousands of gaming companies descend on LA for the E3 conference. 
ASUS, a Taiwan-based electronics company, came under fire as it introduced widely-anticipated new versions of its Transformer AIO tablet at the Computex Summit in Taipei on Monday. 
The company’s Twitter account posed a photo from behind of a so-called 'booth babe' - a model hired by companies as eye candy for their products - holding one of ASUS's newest devices (a computer that is both a tablet and a laptop, thanks to a double-sided screen).
So-called booth babes have long been a fixture of technology conferences - with this week's industry leading event in Los Angeles being no exception."[1]
Promotional models, largely known as booth babes, have recently been heavily used in Asian Fairs and Festivals and has started to attract both crowds and critics.

Asus Booth Babe
Source : Yahoo News
[1] - Sexism row hits tech industry over tweet praising booth babe's 'rear'

Pod Hotels getting popular

Standard hotel rooms in New York are very expensive yet they are very small. But with the introduction of pod hotels in the city, which are inspired by Japan's capsule hotel, hoteliers now may have very small but at least relatively cheaper hotels.

Capsule hotels first appeared and are highly popular in Japan but they did not have the same popularity in other countries. On the other hand, they have inspired small cabin style hotels which are larger and often comes with their own private bath in first European airports and then other parts of the world. For example a standard cabin of the Yotel Hotel Gatwick Airport in London (Ground Floor Arrivals Concourse South Terminal Gatwick Airport)  is designed as a first-class plane cabin. Yotel has also 2 more pod hotels in Europe (Yotel Schiphol Hotel AmsterdamYotel Heathrow Airport London) and a hotel in New York at Times Square West.

These less than 100 sq ft hotel rooms comes with bare minimum to shower, sleep and rest but provides a very budget alternative to the typical hotel room of larger size. According to the New York Times, they are now gaining popularity in New York. New York Times report that the first entry in New York was the 345-room Pod Hotel in east Manhattan, which opened in early 2007 with room rates that start at US$ 89 a night. And it must be popular. The developer of the Pod, BD Hotels, plans to open another in Manhattan  some time this month and plans to open other Pod Hotels in other US cities like Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles and Washington.

Yotel Cabin - Source :
In Manhattan New York city, there will also be 2 more pod hotels by 2014; Pod36 and Pod51 which offer tiny rooms with stylish, smart design. Unlike original Pod rooms, these will offer private bathrooms for each rooms. Both hotels will have bunk beds:

There are also several pod style accommodation options in Singapore, where hotel prices are the most expensive in Asia. One of them, Matchbox the Concept Hostel, provides pod-style dormitories in a very good and central location for only around SG$40 (US$31) per night. Another one is Wink Hostel, which also offers  “pod” style beds; from SD$50 (US$38) for single pod and SG$90 (US$70) for double pod per night. In Changi Airport, for transit passangers, there is also Ambassador Transit Hotel (Terminal 1, Terminal 2 and Terminal 3) which provides budget rooms with only TV and bed (shower and toilet common) for SG$47 (US$36) per 6 hours.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

9 Hours Capsule Hotel Kyoto Teramachi (Japan)

9 Hours Capsule Hotel's philosophy is summarized in its name : A bare minimum hotel experience requires 9 hours : 1 hour to shower, 7 hours to sleep and 1 hour to rest. The hotel provides a very good capsule accommodation experience and is at a very good location (very near to Metro if you want to travel to Osaka after Kyoto and all key locations can be accessed from the bus station which is 5-10mins walk from the hotel).

9 Hours Capsule Hotel has a simple and clean design with a very modern and functional interior architecture. It is quite different and better from your typical capsule hotel. The intention of the design is to make the place so simple that the customer easily move from one step to the next taking all the extras out of the hotel experience. "Seeing old capsule hotels, I wondered; would this concept work in London and New York?" says Keisuke Yui, President of Cubic Corp. "Would people think this was a good thing? It seemed clear that they would not. The basic theory of a capsule hotel was fine. But for people today, it wasn't enough. The business itself needed to be redesigned."

"For a capsule hotel, this is actually quite good. the sleeping pod is quite spacious. clean sheets. provides many amenities. the individual lockers are small thou, if you have a large luggage, you will have to leave it at the reception, and bring along a smaller bag to keep your valuables with you." says a solo traveler from Singapore.

9 Hours Capsule Hotel - Source :
Everything is provided in the hotel from sleeping wear to white towels and the shower and locker rooms are on their own floor. Sleeping floors are segregated by gender. Men and women even have separate lifts. [1]

Capsule style of hotel accommodation was first developed in Japan and only popular in Japan but some capsule style hotels also emerged in other countries.There are Western variants of these concept but almost always with larger accommodations and often with private baths. Capsule hotels greatly vary widely in size. Some capsule hotels have only fifty or so capsules while some may have over 700. The main draw of these hotels is of course the cheap accommodation they provide : you can stay in a capsule hotel for around ¥2000-4000 (US$25–50) a night.

[1] - 9 hours Capsule Hotel- A Monocle Report

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Singapore housing oversupply may be on the horizon

Singapore has been exposed to artificial liquidity created by global major economies which has fuelled asset bubbles and inflation in the country. Near zero interest rates are temporarily making million dollar flats “affordable” and “mass market” and since the property prices and number of properties sold do not show any sign of retreat after rounds and rounds of cooling measures, there has also been a sentiment which can be summarized as “as long as a meteor do not hit the planet earth, Singapore property always goes up”. This makes people to bring forward their demand for property. The sales numbers and prices are still going up even though the global economic outlook does not look promising.  As in all bubble times, people are simply ignoring any party spoiler and behaving like they cannot even wait for a few months to see the clear future. Buy now or regret later!

But according to Wing Tai chairman Cheng Wai Keung, the situation may end up with a Singapore housing oversupply:

“Just as pent-up demand saw housing prices shoot up over the past few years, a reverse situation could be at play now, says Wing Tai chairman Cheng Wai Keung.

“People are bringing forward their decisions to buy property as they fear prices may rise. As a result, demand in subsequent years may be lower than what is projected based on current demand. This would worsen an oversupply situation. On the top of that if the economy is not so good at that time, it will compound the problem.”

“The current housing cycle has lasted more than I have expected” he adds. “The effects of five rounds of cooling measures have been short lived. And despite the fact that the government has increased supply for so many years, the property market has not subsided.” He attributes this to a cocktail of past undersupply, Singapore’s population growth and liquidity.[1]

West, particularly USA, is printing money to punish saving and force spending but since this money flows to Asia and creates a dangerous and damaging investment environment. Near zero interest rates here and persistently high inflation punishes money saved in bank and forces people to buy assets to hedge against inflation. This is fuelling the property demand and prices but any turn in this scenario like an increase in interest rates would take the floor below the Singapore’s property bubble.

 [1] – Housing oversupply on the horizon, says Wing Tai boss, The Business Times

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.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Budget flights from Singapore to Tokyo and Taipei with Scoot

Scoot Airlines, the long haul budget arm of Singapore Airlines, has just made its maiden flight yesterday and just after the flight the company announced new routes from Singapore: Tokyo (Japan) and Taipei (Taiwan). The flights from Singapore to Tokyo and Taipei are planned to start from the third quarter of 2012.

Scoot has already announced budget flights from Singapore to Bangkok (where it is competing with its sister company Tiger Airways), Gold Coast (Australia)Tianjin (China) and Sydney (Australia). Yesterday's flight was to Sydney and flights to the Gold Coast will start from June 12.

Long haul budget flight is a new concept which has found some success with Air Asia X and Jetstar in Asia and Scoot is hoping to cut a slice from this pie as Asia's middle class is growing:
Singapore Airlines' budget offering, Scoot, will begin operations later this year, joining Malaysia's AirAsia X and Australia's Jetstar, a Qantas subsidiary, in flying long-haul in the region. Scoot plans to fly to five destinations in Australia, Japan and China in its first year, before targeting other routes. Cebu Pacific, a budget carrier from the Philippines, will enter the market next year with a long-haul service targeting the Filipino Diaspora in the Middle East and further afield. 
Scoot CEO Campbell Wilson told CNN's Richard Quest that the low-cost market was rapidly growing in Asia. "In eight years in Singapore, it's gone from nothing to about 25% of Changi's (Airport) throughput. There's a market that wants to travel no frills and wants to travel further afield."
Source : Asia's budget airlines spread their wings with long-haul flights

Yesterday's maiden flight started with a 2 hours delay due to a technical problem but The aircraft landed smoothly at Sydney’s Kingsford Smith Airport yesterday morning and received a water cannon salute.[1]

The airline has a web site named Flyscoot from where you can buy tickets and check promotions and latest news.

[1] - Scoot will fly to Tokyo, Taipei

Second-timers significantly improved on their chances for BTO says National Development Minister

The chances of second-time public housing buyers securing build-to-order (BTO) flats have improved significantly over the last seven months from application rates of 25.9 applicants per unit of November to 8.8 applicants per unit currently. Second-timers are those buyers who have already used public housing subsidized to buy a flat. In project releases, they are given a less percentage of flats compared to first time buyers, who are usually newly wed couples looking for a home to stay.

In non-mature estates, the application rate for second-timers is now 7.3, similar to 7.0 in March. These numbers are shared by National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan yesterday.[1] A long lasting under-supply of HDB flats in the last decade, which was a reaction to an oversupply in late 90's and early 2000's has left many first timers with repeated failure to get a public housing flat and formed long waiting queues lasting sometimes for years. Since 2011, new National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan has increased the release of new HDB flats from an average of 8,000 flats per year to 25,000 per year. In 2012, it is also planned to release 25,000 flats and HDB has already revealed that it has capacity to build up to 100,000 in the following years.

Compassvale Boardwalk, a popular BTO project - Source :
In his blog article named Passing The Test, Khaw Boon Wan wrote:
"In particular, first-timers continue to enjoy a high chance of securing their first flat. The overall first-timer application rate is 1.6. This is lower than the 2.2 in the March BTO, and similar to the 1.6 in January earlier this year, and November last year. In non-mature estates, the first-timer application rate is even lower, at 1.3 compared to the rate of 1.9 in March. 
As planned, more second-timers, too, will be able to select a flat. Their application rate in non-mature estates is at a single digit level of 7.3, which is similar to the rate of 7.0 in March. The overall second-timer application rate is also at a single digit level of 8.8, lower than the rate of 10.8 in March. 
If first-timer application rates hold steady at below 2, I will be able to help even more second-timers get their new flats.  The May BTO test results give us confidence that we are making steady progress on this journey.  This is much to be cheerful about."

[1] - BTO flats: ‘Better chances’ for second-time buyers