Mitigating the Clouds: Surveying the Future

He’s alive…. Apologies to anyone who’s adversely been impacted by the inactivity here. Since relocating to the big city last September, this space has collected much cyber dust. Neglected but not forgotten.

On the professional front, I’ve been keeping busy on and offline. The seed industry has proved to be a stimulating calling to say the least. If you find it difficult to sate your curiosity with such a vague statement, then do be sure to catch up, get your fill by reading some of the latest editions of Asian Seed Magazine, print edition here, and online news updates from APSA here.

Scroll down for photos of the latest weekend adventure, or keep reading for the full imagination stimulation and penetration sensation.

No longer subject to demanding weekend shifts that characterized his days as a daily news and features editor (once upon a time not so long ago on the “progressive paradise island” known as Phuket), the Siamerican has devoted that little bit of regained time and energy towards more land surveys – dreaming, scheming and paving the way for the next anticipated, crucial phase: planning and preparing for what is expected to be “tough times ahead”. Multiple fronts and indicators could have us here all day and night if I were to outline them all for you now. If you find yourself in the neighborhood, let’s have a coffee!

SURVEY SURVEY: In the last several years, I’ve scaled dozens upon dozens of plots of potential land prospects spanning a stretch of thousands of kilometers, traversing smooth Asia super highway asphalt to the muddy, wet, dusty, weathered and patchy roadways that dissect the tropical countryside of South, West, East and Central Thailand – from Phuket and Phang Nga, to Prachuap and Phetchaburi, through Nakhon Nayok, Saraburi and Lopburi…

The clock is ticking, and so allow me to underline some of the progress and insight realized on my latest surveys as an irreversible decision for the better begins to formulate in the near horizons.

Those of you who know me have heard me talking about it for years. And the time has come.The sun is beginning what could be an extended nap, and like clockwork, inducing from the past, the patterns in our weather and climate indicate that, in a very tiny nutshell: the increasing number of cosmic-ray induced clouds in the sky don’t look like they are going anywhere any time soon.

And though temperatures in much of the planet have already started cooling down, it would appear that the electromagnetic potential and geopolitical factors are only starting to warm up. An abundance of challenges, and opportunities, lie ahead no doubt.

To the point, today, I visited two key target sites within budget and strategic criteria.

I had visited these sites in previous surveys, but it’s always a good idea to visit the same site twice or more with a new perspective, set of eyes. And I’m glad I did. Here’s the run down on this weekend’s revelations:

The first and last stop on the itinerary, revisiting an abandoned open land subdivision in Nakhon Nayok, which was a favored site that I had previously surveyed several plots at on three different occasions in the last few months. I had been near-sold on a pursuing a rai (1,600 square meters, or about 0.4 of an acre) there, and up until this past weekend it seemed like a real steal. Good price. Green, grassy soil. Partial irrigation integrated into the plots. Smooth rock-matrix asphalt roads accessing the plots about a km from the main highway. Several corner plots available. Accessible yet isolated. Close enough to civilization., within 1-2 hours of my metropolitan weekday base… it was all pluses for me.

Geographically, the district it is in, Onkarak, is strategically situated between two up and coming economic corridors with very strong growth potential (For more elaboration, do invite me out for a coffee). Not that I aiming for a quick turnaround or profit, but there is a sense of security knowing that one can likely get back what they put in, multiplied by two or three in as many years.

The latest visits to this site, about 75km northeast of Bangkok were to be the fourth, fifth and final telling trips. Unlike previous prospects, this time, to my surprise and disappointment, the entire subdivision was inundated in between 20 and 60cm of floodwaters . After the previous three visits, I left feeling confident as I had happen to come during heavy downpours and the drainage seemed adequate enough. Surely, drainage issues would have presented themselves then, I thought.

And while it wasn’t raining at all during these latest visits to explain the flooded subdivision, it turns out that the person managing the reservoir in the center of the project –  a poor squatter and his family – had to drain the overflowing reservoir this week, having no choice but to convert the roads into mini stagnant rivers.

And as the project had never been polished off before the original investors had to jump ship, yielding their precious titles to the bank, crucial infrastructure is still gravely lacking. While central grid power lines are not a major concern for me (a welcome challenge and incentive if anything) the lack of overflow drainage channels is.

There are plenty of larger drainage canals in the vicinity of the subdivision, but there is no direct channel linking them to the project reservoir itself, as I disappointingly found out.

And as intensifying cloudy, wet and wild weather is imminent, the lack of controlled overflow channeling proves to be a major limiting factor demanding careful consideration and caution. In conclusion, pursuing this particular endeavor would require additional investment into heavy-duty pumps (and sufficient electrical generation capacity to power them), extensive trench digging, pipes and perhaps most challenging would be securing access through private property to engineer a system to adequately move the water where it needs to go into the surrounding canals, which may or may not be clogged by locals’ petroleum packaging problems.

If I had more time and money to clear such obstacles, perhaps, this could still be a dream bug out site. But as of now, with the worst of the wetness yet to come, I will just have to put more consideration into other high-potential sites, elsewhere.

Bringing us to the second survey site of the weekend. It was to be my second time visiting these plots in a secluded yet buzzing agricultural zone in Ban Mi district in northern Lopburi, about 175km north of the Thai capital.

In this particular project’s zone, rice, cane and cassava are the mainstay-crops of the day, but there is still a lot of acreage evenly lined with towering golden teak forests. And the corner plots I scaled are shaded nostalgically by rows of these tall, aging timbers.

A rai sized plot is even better priced in Ban Mi than Ongkarak. The project in the former district has access points from several directions. Relatively flat, no apparent accumulation of water anywhere, and there is a lot of positive to be speculated about the abundance of teak, cane and cassava being cultivated there.

From what I can gather speaking to an initially-suspcious foreman at a huge construction site nearby, underway appears to be a bio-refinery facility, which would make good economic use of all the cassava and sugarcane being grown. To understand more, do read about Thailand’s Bioeconomy plans in Asian Seed Magazine print (Volume 23, Issue 2) from link above (or a coffee if you please).

The site in Ban Mi is about twice the distance and time drive than the site in Nakhon Nayok, but on the plus side, the former is within a 15-20 minute drive to several rail stations along the Bangkok to Nakhon Sawan/Phitsanulok/Chiangmai northern rail line, which will be upgraded to double tracks to accommodate high speed trains in the near future. In the mean time, the option of spending several hours on Thailand’s existing steadily moving trains during the weekends certainly stands out from having to drive all the time. Besides, train travel is a lot safer and calming than driving on Thai roads.

So, I’m feeling good about Ban Mi at the moment. Mind you, before I make the dive, I there are a few more target survey sites to conduct and revisit along the Gulf of Thailand’s western coastline, in Phetchaburi and Pranburi, which I’ll plan to complete before the month’s end. But as it stands, the idea of a little teak cane and cassava haven is starting to grow on me.. Watch this space.

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