Took a few days off this week to deliver my son back to his base in the South. Along the way, had a dozen survey sites pinpointed on the map to visit. Photo album below.
Located in Phetchaburi and Prachuap Kiri Khan provinces, the target plots this round are all seized bank assets and thus priced to sell, at about B1,000-B2,000 per square wa, well below standard market value.
For reference, one square wa is equal to four square meters (2 meters wide by 2 meters long). In American terms of reference, we’re talking about land prices equivalent to about $0.75 to $1.50 to the square foot.
The minimum plot sizes I’m looking at start at one ngaan, which is 100 square wa — 20×20 sq.m., or 400 square meters, which is equal to about 4,300 square feet, or about a tenth of an acre. A few of the plots go up to about a rai, which is 400 sq. wa, or 1,600 sq.m., or just over two fifths of an acre.
As I conclude this carefully calculated opening thought, let me just underline how much I’ve come to love the metric system and its conversion-friendly derivatives around the world, including in Thailand. Nonetheless, it’s always a fun exercise to convert to the American standard so that my stateside comrades can follow!
Having lived, worked, learned and generated many o’ memory in Phetchaburi province at around the turn of the century, it is easy for me to imagine making an experimental homestead there. But even after so many years there was still uncovered surprises waiting for me in the mountain-coastal province, about 2-3 hours southwest of the Thai capital.
Coastal Chemical Circles, Cattle, Canals & Cacti
The first stop was an abandoned land subdivision just south of Ban Laem district. Not so far from the iconic swallow-nesting pseudo-buildings of Ban Laem and a stone’s throw from the expansive seaside salt farms of Pak Talay sub district, there was a 1-ngaan corner plot that looked worthy of my eyes on the ground.
Having studied aerial and satellite maps carefully, I had previously already identified one of the main limitations of the property. About 2-3 km south of its location is a huge coastal oil refinery built in the last decade. From the air you can see huge white circles, presumably tanks where oil from the Gulf of Thailand is meant to be stored before being processed into a number of petroleum condensate derivatives. While it is not clear from my queries whether the refinery is currently in operation, it doesn’t take much speculation to confidently determine whether land values will be benefited adversely or positively, never mind risks associated with water tables and atmospheric chemistry profiles.
Aside from the aforementioned restriction, road access to the target plot was blocked off by a tree-tied metal wire adjourned with tin cans, apparently to alarm the occupant of a nearby house of intruders, prompting us to park on the side of the road, and continue the remaining 200 meters by foot. Nothing spectacular to report considering the the high-price relativity. The refinery is not easily seen without intentionally squinting south, but the blocked access indicating that local(s) doesn’t(don’t) welcome outsiders was enough incentive to quickly continue the land hunt southward.
The next target sites along the southerly coast, near Had Chao Samran and Puk Tian beaches, are closer to the part of Phetchaburi I am more familiar, and comfortable with, characteristic of peaceful cattle grazing grounds and coastal klongs (canals), the landscape there is dotted with post 1997-abandoned resorts and half-finished subdivision projects. A cheap land hunter’s dream stretch.
But there were no particularly inspirational revelations on this round for me. Worth mentioning is one of the projects we visited was overgrowing with cacti colonies, which was surprising as I never knew the iconic desert plant could be so prolific in a tropical coastal environment. Must have had to do with the height of the 2015-2016 El Nino dry spell.
I could still imagine myself setting up shop here, but the prices along the coast aren’t as attractive as further inland, where the surveys continued. (Besides, I later would learn that I had punctured two of my tyres pretty severely during the latest surveys, and I suspect it was from maneuvering in one of these sub divisions, where the roads were overgrowing with thorny bushes and cacti.)
Next, a few nice 1-ngaan corner plots were discovered just to the west of Cha-ahm beach resort district. Ideal location, within 2km of the Asia (Thai-Malaysia) peninsular highway, and about 7-11km to the beach town resort commerce center and rail station.
This area has promise, though is at the upper end of my budget. Other than price limitations, another factor to consider which could be both negative and positive is the location of huge sand pit digging sites nearby. At the surface, they look just like that: huge trucks moving sand from the pits into huge piles, presumably for sell to construction sites nearby. Or perhaps they are digging huge reservoirs, which can be positive (storing of water reserves, beautiful waterside landscapes) and negative (if full and overflowing, surrounding plots could be the first to suffer the wrath of emergency water release measures). Also, there is always the possibility that the massive digging operation is for some other kind of massive industrial site in the works. Too many uncertainties at this point to make the leap without more clarification. To be revisited again in the near future.
We then drove further inland to check out some more plots priced right though slightly further away from fast-pace scene of highway, train and coastal civilization. One particular 1-rai plot of land about 30km inland was promising at first sight as it was not only priced right, but already graded for agriculture, the adjoining plots in business already with mango, sugarcane, cassava and papaya fields.
However, the lack of clear marking of it and other adjacent plots also on the market heeds some cause for caution. As I explained to my son in taking into consideration important criteria during such surveys, if ever there is a land conflict between bank and locals, or former owners, or when locals have been using private land to farm based on whatever agreements or arrangements, written down or otherwise, they may have had in the past, there is strong potential for resistance to any newcomers who might interrupt the flow of “how things have been”.
Without actually meeting and talking to locals to find out if there is any said resistance or negative energy in the air, another indicator is to look at the state of for-sale signs, if they are even posted at all. One way locals may try to deter newcomers is to destroy, remove sale signs, or deface them so they are not legible to potential buyers. This practice is illegal, but still common, and I tend to stray away from plots that aren’t clearly marked for sale, or have evidence of damaged/defaced signs. If I had gun-toting pussy-fueled posse behind me, then perhaps this would be less of a deterrent, but as it stands, I look for mutually peaceful co-existence wherever I shall end up.
The final survey stops this round would be near Prachuap Kiri Khan city in the province of the same name. Though further away from Bangkok, this area is still particularly attractive to me for many reasons. It is linked by rail, which today requires about 4-5 hours commute time one way to/from Bangkok. In the near future, this will be reduced to 1-2 hours (Thanks US Treasury reinforced China expansionism). The plots I’ve seen here are ideally ready to set up camp, literally, and within a few km to the railway station. The idea of commuting to/from my land on the weekends by rail and a folding bike is appealing to say the least.
Prachuap City, nicknamed the tri-cove city (Muang Saam Ao) is a particularly peaceful and scenic coastal stop en route to/from the South. Cost of living (and land) is still relatively reasonable, and its key economic wild card, in addition to the advent of high speed rail access, is the opening up of an international border crossing into Myanmar (read blog of visit to Myanmar border here).
The border is already open to Thais, who can take a 5-hour van trip to/from the Myanmar’s largest southern city of Mergui. Word has it that a highway is well under construction Myanmar side to cut this commute down to only a few hours in the near future, when the border is expected to be upgraded to a fully-functional international checkpoint.
Wise man indicates that when word catches on that tourists are within only a few hours’ drive to the Mergui archipelago from Prachuap Citty, tourism is bound to boom here; never mind the flow of international goods to/from Thailand’s Eastern Economic Corridor, Cambodia, Vietnam and the South China Sea. Mark these words, friends…
To wrap this all up in moving forward, I’ve got some homework during my trip back to Bangkok in the next few days, when I plan to revisit half a dozen plots on my radar, in addition to a few I’ve already scaled initially, which I’ve left behind each time with only positive after-thoughts. As mentioned previously, it’s always a good idea to visit the same twice or more wit a new perspective.
Oh, a quick update about my consideration towards the teak forest plots in Lopburi I was considering as underlined in my last blog update. It turns out teak in Thailand is a highly valued and protected tree that requires special permission to cut down, even if it is on one’s own property for private use. Not impossible to obtain a permit, especially if your intent is just to clear a spot so as to build your own house, but it’s not a guarantee and the procedures need to get the blessings from the provincial governor’s office via the Forestry Department… Which means a lot of bureaucracy dancing and prancing, filing, fees and waiting idly with my fingers crossed, which is not something I am necessarily prepared to invest in considering the urgency of needing to make ground sooner than later.
Hence the 900-km+ drive to Bangkok via Prachuap and Phetchburi should be an insightful one with many factors to organize inside my brain before committing to action, pursuing crucial decisions ahead. In a future update, I aim to share some of my revelations about mitigating flood threats, which is an important part of the survey process I haven’t mentioned here, but which is crucial nonetheless. Watch this space! And now some pictures for you.