Saturday, May 31, 2008

Suvarnabhumi - Part 2

I was pretty impressed with the airport. Some more pictures from there..


Suvarnabhumi - namba bhumi?

The Bangkok Suvarnabhumi airport had its list of surprises for me. First was of course the extra long walk from the A terminals to the E terminals. However, there was another surprise for me. I had imagined Bangkok to be a primarily Bhuddist/Muslim country. The name itself had surprised me. But then there was this depiction of the Koorma Avataram from Lord Vishnu's Dasavathaaram. Very beautifuly depicted too! I didn't realize till I saw this, that Bangkok has a very strong Hindu tradition as well!

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Monday, May 26, 2008

The Window Seat

I rarely get to sit at the window seat during any of my travel due to a couple of reasons. No. 1 reason being that it's usually not available. No.2 reason being that I prefer the aisle seat for need of foot space (Note to aircraft designer: what's with putting the front seat on MY LAP???). Today my leg from Bankgok to Tokyo was one of the rare times that the flight was empty. I had the luxury of sitting at leisure all by myself in a triple seat. I slid over to the window seat and watched the plan take off from the Bangkok airport. Boy oh boy, what a view it was. Bangkok is indeed very beautiful and green. I was kicking myself for stowing away my camera in the over head bin. I would've loved to take some pics of the beautiful sight surrounding the Bangkok airport. (Which means I probably have to supplement this post with pics from Google maps.. how boring :-P).

[Insert] Can't find it on Google maps.. but check picture towards the end of the post for an idea of what I'm talking about.[End of Insert]

One of the things that struck me immediately is the vast amount of rectangular water tracts (very similar to land tracts) all around for miles together. I notice that all these water tracts were surrounded by thin strips of land probably to put fences on. Each of these water tracts looked to be agricultural of some sort (I would guess paddy, but not sure). And for a good 20 minutes after taking off, all I could see was these vast water tracts. Each of these water tracts were fed with water through man-made channels from one of the rivers that snaked across the land. Amazing!

Suddenly it struck me how different the agricultural plots looked here as compared to the US. Here all the plots were rectangular from the air. However, the last time I had noticed something like this from the air in the US, I remember them being circular. I sat and thought about it for a little while and then concluded that it probably is because of the kind of labour involved in the agriculture in each of these regions. In the US, most farms are run by 2 or 3 people. Very automated.

Very machinery oriented. I have seen a type of machinery arm which spokes out radially from a central point in the farm. This arm then rotates around the entire plot (supported by wheels underneath), and sprays water, pesticide, etc. Hence, when you look at the land from the air, it looks like someone took a compass and drew a circle on the plot of land. Put together many of these, and from the air, the entire stretch of agricultural land looked to me suddenly like a row of circular lights.
Below is a Satellite view from Google Maps of what the circular tract I'm talking about.

The plots in Bangkok were all rectangular, probably indicating that these were all labour intensive (inspite of being mechanized). It makes more sense for a row of people to start at one end, and comb the entire stretch of the rectangular land not missing out an inch. It's harder for people to start out at one point in the center and walk out radially. Probably miss out a lot of land between the radial lines.


[Insert] I found similar plots when I arrived in Tokyo also. Check out the picture below which I shot from the plane just before landing in Tokyo Narita airport. Hmm, the whole world seems to be working in one way.. except for the US looks like.

[End of Insert]
On an unrelated note.. MMMMMMMMMMMM.. Thai Airlines undoubtedly has the best croissants and danish that I've ever had. I wonder who the caterers are. It was totally orgasmic!!! THE PERFECT CROISSANT! Just heated to the perfect temperature, perfect softness, perfect dosage of butter when it was originally made, perfect taste, perfect aroma. Umm.. just melted in my mouth!! I even shamelessly had a second helping (though I"m trying to go on a diet to loose the 2 kgs I've gained in the last 2 weeks).

My excuse was that I had to make sure that my first one wasn't an exception. Sure enough, the second one was as perfect as the first! Note to myself.. try and fly Thai next time to Japan once again just for this! Haven't tasted one like this in the US, Europe, China or Korea! Definitely worth the pain of having to walk the entire length of the Bangkok airport to catch my connecting flight! Definitely THE longest walk I've had inside an airport (other airports in the US/Singapore have trains inside them). Oh hey!! Definitely feel better now. 2nd croissant totally compensated for by the longest walk inside an airport ever. How perfect is that??? Absolutely the PERFECT CROISSANT!

The air hostess walking by just noticed the content smile on my face. At peace with myself....


Sunday, May 25, 2008

Oil Prices, Inflation, Dollar Exchange Rates

Oil prices touch $135. Inflationary pressure is highest today across the world. Food prices are shooting up. India is seeing the highest inflation in the whole of Asia; about 7.5%. All my macro-economic lessons from my B-school classes are flashing before my eyes. I belong to the school of thought which believes in free markets with minimum government intervention in the form of subsidies or price-caps.
India has been the prime example of the OPPOSITE of a free market for the longest of times. This period was long known as the lisence raj! Ofcourse, once India decided to throw open its market to foreign investors, there has always been this tension of what to throw open to the free market, and what to subsidize/apply price caps. Today, for example, medicines and health care products are heavily price capped. Fuel is heavily subsidized. If the government let prices of both these important sectors float, a major portion of the population which lies under the poverty line will be seriously affected in the short term, before the free market kicks in and responds. Ofcourse, if you were the ruling party, you'd never want to make this move 'cause this is sure to get you overthrown the next term. Most of the masses, which are directly affected by the initial surge in prices of the free market, do not understand the broader macro-economics behind such a policy change. They would hold the government accountable for the high prices they are paying (in the short term) and this would cause government instability which in term would put the price caps/subsidies right back in place. So, in effect, the price caps and subsidies are here to stay for a while atleast.
However, today, the fuel subsidy is the one that is due to change very quickly. Due to the subsidy/price-cap policies in many countries in Asia, demands for fuel haven't come down in the last couple of years. It has only gone up! This should not be the case 'cause there is primarily an increas in demand, when the supply has remained constant. There HAS to be a price change according to basic economics. The rest of the world (Europe and US) have seen negative growth in demand for fuel becauses the prices have almost doubled now! It was $2.10 per gallon when I left the US in 2006 March. Today in May 2008, i think the fuel prices are hitting almost $4 per gallon. In India on the other hand, the price has gone up from Rs. 42 per liter to Rs. 48 I think. This can't go one forever??
We are already seeing signs of change across Asia (which is where most of the fuel price caps/subsidies from governemnts exist) . Indonesia has raised reduced fuel subsidy and hiked its fuel price. So have Sri Lanka and a few other Asian countries. India & China will soon follow suit. On the contrary to what a lot of people think of this being a bad thing.. I love this move! This would give the most populated portion of the world a little chance to feel the heat of the increasing price. This will temper down the demand for fuel from this side of the world. Fuel suddenly will become more expensive to everyone, and they will try to cut down on the usage of fuel. This will suddenly make alternate sources of energy more viable. More solar energy and bio-fuel energy will be consumed as compared to fossil fuels! This will force more money to be pumped into innovating in solar energy and other alternate sources. Great! All the better for our planet!

On a somewhat similar note, the other big deal is the gigantic inflation world over on food prices. Food prices are soaring. America is blaming India and china for increased food consumption. India rubbished US's claims by showing that US has suddenly increased it's bio-fuel consumption (which means more and more food like corn is being used to make bio-fuel), hence driving demand of food through the roof! But, then, I have asked myself why such high fluctuations in food prices suddenly. Shouldn't it have been a little more gradual? So gradual, that we shouldn't be noticing it. An article I read on the Business Standard a couple of days ago made me understand things a little better. The buying power of India and China have gone up. Hence, a Rs. 1 or Rs. 2 increase in food prices isn't noticed as much as it would've been noticed 10 years back (demand for food has become lot more. Which means, according to the free market theory, there has to be a drastic change in price to even affect the demand.

The future kind of gives me the creepies. Let's see where all this is headed!


Saturday, May 17, 2008

Mint (Wall Street Journal) carries an article on Ultimate Frisbee in India

Mint, the Wall Street Journal's Indian arm carried an article on the growth of Ultimate Frisbee in India. Read about it below.

You can read the original article here.

p.s. They got the name wrong no the diving picture though! That's Babynav! WTF!! Do I look that big???

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