Scooter in Hua Hin - Erik Winther 2014
With the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) that makes the ASEAN countries consider themselves as one single market by 2015 and Thailand being the prevailing car manufacturer; with Thailand’s ‘first time [car] buyer’-promotion for its people; with the recent termination of Australia’s automotive industry; with low labour costs; and lastly with the fact that Thailand still demand 100% import tax on all vehicles manufactured abroad; there is no doubt why all car manufacturers set up production lines in Thailand, each of them with huge capacity. By 2017, the research company HIS expects ASEAN’s annual demand exceed 3.3 million cars.

Yet despite the collision safety arguments and the possibility to turn on the air conditioning when queuing, status is the only reason for the Thai (and ASEAN) people to replace their numerous, reliable two-wheelers. I mean, few things makes one feel as free as jumping on top of one’s bike and leaving the car queues behind on the way to the beach.

Picture of the 125cc-scooter I rented during a weekend trip to Hua Hin; the capital of retired Swedish seniors.

The Automotive Industry

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We see a lot of potential, and it is more than clear that today’s Africa is what China was 30 years ago: the place to be for fast economic growth and help-to-self-help. Which, in the end of the day, is what really matters – to me.

A few examples of what we have seen ourselves in Kenya:
• IBM recently opened their office in Nairobi, their first R&D department in the developing world, 9th in total
• MIT-students start their companies in Kenya’s Nairobi because of the buzzing creativity and potential on Ngong Road.
• Google’s grand office opening-party in Nairobi took place when we were there.
• We’ve met traditional Maasai men that lived far, far out in the bushes without electricity; yet greeted us “Hey, give me your mobile and I’ll send you some nice tribe-songs via Bluetooth”, and did it.

..and in Rwanda:
• Rwanda’s backbone of optical fibre for broadband is better than many others’, e.g. France’s.
• Kigali, Rwanda’s capital, is just as clean as Singapore, and their roads are equal in standard.
• Carnegie Mellon University has a campus in Rwanda, their first in the developing world. “Things are too slow in US and Europe”, their director told us.

Our findings, so-far: Africa is on the move

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Outdoor is the weather like any awesome Swedish summer day; 27 degrees and clear blue sky. Having dad here was great, and in just a few days will some friends that I stayed with in Singapore come to Seoul. Sounds great doesn’t it? There is just one problem; their 4 month long summer vacation, has already started while I am still studying for a midterm exam.
Hence, these days are spent indoor – struggling to keep sharp in mind and the focus on how to best implement kernel density gradient estimations, the pros and cons with the generalized Hough transform and how to describe those hidden virtual layers in artificial neural networks.
Now, don’t get me wrong; it is interesting, just not exciting enough to make me feel “Yay!”…

Stay focused

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Five million inhabitants squeezed together on a piece of land smaller than half Öland (a Swedish island). Still – considered to be the tidiest and safest country in the world.
I thought I should share some slightly intricate thoughts about this ‘Asian Tiger’, instead of just compliment their economic growth. So for all of you who might have second thoughts about the safety in poor Asian countries; it was in Singapore I got my phone stolen, the only thing that has gotten lost since I left Europe in August.

Singapore is founded on blame rather than praise. Doing something (or rather anything) that isn’t considered to be good manners is strictly forbidden and will result in high fines; e.g. €3000 for accidentally pressing the escalator’s emergency stop button. But I found one exception where Swedes are more conservative and strict; sex. In S’pore is prostitution legal and handled far from murky alleys.

I relate it to the fact that this metropolis for business and finance is built up by (financially) and for the rich people; 20% of the population consists of dollar millionaires. But despite Singapore’s impressive 3rd place in GDP PPP per capita are the majority not earning record high salaries, or for that matter happy about the litter-free and perfect façade that strikes you on arrival. Behind it lives a concealed truth that the over-fifty-years-in-power-party has managed to keep quiet enough to earn them a press freedom index at Uganda’s level.

Singapore is fantastic in many ways and a great hub for backpackers in need for a few days off the beaten track, or for the driven white collars that are looking for a year with high salary and tropical weather. Have a drink and enjoy the magnificent views from the skyscrapers in Marina Bay, but don’t forget to scratch a bit on the surface; speaking with Singapore-born locals reveals so much more…

Photos from Coron, Singapore’s Chinatown (x2) and the awesome pool seen from Joel & Co’s crib. Thank you Joel, Stina, Julia, Lotta, Erik, Adam and Tor for housing me those lovely days of Lunar New Year!


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