Do’s and Don’ts of Bali

Jimbaran

Do

  • Visit Kintamani to get a nice view of Mount and Lake Batur (you can opt to dine at Lakeview Restaurant, which is basically a place for tourist groups, to soak in the view over lunch. The food is nothing to shout about, plus your driver probably gets some kickback for bringing you there, but all in all it’s not too bad)
  • Try the Luwak Coffee on a visit to a “coffee plantation” (which is a typical set up to earn tourist dollars as with most other tourist attractions in Bali, and again, some kickback to the driver is probably involved, but it’s worth it), the most expensive coffee in the world at over US$65 per 100g, produced from the excretion of coffee beans from the Asian palm civet after having been eaten and digested
  • Have grilled seafood for dinner while watching the sun set over Jimbaran beach
  • Get a Balinese massage/spa (as many times as you can arrange for during your stay)
  • Visit Kuta/Legian beach, these are probably still better than most other beaches despite being ultra congested with tourists
  • Do your shopping at Matahari, which has practically everything you want under one roof including art and craft, without having to bargain over the price (unless you enjoy doing this) and dine at Dulang Restaurant just next to it, arguably among the best food you can find in Bali at down-to-earth prices
  • Be prepared to pay 150,000 Rupiah per person for the airport tax on your departure. This is NOT included in your air ticket

 

Don’ts

  • Agree to the deal too quickly when doing price negotiation while shopping. Take it slow and pretend not to be interested
  • Take the taxi at the airport without pre-paying the taxi fare. The taxi booth is on the right side of the terminal exit. They will quote you 3 times the official rate if you didn’t pre-pay first.
  • Drive on your first trip there. The traffic “rules” are quite different. Leave it to a hired driver which doesn’t cost very much anyway.
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When you know it’s time to change your monitor

monitor

Here’s possibly what your LCD monitor may look like in 6 years. And I almost thought this was the work of some pretty darn smart virus. Come to think of it, this may be the result of constant exposure to heat. Anyway, time to shop for a new monitor. Looks like a decent entry level monitor costs only S$200, much lower than the S$800+ i forked out for my Samsung SyncMaster 173T. RIP 2004 – 2010.

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SOR all time low 0.31% (updated)

SOR fell to 0.31%, presumably the all time low. This is probably a result of the revaluation of SGD against USD from 1.39 to below 1.38, which makes it cheaper to repay loans denominated in US dollar. The Fed reiterated their plans to keep interest rates low for a long time, while Malaysia, India and Australia, among others, have raised rates. In the longer term, rates are expected to surge, so do watch out.

Update 16 Apr 2010: new all time low 0.31%

Update 23 Aug 2010: new all time low 0.258%

Update 11 Aug 2011: new all time low -0.7%

Update: see posting more postings

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My Home Loan Report Card (Yr 2)

Time flies and before you know it, the second year of my SOR-pegged loan is drawing to an end. The chart above shows my home loan interest rates over the past 2 years.

I will no longer enjoy the promotional bank margin (what the bank charges on top of SOR) of 0.75% and it will bump up to 1.25%. As was reported in my post yesterday, the refinancing offer i got was SOR + 0.85%, with 1 year lock-in. To be honest, it doesn’t look like an attractive offer, and with just 1 year of promotional margin being offered, it looks half-hearted. Considering that i may be selling my house later this year, i decided to just let the 3-months-in-advance redemption notice deadline lapse. If i switched to another bank, i will have to pay legal fees, which in the end probably works out to be more. Lets hope the current property frenzy continues for a while.

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Loan packages on offer

As promised, here are the details of the loan packages i have been offered:

Bank A (Refinancing, quoted on 12 Feb)

  Variable 2 yrs Lock-in 2 yrs Fixed SOR 1 yr Lock-in
Yr 1 1.68% 1.99% 3mth SOR + 0.85%
Yr 2 1.68% 1.99% 3mth SOR + 1.25%

Prepayment penalty: 1.5% (For the SOR package, 1.5% penalty is also applicable if redemption is not done on the rate review date, even after the lock-in period)

Bank B (New loan, quoted on 26 Feb)

  Variable No Lock-in SOR 1 No Lock-in
Yr 1 1.50% 3mth SOR + 0.98%
Yr 2 1.50% 3mth SOR + 0.98%
Yr 3 2.50% 3mth SOR + 0.98%
Cancellation Fee 0.75% 0.65%

Note that the cancellation fee is the penalty incurred on the loan amount that has not been disbursed (i.e. loan is cancelled before the full loan amount has been disbursed). For this particular bank, no penalty is imposed if the redemption for SOR package is not carried out on the rate review date.

Some observations:

  • No lock-in loan packages are back, with attractive rates too! When i first took up a loan in 2003, the market was so bad that practically every bank offered loans without lock-in. As time goes by, such packages evaporated, or were offered with unattractive rates. Looks like the competition is heating up again recently.
  • The cancellation fee for a new loan is much lower than the typical penalty of 1.5% banks typically impose. i have not checked if other banks offer comparable rates, but this is certainly encouraging property speculators, no?
  • Most SOR or SIBOR-pegged loans stipulate that redemption (partial or full) must be done on the rate review date, otherwise a 1.5% penalty is imposed. On top of that, it is quite standard that you have to request to perform the redemption 3 months in advance. What this means is that, if you’re trying to sell your house, you have to time the sale such that it is slightly more than 3 months before the rate review date, or risk having to pay the 1.5% penalty. Let me cite an example: say your rate review dates are 1 Jun, 1 Sep, 1 Dec and so on. To avoid paying the 1.5% penalty, you’ll have to sell your house say 2 weeks before 1 Jun, 1 Sep and so on. This no doubt makes things difficult as you never know when someone will agree to buy your house! If you happen to just miss the mark and sold your house say on 2 Jun, in order to avoid the 1.5% penalty, the loan redemption has to be done almost 6 months later and your buyer may not be willing to wait so long! Do take this into consideration if you’re thinking of taking up a SOR/SIBOR-pegged loan. Packages that do not stipulate that the redemption must coincide with the rate review date ARE AVAILABLE!
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SOR six months later

It’s been almost 6 months since i last posted an entry, and during this time more than 10,000km has been added to my car mileage, i have quit my job (without first having found a new job.. for the first time), got married, gone for a two weeks plus self-drive honeymoon across 7 countries in Europe, launched a new e-commerce website, started on my new job, and bought a new property (took up a new SOR-pegged loan for it). Yes, much has happened during this time, but fortunately there hasn’t been much action on SOR rates.

SOR stayed consistently low (below the 0.6% level). It even touched the historical low (as in since 22 Apr 06) of 0.42% again on 18 Feb 10. Time and again, signs that the Federal Reserve will start raising interest rates end up being a false alarm, with expectations that things will remain status quo for some time. Similar sentiments are seen on the local front – “Singapore interbank rates not expected to move for the next six months”. This no doubt is helping to move property prices despite government actions to curb speculation, with attractive loan package offerings from banks. Stay tuned for my first hand report on the prevalent loan packages!

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Honda Jazz 2009 mileage

honda_jazz08v_01_h

Honda Jazz 2009 mileage at 17000+ km (60/40 highway/city) : 13.7 km/l. Still a little disappointing. Nowhere near the 16 km/l that a reader is getting (granted, that was achieved on the previous model, and a manual one at that). Nevertheless, the engine runs a lot smoother now and the mileage is improving, hopefully hitting 14 km/l soon.

Petrol wise, my personal choice is SPC, not for anything else, but for the price. With the combo of Loyalty Card + Credit Card + $2 Voucher (promo till end of the month), the final discount rate is in excess of 17%. Nothing comes close to this in terms of instant discount. Mileage wise, experience tells me that all petrol of the same grade gives similar result. Why be hard on your wallet..

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SOR plunges to 0.44%

Here’s a newsworthy event – The 3-month SOR fell to 0.44% yesterday. This is a whopping drop of 1.1% over the last 3 days! This makes SOR more attractive than SIBOR (3-month) which continues to hold at 0.69%. In fact, at 0.44%, the 3-month SOR is at the same level as the 1-month SIBOR. The fall in SOR might have something to do with the falling US dollar. Here is the technical analysis of the USD/SGD exchange rate trend for those of you knowledgeable in this area.

Recent news indicate that there is “a strong consensus among the G-20 for the need to continue with the trillions of dollars worth of extraordinary stimulus packages”, thus we are likely to see low interest rates for a while yet, though the opposing force of rising inflation is also at work, as seen in the rally in oil price.

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Interest Rate Roundup

The recent property buying frenzy has given rise to increased interest in interest rates, as evident from the higher traffic volume to this blog (thanks for visiting!). I reckon it’s time to do a roundup on interest rates.

Interest rates are still generally very low. Libor is at a record low, and central banks worldwide continue to keep interest rates low. In Singapore, the 3-month SIBOR and SOR are holding steady at 0.69% and 0.6% respectively. This translates to rather favourable home loan rates, though they are “for a limited period only”. As an example, one bank offers a floating rate package at 1.68% (Year 1), 2.48% (Year 2) and 2.88% (Year 3) for 3 years lock-in. Another bank offers an attractive 1.6% (Year 1), 2.6% (Year 2) and 2.9% (Year 3) fixed rate package (yup, FIXED, at rates that are comparable to other floating rate packages).

Another trend to note is the increase in the margin banks are charging for SIBOR and SOR pegged loans. For one particular bank, the margin has gone up by 1% over the past 1 year! This makes SIBOR and SOR pegged loan packages less competitive, and perhaps this is the intended effect. With many predictions by analysts that the Feds will keep rates low well into 2010, there is still relative safety in taking up SIBOR or SOR pegged loans, though it is for sure that interest rates will go up some time in the future, when policy makers take the necessary action against rising inflation. The latest official figure for CPI in Singapore is up by 0.8%.

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