by Jan Yong
Succinctness of book belies the acute (and sometimes brilliant) observations of Ho Chin Soon
Ho Chin Soon is one of the most recognizable names in the property development industry in Malaysia – and for good reason. The master mapmaker makes a lot of sense and is bold enough to say what needs to be said. At the same time, his sense of humour is spot-on.
For those who think listening to speeches is boring, try sitting in during one of his speeches. And for those who find reading books boring, try reading one of his four books. You will be transported to a world of two-dimensional visual fest. There are maps, sure (after all he is first and foremost a mapmaker), but there are also charts, newspaper clippings, graphs, photos (even his personal ones).
Without a doubt, adding photos of him and his family in different locations around the world gives a personal touch to the book, not to mention casting him as a well-travelled writer. Cartographers of olden days used to double up as adventurers as well, traversing the world to map out lands few have set foot on.
Ho Chin Soon (aka HCS) is savvy enough to add his own branding to his overall package. After all, he was the first (or one of the first) to make branding one of three important elements when it comes to property investment. His first book is aptly entitled “Location, Timing & Branding.” Nowadays, being personal even in business is an accepted form of branding. Just look at how many big and successful businesses are in Facebook now.
In all his books, there are a number of relevant messages that the master mapmaker conveys. I am beginning to like the way he conveys it. There are no words needed. The pictures and news clippings do the talking. These are not arbitrary messages but meaningful messages that all who are passionate in making Malaysia a better place to live in should heed. When a book is this succinct, one’s got to read between the lines sometimes.
One of the best messages that I like in HCS’s latest book, “Greater KL: The Rise of Bukit Bintang” is the one in Chapter 1, at pages 15 and 16 where advertisements of car prices in the US and New Zealand are pasted with the comment “… eat your heart out.” Average new car prices in the US in 2006 range between US$10,000 and US$22,000 while a brand new Nissan in NZ costs NZ$23,000.
This reminds me of my article in iProperty.com.my blog published in November 2010 where car prices topping over RM1 mil were listed (http://blog.iproperty.com.my/real-estate-industry/bungalows-on-wheels). I ended with the comment: “Strange that this car bubble hasn’t received the same kind of attention as the housing “bubble”.
Top 20 most liveable?
Another one that struck a chord with me was the news-cutting on page 218 that has a photo of buskers in colourful shiny costumes being led away by the Federal Territory Welfare Department. The headline shouts: “Vagrant-free KL”. Now, I find it difficult to equate buskers with vagrants. I call them buskers because I myself have seen them “perform”. You take photos with them or of them in dramatic and interesting poses, usually frozen long enough for a few shots. You then pay them whatever amount you like for their “performance”. It’s hugely popular and located just in front of Maybank premises on Jalan Bukit Bintang. To call them vagrant is an insult to their talents and efforts.
HCS does not criticise outright the misguided move from the well-meaning department. Instead, he writes: “…there is a newspaper article where they are rounding up beggars and vagrants. But performers who entertain us in Bukit Bintang are also rounded up? ”
Next, he writes part of the experience in Spain is to see free street live performances. I hasten to add that what makes the Underground (The Tube) ride experience in London so very interesting for tourists are the very many talented buskers showing off their skills. Similarly, in Chatuchak Market in Bangkok, buskers there entertain as well as give the market a livelier feel.
The whole idea of a top liveable city (KL wants to be the top 20 most liveable city in the world by 2020) is not just its modern mega and/or green infrastructure, but the underlying social dimension. To leave this out is to entirely miss the picture. The city needs to embrace the diversity of its talented people and provide outlets for its many forms of expressions. A thriving cultural and arts scene is the hallmark of a great city, and not just in the multitude of its many sophisticated physical structures. We do not want the term “First World infrastructure, Third World mentality” to stick with us going forward towards 2020.
Ascendancy of Bukit Bintang
HCS’s latest book has a sub-heading: The Rise of Bukit Bintang. Certainly, Bukit Bintang area is and will be the top hot spot in Malaysia for a long time to come. Land prices there will rise and rise, “provided that the Centre can be accessed easily and the way to do this is to have underground trains moving massive amount of people and goods into the Centre in a smooth and seamless manner. There will then be more business to do, meaning tenants and businesses are willing and can afford to pay higher rentals.”
HCS then went on to give five reasons for the ascendancy of Bukit Bintang:
- Proximity to major projects such as Kuala Lumpur International Financial District (KLIFD), Warisan Merdeka, 1 Malaysia Development site at Sungei Besi military camp.
- North of KL is hampered by unsuitable land use, namely Malay Reserve Land.
- Barriers to smooth flow of development to the north such as Ampang Elevated Highway and the Klang River.
- Three major MRT stations including an interchange station are to be located south of the Golden Triangle. They are BB-Pudu (Bukit Bintang Barat), Pavilion (Bukit Bintang Timur) and the KLIFD (Pasar Rakyat).
- Bukit Bintang will become the “Orchard Road”, “Ginza” or “5th Avenue” – every global city has its world-famous shopping district.
MRT tour leader
Chapter 3 gives an overview of the MRT Blue Line which by now many are aware of. This may well mark HCS’s career turning point. After giving many bus tours of the locations of the 35 MRT stations, the multi-talented man has this to say: “I am thinking of changing my profession to that of a bus tour leader. The fee is very good whether for half a day or full day.”
This latest effort by HCS is his best ever, I must say and I am not the only one. Barely three weeks into the market, his book has shot up to No: 5 ranking on MPH Best Seller list for the week ended May 1st 2011.
Not bad for a mapmaker who is turning out to be a force to be reckoned with. Brace for Part 2 soon once the Circle Line is confirmed.