We are back in Viet Nam -- have been for 10 days now. I am very happy to be back in HCMC, where I am much more relaxed. It is not that I wasn't happy at home -- I was just itching to get back to Viet Nam and get my daily fix of intensive sensory stimulation.
San Francisco was cold as usual, and our hundred-year-old house is too drafty. The cold goes to my bones. In HCMC, I love the heat. Actually it isn't that hot at this time in HCMC -- 80s every day instead of 90s, and a cooling breeze in the afternoon and evening.
I haven't been in the mood to contribute to the blog lately, though. Although I am happy to be back in Viet Nam, I am unhappy about the slow pace of our real estate development business growth. My three American partners came back to HCMC at the same time, and we have been very busy. But the business is not yet paying off.
Real estate development to me is a form of gambling. But I would prefer not to be gambling. I am sure most developers would say that their skills and good judgments lift their activities beyond gambling. But our American skills seem to have less impact here for us here in Viet Nam, and our judgments have seen mixed results. Actually there haven't been any results. We are back to square-one in appraising potential properties and uses at this time.
Everyday we seem to be dealt a new hand, even if the previous day's hand of cards has not yet been fully played out. Some days the cards bring us what appears to be bright prospects -- the next day the hand of cards mysteriously changes and we lose. Most of what we wager and lose is precious time. It is a good thing we don't have any money to wager, or it might be much worse. Our job at this point is to get other people to wager the money, or the land. And that is where the cards constantly change. Over time, we should hone our skills and knowledge of doing business in Viet Nam, but it is clear that we have a long ways to go to lift ourselves above the common playing table.
We do seem to have picked some better playing teammates at this time, though, so we hope we have increased our odds. As soon as good results happen (achieving issuance of an investment license on a project), then I will let you know and try to pass on some of the lessons learned. Of course, the investment license just increases the stakes and risks substantially.
Real gambling is actually our biggest problem is at this time. There have been indications that the Vietnamese national government will eventually issue several gambling licenses to real estate developers aligned with gaming operators and land owners. [No one actually owns land in Viet Nam -- one owns the right to use land]. No one seems to be able to agree on how many licenses will be issued, or when, or where. Our prospective lenders and land owners for resort projects are wanting to chase the big prizes, so we have had to turn resort projects into larger casino projects. This has diverted precious attention from less risky potential projects. But the prizes for the winners are going to be substantial, so we have caught the gambling bug and are thoroughly addicted at this time.
On a more worthwhile note, it is good to see Virtual-Doug back in Hue and blogging daily with fresh insights and beautiful photographs. He is here in Viet Nam for a month or so to visit his ailing friend (a friend indeed to many).