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A Private Island (Almost) Within Reach

Hollywood royalty like Leonardo diCaprio, real blue-bloods and even the Aga Khan, the Muslim spiritual leader and noted philanthropist, have all purchased islands to get away from the prying eyes of the public. “The Wall Street Journal” reports Friday that wealthy buyers are flocking to little-known archipelagos for rest-and-relaxation. But what about the rest of us clock-watchers? Buying an island could be within reach even if you don’t have a couple of million bucks to spare.


Pay Dirt would like to help you achieve your wildest dreams, or at least temporarily explore them. We spoke to Chris Krolow, CEO of real estate company Private Islands of Toronto, Canada, who currently has the exclusive on marketing actor’s Nicholas Cage’s former island in the Bahamas. He says 80% of his clientele is American. “The people who buy these projects get excited about the challenges of developing an island,” he says. “But we’ve also sold islands to teachers.”

Here are some considerations before handing over a down-payment:

Think about an island-buying syndicate

Krolow is seeing a lot more shared island ownership and says it makes more sense if you’re not spending all your time there, but there will be more maintenance issues to negotiate. A typical cost of a full-time caretaker in the Bahamas is around $50,000 a year, so it can make sense to share expenses. Also, you may pay several million for a beachfront home in the Hamptons. Why not an island? And think about the sounds of forks dropping when you name-drop your private island at your next dinner party.

Beware of the Greek red tape

The Greek government is embarking on a $30 billion fire sale of public assets, but be warned of a lot of bureaucratic red tape. This EU has urged the Greece to sell off billions of dollars worth of commercial real estate.  “Most of the islands there are not privately owned,” Krolow says. “The islands are beautiful but many are not worth the trouble.” However, he will soon be selling one privately-owned Greek island there that does not have red tape as most building permissions are already in place.

Venture North For Bigger Bargains

Islands in northern climes can be had for a fraction of those in tropical waters – if don’t mind packing a cashmere sweater. Canada’s Georgian Bay is just a few hours north of Toronto. Krolow says there are hundreds of small islands there purchased by Torontonians for weekend getaways. “We have around 80 islands in this area that the owners are interested in selling, but we don’t advertize them online,” he adds. An island in Nova Scotia can sell for less than $100,000, though it has fog issues for frequent flyers.

Dip Your Big Toe In: Rent Before Buying

An interesting nugget from Friday’s WSJ story: Virgin boss Sir Richard Branson owns Necker Island in the British Virgin Islands. He uses this as a very high-end rental. Think about buyer’s remorse when you buy a three-bedroom house in the suburbs and imagine what that would be like if you spent millions on a private island that took half-a-day to get to. “Rent something for a week close by,” Krolow says. “You want to make sure you’re comfortable with the locals and the vice-versa.”


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    • By WebOsPublisher

      War still rages in Vietnam,but now it’s over the tourist dollar,by Ron Gluckman
      Vietnam War Tourism
      The War Goes On. And On.
      A quarter of a century on, you can still see the tanks and tunnels
      everywhere in Vietnam. The war may be over, but the marketing goes on in a country with
      precious little to profit from other than the painful memories of the past
      By Ron Gluckman/Saigon, Hanoi, Hue and Danang
      filling the picturesque bays and valleys below with misery. Nowadays, the limestone
      caverns are crowded with jubilant tourists eager for a peak inside the rocky outpost that
      was the secret command center for this mad, main stage of the Vietnam War.
      Besides housing a huge guerilla garrison that operated safely yet within easy striking
      distance of the American forces in Danang, the mountain caves also offered sleeping
      quarters, kitchen and a full field hospital.
      Carpets of barbed wire, massive lots filled with tanks and bomber fields dominated the
      view from these mountains in those tragic days. The sky was filled with the nauseous fumes
      of petrol, burning flesh and napalm. Now, the air is clear, filled with the chatter of
      children. And the view from this infamous outpost in Central Vietnam has become one of
      hope, and fledgling prosperity.
      Underneath a canopy of greenery, upon a white sand beach stretching around a
      picture-postcard bay, sits the Furama Resort Danang. Tranquility is the order of the day
      at Vietnam’s first luxury resort. Yet close your eyes, and the sand seems to shake. You
      can almost hear the bomb blasts and cacophony of war.
      Some of the
      fiercest battles of the Vietnam War were fought in the shadows of these hills, and the
      grim imprints remain firm upon the sand. In fact, that’s part of the attraction for
      many visitors. In Vietnam, a country torn by over a century of strife, war memories are
      painfully prevalent. But, as the country increasingly opens up to tourists and the hard
      currency they bring, many are mining profit from those painful memories.
      Alongside this serene beach in central Vietnam, reminders of the US war are everywhere.
      You hardly need to stir from a beach chair to spy hangers that served helicopters and
      bombers, as well as the barbed wire skirting the former landing strips. Like so much of
      Vietnam, everything seems left in freeze-frame from a quarter of a century ago, when
      American troops fled, South Vietnam fell to the communist forces from the north and the
      horrendous civil war came to an end. Back then, amidst all the anguish, this was an oasis
      of tranquility, a lovely stretch of sand known as China Beach.
      The name was celebrated by thousands of GIs, who welcomed the respite from the war
      offered by the cool sands of China Beach. Later, the name became known to millions of
      viewers of the hit TV show, "China Beach," eventually aired in 50 countries
      worldwide. But in Vietnam for two decades, the beach was simply called My Khe; China Beach
      was considered another imperialistic icon.
      "For years, we didn’t use the name, because of the bad feelings," admits
      Luong Minh Sam, Director of the Tourism Department of Danang. "But now we see the
      benefit." His office has ambitious plans for the infamous beach and several adjacent
      areas. A golf course is set to bloom upon the grounds of the old marine aircraft base,
      while approval has been given to several other beach resorts and retirement villas aimed
      at rich Japanese and Taiwanese. "We’re calling the entire area China Beach, because
      that is a name everyone knows.
      "We’re promoting all the war history, but American tourism is really our
      aim," adds Luong. He explains the wisdom thusly: "Six million Americans were
      directly involved in the Vietnam War, and 20 million more were indirectly involved. That’s
      a big market for use."
      Marketing war
      memorabilia is a boom industry in Vietnam, but it’s not solely an American attraction.
      French tourists still comprise the greatest number of visitors to northern Vietnam, where
      they gleefully recall the glories of the colonial age, when Hanoi was capital of French
      Asia, says Richard Kaldor, general manager of the Hotel Metropole, a magnificent old hotel
      run by the French chain, Sofitel. But they also flock to desolate Dien Bien Phu, site of
      the stunning French defeat by Ho Chi Minh’s ragged jungle troops.
      The French join not only Americans, but also the Chinese and Russians in revisiting a
      source of continual conflict. Every big city in the country claims at least one site
      showcasing Vietnam’s centuries of struggle against a succession of colonial and
      neighboring powers. Networks of tunnels that once took guerrillas from engagement to
      escape are now overrun by tourists. Prisons have become first-class attractions, complete
      with souvenir stands. And the DMZ – a barren stretch of napalm-burned, mine-pitted terrain
      - might more accurately be renamed the De-Monetary-Zone, since this tourist trap sucks big
      bucks from military buffs.
      Local entrepreneurs long ago jumped on the war memorabilia bandwagon. Saigon street
      artists started the craze by crafting toy tanks and planes from scraps of Budweiser and
      Coca Cola cans. Dog tags and jewelry made from bullet shells soon followed. For years, one
      of Vietnam’s major exports must have been fake Zippo lighters, copies of those carried by
      American GIs, inscribed with lewd or lonely messages of desperation. Put all the tourists
      with "authentic" army-issue Zippo lighters in a line and it would easily surpass
      one comprised of the mass of people claiming genuine chunks of the Berlin Wall.
      Marketing such painful memories – an estimated 3 million Vietnamese died in a decade of
      conflict with the Americans alone – means that old wounds must be reopened, and cleansed.
      In the process, parts of the country that were most entrenched, particularly in the
      hardened north of the country, have also opened up. This is a welcome change from just a
      few years back, when early tourists found that visits to the north of former Saigon, now
      Ho Chi Minh City, often involved police hassles, endless red tape and inexplicable
      entrance fees.
      Without a doubt, Vietnam has grown friendlier to foreigners; 1.6 million visited in
      1996, and arrivals the next year soared 12.5 percent, to 1.8 million. While that’s a
      trickle compared to the multitudes swarming nearby Thailand, the relative scarcity of
      visitors is part of Vietnam’s appeal. Many come for the deserted beaches, where
      seafood is sold for a pittance. However, tourism is expanding inland and north from the
      Mekong Delta, where ancient cities, delightful colonial villages and unexplored scenic
      wonders all help to make Vietnam the hottest new destination in Asia.
      Nowhere are the liberal attitudes more apparent than in central Vietnam, the slender
      cord of land connecting the distinct northern and southern halves of a nation that has
      long been divided. Besides two major cities – Hue and Danang – this region boasts
      magnificent palaces, ancient ruins, eye-catching mountains, rivers lined with lush rice
      fields, undeveloped beaches, and one of Southeast Asia’s oldest, and quaintest,
      international settlements, Hoi On.
      Most spectacular of all is Hue, considered by many guidebooks to be the prettiest city
      in all of Vietnam. Surrounded by ancient citadel walls and home of the famed Forbidden
      Purple City, Hue boasts more than enough picturesque temples, pagodas and palaces to keep
      tourists in Kodak memories for months. Yet equally popular are the tours of the nearby
      Demilitarized Zone (DMZ).
      "We’re full
      every day," says tour operator Cu Phan. A former truck driver for the American
      troops, he cannot understand the attraction to the barbed wire and bleak terrain of the
      five-kilometer swatch of scarred land cutting across Vietnam, from the Laotian border to
      the South China Sea. Cu Phan notes that these dreary tours cost five times as much as the
      scenic boat trips he offers along the Perfume River, where pagodas and palaces are perched
      at every bend.
      In contrast, the DMZ Tours are dusty and downright depressing. Most tours start in Dong
      Ha, capital of Quang Tri province, where military buffs get their first grand view of the
      battlefields they saw on the TV newscasts. They find plenty to gawk at. US tanks have been
      left to rot alongside railway tracks on the outskirts of town, guns purposefully left in a
      downward position, symbolic of the American defeat, the guide points out. Later, there are
      bombed churches and sad, skeletal bridges.
      Still standing is the Rockpile, the imposing 230-meter stone hill where a clutter of
      nervy US Marines called in air strikes from the very midst of enemy territory. The
      isolated fortress could only be serviced by helicopter drops. It was protected by fields
      of mines, which still explode, wrecking misery on a population that has known nothing in
      its lifetime but war. This point is hammered home as the tour bus passes towns constructed
      largely from the horrific refuse of the American war. Still, one cannot help but marvel at
      the ingenuity of the recyclers: shell cases have become planter boxes, fencing and siding.
      Even the snap-together metal tarmac of some airfields has been pulled up and hammered into
      The highlight of the tour comes in the Quang Tri Tunnels, among a network of secret
      tunnels left from the war. Most served terrorists and assassins, working most effectively
      behind enemy lines. These at Vinh Moc, though, were built by villagers to escape
      relentless carpet bombing by B-52′s. Only one tunnel, the deepest, remains intact. Over
      600 people lived in this tunnel from 1968 to 1972.
      Back in the bus, tourists roll past a procession of graveyards. Yet visitors find the
      tours evocative, rather than grim. Scratching his head back in Hue, Cu Phan says the
      choice is just one more mystifying lesson for a fledgling tourist industry that started
      from scratch during the last half-decade. No worries, he quickly adds, as business of any
      kind is considered welcome progress in Hue. "Things here were really bad when the
      Americans left. We had to stay here and suffer it through with the VC. There were many
      problems, so many restrictions. But now it’s OK. Vietnam is moving again."
      And how. The change of pace is most apparent in Hanoi, the stodgy communist capital of
      the north. Visitors from a decade ago may recall Russian-style parades, a scarcity of
      restaurants and guards at every doorway. But even Hanoi has been brightening up to the
      prospects of tourism in recent years, and that’s good news to the slow trickle of
      pioneers who have given this destination a try.
      Hanoi is perhaps the most delightful city in Asia, with broad, tree-lined boulevards
      radiating around a series of lakes, and stately government buildings that are like
      timepieces from a glorious past. "Hanoi is a marvelous treasure, one of the last
      untouched capitals left in Asia," says Richard Kaldor, general manager of the Hotel
      Sofitel Metropole. Opened in 1911, the stunning white colonial inn serviced scores of
      diplomats and generals during the long war years. During the air campaign by the
      Americans, guests were assigned personal bomb shelters dug into the pavement outside the
      Around the capital, one can find ample reminders of the French and American wars. The
      best place for military buffs is probably the Army Museum. It’s not well marked, but is
      easy to find. Alongside is the hexagonal Flag Tower, part of an early 19th century
      citadel. In front of the cluster of buildings is a huge pile of what appears, at first
      glance, to be rubbish: twisted hunks of metal and other debris. Actually, this is one of
      the exhibits, a heap of bombshells, tank tracks and old jet wings. Inside are
      blood-drenched paintings and gory photographs. Yet they are popular; the Army Museum is in
      the midst of a major expansion.
      Indeed, from top
      to bottom, Vietnam is repackaging its collection of war museums, dusting away some of the
      dowdy propaganda and sprucing up the exhibits for greater international consumption.
      In Ho Chi Minh City, the biggest crowds visit the War Remnants Museum to view a grisly
      menage of photos of torture and shocking war crimes. Included is a mock prison with
      tiger-cage cells, emaciated models, and evidence of beheadings and dismembering. As
      ghoulish as it now seems, some of the most blood-wrenching exhibits have been removed or
      toned down. Likewise the name of the place, which used to be the Museum of American War
      War buffs will find even better pickings at Ho Chi Minh’s Military Museum, which
      sports a fine array of American and Vietnamese military hardware, including tanks, shells,
      bombs and the wreckage of downed aircraft.
      For those interested in digging deeper into Vietnam’s long history of conflict,
      the Revolutionary Museum offers over a dozen rooms of resistance memorabilia dating back
      to the first campaigns against the French in the 1800s. Besides old weapons, medals,
      uniforms, homemade bombs and booby traps, there are fine archival pictures. Here, and at
      all the war museums, it’s easy to shop for souvenirs that include dogtags, military
      hats and clothing, knives, medals and lighters; mostly fake.
      Former Saigon abounds with less grisly reminders of the war era. A mandatory stop is
      the rooftop of the Rex Hotel, a famous hangout for American officers and war
      correspondents in the 1960s and 1970s. The regular war briefings, in which officers
      boasted of inflated body counts was dubbed, "the Five O Clock follies." The
      charts are gone but the gaudy, Vegas-like rooftop furnishings remain, and the view is
      strikingly familiar. From the Rex rooftop, the bustling city down below looks much as it
      did decades ago, swarming with motor bikes and the hustle of thousands of hungry
      entrepreneurs in the new Vietnam.
      Perhaps that’s why it seems ironic that hottest attractions in Vietnam seem to
      recall the dark, old days. Among a slew of nightclubs with war-time monikers, the most
      successful is the Apocalypse Now chain. And the most popular tourist site in town remains
      the Chu Chu tunnels, where up to five thousand guerillas crawled through a maze of
      cubbyholes too tight for the America forces to follow. The tunnels have been enlarged for
      the tourists, who flock to the caverns that survived the fury of half a million US bombs.
      Eerily, you can still hear the sound of gunfire.
      That’s because nearby is another tourist attraction: the National Defense Shooting
      Range. For five dollars, you can fire off a few rounds on an American M-16, or the AK-47s
      favored by the Vietnamese who won the war. "C’mon and try it," urges one
      attendant. "It’s your chance to be a part of the war."
      Ron Gluckman is an
      American journalist who has been based in Hong Kong for eight years, roaming widely around
      Asia for a variety of publications, including the Wall Street Journal, Time, Newsweek,
      Asiaweek, Discovery, Mode and the Sydney Morning Herald. For another story from Vietnam,
      turn to China Beach.
      The photos on this page are by Graham Uden, a British photographer in Hong Kong who
      often works with Ron Gluckman. For other samples of Uden’s work, see McChina, the Americanization of China.
      To return to the opening page and index
      push here

    • just think no more crowds, long lines n lots of freedom. i am seriously thinking about this price. I have been dreaming about owning my own island. start from scratch. build it on my own. like the robinson cruisoe family of 12. two wives n lots of kids. my very own football or foosball team n cheerleading squad…lmao

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