Don’t let this be your retirement
My wife, Warunee (Jen), the owner of Retire In Thailand, has been pushing me to write this for about 2 years, so here goes.
I saw myself in a similar situation as the above picture If I stayed in Australia. Around 2005 I began to see things happening in Australia that I thought would get worse before they got better and I was right, they did and continue to do so. Not the least of which was the constant rising cost of living that I realized would make it impossible for me to spend my retirement years in Australia without spending from my savings every month or continue working part time to make up the shortfall. Part time work and retirement just did not feel right.
My rent payment alone was $360 USD per week and rising about 10% annually. The pension of $1,300 USD per month just was not going to be enough to live on. And though I had traveled extensively I wanted to see more of the world, particularly Asia, so I began to think about where I could live on my pension and still accomplish my travel dreams.
In 2009 after researching many places and visiting a few I decided, like many other expats, that Chiang Mai, Thailand was where I was going. Why Thailand? A number of reasons, the visa did not require huge sums of money, the cost of living was about 30% of that in Australia, there was good medical care available at reasonable prices and the people were very friendly. Malaysia wanted me to have $50,000 USD in a bank account (Thailand was $25,000 USD), the Philippines was too expensive and medical care in Cambodia and Laos was less than desirable.
In 2011, 5 days after my retirement I was on an airplane and 24 hours later I was in Chiang Mai talking with a visa agent to get my Thailand retirement visa. Though I liked many things about Chiang Mai, like the many restaurants and entertainment venues there were more important things that did not suit me. The two main issues for me were the heavy traffic and the air quality and this was in December, not the burning season. Within a month I was having breathing difficulties and went to see a doctor at Chiang Mai Ram hospital. After a few tests the doctor advised me to move to the outskirts of the city which would mean a longer commute for my daily needs. So, I got in my car and drove around a bit but found nothing that suited me until finally I arrived in Chiang Rai. I booked a hotel room for a week and began to explore the city. I found it had a modern shopping mall with movies in English and a grocery store selling westren foods, enough restaurants to satisfy my needs, 3 very good hospitals (5 now), 10% of the traffic of Chiang Mai, cleaner air than Chiang Mai and very friendly people. I rented an apartment in the city center, so everything was close by and the traffic was quite light.
I have now been here 10 years and my travelling plans changed when I met a lovely Thai lady. I have now been married for 9 years to that lovely Thai lady and I am living just 4 kilometers from the city center.
Through the Chiang Rai Ties forum and the local expats club I have met and made many good friends and found that scammers (and that includes those in the markets) are not a problem because unlike Chiang Mai, Phuket, Pattaya, Bangkok and other cities, Chiang Rai is not a big tourist town.
My wife had 3 children when we married and they are all now in high school and we are all able to live comfortably on 50,000 Baht per month (about $1600 USD). Having said that, I am a non-drinker but do have a weekly need for western comfort food, of which there is plenty to choose from. We have Italian, American, English, Indian, Chinese and of course Thai food restaurants for our weekly outing. Being a coffee aficionado I cannot omit the fact that there are at least 50 shops in the city selling quality locally grown Arabica coffee, I love a good Latte.
I cannot stress strongly enough that from my travelling around and looking for a place to settle Chiang Rai wins hands down.
By Ray Farmer