Why Thailand? How to choose one place from so many.
October 18, 2016
How did we end up going to Thailand? Once we decided to start living our life now, and not waiting for it to happen to us, we started looking for a place to go. After watching The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel we could see the appeal of spending time living and learning in a new country.
We heard of a magazine called International Living that also had regular email notices. It is a “dream of retirement” publication that is mostly aimed at Americans, but describes how you can live somewhere else for less money in retirement. It has testimonials from people who have done it and good guidelines on how to start thinking about this possibility. Panama came up several times as a place to go, due to its low cost of living and discounts given to retirees. You can live in the city, near the beach or in a smaller town in the mountains
We read some of these testimonials and looked up the names of the places on Google Maps. We then used Google Earth and zoomed in to get a closer look. With streetview, we could check out the feel of the place and see the kind of shops and parks or the general upkeep of the homes along the streets. This was such an easy way to check out a town so far away. We thought that we could learn a little Spanish and had some sense of the culture from our trips to Mexico and Arizona. I realize that is a pretty naive understanding, but it’s all we had to go on.
Peter also found a website that compared the cost of living in cities around the world. Calgary was about $5400 a month for most of what you would need to live well. Panama City only required $3600 for the same living expenses. He used this site to start checking out other places in the world from Spain to Thailand, Costa Rica to Australia . We began narrowing down the list to places that were economical based on my pension and investments. Health care availability was something else we wanted to know more about.
As we were in the midst of this conversation, I received a call from my friend Bernice, who has been a much braver traveller than I for her whole life. She has worked and travelled in Asia for the last 5 years and spent the last 2 winters in Chiang Mai, Thailand. She skyped me around her apartment and talked about the benefits of living in Thailand, as compared to Central or South America. Bernice felt very safe there. The cost of living was very low for rent and food. The area that they lived in had excellent transportation to the places we would want to go. The winters were like our summers only more so. She also added that Chiang Mai was a city with a large number of ex-pats, many from Canada. That made it possible to learn about a new culture, while still being able to pursue many of the same interests we would have at home.
I asked her about the Eastern Culture. We have never been to Asia and didn’t know much at all about the people and their way of life. Her reply was that everyone in the world is on the Internet these days. They share the same Facebook posts and wear the same clothes. Globalization is a real life thing, not just something you hear about on the news.
That was all I needed to hear. It was a place that met our needs as new retirees, and, it had the seal of approval from someone who had gone there and done it. That last part was really the tipping point for us. We booked ourselves into the same building I had seen on her computer camera for a 5 month stay. (Smith Suites ) We decided that if we were going to learn about a new place, we needed to be there long enough to feel like part of the community, and not just tourists passing through. Next we started in with the practical issues of moving for 5 months to another country halfway around the world.
Cost of living comparison Calgary vs. Chiang Mai chart $5400 vs $2600
map of Thailand