The decision for us to retire in Thailand was actually pretty easy. After living in the U.A.E and traveling extensively around the Middle East and Africa during my tenure with IBM, Thailand was a welcome respite. As I traveled through out the Middle East and Africa, I looked at each of the countries for one that might be a good place to hang my hat. Since many of the countries are suffering with security and political unrest, many were eliminated quickly. One vacation trip was to Thailand. It was immediately apparent that Thailand might be the place to retire. We truly enjoyed the food, the weather and the people.
Upon returning home we did our research on Thailand. We found to qualify for a retirement visa you only had to be 50 years old. This was the clincher! Of course this was not the only requirement. You have to have a health check, a police background check and a decent monthly income. If you didn’t have a monthly income, then you need to establish financial stability by placing 800,000 THB (approximately $25,000) in a Thai bank for at least three months prior to applying for your visa. Even though my wife wasn’t over 50, she could apply for a separate visa that was easily granted since I have a retirement visa; however, she had to meet the same requirements.
Now we knew the rules. Time to find a place to live.
Thailand is a much bigger country then we imagined. Where to live? Phuket? Pattaya? Chang Mai? Chang Rai? Bangkok? We knew we didn’t want to live in the vacation cities. We wanted something off the beaten path with more of a hometown feel. Not hometown USA but hometown Thailand with some amenities for expats. We spoke with co-workers and friends and the town of Hua Hin kept coming up. Ah, more research. We looked in to Hua Hin and found that it’s a fairly big city around 100k people that its located on the east coast with some of the best weather in Thailand and offered the amenities we were looking for in a place to retire. Okay its settled, Hua Hin it is.
Now that we found a town, better book a flight and see if Hua Hin is what we are looking for in person. We landed in Bangkok and spend a few days taking tours of the city. We wanted to understand the culture and really take in Thai history. We truly enjoyed seeing the Grand Palace, the markets, taking a ride on the James Bond boats and of course the food and people.
After a few days in Bangkok, we took a car to Hua Hin. Hua Hin is about 200km from Bangkok. The car ride was around 3 hours with one stop. We didn’t think much about it since it was around $50 for a three-hour car ride. In most countries a three-hour car ride would cost a fortune. We booked an AirBnB for a stay in Hua Hin. As we arrived in the town we became more and more excited. We liked the look and feel of the town right from the start. We found our hotel room and settled in. We walked all over the area looking for a restaurant. We felt welcomed and safe walking about. We stumbled in to a local Thai restaurant and enjoy a delicious meal of Panang curry and Pad Thai. The bill was more then reasonable. All of this further reassuring us that we were making the right decision.
In the morning we met with the estate agent and started looking at houses. Our agent was a friend of a friend. They recommended him since they worked with him before and he has lived in Hua Hin for over ten years. My wife had been emailing him for a few months prior to our visit so they had a plan of housing villages she wanted to see. We started looking at places that looked similar to Florida houses. I was not impressed. We pressed on. Finally was walked in to a place that was modern, open, tons of glass and very cool. Unfortunately, it was more then our allotted budget. My wife looked at me and I could see she really loved the place. We left without a word and went to the next place. It was hard to look seriously at other places since we saw what we really liked.
During dinner we put our analytic hats on and started comparing what we saw from a purely financial perspective. We even included the place we both loved. As the numbers hit the paper, it became obvious that the place we loved even though more expensive was the best value.