Living in Thailand – Perfect Expat Retirement Destination?

Walking on Beach - Thailand

There have been some changes with immigration recently and a whole lot of expats living in Thailand on Tourist Visas are screaming about it. Nobody ever thought it would happen, but Thailand is getting tough on back to back visa runs. I don’t expect it to last long at all, certainly not a year, but still it is causing heaps of grief for all sorts of people. Oh, and overstay? Wow, overstay without the proper visa and you’re going to be blacklisted from Thailand for some amount of time… years. It probably is best to clear up those overstays as fast as possible. I think there still might be time if you head over to the airport and book a flight out, then book one right back in. I could be wrong. It may already be too late.

Is Thailand the perfect expat destination for retirement or long-term living?

I don’t know anymore. I guess I never really accepted that it was ideal in any way. There are good points and bad points about living in the country. As an expat that has lived here for 10 years, I’m starting to feel like, to believe that, it just isn’t ideal for me and my situation. If I was a single guy it would be a whole lot better. I’ve been with the same girl for ten years now, I just don’t need to have girls available to me everywhere I go. I shave my head monthly so I don’t have to deal with girls much. Apparently I am not attractive at all without hair. That works for me. If you’re married, you might do the same. Who needs the aggravation?

Driving around the country flat-out sucks. The danger, I’m talking about. Driving and being driven in the country is the most dangerous activity you can do. It isn’t your wife or girlfriend or her spouse that will kill you, it’s driving to 7-11. I’m surprised I don’t have nightmares about it. Here in our small town we’ve had deaths every day for the past 3 days – 3 people the first day on the highway in front of Makro, one young girl the second day in town, and a guy on a motorbike yesterday – also in front of Makro. Roads are wide enough here. People are really unstressed. I don’t know what the problem is, but some people drive like 1. There’s no fucking tomorrow. 2. Like they never knew how to drive in the first place.

I think mostly it’s the latter.

Thailand has been, in the past, a relaxing and rather care-free sort of environment for most expats living outside the craziness of Pattaya, Bangkok, and Phuket.

To some degree, it still is. There are things coming up… unavoidable events, that will change the face of the country dramatically I believe. In the states they have a saying, “When shit hits the fan.” (SHTF) Well it will hit the fan in a short time in Thailand. It’s just a matter of time ticking away on the clock. Some of you will know what I’m referring to because I don’t want to flat-out say it. People are going to jail for mentioning the subject, and saying the wrong thing. I am not sure I will say the right thing, so I’ll just allude to the big change that will take place in the next few years, months, or days. Hell, some say it has already occurred. What do I know though?

Is Thailand’s military strong enough to keep the calm in the country once this event occurs? I don’t know.

Do we want to be here for it when it happens?

Probably not.

We’ll be getting our stuff in order so we can get out for a year, couple years, whatever is necessary.

People always ask me if I’m going to buy a house in the country. Not on your life. Nothing is that stable here. Thailand could turn upside down in a month. Own property I couldn’t sell? Nope, not interested. Own property in which the laws change and people that used to own property don’t any longer? Nope, not me.

I think there are other options for retirement, even having a Thai wife and our child, there are other places we could go that would be acceptable. Thailand isn’t looking as sweet as it once did, and as time goes on it looks less and less desirable to continue to stay. It is comfortable, but it feels like we’re comfortable in our ignorance of what is on the horizon. I think there are some horrible times coming up – especially in Bangkok. In the outer areas, they could also revert to fighting and madness, but it will probably be focused around Bangkok as usual.

As an expat you need to go to Bangkok sometimes. Flights, shopping, embassy visits, etc. That’s all a giant pain in the ass when there is fighting in the capital. Imagine if there was flooding at the same time!

Where are some alternatives to living in Thailand?

  • Malaysia – if you’re making good money, have pension, or have needed job skills
  • Cambodia – if you’re single and don’t mind it
  • Laos – if you can stand it
  • Mexico – dangerous?
  • Peru
  • Uruguay
  • Argentina
  • New Zealand
  • Australia
  • Singapore – super crowded.
  • Hong Kong – ditto above
  • Taiwan – ditto that

There are many places that might work well for a retirement destination. Personally, I think if you can swing it, Australia is one of the best alternatives. New Zealand too – if you like the cold.

Lately I’ve been wondering about some other possibilities… more exotic locales:

  • Tahiti
  • Fiji
  • Samoa
  • Guam
  • Christmas Islands
  • Puerto Rico

Anybody reading this ever lived in one of these locations? Did you like it? Could you email me so I can ask you some questions?

Have any other ideas for alternatives when living in Thailand becomes unbearable?

 

 

Thailand’s Tourists CLUELESS About Thai Culture

Here’s what I routinely see in Thailand… regarding tourists acting ignorantly about Thai culture

Watch the video above. This guy is stripped down to his sweaty underwear at a Buddhist temple – in front of Thai kids. If I was a Thai person, I’d have pushed this putz over the railing. Buddhists are generally non-violent, and, while it’s not my place to police the temples either – I had to shoot this video and get it out there.

Frequently tourist women climb the steps up this hill in their bikinis with just a t-shirt over them. Sometimes they wear their bikini tops! Many guys remove their shirts for the climb.

I have yet to see someone give a donation at the temple I’ve been going to for more than 5 years. There are donation boxes everywhere. There are some really amazing things to see at the temple – and thousands of photos are taken each day by tourists – and yet, nobody gives a damn to give 10 THB. Really, it’s quite unbelievable. The tourists that arrive at the Buddhist temples are there to take – and only to take. They give nothing.

I have seen dozens of people over the years walking with shoes on at the top of the mountain shrine. Can they not read the simple English and Thai sign that says – remove shoes? They’re just too lazy to do it. They see piles of shoes there on the steps, must be for someone else they think.

Thailand’s Buddhist temple visitors from outside the country don’t understand much – if anything, about Thai culture. Even in our town you routinely can see tourist guys riding their motorbikes around town with their shirts off. It never dawns on them that not one Thai person they’ll see that day – does the same. It’s not a wakeup call because they’re just not looking for the right thing to do. They just don’t care. They’re takers, and not givers.

Thai people, by nature are givers. If you haven’t experienced the amazing hospitality of Thais welcoming a visitor – complete strangers even – then I suggest you travel to Isaan and see it first-hand.

Don’t come to Thailand with your hand out. Don’t come with your brain shut-off. Research the culture and what not to do before you arrive. There’s a reason so many expats get their head kicked in… they raise their voices and get verbally aggressive with Thais. Other Thais standing around – won’t go for that, and put you in your place. Don’t get put in intensive care because you’re adamant about getting your 99 THB back for a CDROM that doesn’t work, that some streetside vendor sold to you. Post it online… tell other expats about it… and forget your 99 THB. It’s not worth a good ass-kicking. Is it?

Escape from Thailand – Do You Have a Plan?

I had an interesting conversation with some guys here in Southern Thailand yesterday about the future of Thailand. Sometimes I think I’m over-exaggerating the idea that Thailand is going to be a scary place to be when that certain event nobody dares talk about – happens.

But, apparently there are plenty of Thais that are thinking the same thing. In fact, these guys were planning for a much worse scenario than I ever thought would happen. One guy is trying to get a passport so he can go to Germany. Another is planning a quick exit strategy with his family to move to Malaysia. They were telling me that large numbers of Thais believe that parts of the south – large parts – will be going to war because there is a high-up guy in the military that commands the southern army and they have their own agenda.

What this means – the truth of it, the reality of it – is all just hearsay at the moment. Maybe these guys are watching too much TV or listening to too many anti-government radio broadcasts. I don’t have any idea. But, it makes me think harder about what is going to happen at a future date.

Is Thailand going to be totally inhospitable for foreigners? Is Thailand going to be warring within it’s own borders as various factions fight for power? Is the military going to attempt to take over – and, is the military united as one – or, will they split up into different groups and fight against each other?

Quite a situation could develop. Not that it will – but, the possibility for unrest is there. Maybe it’s likely.

Do you have a plan to escape Thailand – if or when that becomes necessary?

I wasn’t thinking all that seriously about it before, because I tend to just ignore everything that is going on. However, it’s probably something each of us expats living in Thailand – need to spend some time thinking about. Probably a lot of time.

What are you going to do – what is the plan?

For us – I guess we’ll do things like get baby’s passport in order, get legally married, and all that. Though it wouldn’t be my first choice… or maybe not even my 5th choice, we’d be prepared to move back to the states if there was no better alternative. I’d like to consider some other countries first… Malaysia, China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Australia, Fiji, and I’m always looking for more. I am glad we didn’t buy property – and it’s not likely we ever will buy something in Thailand. The risks are just too high with the present state of things.

If I was single – I’d probably not even be thinking about this… I’d just wait to see what happens. Those of you that have family in Thailand are probably thinking more about this issue.

Feel free to write me email if you don’t want to respond in the comments section. Keep in mind that I’ll edit comments when necessary.

Aussie’s Car Shot at in Chiang Mai?

I didn’t see anything of this in Thailand – sure I miss stuff, but this seems like a big deal.

*****
Melbourne teacher’s car allegedly shot at in Thailand
Posted July 12, 2011 08:18:00
A Melbourne teacher was treated in hospital after her car was allegedly shot at during a school trip in the north of Thailand.
Two teachers, from Ringwood Secondary College, were travelling in a car near Chiang Mai when the front windscreen shattered on Sunday.
One of the teachers, Lynda Cody, suffered a minor injury to the back of her head.
Thai police are investigating the incident and told the teachers their car may have been shot at.
The teachers were escorting a group of students to Thailand, but none of the students was in the vehicle.
They are due to return home on Wednesday.
The assistant principal has travelled to Thailand to provide support for the teachers.

I found it here:

http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2011/07/12/3267233.htm?site=melbourne

Update – apparently the woman was shot in the back of the head… luckily the bullet passed through glass and the headrest first before striking her! Christ, now we have this to worry about in Thailand?

Flooding in Krabi, Surat, Nakhon, Most Southern Thailand Provinces

Krabi Flood - southern Thailand
In back of our house... a river emptying into the bay.

I shot some video of flooding in southern Thailand yesterday.

It was bad yesterday, some say will get worse over the next few days…

Krabi Flooding March 29, 2011 – Floods Over Southern Thailand. Part 1

Khao Phanom Bencha mountain – had a landslide and 10-12 are dead and 100-200 are missing.

Not a good time to visit the south for the next couple of days. Krabi roads washed out. A bridge was out – I think fixed now. Many didn’t go to work – so stores not open so much.

Damns in Surat and Khao Phanom to be opened to let off some water in next few hours. Hope that doesn’t flood us out again.

Thailand Tsunami Information – and Subscription to SMS or RSS Alerts

If you want a quick look at whether Thailand or anywhere in southeast Asia could be affected by a tsunami – check this website:

http://www.weather.gov/ptwc/?region=3

Region 3 is the Indian ocean – and covers Thailand’s western and eastern costs.

If you want to subscribe to receive email when there are earthquakes in your area (create an area to watch on a map – drag the outline of the area – I created a square all around Thailand from Africa to Thailand to Philippines to Australia.

https://sslearthquake.usgs.gov/ens/register

To subscribe to RSS feeds – (for your news reader) click the Indian ocean region link at this site:

http://www.weather.gov/ptwc/subscribe.php

If it doesn’t work. Hit the back button in your browser, and right click the link – copy the link – and paste it into your RSS reader.

The Million Baht Thai Scam

This Thailand scam sounds like it could have come from gypsies anywhere in the world. It’s playing out across Thailand right now – and many people are losing boatloads of Thai baht after being scammed this way. It will probably hit the expat world soon – or maybe it started with the expats… it’s a pretty ingenious scam and goes right along with Thai culture – and what Thai people want. What everyone wants that has money – more money.

We visited our Thai friend we hadn’t seen in 4 years the other day. He is 66 years old, and a really smart guy with money. He was a mental health technician in a local hospital, and married a younger Thai woman that was a teacher. They have 2 great kids – boy and girl twins, studying in Bangkok.

When “Pichet” retired he realized he couldn’t make it on his small retirement income from the hospital. He started selling insurance for AIA. He started going to the train station with his truck and trying to talk to foreigners so he could transport them to Chong Mek, Laos or Cambodia… some of them even stayed at his house where he’d rent them either a room in his house or the entire house – like he did for me when I was there. I rented his giant 5 bedroom house for 3,500 THB per month for a year while he slept in a dorm room with his wife – so they could make money off renting their new (just finished) house to me.

Twenty years ago Pichet started building cheap dormitories for students. There are many students attending tech schools, Rajabhat, Polytechnic, and other schools in the area – and he wanted to supplement his small retirement income.

He built the most basic dorms he could afford – with a community shower and restroom area in back of his house – and a row of 10 one story rooms on the other side of his driveway. Soon he was filled to capacity and after a couple years he got a loan from the bank to build more of the same next to those. Now he had 20 rooms. He kept 20 simple rooms like this for a decade. He charged the students whatever they could afford – 1,000 Thai baht per month – no matter how many girls lived in one room. He only allowed girls to stay in the dorms, as guys drank too much and were trouble.

Over the years Pichet’s rooms were almost always completely full because they were cheap, and he provided some security with guys not even allowed on the property after 8pm. I once saw him forcibly remove a drunk guy that was in a girls room and that refused to move. When Pichet pointed the silver gun at the guy’s chest – he walked right out – no problem.

Within the last two years Pichet upgraded all his rooms, flattening the basic dorms and creating new concrete buildings with 2 levels. He now had 40 very nice rooms and was charging 2,500 THB per month which included tv, fans, big bed, refrigerator, hot water shower, and internet.

Pichet was smart with money – as I’ve said. As I’ve shown. The guy knew the value of a baht. He would bargain with people over the cost of his rooms, motorbike rentals, and everything – as if the last baht was the world to him. He started out with no money at all – and over time, grew it and grew it to something that could be called a legacy to give to his kids when he passed.

A Thai man, Somchai, showed up asking Pichet about a room for his daughter that would be attending the university close by. Pichet showed him the rooms and talked to him – the guy was very friendly and Pichet liked him immediately. The stranger saw that Pichet had a truck for sale for 700,000 THB and told him that he might know a lady that is looking for a truck like that.

Somchai gossiped about the woman a little bit – giving Pichet the idea that the woman had tons of money due to a very rich husband that was now disabled. The woman spent money freely – and the guy said, if she wants the truck – she’ll buy it cash.

They said goodbyes, exchanging phone numbers.

Somchai didn’t call for 3 days, Pichet said he feared the rich buyer wasn’t interested. But then Somchai called, and Pichet was really excited about possibly selling his truck for 700,000 because that was just his initial asking price and it wasn’t worth but 500,000. Somchai said he would pick Pichet up – they’d go meet this rich woman and have lunch with her at one of the nice restaurants in town.

Off they went.

At the restaurant Pichet was introduced to what he thought was an exceptionally rich woman – and there were a couple other people at the restaurant too.

The woman’s purse was open at some point during the lunch – when she went to the rest room – and the people sitting there saw that she had thick rolls of cash – over a million baht in cash in her bag she carelessly left at the table.

While the woman was in the restroom Somchai told the group of people at the lunch table a story about the woman having a weakness for gambling – and that she was always ready to play some cards if she could find others willing to bet a lot of money. Somchai said she was notoriously bad at cards – and always lost. He said he had seen her lose tens of millions of baht over the last year alone. She didn’t care – she had money to burn if she wanted to.

When she returned to the table they all talked about gambling and the woman of course offered to play some high stakes poker but only for 5 million baht if anyone could afford it. Somchai, and the two other women and one man in the group all said they would come up with the money and everyone was looking at Pichet to see if he could come up with 1 million baht to play too. So as not to lose face, and, facing the prospect of huge gains of money – he said yes, he would get 1 million baht to play too.

The group met at a house 2 hours later where the card game was supposed to take place. There were some security guys there – the rich woman’s bodyguards. The plan was that Somchai would put the 5 million in a pool of money and one of them would play the woman in cards for it.

Somchai asked who wanted to play the game… nobody answered. He asked Pichet – and Pichet said, oh no – I think better for someone good to play her. Pichet suggested Somchai play for it because Somchai knew his cards – so he said.

Everyone in the group gave their 1 million baht to Somchai and he went into another room with the woman who was sitting there with her bodyguards and a table in front of her – everyone saw that she had about 5 million in cash on the table.

The woman insisted on closing the door while the card playing was taking place – for security.

At first the group outside the room heard people there – talking and some gasps and things… then for a long while it was very quiet.

They were all starting to ask questions about the outcome because they were dying to know – did they just make a lot of money off the rich but horrible card playing woman?

They sat another hour sweating – dying to know – what happened. Wait, what was going on? There was no sound in the room.

They started to knock on the door. No answer. Bang. No answer… They went around the house and saw that the window was open and nobody was in the room anymore.

They had just been scammed for 1 million baht each.

But really, only Pichet had been scammed for 1 million baht – as the others were ALL in on it.

It was like a gypsy scam… many people in on it and Pichet was the “mark”.

Pichet just couldn’t come to grips with the idea that it was a scam because he felt he KNEW Somchai and that somehow Somchai was a good guy. The others in the group felt the same – thinking it was just the old woman that ripped everyone off – and maybe they killed Somchai!

A month later Pichet gets a call from Somchai.

He said he was knocked unconscious by the old woman’s bodyguards and they carried him to a car – dumping him off in a trash yard. He was in the hospital for a month.

He said he could get Pichet and the other players’ money back for them.

He just needed 100,000 more Thai baht.

Pichet wired it to him.

And you can guess how that went.

So, this scam is making the rounds ALL OVER Thailand at the moment. There have been many victims of it.

It is well put together. Well rehearsed. And a pretty perfect plan which goes down really easily in Thai society. Most Thais are gamblers – or want to be. Most Thais really want some extra money – and if they can get it illicitly – they will try. To save face in front of the group of people – Pichet said he could come up with the money to play the game. He wanted to be part of the group. He didn’t want to miss out on the gains. Pichet, is a good person inside. That’s obvious to me. He trusts people quickly – foreigners too, when they come to his house to stay. I have warned him about a few guys that I thought were out to rip him off. One guy took a motorbike of pichets for a month – that was supposed to be for 2 days. Recently a foreigner stayed for 2 months – delaying rent payment – and then didn’t have any cash at all to pay.

So, the scam is going around – be careful for it – and variants of it that hit the expat world. There must be many similar scams going around the country… the world.

Almost 58,000 Infected with Dengue Fever in Thailand – 70 Dead

Dengue fever is up nearly 94% in Thailand over the same time last year. Symptoms include high fever and headache, and some people get a rash – others have no rash. The disease is spread when a mosquito bites an infected person and then bites an uninfected person – infecting that 2nd person bit and possibly any others it bites as well.

Dengue usually lasts 2-7 days and usually is only life threatening to those over 60 or those under 2 years old. If you suspect Dengue fever – get to a doctor quickly.

The most affected provinces are:  Narathiwat, Phayao, Krabi, Chiang Rai, Rayong, Songkhla, Pattani, Phetchabun and Trat.

Dengue fever infects between 50 – 100 MILLION people each year across the globe.

Dengue is transmitted by only 2 mosquitoes:

1. Aedes (Stegomyia) aegypti – usually this is the bugger.
2. Aedes albopictus mosquito – less often this one.

Both of these bite people to feed on blood ONLY during the daylight hours. Spray or lotion with DEET 28+ works as do the mosquito coils you light. The mosquitoes tend to bite the feet – below the knees, so keep the coil low. Cover your feet and legs in repellant.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a TON of information on Dengue – check it out!