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Old 08-11-2010, 04:03 PM
 
Location: Portland, OR
1,082 posts, read 2,092,705 times
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My wife is eligible for retirement in five years, and I have another decade to go after that. We're starting to explore options of places where she could retire and I could continue working. I can do my job pretty much wherever there's a reliable high-speed Internet connection. We could stay where we are, which is a very nice place (Oregon), but we'll have been here a long time and are considering a change. She's from Hawaii, and that would be our first choice, but it might be a stretch for us financially because of the high cost of living there. We're not going to be poor, but it isn't looking like we'll be rich, barring winning the lottery. We're both in good health, but it's nice to know that quality medical care is available if we need it.

We both have an affinity for Asian cultures, we have many Asian friends, and we have one non-Asian friend who accepted a job offer in Vietnam several years ago and absolutely loves the people and the lifestyle. So we've been researching Southeast Asia as a potential retirement destination. Based on what we've read, Thailand and Malaysia look to be the best choices, for their combination of expat-retirement-friendly government policies (especially the latter's MM2H program), relatively low cost of living, infrastructure, political stability (recent problems in Bangkok notwithstanding), healthcare facilities, friendly people, things to do, spectacular scenery, and great food. We're thinking that Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur might be too big and sprawling for our tastes. The places that particularly interest us so far are Phuket, Pattaya, Chiang Mai (although we'd rather be close to the ocean), Penang, and Kota Kinabalu.

We're easy-going, open-minded people who don't want to live in a gated expat ghetto, and we're certainly not looking for some place "just like the US, only cheaper," but Malaysia and Thailand seem to offer most of the modest comforts we're used to: clean and pleasant living accommodations, a wide variety of restaurants besides Asian (which we love, but we were thrilled to see Italian, Middle Eastern, fish & chips, etc. in the mix), and so on. We're not interested in the hard-partying side of Thailand, and that's not why Phuket and Pattaya are on our list. We love to cook and eat, spend time with friends, enjoy nature, read, engage in arts and crafts, swim, go to cultural events, travel, and explore historic sites. After retirement, my wife would like to do volunteer work, especially with children or environmental causes.

No place is perfect, of course. In SE Asia, we expect bureaucracy and red tape. We don't expect the same level of efficient customer service that we're used to in the US. We've heard that pollution and traffic in the bigger cities are pretty bad, which is why the smaller cities are more appealing. The heat and humidity might take some getting used, although we like Honolulu's climate. We know that a certain amount of homesickness and culture shock are inevitable, although we're both quite familiar with the major cultural differences between East and West. We've found that, if you treat people with kindness and respect, show an interest in their culture, and don't try to impose your own, you'll be accepted by most people in most places.

I'm interested in hearing from people who have lived in the cities I've mentioned, and your impressions of them. I'm also interested in hearing about other cities we might want to check out. Singapore seems too expensive and not geared toward retirees. Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam don't yet seem quite developed enough and don't show up as popular retirement destinations -- although, from what I've read, Vietnam could be a contender in five to ten years. I've heard mixed things about the Philippines (my wife perceives it as being crime-ridden, so it's not in the running) and Indonesia. Hong Kong looks intriguing but too expensive, as do Korea and Japan. We've also considered Italy and Portugal, but SE Asia seems to offer more for the money, and my wife thinks she would feel more at home in SE Asia. She has no affinity for Latin America, so places I might consider on my own (Panama, Argentina) aren't options.

We won't know for sure until we actually visit, of course -- which we plan to do in a couple years -- but the research and dreaming phase is fun.
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Old 08-11-2010, 04:46 PM
 
Location: No. Virginia, USA
328 posts, read 476,489 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HonuMan View Post
The places that particularly interest us so far are Phuket, Pattaya, Chiang Mai (although we'd rather be close to the ocean), Penang, and Kota Kinabalu.
Have visited all these places also with an eye towards retirement myself. Chiang Mai would be my first choice, its a university town, nice leafy green neighborhoods outside the city center, decent cost of living, nice people, better weather than BKK and south.

Phuket is amazing for the beaches and offshore activities but more expensive and less infrastructure than Chiang Mai.

I'd really skip Pattaya. Know it well, and your description of yourself doesn't jibe with the Pattaya I know. Sin city belive me and unruly British tourists and ex-pats. Not for me thanks.

Malaysia does have a good retirement program but you need to put in more money than Thailand requires. Penang has some of the best food in SE asia, although Singapore is tops. If you don't like heat and humidity, I'd look around the Cameron Highlands in Malaysia.

For me the main determinants would be: (1) weather
(2) cost of living
(3) attractions and amenities incl. health care
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Old 08-11-2010, 07:20 PM
 
2,845 posts, read 3,934,653 times
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HonuMan, I have been 15 years living in Malaysia with an eye towards retiring here once the work runs out. The MM2H is a fairly good deal, but they weakened it a bit when they put the minimum purchase price for houses at RM500,000 and above. They assume that all expats want to live in KL, Penang, Melaka, Kucing or Kota Kinabalu, where plenty of choices exist in the high-end price range. What they eliminate are smaller cities that are decent enough for us expats: Kuantan, Kuala Terengganu, Alor Setar, Seremban, Ipoh, Taiping, and etc.

If you don't mind renting, then the choices are much wider and you can rent a house that would sell in the RM200,000-RM499,000 range. Kuantan, for example, has a lot of houses in this price range, and rentals are relatively cheap.

I have a blog detailing life on the east coast of the Peninsula, but C-D doesn't allow links, so you would have to google "Teak Malaysia blog" to find it.

One advantage that Malaysia has over Thailand is that one can own a greater range of properties in your own name in Malaysia. In Thailand, I think that only condos can be in your name; houses and land must be in the name of a Thai citizen.

As to service, government services are improving in Malaysia. I have been pleasantly surprised by the helpfulness of gov't and bank staff just in the past 2 years. There has been a marked improvement. As a retiree, it also helps that one can go at off-peak hours.
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Old 08-11-2010, 07:54 PM
 
Location: San Diego CA
4,848 posts, read 3,377,310 times
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I'm retired and now living in San Diego but have sometimes considered moving to Singapore or Malaysia. My wife was born in Malaysia but is now a Singapore citizen. Singapore seems out of the question due to the sky high cost of living and the million dollar + price tags on condos. I've been to Penang and wasn't overly impressed.
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Old 08-11-2010, 09:38 PM
 
5,090 posts, read 8,064,121 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HonuMan View Post
We won't know for sure until we actually visit, of course -- which we plan to do in a couple years -- but the research and dreaming phase is fun.
Agreed. It's a good idea to visit a place before deciding, especially if you've lived in Oregon for a long time. Thailand can be very hot and humid, so it takes a little time to get acclimated to it. On the other hand, air-conditioning and fans help. LOL! My wife and I built a modest house north of BKK, but legally, it belongs to her because she's a Thai citizen. We spend a bit of time there and are planning to retire there in the next year or so. I'm only speaking for myself, but I really like the country, and although prices keep rising like anywhere else in the world. In my opinion, it's a lot easier to retire there than in the US. Anyway, because neither you or your wife are Thai citizens, you'd be limited to either buying a condo, or renting. Renting might not be a bad idea though. Makes it easier to move when you want to.

I agree with Chasva69, regarding Chiang Mai. It's also an international city, with a pretty sizable community of expats who live there. CM has plenty of conveniences, and yet it tends to have much more of a laid-back pace to it than BKK which is very rushed and hectic in comparison.
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Old 08-12-2010, 03:23 PM
 
Location: Portland, OR
1,082 posts, read 2,092,705 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chasva69 View Post
Have visited all these places also with an eye towards retirement myself. Chiang Mai would be my first choice, its a university town, nice leafy green neighborhoods outside the city center, decent cost of living, nice people, better weather than BKK and south.

Phuket is amazing for the beaches and offshore activities but more expensive and less infrastructure than Chiang Mai.

I'd really skip Pattaya. Know it well, and your description of yourself doesn't jibe with the Pattaya I know. Sin city belive me and unruly British tourists and ex-pats. Not for me thanks.

Malaysia does have a good retirement program but you need to put in more money than Thailand requires. Penang has some of the best food in SE asia, although Singapore is tops. If you don't like heat and humidity, I'd look around the Cameron Highlands in Malaysia.

For me the main determinants would be: (1) weather
(2) cost of living
(3) attractions and amenities incl. health care
Thanks, we'll definitely check out Chiang Mai. One of my wife's friends vacationed there a couple years ago and loved it, and it certainly looks beautiful from the photos I've seen. How long does it take to get to the beach from there? It's always been my dream to retire near the ocean, but there are other factors to consider.

From your description, Pattaya doesn't sound like our kind of place.
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Old 08-12-2010, 03:38 PM
 
Location: Portland, OR
1,082 posts, read 2,092,705 times
Reputation: 1261
Quote:
Originally Posted by Teak View Post
HonuMan, I have been 15 years living in Malaysia with an eye towards retiring here once the work runs out. The MM2H is a fairly good deal, but they weakened it a bit when they put the minimum purchase price for houses at RM500,000 and above. They assume that all expats want to live in KL, Penang, Melaka, Kucing or Kota Kinabalu, where plenty of choices exist in the high-end price range. What they eliminate are smaller cities that are decent enough for us expats: Kuantan, Kuala Terengganu, Alor Setar, Seremban, Ipoh, Taiping, and etc.

If you don't mind renting, then the choices are much wider and you can rent a house that would sell in the RM200,000-RM499,000 range. Kuantan, for example, has a lot of houses in this price range, and rentals are relatively cheap.

I have a blog detailing life on the east coast of the Peninsula, but C-D doesn't allow links, so you would have to google "Teak Malaysia blog" to find it.

One advantage that Malaysia has over Thailand is that one can own a greater range of properties in your own name in Malaysia. In Thailand, I think that only condos can be in your name; houses and land must be in the name of a Thai citizen.

As to service, government services are improving in Malaysia. I have been pleasantly surprised by the helpfulness of gov't and bank staff just in the past 2 years. There has been a marked improvement. As a retiree, it also helps that one can go at off-peak hours.
I searched this forum on "Malaysia" and "Thailand" before I posted, and a lot of your posts came up. I found them very informative, so thanks for responding. I'll visit your blog, and I'll also look into the other small cities you recommend.

If, as predicted, the US housing market recovers to pre-crash levels within the next five years, we should have almost exactly RM500,000 in equity in our house, assuming the current exchange rate. Buying property, of course, is the American Way, but we're going to consider whether it makes more sense to rent. It would give us the chance to move around, if we wanted to. Our dream house would be a Balinese style (U-shape surrounding a courtyard), but we've seen some very nice condos online. We used to swear we'd never live in a condo, but we recently condo-sat for a friend's new high-rise unit, and we totally changed our minds. As long as it isn't single-wall construction where you can hear every sound your neighbors make, we'd be fine.
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Old 08-12-2010, 03:42 PM
 
Location: Portland, OR
1,082 posts, read 2,092,705 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by msgsing View Post
I'm retired and now living in San Diego but have sometimes considered moving to Singapore or Malaysia. My wife was born in Malaysia but is now a Singapore citizen. Singapore seems out of the question due to the sky high cost of living and the million dollar + price tags on condos. I've been to Penang and wasn't overly impressed.
My family lived in San Diego in 1971, when I was a kid, and I loved it. I imagine it's changed a bit since then.

The company I work for has a small office in Singapore, and I've let it be known that I'd happly accept an assignment there. Right now, there's no reason to send me, but if our Asian business grows as much as we hope over the next few years, it could happen.
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Old 08-12-2010, 03:49 PM
 
Location: Portland, OR
1,082 posts, read 2,092,705 times
Reputation: 1261
Quote:
Originally Posted by NightBazaar View Post
Agreed. It's a good idea to visit a place before deciding, especially if you've lived in Oregon for a long time. Thailand can be very hot and humid, so it takes a little time to get acclimated to it. On the other hand, air-conditioning and fans help. LOL! My wife and I built a modest house north of BKK, but legally, it belongs to her because she's a Thai citizen. We spend a bit of time there and are planning to retire there in the next year or so. I'm only speaking for myself, but I really like the country, and although prices keep rising like anywhere else in the world. In my opinion, it's a lot easier to retire there than in the US. Anyway, because neither you or your wife are Thai citizens, you'd be limited to either buying a condo, or renting. Renting might not be a bad idea though. Makes it easier to move when you want to.

I agree with Chasva69, regarding Chiang Mai. It's also an international city, with a pretty sizable community of expats who live there. CM has plenty of conveniences, and yet it tends to have much more of a laid-back pace to it than BKK which is very rushed and hectic in comparison.
Another vote for Chiang Mai -- thanks.

I spent 25 years in Georgia before I moved to Oregon, and I used to laugh when Oregonians would complain how "hot" it was when it hit 75 degrees. Seriously, we do real heat spells here (it hit a record 108 last summer where I live), but they don't last long enough for people to acclimate. As long as we have access to AC and fans, I think we'd be okay. The last time we were in Honolulu, it was in the mid 90s and humid, and we survived without melting.
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Old 08-12-2010, 09:30 PM
 
5,090 posts, read 8,064,121 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HonuMan View Post
Another vote for Chiang Mai -- thanks.

I spent 25 years in Georgia before I moved to Oregon, and I used to laugh when Oregonians would complain how "hot" it was when it hit 75 degrees. Seriously, we do real heat spells here (it hit a record 108 last summer where I live), but they don't last long enough for people to acclimate. As long as we have access to AC and fans, I think we'd be okay. The last time we were in Honolulu, it was in the mid 90s and humid, and we survived without melting.
Small world. I was born in San Diego (Naval Hospital), lived in Honolulu, and live in Albany, Oregon. Your wife's friend who vacationed at Chiang Mai is right. It's a very pleasant city with a scenic countryside.

I've never been to the beaches at Phuket, but at a guess, I'd say it must be close to about a 90-minute to 2 hour or so flight from Chiang Mai. From BKK, it's shorter.
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