Readers' Submissions

Where to Retire?

  • Written by Peter
  • May 29th, 2009
  • 9 min read



I have been working around South East Asia for fifteen years now. I flew to Hong Kong after graduating to look for work because I was sick and tired of the UK at just twenty four years of age. I hit the big 40 last year and I am now starting to think “where the hell do I call home and where am I going to retire”. Having worked as an expat I have managed to save a few pounds and dollars here and there and so hopefully my plans of an early retirement will be realized. The question is where?

1 Thailand

Overall I spent eight years in the LOS and never really got sick of it. OK I got frustrated with the endless nonsense instigated by the ‘government’ (what a joke) and the authorities but all in all life was good and interesting. A lot of places to see and I found that the longer I was there the more ‘tourist free’ places I would hunt down. Staying at the girlfriend’s farm in Isaan and fishing with papa gave me more enjoyment than a weekend in Pattaya, Phuket etc. The tourist places really hold no interest for me anymore. It’s just the same old thing and the tourists are normally a pain, especially the aggressive piss heads who are normally from my home of the UK. However there is so much to see in Thailand that the tourists can normally be avoided. The food is great, the golf is great, the women are great. It is not as cheap as it used to be, in fact the beer is now damn expensive if you go to a normal pub. However, putting the beer to one side you can get by quite OK. The healthcare gets mixed reports but with a little investigation I’m sure a reliable hospital could be found. The visa regulations are a big pain in the arse but to be honest, a quick trip out every month could be quite a novelty. A budget airline ticket and a cheap hotel for a weekend won’t break the bank. Being Thai, the girlfriend (no doubt wife by then) would definitely prefer to live in her country.

2 UK

Forget it. Astronomically expensive, crap weather, miserable and a high chance of getting your head kicked in or being stabbed when leaving the pub.

3 US

Americans scare the hell out of me. Not an option. I know a number of Stickmanites are from the US and I am the first to admit that the well travelled Americans I have met in South East Asia are great people. It’s just the media coverage of America (both non-American and American media) that has created my impressions. Watch a couple of Michael Moore’s films and Borat.

4 New Zealand

Got be careful what I say here, Stick. Only visited the country once to watch England get thrashed in the rugby in Auckland. Hired a car for a few days and toured around the north island. Probably the most friendly people I have ever met (except for those few Kiwi rugby fans who really pissed me off. To be fair we were two white shirts in a sea of black so we were going to get some abuse). The countryside is breathtaking and the golf courses are excellent. The food was pretty impressive as well. I don’t know much about the boring stuff such as visas, healthcare, cost of cars / houses etc. but generally I got a very good feeling about the place. When I spoke to some people about NZ (even Kiwis) they all concluded that whilst it was indeed a great country it would just be too quiet. I’m not sure about that so NZ is still on the option list. Not sure how a Thai girl would settle down there though.

5 Singapore

Everything is great here but it is simply too expensive. The pension would probably last a couple of years. Forget it.

6 Malaysia

Unlike Thailand I could buy land and a house in my name as many Europeans have done on a very nice coastline at a very reasonable price. Malaysian food is great, the golf is great and the women are outstanding. There are a lot of great places to visit but there is one thing I don’t like about the place; the atmosphere. Go to a beach and it is normally deadly silent in the daytime and after dinner. Outside your resort there are normally no other bars or restaurants. Go to a town outside of the capital and it can be quite eerie, day and night. It is a Muslim country but western habits are accepted. I found an exception to this when on holiday in the north of the country. My idea of a good holiday is to just jump in the car with a map and go for it. We turned up at a beautiful beach near the Thai border and I thought this could be great for a few days. Then I saw the sign; “Alcohol is the root of all evil”. Personally I don’t have a problem with a district/province declaring itself strictly Muslim, though I would like a few beers on my holiday, but that sign just made me feel depressed. Again the atmosphere was spooky. Another factor that puts me off the place is the attitude of the local men. When I was working there I got the distinct impression that westerners were despised by the younger (i.e. teenagers/early twenties) local men. Maybe it was because the local girls tended to prefer the western guys (most likely for their money). A great country but I think I will limit my time there for the F1 once a year.

7 Indonesia

Only been to Jakarta, Bali and Lombok but very impressed by all. OK Jakarta was not exactly a real experience of Indonesia (though there were some cultural elements) but there is something intriguing about the place and the people. It’s not as safe as Bangkok, that’s certain, but if you are a bit street wise then you’ll be fine. Great food, great golf and we know about the women. It’s a huge country and I would like to do a lot more research as I think it could be a potential home.

8 Cambodia

I’ve had four very enjoyable trips to Cambodia but I don’t think I could live there. It seems to attract some pretty awful westerners and some of the poverty (whilst slowly getting better) is just too depressing.

9 Myanmar

Went for a week long holiday there and returned to Bangkok after two days. Bloody awful place.

10 Vietnam

An amazing country and amazing people. We hear many reports of people being ripped off by the locals and I’ve heard that doing business with them is very risky. However let’s face it, if someone is ripped off then nine times out of ten they deserved it for being a complete moron. From what I saw the Vietnamese are quite a serious bunch and don’t have the laid back attitude of other Asians. I am not saying that they are not friendly, they just have a different way about them. There is a lot to see and do but I found getting around to be a bit of a pain. Personally I did not have any problems with the food though we do hear a lot of tales about getting food poisoning in Vietnam. I don’t find the food particularly great though. I don’t think it is a place to call home though I could be very wrong.

11 Australia

Been to the West and East of the country and I was very impressed. I understand from my ex-girlfriend who studied there that it can be difficult for an Asian girl as racism is a problem but I’m sure that wouldn’t be a big issue once you formed a network of friends. Great food, great golf. Even though I have a strong case of yellow fever I found it nice interacting (not trying to chat them up) with the Aussie women. I do find talking to Caucasian women quite enjoyable. There is normally just that bit more to the conversation than with an Asian girl even if she has decent English. A sport and activity loving country and it would probably take a lifetime to see all of it. All looks perfect except for one thing; Aussies. Most of the friends I made in Bangkok were Aussies and they remain good friends but there seems to be something different with those in Australia. They seem to take great pleasure in having a go at the Brits. I can understand and appreciate the banter between Aussies and Brits and I find it funny but some of the attitudes I (and friends) experienced in Australia were just offensive. I tend to pick up the Australian accent quite quickly for some disturbing reason so I would probably avoid such experiences after a while there. Definitely an option for a home.

12 Mediterranean

Numerous great locations around the med as long as you avoid the Brit hangouts. Ringed by many different countries the place is so diverse. Wouldn’t know where to start but I suspect the cost of setting up home and the cost of living on the med would be a lot more than in SEA.

13 Philippines

A bit like the wild west but a very beautiful country. Go to Boracay island and you will be amazed. Appalling food, great golf, great women. Getting around is a real pain. Can be quite a dangerous place and I suspect setting up home there could be risky. Also I doubt whether a Thai girl could settle down there.

So I have some travelling and thinking to do. A friend back in Bangkok advised me to retire where my friends are. Good advice but my friends are spread around the world. I am one of those people who tends to get restless in one place so maybe it could be a plan of say six months somewhere and six months somewhere else. My girlfriend let’s me make all the decisions but if I am honest with myself I know that she would jump at Thailand if it’s on the list. So Thailand for six months then Australia or New Zealand for six months. Doesn’t sound bad. If kids pop up then a rethink would be needed and probably a few more years salary as well.

Cheers

Peter

Stickman's thoughts:

That seems to be a fair summation.