The Next Thailand
About a year or so ago I came across the idea of a Thailand trip when I started following Muay Thai and MMA. I did a bit of reading then started to realise that Thailand was no boring place…
Anyways, fast-forward to now, where I've spent almost a whole year researching Thailand.
I've noticed many strange things…
#1 I cannot find another (non-western) place on earth that is loved and inhabited by so many Westerner expats. Yet, let's be honest – aside from the girls, people don't seem to like the Thais at all. I have even read that for the most part that westerners and Thais don't even socialise – that they only communicate in a service capacity.
#2 People's first impressions of Thailand are that it is basically the best place on earth. It certainly seems as if everyone who visits is either planning to move there in the coming year(s) or has at least booked their next flight back. It also seems that once they go to Thailand, aside from doing small trips to neighbouring Asian nations, they don't go anywhere else anymore.
#3 Young guys (who are into the girls but not into sitting in beer bars whoring everyday) are just discovering Thailand and it is EXPLODING in the international MMA & online poker communities. In fact, there is probably more online activity from these communities online now than there are from the traditional whoring forums. This is a trend that will no doubt continue and I would think may contribute to a change in the expat community in the future.
#4 The older expats who have lived in LOS for years don't seem to agree that LOS is good anymore. <Correction, I think they don't think it is as good as it was – Stick> They all seem very jaded; believing that the bar scene isn't what it used to be, and with that prices are increasing so now many are thinking about leaving (and by the way, LOS is one of the fastest growing economies in the world, so you can expect prices to rise by at least 5% a year for the next 20+ years).
#5 While it has been identified that girls are available in Philippines, Vietnam etc. no-one seems really interested in these locations (at least, not many people seem to consider moving there) compared to Thailand and those who travel there seem to always end up back in Thailand.
#6 Let's talk a bit about retirement. There seems to be a number of retired people in LOS who are young and not living on pensions. This seems like a great dream and one I am sure that appeals to everyone’s sense of laziness but does anyone really last out their days in Thailand without running out of money or joining the Pattaya flying club? Going back to my above point about Thailand being one of the fastest growing economies – GDP growth in Thailand this year is expected to be 8%. It is not unreasonable to expect prices to rise at 5% a year for at least the next 20 years (probably more like 6 – 8%). At 5%, if we take the average forum recommendation cost of living in LOS of about 70,000 Baht a month, and compound it at 5% a year for 20 years we come up with 185k baht a month. 30 years gives us 302k baht a month. If you are under about 45 and planning to retire in LOS off a chunk of savings, unless you are a millionaire in USD or Euros you are probably going to have to be a mini Warren Buffet (who has achieved a compounding return of over 20% a year for decades) to have any hope of surviving in the future.
My goal is to do more travelling and begin to plan a potential overseas permanent move in the future but I cannot work out why there are so few other places that seem to be able to compare to Thailand for a good life. It seems the Western expat suffers a lot through horrible visa restrictions and terrible teacher salaries yet interest seems to be growing. I realise you can make a list that says: cheap company, good climate, great food, good prices, but we all know there's much more than that, because the same can be said for many countries.
I really believe that the factor no one talks about is the western community. Being able to go there and find others so easily in your situation (wanting to escape what is expected of us in the west) must be the appeal. This seems especially true of Pattaya and Bangkok. However, with this said, there must be other great expat locations with diverse western communities and I would love if someone would be so kind as to point some of these places out.
Please sing out with any other destinations you have found would also provide an exciting lifestyle (that at least contains a few of the essential western luxuries) at an affordable price. If you think I have completely missed the point and lost the plot then I’d also like to hear your thoughts.
For sure, Thailand's expat community is changing rapidly and there are a lot of "new-style" expats arriving who do not fit the old stereotype at all. While there might be some appeal in moving to a place with a large Western community already in place, I would suggest to you that one of the biggest problems about Thailand is the Western community itself. Thailand has not managed to attract the best of the West, in fact it could be argued that the opposite is true.
Thailand is still an interesting place to live and there's much fun to be had. It is changing though and more and more long-term expats are not just talking about moving on, but actually doing it.