When most people think of Thailand the first thing that comes to mind is a third world country where most of it’s population lives in acute poverty. These same people would never consider living in Thailand for fear of living without the necessities of life.
I moved to Thailand in November, 2004 and decided to make it my new home while in retirement. Now that I have lived here for approaching two years I can tell you exactly what it is like to live here versus Canada where I resided for 53 years.
For starters I am now living without the drastic change in temperatures that occur annually in Canada where half of the year it is warm or hot and other half of the year it is freezing cold. The temperature differentials require residents to buy clothing for all seasons. To live in Canada you need summer jackets, winter coats, sandals, shoes, boots, and suits and overcoats and the list goes on including hats, gloves and scarves.
Here in Thailand you have your different seasons but basically the temperature is either warm or hot, and for three months of the year you will see virtually no rainfall at all and during the rainy season you will witness rainfall almost daily. The type of clothing that I wear during the seasons does not change one iota.
One gets used to the heat here just as one gets accustomed to the cold weather in Canada. Surprisingly the evenings are cool and during the night with the window open a blanket would be necessary during most months of the year.
So if I had my choice where to live in terms of climate alone it would be here in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Score Thailand 1 Canada 0
In Canada I ate my share of fast foods and junk foods. Potatoes in one form or another were present in most meals from hash browns in the morning, to french fries at lunch, to mashed or fried potatoes at dinner.
Now I still eat potatoes which are priced higher here than in Canada but I do not eat them as regularly. French fries or potato soup now and then and I am content.
Thai people eat rice the way I ate potatoes. It is evident in almost every meal. I seldom ate rice when I lived in Canada but I enjoy it now particularly because of the sauce that is added. A rather ordinary fried vegetables with rice dish becomes a very tasty meal with their secret sauce added to the dish.
Overall I eat much healthier foods now, more rice, less potatoes, more vegetables, seafood and fresh fruit and less junk food. So on the basis of health, and taste Thailand scores another point, and that is not even taking into consideration that the food is priced much lower here than in Canada. Expect to pay about 60-70% less on groceries here and yet eat as much or more of foods that are delicious and fruits that are locally grown.
Score Thailand 2 Canada 0
In Canada my main means of traveling from point A to point B was my car, something most people in the world cannot live without, well at least if they stay where they are.
Because of the distances between places that I would normally go to in Canada a car was an absolute necessity for me.
For most North Americans the car is a necessity and an expensive one. It isn’t just a means of transportation but also a status symbol. If we get a raise at work we reward ourselves with a new car, the neighbor gets a new car prompts us to do the same, and a sporty car is always necessary to impress the girlfriend.
The actual cost of operating their motor vehicle in total is unknown to most drivers, and I estimate that the depreciation or lease cost, insurance, gas, repairs would add up to over $10,000 for most decent vehicles. Now think about this. I can show you how to retire here in Chiang Mai, Thailand on less than $10.000 and live comfortably, eat healthy foods and enjoy yourself. Does your motor vehicle contribute as much to your life?
If you live here you do not need a car. The tuk tuk (three wheeled motorcycle with bench seat at back) or Red taxi (pick up truck with covered back section with bench seating on two sides) can get you around town for next to nothing. Should you want to go out of town then on those occasions you can rent a car.
So forget about a car if you live here. Forget about the insurance costs increasing every year and also expensive fuel costs. Forget about speeding tickets, parking tickets and car washes.
The advantage here definitely goes to Chiang Mai. Getting around town is both quick and inexpensive. For those residents that buy a vehicle it is normally a pick up truck as the pick up trucks are taxed less by the Government perhaps many are manufactured here and thus become more affordable. Auto insurance costs here are about 33% of what I would pay in Canada and if you did not have any accidents in the first year then expect a reduction in your premium which would reduce the cost to 23% of what you would pay in North America for very good coverage on a decent vehicle.
So sorry Canada, another point for Thailand.
Thailand 3 Canada 0
Don’t know about you but internet access 24 hours a day and a TV are absolute necessities in my life. I can live without food for 24 hours but I am not sure if the same could be said for TV and internet. In Canada I had hi speed cable for $50 monthly, and cable TV for another $50 monthly for a total of $100 a month.
Doctors and dentists are living necessities. You would never want to live anywhere for an extended period of time without both easily accessible. In good old Canada one has to make an appointment to see a family doctor, if after repeated visits the family doctor doesn’t know what ails you they will finally make an appointment for you to see a specialist who will probably know in 15 minutes what the problem is and how to treat it. Unfortunately the appointment to see a specialist is normally a 6-8 week wait.
What else is a necessity? Hmmm.. Accommodations. In terms of accommodations in Canada houses prices have ballooned as elsewhere in the world in the past few years. And we all know what can happen to balloons. When house prices go up it is accompanied by or followed by an increase in rental prices. So why shouldn’t the apartment or condo owner not get a chance to gauge the consumer.
Let’s see how Chiang Mai fares versus Canada in these categories.
I have internet and phone here for about $22 Canadian monthly. The internet speed is slower than what I had in Canada but I can upgrade to a faster speed if I want, at present this speed is perfectly satisfactory on most occasions and a bit slow when there are more users on line in the late afternoons or early evenings. We had 54 channel cable TV installed recently. Not as many sports or movie channels but the monthly cable cost for 2 TV’s is about $ 9 Canadian. So for telephone, cable TV and telephone the total is $31 compared to $130 in Canada. Canada wins out on having better channels, but with cost included as a factor I would call it a tie. As for internet the speed is fine with me and the cost much less that I give the point to Thailand.
Medical care is CHEAP here. I will probably be treated by a doctor who received their training overseas and who speaks excellent English . A doctor can be seen the same day and a specialist within a few days. I can expect to receive prompt treatment for a fraction of the cost in North America. A dental cleaning here was $9 versus $50-$100 in Canada and repairing a broken veneer set me back a whole $18 here and I would guess it would have cost me $100-150 in Canada. So a sure point for Thailand.
Accommodations are a hands down winner in Chiang Mai. Not only are the accommodations CHEAP I repeat CHEAP but they also provide me with everything that need and want. Shortly arriving in Chiang Mai I stayed at a serviced apartment for 2 months at $250 Cdn. monthly for rent which includes water, utilities, cleaning and change of linens and towels twice weekly and also cable TV. The serviced apartment had a swimming pool on the top floor, massage on 4th floor, restaurant, beauty salon, motorbike rental on main floor. It was clean, comfortable, the owners were extremely hospitable and it was located within walking distance of the largest mall and also numerous restaurants many of which had superb entertainment in the evenings.
Food is another necessity. Even though I resided in the Niagara Peninsula area of Canada which is blessed with an abundance of fruits, and vegetables the point here goes clearly to Chiang Mai. Many fruits are grown locally here also, and you get the added benefit of fresh seafood, So adding up the score Canada ½ point for the tie on TV, Thailand 1 point for doctor and dentist, one for accommodations , 1 point for internet and ½ point for TV.
Score Thailand 6 ½ Canada ½
Things to Do:
I lived most of my life in and around Toronto, a city that has a reputation for being very clean and safe, a city which is home to a diverse population that intend to stay in Canada and a city which is in a great location for both summer and winter activities. Niagara Falls is but a 1 ½ hr. drive away, lakes for boating and fishing a mere 1hr. drive north of the city, and skiing in the winter a short 1 hours drive away. Overall, a great city in my opinion and one that fares well in surveys of best places to live.
But looking at it honestly I can do all that I could do back there except for the skiing here and do it for less money. A trip to the reservoir here is similar to going to a trip to the beach in Hamilton. The children swim, play with inner tubes, the drive there is quick and without traffic, there are areas to walk around, and the restaurant food by the side of the reservoir is plentiful and inexpensive. So after I leave the reservoir I have paid for the meals, drinks, entrance fee, inner tube rental and this is what I would have paid for the parking to gain entrance to the beach in Canada.
The singers in the restaurants and nightclubs here copy local hit songs to perfection. The malls have the latest movies at the theatres. There are pool halls, bowling, an abundance of restaurants, and many things to do from shopping for bargains at the Night Bazaar, hot springs, elephant rides, Chiang Mai zoo, parks, many fine golf courses and much more.
There is something amusing that I want to share with you. We were watching a new program on TV where three singers go on stage and each sings a song. The same song is performed by all three but only one was actually singing and the others were merely pretending. So then the judges guess who was the real singer and explain the logic behind their decision. This one night they played a Patsy Cline song. I swore Patsy had come back to life God rest her soul. One performer was in her early twenties, one in her late twenties and one merely a child who looked like she was only 11 years old. I quickly discounted her as the song required a mature voice and the hosts of the program were just trying to put a member of the family on TV so I thought. Well, wrong again. After the judges finish guessing the three performers go back on stage and sing the same song at the same time and then gradually one stops singing and then another leaving the actual singer left singing the song. Well I could have bet a dollar to a donut as the saying goes that the youngster was not the singer. Glad I didn’t. A very entertaining program.
Oh and a Thai movie that we rented recently came to mind not that I speak Thai but it was rented for the amusement of the others in the family. To get to the funniest part of the movie, you have two groups approaching a bridge. Both want to cross first. One group is a funeral procession and the other a wedding procession. A Buddhist monk comes to the rescue. He suggests that one group cross in single file on one side of the bridge while the other group crosses at the same time on the opposite of the bridge. Well it works but what is amusing is that one group is smiling, joyous and happy while the other is sad, crying and grieving. The more the grieving side sees the other side laughing the more they cry. I guess you have to see it for yourself to appreciate it.
The final score for those of you who are keeping track is Thailand 7 ½ and Canada ½.
When I was in Canada I viewed it as a fantastic place to live. It was safe, clean, with a reasonable cost of living, and with numerous activities through the year. Now that I have lived here in Chiang Mai, Thailand in all honesty I have to say I feel safer here, it isn’t as clean but it’s not nearly as bad as some would lead you to believe, and the cost of living here is so much lower that you can actually live here comfortably, and happily for less than you ever imagined.
So for the benefit of those who thought they would never want to live here for fear of living without I would say the following. Chiang Mai, Thailand is already home to thousands of foreigners who have realized that this city has all that they need and want, and best of all they can also live here affordably with many things to do in and around this beautiful city that in Thailand is commonly referred to as “The Rose of The North”. What I am living without now are the snow, freezing cold temperatures and high costs of living and these items I can live without.
About the Author
The author Mr. George Dowhan is a Canadian senior who decided to take early retirement to Chiang Mai, Thailand, a city that thousands of foreigners are now callling home and yet unknown to many in North America.
Mr. Dowhan has created a website to help others to vacation in or to retire to Chiang Mai.
The address is: http//www.retire-on-550-month.com
The website shows that it is possible to retire comfortably on only $550 US a month.