A PLACE FIT FOR A KING
You don’t expect to meet a single, highly intelligent, 70-year-old ‘English rose’ in Chiang Mai, a northern city of Thailand. Nor do you expect to meet a gentle, conservative couple from Portland, Oregon in the ‘cool’ resort coastal town of Hua Hin, a short distance south of Bangkok, Thailand.
That’s because blokes, sex and Thailand are almost synonymous in the minds of many people.
But Thailand is changing and changing fast. Sure there’s plenty of sex, but that exists in Kings Cross Sydney as well.
No place better represents this change than the beautiful seaside resort town of Hua Hin.
Hua Hin is where the King now lives and, as a consequence, is a well regulated, well policed and orderly place. But it is still a resort town, studded with restaurants and bars and great hotels. Its beautiful golden beaches stretch for miles and the area hosts more than ten golf courses.
Sunsets are stunning when you are sitting in the garden of a hotel and looking out to sea or dining in a restaurant that is right on the beach. You hear the lapping of the water.
ROBERT FROM CALIFORNIA
Robert, who moved to Hua Hin from California to retire more than a decade ago, said that he instantly found it a ‘fabulous’ place to live.
‘The street food here is spectacular, the fruits and vegetables are fabulous. You go on the street, you can live off of nothing. You can buy a delicious plate of pad thai for 20 baht (70 cents). And he said, ‘I felt safe. There are no guns here. There are no guys getting beat up.’
Robert lives in a two bedroom duplex with a garden and covered parking. It a comfortable condominium, that is near the beach. It costs him just B7000 ($230) a month. I have a laundry service that does my laundry for about twenty dollars a month, they fluff and fold, pick it up from the house and deliver it back.’
He has a great internet feed and watches NBC and other news via his computer. He still banks with Citibank via the net and there are ATMs all over Hua Hin. Robert finds it easy to manage his funds.
And like most of Thailand and indeed Southeast Asia, Hua Hin is a wonderful place for single women. It is gentle and the Buddhist culture is inclusive.
ANNE FROM MAUI
Anne, also moved to Hua Hin. Like a number of women we interviewed in Thailand, she finds Thailand a very comfortable place to live for a mature, single woman. Anne is 70 and an artist.
‘Thailand definitely works for me as a single woman because I have affordable access to staff and help. That is a big benefit for me that I would not have been able to take advantage of in the US. I am 70, you know, I need the help in the house. It is time.
‘I knew I wanted to come here and be in the culture and live within it. I had no preconceived ideas about meeting guys and I still don’t.
The primary reason Anne came to Thailand was the aesthetic, not the cheaper cost of living. ‘I fell in love with it 15 years ago; with the country, the freedom, the ease of life. Then when I got here it was even better for me financially.
‘I always felt more comfortable living in an Asian country. The aesthetic is different. They pay attention to different things, like an artist would. Sensibilities are more aesthetic.’
Anne bought a house in 2006 near the beach. She runs a bespoke tourism business from the house. And she finds Thailand a perfect hub from which to travel the region.
Anne had been living on and off in the US for many years. However she returned in 2000 for five years.
‘When I returned to the US I had a very good creative experience. I was living on Maui and was writing and directing plays for the Hunter River Symphony. Creatively it was great, but I just didn’t see myself living, living there.’
Anne has no security concerns. In fact she said she feels safer in Hua Hin than in Maui.
‘I think the important thing is that you give the place time to embrace you. It is not easy. You need to give it time to brew. But you also need to be careful not to be too detached. Many Ferang can waste their lives here.’
Hua Hin, understandably, is popular with foreign retirees, like Robert.
We met Robert Baker at Springfield Golf Course, just a short distance out of the town of Hua Hin.
‘I came out here on a vacation in 1999; an unlimited golf vacation’, said Robert. He had no thought of relocating to Thailand at that time.
He had no idea about Asia so he threw some darts at a wall map and decides to golf in Bali and in Thailand.
‘When I first got here to the Springfield Golf Club, it was right after playing in Bali and the course there was right on the ocean. It was unbelievable. I wasn't that impressed with this Springfield Golf Club, when I got here. Then after a couple of days here, I started falling in love with the place. Back then, there was nobody here. You could buy a lifetime golf membership for 150,000 baht (back then less than $4000).’
So Robert starting to investigate just what life would be like in Thailand.
‘I found out the cost of living here was a lot cheaper than Bali. A game of golf was so easy, especially compared to Los Angeles where, to try to get a tee time in municipal golf course, you have to travel through hoops make phone calls at six in the morning.
‘I wasn't a rich guy, I was a real estate loan officer in Los Angeles, I did home loans. I said to myself, you really could live here for fifteen or sixteen thousand dollars a year and live like a king.
It got Robert thinking about his life. Robert’s trip was in April. ‘I went home, sold everything and moved here in September.’
Then he travelled about Thailand for three months to determine where it would be best to settle. ‘I went Chiang Mai, then to Phuket, then to Pattaya, all over the place. Everywhere has its good and bad points. Of course, this place (Hua Hin) had the golf, it was quiet, had beautiful beaches and it was on the sea.
Robert was just 45 when he moved to Thailand. He is now 62. He said he fitted in right away. ‘After I arrived, joined this group called the Hua Hin golf society.’ That really helped his transition he said.
But what about the politics in Thailand?
There have been 11 successful and nine attempted coup efforts in the 20th century for a total of 20. That scares people. But Thai coups are peaceful affairs – if you can say that about a coup. They are certainly very Thai. Lots of smiles, lots of patience and no blood.
As Robert said, ‘A lot of people in America will say, there has just been a military coup in Thailand. How can you live there, it is too unsafe. ‘The big joke is, I am not even a coup virgin anymore. This is my second coup, If you are driving around Hua Hin you don't know a coup is underway.
Robert does not have a US pension and lives off his savings. As he says, ‘I spend principle every day.
But the cost of living is low. ‘Years ago, I tried to live off of $15,000 dollars year. Today you have to live off of 24,000 to $26,000 a year, as a minimalist. Most guys are living off of $36,000 dollars a year. And living like a king. And that includes rent.
Robert believes he chose wisely when he decided Hua Hin was the place for him in Thailand. ‘Hua Hin is a spectacular fishing village. Hua Hin is between Cha'am and Pranburi. These are three towns along the coast, They have beautiful beaches. Some beautiful national parks. You can go to Pala U Waterfall, and see wild monkeys, see wild elephants. Climb the falls and see the fish.’
‘My life here is spectacular. The Thai people are wonderful people. They embrace you. Even if you speak a little bit of Thai, they embrace you. You can say hello. If you have conversations with them, they are kind of surprised.
Robert lives with great financial care and his rent is low. Like anywhere, Hua Hin has its expensive areas and properties.
PAUL AND ADRIENNE
Paul and Adrienne, who are a young couple from the US and wanted to escape the rat-race, started a real estate business in Hua hin. They said, ‘The cost of a land lease and house in central Hua Hin can range from 5 million baht ($150,000) to 10 million baht ($300,000) per rai (1600 square metres).
‘I think a lot of newcomers make the mistake of thinking they can only be in Hua Hin. But there are some really great areas just outside. In some ways a lot nicer.
The rental market in parts of Hua Hin and for upmarket properties is also high. Again Paul said, ‘Most of our properties generally start at about 30,000 baht per month ($1000/month). This would be a one bedroom condo. For a two bedroom condo (200 sq m) rent would be 65,000 baht per month or more ($2000/month).
Hua Hin real estate is comparable to Bangkok. More expensive than Pattaya, cheaper than Phuket.