Archive for April, 2012

Retiring To Thailand. Searching for Overwhelming Reasons Why.

Reflections On The Retirement Trip To Pakchong (Pak Chong), Thailand

(Typed in the Thai Royal Silk Upper Deck of a 747-400 on Flight TG916 bound for London. Sunday 15 April, 2012)

  • Am I ready to retire to Thailand?
  • Why should I retire to Thailand?
  • What is it that wants to make me to retire to Thailand? (If, in fact, that’s what I really want to do)

These are the questions that I went to Thailand on this discovery trip to try to answer.

I guess the key question is:-

Why Should I Retire To Thailand? Is there something special about Thailand that would make it, for me, a better place to retire to than the U.K.?

Yes, there is. But there are also special things about the U.K. that would make it a better place for me to retire to.

After spending two weeks in Thailand pondering the subject as I run a test trial of retiring in Thailand, I have come up with some basic answers.

Firstly, did I come across any single outstanding feature that stood out in big bold capital letters and said “I MUST RETIRE IN THAILAND BECAUSE ….“.

The answer to that is. No.

There was nothing spectacular about my trip that made retiring to Thailand a MUST for me.

Model Engineering In Thailand

Well, now I reflect on that there is one. It’s my model engineering workshop, and the size of the garden and land upon which to play with my steam engines. (When I have built them)

All that could be corrected, though, if I had enough money to buy the same sized house and land in the U.K. Which at the moment I don’t.

So that just comes down to one thing. Money.

Gradually, in Thailand, I am finding the shops and outlets that can supply me with the tools and materials I need for my model engineering hobby. But the scope of what is available is far, far, short of what I can buy in the U.K. Of course, I could order what I wanted from the online shops based in the U.K. from Thailand and pay for the shipping. There would be a time delay while the items were shipped and of course the shipping charges. Again, basically, it comes down to money.

Is The Weather In Thailand A Reason To Retire There?

The weather? Hot and humid, with frequent torrential rain. 32 + deg C in the daytime dropping to 26 ~ 20 deg C in the night. Always “close” until a thunderstorm comes along and clears the air. That’s fine – reduces the temperature – but there’s not much you can do in a tropical thunderstorm in Thailand except to sit and wait it out. That can take hours or days. See the movie I took during one of the hurricanes we had that blasted a ‘mini Tsunami’ wave of water through our retirement house in Pakchong (Pak Chong).

Except before a rainstorm, very little wind. Often zero breeze to take away the overpowering heat.

In short, whether it was raining or not, it was mostly uncomfortable at best. The heat made me tired and lethargic. Could be down to loss of salts from the body. My legs in particular always felt tired. That is a phenomenon I recall from my ‘pioneering youth’ when I worked in Lagos, Nigeria. In those days I was tired and lethargic until I discovered the magic of salt tablets.

Weather not conducive to smart thinking whilst designing and making steam engines in my model engineering workshop. Do a bit, take a rest was the order of the day. I was wondering if I would become acclimatised over time and discussed that with Kanyah. It turn’s out that she (along with all the local Thais) suffer in the same way. It’s definitely the weather and not just me.

Weather in the U.K. In the winter not very nice I agree. But if I’m retired why the need to go outside? If that is necessary, I have a car so it’s not so bad.

My model engineering workshop in the U.K. is indoors and centrally heated, so no problem there.

Thailand – A Low-Cost Place To Retire To

The only problem really is that central heating in the U.K. is expensive and getting more so.

In Thailand heating is not needed and we don’t have air conditioning (yet) so fuel bills are absolutely zero.

So the U.K. will be considerably more expensive a place to retire to just because of the heating bills. Again it’s money that matters.

Thai Food. Is The Thai Food A Reason For Retiring In Thailand Or One Of The Reasons Why Not To?

Thai Food. Is it worth basing a decision on which country to retire to on the basis of what kind of food is available? Not in the case of Thailand. It used to be difficult a few years ago to find anything but local Thai food in Pakchong (Pak Chong), Thailand, but with the opening of the Tesco Lotus Supermarket and having our own house, all that has changed. Now I can have virtually any western style food I want if I get fed up of the Thai food. Apart from the occasional egg and bacon breakfast (with mugs of tea) I managed quite comfortably on the Thai food.

In the U.K. There are plenty of Thai food supermarkets and Kanyah has lived in the U.K. before for about 2 years and can eat most of the Thai food she is used too.

One big ‘food’ issue for me is beer. I love my English beer or “Real Ale” as it has become popularly called these days. Lager (and particularly Thai larger) I find hard to get on with. Too strong and lacking taste and absolutely disgusting if not absolutely icy cold. Worth making a retirement issue over? Carries a lot of weight for me.

Steam Traction Engine Rallies

What? What on earth has “traction engine rallies” have to do with retiring in Thailand and what the hell are they anyway?

Quintessentially British (probably English, actually), traction engine rallies are where weird eccentric Englishmen bring their old steam traction engines for a week-end’s play time. Steam fairs, steam organs and all things steam dating back to the glorious days when England was the power house of the Industrial Revolution that changed the world.

So what? Well, my single goal in life is to build myself a steam model traction engine and drive it on the road from our retirement house in Pakchong (Pak Chong), Thailand, to the local “pub”. (Which would be a local roadside shack-type restaurant).

That’s fine as an ambition but what will I do with the thing the rest of the year? In the U.K. I can take it to the traction engine rallies and show it off to the public and other steam enthusiasts. But in Thailand? It will most likely be the only steam traction engine in the country and apart from George in Pattaya who has a model steam engine (locomotive) as far as I know it would be the only steam engine of any kind in the LOS.

Who to show it off to? Who to talk to about these lovely machines? A reason to retire to England rather than Thailand? Possibly. It carries weight. But wait a moment. I haven’t built the thing yet.

I don’t know the average time to build an engine of the size I am planning ( 1/3 full size i.e. 4″ scale) but the time is probably measured in decades rather then years. I plan to make it within three years, but if you read my piece about the model engineering workshop debacle on this trip you’ll probably be thinking in terms of three decades instead of three years.

Is Your Mental Health Likely To Improve If You Retire To Thailand?

What about mental well-being?

I must admit to an uncomfortable feeling when I was first in Thailand even on this trip. This I put down to a feeling of vulnerability and generally being away from familiar surroundings and people. Towards the end of the trip I became more comfortable as I assimilated into the country and started to talk more Thai with the locals.

Long term I don’t think that would be a problem for me. After all I have worked overseas for some 20 years and I know from experience that it takes a full year to adjust to living in a strange country.

But what about Kanyah? I know she is soon bored when living in the U.K. and that has lead to some severe problems we have had in the past.

Long-term living in the U.K. (i.e. as in retiring to the U.K.) would be a complete disaster for her. She simply couldn’t cope with it.

So there’s one good solid reason to retire to Thailand – the metal well-being of my Thai wife, Kanyah.

And as I have mentioned above several times, your money goes further in Thailand. That is another big reason for retiring there.

The other issues, the weather, the food, the beer (there is a way around the Beer/Lager issue but I’ll not mention it here), are all minor issues that probably balance each other out.

Has The Retireometer Swung Any Closer To The Yes Vote?

I’ve borrowed the electioneering concept of the swingometer (Steve from The Plough’s idea) and created the Retireometer to measure how comfortable I think i am about retiring to Thailand.

After this trip I feel the Retireometer has notched up a couple of percentage points towards the Yes vote.

But not for the reasons you’d expect.

Reading the above you may be thinking that there are plusses and minuses and you’d be right. In fact you might be thinking there are probably more minuses than plusses. And I guess you’d be right there, too.

The experience of this trip to test out my readiness to retire to Thailand logically cranks the Retireometer over to the No vote.

If I could go back a few years and plan my retirement a bit more carefully with the knowledge and money I have now which I did not have a few short years ago I would I would possibly be planning to retire to England.

England, the Home of Real Ale, Model Engineering and Steam Rallies.

But time has passed by. And I have invested more and more money into our retirement house in Pakchong (Pak Chong), Thailand. I am emotionally committed to delivering a Thailand-based retirement life to my dear wife, Kanyah.

My Get out Of Jail Card

But there’s a get-out clause in that last sentence if you read it carefully.

Can’t spot it? I’ll quote:-

a Thailand-based retirement life

To get all the benefits of retiring in Thailand (mainly low-cost) and to get all the benefits of retiring in England (Real Ales, Model Engineering and Steam rallies) all I need is….

More Money!

Now there’s an idea to think about.

Lets see how that works out over the next couple of years.

Thailand Retirement Life In The Fast-Track – In More Ways Than One

 A Very Quick And Short Summary Of My Brief Spell of Retirement In Pak Chong (Pakchong), Thailand, Typed In The Thai Royal Silk First Class Departure Lounge At Suvarnabhumi Airport, Bangkok, Thailand

DATE: 15 April, 2012

It’s been a hectic and eventful two weeks as I try out my ideal life of retirement at our house in Packchong (Pak Chong), Thailand.

“Retirement” life in Thailand been so full – so busy that not only couldn’t I do all the things I had planned, it’s only now as I am waiting for the flight home that I have some free time to spare to write up my notes on this blogging website.

Many apologies to all those people I planned to meet, but couldn’t, and many apologies for not contacting you previously.

Although I haven’t yet posted online any stories of my retirement life in Thailand for the past two weeks, I have gathered a huge mumber of photos and movies to show you. And I have a lot of insights, facts and opinions to share with you about the pros and cons of retiring in Thailand.

Here are some of the highlights of my two week retirement holiday:-

  • The Fast-Track Route Through Immigration At The Suvarnabhumi Airport, Bangkok, Thailand
  • Flying Thai Royal Silk Business Class – Is It Worth The Money?
  • My Reflections On Retiring In Thailand – What It Means And Why Thailand Is Different (Or Not)
  • Ferocious Hurricane Sends A Mini-Tsunami Of Water Trough Our Retirement House
  • We Hire The Same Landscape Gardener That We Sacked Last Time – And Pay Him More Money!
  • I Screw Up Big Time In My Model Engineering Workshop – And Not A Single Part Of My Model Steam Engine Gets Made
  • I Discover A Fantastic Source Of Model Engineering Materials
  • We Meet Up With Other Expats Retiring In Pakchong (Pak Chong), Thailand
  • How To Get Online In Thailand – Dead Easy
  • The Horrors Of Songklan
  • …And Much More

Well, that’s enough for starters. I won’t be able to cover everything in this one post and there is more to come than in that shortlist above, but let’s get started and see where we go from here….

First, An Update On Fast-Tracking The Immigration Queues At The Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport

I first wrote about the possibilities of fast-tracking the huge immigration queues at the Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport on the “How To Fast Track Past The Long Immigration Queues At Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport And Get Through In Minutes Rather Than Hours” Post.

The quick answer is – if you travel Business Class – then yes you can completely fast track the immigration queues at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport. In both directions – i.e. on arrival and on departure.

You’ll get through immigration in minutes, not hours.

First, Fast-Tracking Through Immigration On Arrival  To  Suvarnabhumi Airport, Bangkok, Thailand

I Fast-Track through immigration at Suvarnabhumi airport at Bangkok in 1 minute!

From Arrival Gate To Baggage Collection In 18 Minutes – Including Time-Wasting Turns

See It All In The Movie:-

Date: 31 March 2012

Typed in a Toyota Hilux Vigo Pickup – see below.

I had a Business Class (turned out they call it “Thai Royal Silk”) ticket for my flight from Heathrow in the U.K. and on boarding the plane I was directed up the stairs to the upper deck. It felt like I was travelling First Class!

Before departing the plane in Bangkok I saw the Thai guy sitting next to me packing up ready to leave the plane and he was careful to take the stub from his Boarding Card with him. I had expected the cabin crew to give me a fast-track pass on leaving the plane but they didn’t. In fact they didn’t say anything about a fast-track service. Hence I worked out that I needed to take the boarding card stub with me. I made sure I had the stub from my Boarding Card in my pocket. It was the only proof that I had travelled Business Class.

Image of Royal Thai Silk Boarding Pass Bangkok Fast Track Immigration

Royal Thai Silk Business Class Boarding Pass

Would it work? Was there really fast-track route to bypass the long immigration queues that had been reported.

Here’s what happened:-

The plane lands at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi airport at 0530 local time and I’m out of the gate at walking to immigration at 23:52 U.K. time , 0552 Bangkok time.

Here is a photo of my mobile phone still set on U.K. time. this was taken just after leaving the gate at the beginning of the walk to immigration:-

Image of Fast-Track Immigration Queues At Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Airport Start

Starting Time On Embarkment From the Plane At Bangkok

I actually took out my camcorder to recorded the entire walk and the process through immigration but for some reason the camcorder kept stopping (I only found this out later) and I only had a very seconds of movie recorded.

Anyway I walked long towards immigration, following the signs and at the turn-off to the normal immigration desks there was a blue sign at high level that said something “First Class” and VIP and the sign indicated to keep walking instead of turning right into the normal immigration area.

I walked on about 50 m and came across a place signposted “Fast Track” and “Visa on Arrival”. There were about 20 travellers there filling in visa application forms, attaching photos to them, and clutching a bunch of Thai Baht for the fee.

These people seemed to be getting processed at a cabin clearly signed “Fast Track Visas”.

Since I just wanted a two week tourist visa and nothing more I didn’t want to fill in a form or join this queue.

So I walked past the “Fast Track Visas” cabin and up to one of the immigration desks. Just one person queue. My turn and I gave the immigration officer my passport, Landing Card (properly completed) and my Boarding Card stub.

She told me to go to the left an pointing somewhere on her left which was in the general direction of the normal immigration queues, where I had just come from.

So I walked out and back towards the normal immigration desks. Then after a few metres I saw a big yellow coloured “archway” with words like VIP, Cabin Crew etc. so I took my chance. There were two immigration desks, nobody queing. I gave the lady (they all seemed to be ladies) my documents as before, she processed them, stamped my passport and I went through!

The time now was 0010 U.K. time, exactly 18 minutes  after leaving the gate. Here’s a photo of my phone again, still on U.K. time.

Image of Fast-Track Immigration Queues At Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Airport Finish

Time After Being Processed By Immigration

Even including the walk from the gate and me wasting time by going the “Fast Track Visas on Arrival” place I was through immigration in about 18 minutes. Without the mistake it would have been under 15 minutes from the landing gate. Quite a fast time to get through immigration at Thailand’s Suvarnabhumi airport.

So I collected my big bag full of model engineering materials and tools (including a steam engine kit) and went outside to meet Kanyah. Except that she wasn’t there! By this time is was 0620 so I phoned her. Yes she was on the way but she hadn’t reached Saraburi yet (Half way between Pakchong (Pak Chong) and Bangkok).

After about ten minutes waiting in the sweltering heat – it was an overwhelming 29 deg C despite the sun only starting to rise and drive away the dawn darkness and it was VERY humid – I had a lovely surprise. Deang, Kanyah’s Thai daughter who works at the airport, presented herself and took me off to her nice cool air conditioned office where I waited two hours for Kanyah to arrive!

New VIDEO Coming Soon!

So I had got through immigration in a fw minutes just to have to wait two hours for Kanyah.

And Then The Time Wasting Got Worse

It’s normally a two hour drive from the airport to Pakchong.

A year ago when Kanyah collected me the car was driven by her nephew, Jalan, and he got hopelssly lost trying to find the road to Pakchong out of Bangkok. That trip took us 4 hours.

This time, Kanyah was driving an our neighbour, Noi, was in th car to “help” her find her way.

In no less that 15 minuutes we were again hopelessly lost. I had before I left London told Kanyah to bring the Sat Nav (Garmin nüvi® 2565 Sat Nav) I had bought in Pakchong (Pak Chong) at Christmas for a great deal of money.

She had forgotten it. I was hopping mad. I’m actually typing this as I sit in the car on our way to our retirement house Pakchong (Pak Chong). It’s 0900 – we have lost an hour and got nowhere. In fact about 15 minutes ago Kanyah hired a taxi to show us the way at my suggestion and we seem to be going in the right direction. We are almost back to the Suvarnabumi airport again. And we have lost one hour. Eventually the taxi left us on a road that Kanyah new on the way back to Pakchong (Pak Chong).

And On Departure From Suvarnabhumi Airport, Bangkok, Thailand

DATE:15 April 2012

This is exactly what happened to me this morning, just a few minutes ago. As we (or rather as Kanyah) drove up to the departure area at the Suvarnabhumi Airport (using the Sat Nav this time) I saw signs indicating a “Special” gate for Thai Royal Silk passengers. Since I was one of those, I directed Kanyah to the gate (I think it was No. 1) and Kanyah dropped me off.

In seconds a Porter had picked up my baggage and I followed him to the check-in area for Thai Royal Silk passengers. No queue and I was checked in in seconds.

This then led to the Fast Track security channel, which was about 30 seconds walk, and then immediately on to the Immigration Desks. All the way, no waiting, no queues.

Next it was downstairs to the exclusive Thai Royal Silk (Business and First Class only) lounge which was, as you could imagine, luxurious. Plenty of free food and drink and free internet access which is where I am typing this report from as I wait for the plane.

I have made a video of the Thai Royal Silk lounge itself, and I’ll pause this update to shoot a movies of myself making it. (The update)

VIDEO

(Note to self. Get a travel adaptor so that you can power your laptop from the power outlets in public places like this airport lounge without having to use the batteries.)

Retiring In Thailand Swingometer Hint: Assumes I’ll be doing this again sometime. (+2 points)

Flying Business Class to Thailand – Is It Worth The Extra Money?

I’m still awaiting my return flight as I type this so there will be an update later.

But based on my outward trip from London to Bangkok and this wait in the Thai Royal Silk lounge, this is my view:-

Flying Business to Thailand is a huge leap forward in terms of comfort and convenience. There should be no other way to fly. As I remember the last flight home from Bangkok to London ,when (for the first time in my life) I was physically sick on the plane, was such a terrible ordeal, for me there is no other way to travel civilised other than  to fly Business Or First Class.

Back on the ‘standard class’ flights you’re packed in like sardines. No leg room, can’t sleep and the food is atrociuous.

In Business Class you get a huge seat that can be made into almost a flat bed, no more that four seats to the width of the plane and 5 star restaurant standard food, and superb service.

Splendid, thank you very much.

But is it worth the extra money?

Let me just recount the difference in cost between Thai Royal Silk (Business Class) and standard return air fares from London to Bangkok.

My standard class ticket with EVA Air last Christmas cost £1,149.73 ($1,494.65, 55,1087.40 Baht).

In comparison the Thai Royal Silk (Business Class) this Easter cost £2,555.83 ($3,322.58 or 122,679.84 Thai Baht) – more than double the price.

Let me say that if you can afford in my opinion it’s worth the money to arrive at your destination resembling a human being and not like some rag doll who’s been stuffed in a tiny box for 12 hours with no chance of sleeping.

I don’t travel to Thailand often – just twice a year – so the difference between the two air fares is nothing compared to the £100,000 + (Thai Baht millions) I have spent in Thailand over the last three years. So as long as I can afford it I’ll still travel Business Class.

When I finally retire to Thailand, though, and when money is tight and where I can afford to take a few days to recover after a flight – I’ll probably drop back to standard class.

Coming Up In The Next Post: I Seek Some Overwhelming Reasons Why I Should Be Retiring In Thailand

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