Archive for February, 2013

Looks Like My Dream Fell Through

I just returned from a holiday trip to our retirement house in Pakchong (Pak Chong), Thailand, which turned out to be a real life changer.

Perhaps life-changer is a bit strong (or perhaps not) but it certainly gave me a completely new perspective on life and a drive in a new direction.

The experience was so powerful and so uncomfortable that it has taken me more than a few weeks to drum up the courage to write this dialogue.

The fact is that I discovered several very strong reasons why I don’t really want to retire to Thailand after years of planning to do just that and after spending a fortune on buying land and a car and building a retirement house there. You can imagine what a shock this realisation was to me.

Image of Farang Retiring In Thailand - Retirement House Photo 17 Dec 2012

Alan In The Pakchong House 17 Dec 2012

The Frightening Event That Brought Home The Reality To me

What brought about most of this change of heart about retiring in Thailand was a rather frightening event concerning my wife’s health. To cut to the chase she had developed a lump on her throat and I insisted that she go to hospital in Saraburi to have it checked out.

Over the days this was an obvious concern to both of us but we tried to put it out of our mind until the hospital visit which we had scheduled for the following Monday.

Tears Flow Freely As She Sobs Out Her Concern

In the meantime Kanyah sought solace with some local Thai friends when the obvious and unspeakable concern was finally aired and led to a great deal of anguish and crying.

That night I couldn’t sleep and the same problems kept spinning round in my mind. These were the same concerns about retiring in Thailand I have already aired on the website – to be dealt with somehow at a later stage – but this time, when the real possibility of them coming true was so real, the intensity of the concerns was overwhelming.

The next day I tried to articulate these concerns to Kanyah and that backfired completely. Instead of getting her understanding and support in trying to resolve my issues she launched into a tirade about how selfish I was thinking always about myself!

The Top Reasons Why I Can’t Retire To Thailand

I’ll repeat again my concerns about retiring in Thailand.

In Thailand I’m Completely Dependent On My Wife

The first concern is that I am so dependent upon Kanyah that if she was no longer around I wouldn’t be able to cope with living in Thailand.

These are some of the areas where I depend so much on Kanyah:-

  • Knowing Thailand and the Thai language. Sure I can speak enough everyday Thai to buy me a beer and a meal, but supposing I was ill and needed a doctor. Or how about if I needed a Lawyer – perhaps to deal with the ownership of the house.

I couldn’t even renew the car insurance by myself!

  • That brings me to concern number two. If Kanyah was no longer around who would the house belong to? Would I lose all my investment in it? Are there any ways I can protect my huge investment in Thailand?

(The answer to the last question is yes, but it will take time and I’m looking at a possible scenario where there is no time)

  • I don’t have a Thai driving license so I can’t drive in Thailand, since I don’t have a UK driving license either. Without a car and the ability to drive it I would be marooned in our retirement house in Pakchong (Pak Chong). Not a nice thought. Tesco Lotus is a short drive away but impossible to shop there without wheels.
  • I don’t even have a Thai bank account. I can withdraw cash form the ATMs but I have no facility to deposit money (for example if I was able to sell the car or the house)

Yes, I know you can arrange those things in time – but in the scenario I was envisaging there was no time.

Thailand Doesn’t Have Much to Offer Me As A Retirement Destination

And it doesn’t stop there. Whilst I was staying in Pakchong (Pak Chong) for the three weeks holiday I realised that apart from a low cost of living and warm weather Thailand had little else to offer me. On the contrary (as was proven when I returned to the UK at the end of the holiday) England has plenty of reasons to be the retirement county of my choice!

I didn’t hate Pakchong (Pak Chong), but it was terribly drab and boring. No English style pub, no English beer, no English (or other westerner) to talk to. I lived like a Thai (except for my model engineering workshop) for the whole three weeks. No English was spoken except with Kanyah.

In the evenings after day (1800 hours) there was nothing to do except go to bed. Kanyah had bought a satellite TV system with a huge screen and there was a choice of over 200 channels – 99 % in Thai language and zero in English.

On my last trip I was able to get Russia Today which was at least in English and one sports channel in English. On this trip even those dubious luxuries were denied me.


That Western Image Of Colourful and Spicy Delicious Thai Food Is Just A Myth

As to food most Farangs have a completely distorted and rosy-specked image of Thai food. All that’s available at the local stalls around Pakchong (Pak Chong) is local Thai food. Kwiteo (Thai noodle soup) is lovely once in a while but it’s a bit boring as a daily staple diet! Not surprising that I lost a stone in weight!

Image of Kwiteo -Bowl of Thai Noodle Soup

Kwiteo – Bowl of Thai Noodle Soup

In Pakchong (Pak Chong) there is no European food. Not even potato chips unless you cook them yourself. I tried some ‘good quality’ steak from Tesco Lotus cooked at home but is was so tough and tasteless.

Even the ‘fresh’ fish in Tesco Lotus stinks and is tasteless if you can bring yourself to eat it. (I tried red snapper and crabs at different times and won’t be trying them again)

Let’s face the truth. Food stalls and Tesco Lotus give the Thais what they want. CHEAP FOOD. No catering for the rich Farang who wants something a bit better.

Forget your ideas of Kaeng Massaman or Kaeng Daeng served with Khao Suey served in handsome Thai bowls with a table cloth, napkins and a nice glass of whine, doted on by a pretty Thai lady in a traditional Thai silk dress. All this in an air conditioned restaurant with low level mood lighting putting a warm glow on bamboo and silk screens and the polished wooden floor.

All that you can find in Bangkok, not Pakchong (Pak Chong).

Here we are enjoying a fresh seafood dinner and live music at the Color Living Hotel, near Suvarnabhumi Airport, Srinakarin – Teparak Intersection, Teparak, Bangkok, Thailand:-

(We chose that hotel for it’s closeness to a shop where I went to buy some equipment for my model enginering workshop in Pakchong (Pak Chong))

The food wasn’t superb by Bangkok standards but you’ll find nothing approaching it in Pakchong (Pak Chong).

The Drab Reality Of Eating In Rural Thailand

Substitute that vision for reality. Dirty floor, plastic chairs, metal folding tables with plastic ‘table cloths’ held down with duct tape, lighting by flickering bare fluorescent tubes that attract a swarm of insects and the cook cum serving lady wearing short grey trousers and plastic flip-flops.

Just like this series of photos of Kanyah eating at the food stall not far from our retirement house in Pakchong (Pak Chong):-

Did you see the last photo? that big heap of dirt?

The last word in that last sentence sums up the whole Pakchong (Pak Chong) experience for me.

>Dirt.

Sitting in the Dirt.

Living In The Dirt

Kids, parents, families, even Kanyah does it. Sitting, playing and eating in the dirt. The next two photos are of a family that Kanyah likes to visit in Prong Sai, a village near Pakchong. You can see Kanyah on the right in the red shirt in the first photo.

image of typical poor Thai family sitting in the dirt

Kanyah On The Right Laughing With Her Friends Playing In The Dirt At Prong Sai, Near Pakchong

Close-up image of typical poor Thai family sitting in the dirt with animals running round

Close-Up Of The Thai Family Happily Sharing The Dirt With Their Animals While They Eat Rice

They all do it. It’s surrounding you. Kids playing in the dirt. Ducks and chickens in the dirt. Kids playing with ducks and chickens in the dirt. Charcoal cooking fires in the dirt. Empty bottles, bottle tops, broken toys, cigarette packets, dirty hair combs, and huge centipedes the size of sausages all competing with the Thais to sit in the dirt. Yuck! I wanna go home.

These photos taken in Pakchong and Saraburi:-

These pictures taken at the same street food stall you have seen in the gallery above. The pictures show a beat-up ancient rusty Thai truck and the junk they carry around with them. There’s no escaping it!

I could go on. But what about the more serious concerns I have about retiring in Thailand?

I have mentioned them before.

Real Difficulties Facing You If You Retire To Thailand

Healthcare In Thailand

What about healthcare if you get seriously ill? Hospital treatment and operations would eat a huge hole in your retirement pot. Even an unscheduled flight home to a British hospital would knock you back a few £000s.

Thai Retirement Visas

Then there’s visas. Or a retirement visa to be precise. Difficult enough to get one of these when you have a Thai wife but what if you no longer have one.

Better go home and leave your Thai house and belongings for the Thai family to squabble over because there’s no way you would want to or be able to continue to live there.

Having said all that when it came time for me to leave and come back to England I didn’t want to leave.

Ahh! You say. Got you!

Great Britain Is A Great Place For The British

No. I wanted to come back to England for the good things. To get away from the heat, to get some decent food and beer – basically to be back with my own Western comforts. And oh boy wasn’t I happy to be back. (In UK)

So why didn’t I want to leave? Because I was actually enjoying not going to work every day. And I was returning to England to go back to work.

If I retired in the UK and didn’t have to go to work every day (definition of retiring) I would be VERY happy.

Retiring In Thailand Adventure Fails the Test

To summarise, this whole Retiring in Thailand experiment has been one huge mistake. One huge vastly expensive fiasco.

It had to be done to provide a house in Thailand to Kanyah and to test the retiring in Thailand concept – but I wish I hadn’t been so enthusiastic and spent so much money.

What Next In This Thailand Retirement Debacle?

Where does that leave things?

When I explained all this to our son Alex on my return to the UK he pointed out, possibly quite rightly, that I had previously overcome much more difficult problems than the ones I have outlined above. Citing our marriage and the appearance of himself as an example. (Another story there)

Maybe I’m getting too old to face the challenges I used to ride over. If that’s the case and as you get older problems assume a larger dimension then when you are younger and have more energy then that’s another reason not to retire to Thailand. You want to retire in a place that’s easy to deal with. your own country.

Alex Agrees About Life In Pakchong

As a caveat to what Alex had said, he also went to Thailand a couple of weeks ago and stayed a few days in our Pakchong (Pak Chong) retirement house. When he returned he conceded that what I had said about their being nothing to do and nothing ‘nice’ in Pakchong (Pak Chong) was true.

Thailand More “Interesting” Than “Exciting”

After Pakchong (Pak Chong) he went island hopping in the south of Thailand and described it as “interesting”. Mmm. Tells you something.

Let’s end this utterly true story on a couple of bright notes.

Where To Get The Best Meal In Thailand

A Tale Of Angus Beefburgers

On the way home in Suvarnabhumi Airport I had an hour to kill before the flight and went hunting for some food and a beer. I opted for an Angus Beefburger (Angus beef from Australia – go work that one out!) with CHIPS and it smelt absolutely delicious and tasted even more so. The best meal I had in all of my three weeks in Thailand!

Kanyah’s Health

Image of Saraburi Hospital in Thailand

Saraburi Hospital in Thailand

At the visit to the hospital at Saraburi the doctor said that Kanyah’s lump on the throat was not a major concern and she was booked in for an X-ray on 18th January.

We waited anxiously for that day to come and when it did the result was a huge relief. It was some kind of cyst arising from her childhood and of no medial concern at all. (It has subsequently considerably abated, Kanyah reports)

Time to Sort Things Out?

So that give me a breathing space to sort out all the issues I mentioned above. Even if I’m not going to retire to Thailand as a minimum I must take steps to protect my investment.

Depressed?

I guess you must think this Post a bit negative and that I am depressed? No I’m not depressed, now that I’m back home with my other model engineering workshop and my English beer, on the other hand I’m very happy.

In fact if you just take a quick look at my previous Post “A Steam Model Engineering Holiday in Pakchong Thailand” – which I started when I first arrived in Thailand before Christmas but never finished – you’ll see me lively and happy.

I have a few enjoyable moments to share with you in future about my time in Thailand. most of the happy times revolve around my model engineering hobby.

I think that gradually over the three weeks of staying only in the vicinity of our Pakchong (Pak Chong) retirement house I felt “stuck”. Perhaps I’ll expand on that but for now I just look forward to posting the happy and enjoyable moments of my stay in Thailand Christmas 2012.

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