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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11 Responses to “Why I Can’t Retire To Thailand”

  • Jim George:

    ah
    Alan

    Hate to say it, But it sounds like you did not want to retire so much as stop solving life’s problems!
    I am looking forward to living in Cambodia because I
    1 love the people (my neighbors)
    2 enjoy the climate
    3 like the culture
    4 like any kind of food
    5 can find a project I like in any part of the world
    6 like returning to the USA to work and visit relatives
    7 My experience was in a hospital in Chiang Mai I spent $25 for a Dr. visit and medicine. Everyone spoke English there anyway!
    8 Lastly in 2010 I went to Bangkok to Chowpya Hospital for a Greenlight lasor prostate surgery. It went great and cost about $10,000. Since I did not have insurance this was very cheap. ( About $35,000 in the USA) Eveyone on the international floor spoke English. My wife could even sleep in my room. We went to Chiang Mai for 3 weeks and made a nice vacation out of it. It only added $5,000 to our bill.
    10 Never, I repeat never give up on your dream!
    Mai pen rai
    Jim George

    [Reply]

  • Dan Shingleton:

    Dear Alan,

    We have noticed that your blog links to our website concerning a bad experience you had with your landscapers whilst building your house.

    I wish to make it plain that this job was NOTHING to do with our company, Thai Garden Design. We have never heard of your good self nor undertaken any job in Pakchong. We therefore ask that you remove the link to our website as this is laying blame at our door when it is totally unjustified.

    Indeed, may I ask who told you of our website? If one of the Thai contractors you had issue with pointed it out to you then he was lying to you about this as well.

    Our management is Thai / English. As a foreigner you would have had your requirements and job dealt with by an English national. If this did not occur then, I reiterate, IT WAS NOT OUR COMPANY.

    In fact, if you had approached us about the job in the first place I hope that you would now have a garden that you could be proud of.

    I hope this resolves the issue, please contact us if you wish to check what I am saying.

    Also, I have to say that I’m am sorry that you have had a hard time in Thailand. Lots of people do make the mistake of thinking it’s all going to be roses but they are, as you point out, throwing themselves into an alien culture with very different rules, standards, food, taboos, etc. It is hard. Personally, the standard of driving is what terrifies me.

    All the best for the future,

    Dan

    [Reply]

    admin Reply:

    Dan,

    Firstly let me thank you sincerely for taking your own time out to post a comment on the website. I very much appreciate your contribution to the education of the readers.

    Secondly please accept my sincere apologies for any inference on the website that your company Thai Garden Design was in any way involved in our garden in Pakchong (Pak Chong).

    It’s true that there were hyperlinks to your company’s website at Thai Garden Design, on the “Thai Landscape Gardener To Be Terminated On Day 2” Post, but I have removed these now.

    I can reassure you and anyone reading this that those links were make in error.

    In fact i wish i had contacted you before, but it didn’t look like you served the Pakchong (Pak Chong) area. Also my wife prefers to ‘do it her way’ which usually means giving business to the locals.

    I do thank you for raising the concerns about the links to your website in such a pleasant way. The links were my fault and you had a right to be angry. But you weren’t. Your complaint was very nicely explained and you even had a few words of advice for me. I very much appreciate your wisdom.

    In conclusion to readers if you want a professional garden design go to Thai Garden Design and if you want to see how we had a rotten deal with a local gardener then read the “Thai Landscape Gardener To Be Terminated On Day 2” Post.

    [Reply]

    retiringinthailand Reply:

    Dan,

    Firstly let me thank you sincerely for taking your own time out to post a comment on the website. I very much appreciate your contribution to the education of the readers.

    Secondly please accept my sincere apologies for any inference on the website that your company Thai Garden Design was in any way involved in our garden in Pakchong (Pak Chong).

    It’s true that there were hyperlinks to your company’s website at Thai Garden Design, on the “Thai Landscape Gardener To Be Terminated On Day 2” Post, but I have removed these now.

    I can reassure you and anyone reading this that those links were make in error.

    In fact i wish i had contacted you before, but it didn’t look like you served the Pakchong (Pak Chong) area. Also my wife prefers to ‘do it her way’ which usually means giving business to the locals.

    I do thank you for raising the concerns about the links to your website in such a pleasant way. The links were my fault and you had a right to be angry. But you weren’t. Your complaint was very nicely explained and you even had a few words of advice for me. I very much appreciate your wisdom.

    In conclusion to readers if you want a professional garden design go to Thai Garden Design and if you want to see how we had a rotten deal with a local gardener then read the “Thai Landscape Gardener To Be Terminated On Day 2” Post.

    [Reply]

  • Cliff:

    All the problems you sight are caused by one and one thing only.

    Your choice of Pak Chong, of all places, to retire.

    Chang Mai, Bangkok, Phuket, Koh Samui, Pattaya etc would all have had everything that you miss about England. And you don’t have to live in a tourist area either.

    Medical care in Thailand at a private hospital (Insurance is not excessive) is cheap and extremely good. Saraburi General is not a place to go! All the other problems you bring up are easily solvable apart from your choice of location.

    I met a farang in Pak Chong one time and asked him what it was like to live there. His answer, “I die a little more each day!”

    What does amaze me is you didn’t at least try living there for a while first before buying land and building a house.- I mean it’s Pak Chong!

    [Reply]

    admin Reply:

    Cliff,

    Many thanks for your thoughts and opinion which I very much value, and you make a lot of sense.

    When I first went to Pakchong to look for land I did love the area as in the scenery and I do like the fact that it’s away from the sea and the tourist centers and being in the hills it’s cooler than Bangkok or the southern seaside resorts.

    In fact about a year ago we went to Hua Hin for a couple of days and we couldn’t wait to high-tail it back to Pakchong. Here’s a movie I made at Hua Hin and I’m sure I wrote a Post about it but can’t find it now.

    Why didn’t we like Hua Hin? Too built up and too hot.

    I don’t think it totally Pakchong’s fault, though. Many of the things I quoted for not retiring in Thailand are unrelated to where I live.

    Most are related to the Thai law like driving licenses, visas and most of all protecting my investment in my (wife’s) house.

    Another issue which I haven’t mentioned is that I blame Kanyah for failing to be adventurous and not wanting to travel around Thailand. The truth is, though, that it’s me who also doesn’t want to travel. I just want to play in my model engineering workshop making steam engines.

    Cliff, we both agree that we have done enough travelling over the years and just want to relax.

    So, you are saying we are trying to relax in the wrong place! Could be right.

    Another thing that niggles me continuously and it’s possibly the same for many Farangs married to Thais and that is Kanyah’s propensity to drift towards her ‘friends’. The white whisky drinking people sitting in the dirt as I show in the Post.

    Another factor is the way I view my changed relationship with Kanyah since she went to live in Pakchong that is at the root of the trouble.

    Plus me getting old and grumpy!

    Anyway, Cliff, it’s not going to be settled on this website.

    But as I said in the Post I do have some nice things to report in the next post.

    Many thanks again for your valued comments.

    Alan

    .

    [Reply]

  • The comments you have received are very relevant. Living in
    Thailand for a Thai is very different in the countryside to in a town – for a FOREIGNER it is so different it feels like a different country. With a town close by you can escape all those frustrations once in a while and come back to the peace of the countryside, refreshed. Even if a fellow countryman is close by and you get along well, you cannot beat going to a ‘Pub’ occasionally; as opposed to a Thai bar. Visits to bookshops and shopping malls may not be what you think you want now but they will keep you sane. As you retire – really slow down and stop having
    to work, the Thai countryside will come into its own. I mean your tastes will change and you will love it – again. However, you will always need regular visits to a nearby town.

    [Reply]

  • Another thing I missed – why have you 200 channels on your satellite
    TV and no English? (Only ‘Russian’ English!!)There are several BBC channels on our satellite and many films in English. Even not counting the American channels there is enough English for me. The BBC is not the domestic of course as that is paid for by and exclusive for all residents in Britain. But the quality (and ‘taste’) is available. That is important to a relaxed, retired life style for an Englishman. Change your (or her) choice of satellite!!

    [Reply]

  • Hi Alan

    I’ve enjoyed reading your blogs and so was quite surprised to see your latest submission mainly because the things that concern you would have been apparent for a long time already but didn’t sway your decision before you went ahead and built your house.

    Consider that if you now intend to retire in the UK, won’t your wife (I assuming she intends to live with you in the UK) face the same issues as you face in Thailand? That is, language difficulties, living in an alien culture,not having her food, friends and family around her?

    If something happens to you, how would your wife manage to cope in the UK?

    I think what I’m saying is perhaps you need to compromise your and your wife’s needs so that you arrive at a living solution that suits you both and doesn’t overly favour one over the other. Otherwise I think that resentment might creep into your relationship.

    As Chris said, why not live in a farang-friendly environment such as the suburbs of Bangkok where you can find peaceful and tranquil oases in amongst all the excitement of living in a major city. There you have the best of both worlds.

    But whatever you decide to do, I think it is good to try out a location, perhaps rent for 6 months, before making any major commitments.

    [Reply]

  • James Screeton:

    Hey I’m plainning on retiring in Chon buri own a apartment there.My wife is thai,been married sense 1973.Have lifed in Guam for past 22 years.I understand your concerns about your wifes health.But if you were to go home with your wife,and passed first,she would have the same problem that you fear now.You can always go back,but it is never home.

    [Reply]

    admin Reply:

    James many thanks for your valued comment which is a very valid point.

    I have been slow getting round to these comments and a lot has happened since I wrote that Post.

    Please check out the latests Posts like these if you haven’t already:-

    http://retiringinthailand.net/settling-down-retiring-in-thailand/

    http://retiringinthailand.net/usufruct-legalised-on-chanote/

    Good luck with your retirement and keep us posted on your progress.

    Best Regards

    Alan

    [Reply]

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