Two leading publications recently rated Thailand in their top 10 places in the word to retire. What they didn't say is how long for. At a private villa on Phuket or Koh Samui you can enjoy your early retirement for a weekend, a week, a month or even a lifetime.
came seventh in the Daily Telegraph's list of the best places to retire in the world and International Living's 2013 Retirement Index placed the kingdom in ninth place out of 22. Such recognition will come as no surprise to people who have visited one of the world's most popular tourist destinations at least once. In fact, more than 20 million visitors flocked to its shores in 2012, so there's no doubt as to the continued appeal of the Land of Smiles.
Choosing a retirement destination, of course, requires considerably more planning than a holiday. In compiling the above mentioned Retirement Index, researchers considered "everything from internet penetration to the price of a beer". But the essential elements in the decision making process are broadly the same. What's the weather like? Is it peaceful and relaxing? How's the food? What activities are on offer to keep me interested and entertained? Will I get value for my money?
In general, tropical islands in Southeast Asia tend to come out pretty well when you ask these types of questions, which is why you can meet plenty of retirees as well as holidaymakers on the beaches of Phuket, Koh Samui and Bali
, and not all of them in their twilight years. We thought it would be interesting to find out how retired island residents spend their days in paradise to compare the experience with a shorter term holiday, so we asked around and soon found two willing interviewees. One on Phuket, one on Samui.
Permanently on Phuket
Michelle Bennet from the UK relocated to Phuket
around eighteen months ago. She had visited the island several times on holiday from her base in Hong Kong, and at 50 she decided it was time to live the life she knew she enjoyed the most from experience. She sold her antiques business, bought a modest but comfortable pool villa close to Bang Tao beach and set about re-inventing her lifestyle.
" I was constantly on the go in Hong Kong, running my business, bringing up two kids and trying to fit in some exercise and travel in between," she said. "The only time I really managed to find time for myself was on our regular family villa holidays to Phuket. Now I live here full time, most days I just do what I did when I was on holiday, except I don't have the lovely villa staff to prepare meals for me. That would be a little too extravagant. I usually get up early and walk or cycle to the beach, then pick up some fresh fruit from the small shop in the local village and bring it back for breakfast to eat with a nice cup of freshly brewed coffee. I spend at least 2 hours a day reading and I also swim at least twice a day — rain or shine — it's still lovely and warm. In the evenings I usually go out to eat at one of the nearby beach restaurants with my friend Emma who also moved here, or we visit each other to cook and watch movies. When I feel the need I join a Mountain Bike tour. There are a few groups that organise trips on the quieter roads in Phuket and it's a great way to see the less visited parts of the island and even the mainland as we can throw the bikes on a truck and drive to the place we cycle. Perhaps the only thing I do less now than I did when I came here on holiday is sunbathe. I get plenty of sun swimming, walking and biking so I tend to sit and read in the shade on my day bed by the pool. Of course, since I moved here I get lots of visitors from Hong Kong, I always seem to have someone on the visit list, whether its my kids or other family and friends. I certainly don't get bored."
Staying on Samui
Jim Cook, 58, from Australia has been a resident on Koh Samui
for 3 years. He first visited the island on a holiday with a group of friends and stayed in a private villa in Bophut. He loved it so much he returned to the island full time.
"That holiday changed the way I saw the world," he said. "I was with a group of mates, old fellas just like me, and we spent two glorious weeks exploring the island, going on boat trips, eating fresh seafood and just hanging out together with a few beers and the occasional barbie by the pool. Samui is small enough to travel around easily but big enough to escape the crowds and that's one of the reasons I chose to buy a house here. It's not quite as fabulous as the villa we stayed in on that holiday, but after enjoying the private pool so much on that trip I made sure I picked a place where I had my own. I also love fishing and I have found an Thai boat operator here that will take me out whenever I want to go. Even if he has other people booked he will ask one of his fisherman mates to take me out in their long tail boat. They know all the best spots too so it's not often I come back without a catch to grill up. I spend a lot of time Bophut Fisherman's Village. There are some great little bars and restaurants there and it's easy to get to know the owners, meet visitors from all over the world and other expats living here. There quite a sense of community for a tourist village and of course the relaxed pace of life means even strangers are usually friendly because most of them are in holiday mode. Thai people are the most welcoming people on the planet in my opinion. I found that out when I got to know the staff at the villa we stayed in and they were a fine example of the local folk I've met and got to know ever since. I've met quite a few other foreigners who came here on holiday and stayed too, I think we all made exactly the right choice."
by LVH Marketing