(Durban; South Africa)
In November 2009 I took a trip to Chiang Mai Thailand and after travelling around the beautiful but often commercialised Southern coastal area flew via Bangkok to the Northern city of Chiang Mai. I stayed just a few days there but without doubt it was the highlight of my trip and the number one reason was the openness, tolerance, hospitality and friendliness of the people.
It’s much cooler than the steamy South and Bangkok.
Chiang Mai is smaller than Bangkok and doesn’t have anywhere near as much traffic and the old walled city centre is a comparatively quiet area with side streets and hidden temples to explore. I found that after a couple of days I became almost a local in the area around the guest house and was greeted by the tuk tuk drivers, chatted with the pretty girl in the café and made friends with the guys at the trekking company.
There’s plenty to do in and around Chiang Mai. I took a bike ride in the Southern suburbs through quiet lanes following Emily in her pink bonnet where we visited a leper colony, temple ruins, a local market, a biscuit factory and taught English to the school children.
A trip up numerous hair pin bends to visit Wat Phra That Doi is a must although we went at the weekend and it was crowded. This is a very holy temple with good views over the city but we were unfortunate as it was cloudy and quite cold. We also visited the Mien people in their village but this was rather commercialised and disappointing.
A trip to an elephant reserve is not to everyone’s taste, I’m not a big fan of tame circus type shows as it’s clear that a lot of cruelty is used to break the animals’ spirit, but a ride on an elephant is quite an experience.
I enjoyed a stop at a local market where one can sample the specialities; grasshoppers, flies, frogs, crabs, eels, snakes, exotic fruits; you name it they’ve got it. Presentation of the food is all important and everything is beautifully set out and served. A well dressed lady took it upon herself to show me the exquisite orchids for sale.
In the evenings the roads are cleared and a large night market takes over selling everything from textiles, food, jewellery, art and all spiced up with music and lots of food stalls. Sit down with the locals and have a spicy soup from 25 baht ($0.80).
I did a cookery course with Asia scenic, they take you first into the garden to pick herbs and then a walk to the local market to buy the ingredients. After cooking the dishes one sits down and gorges on the result; this was the only time I had an adverse reaction to Thai food; I only had myself to blame!
I then did a 3 day trek on the Burmese border with Pooh Eco-trekking, where we hiked to a Poe village and stayed overnight with the headman’s family. The following day we hiked to the river and stayed overnight at a private campsite before wading through the amazing Bat cave. This was a wonderful but strenuous trip and the highlight of my visit to Thailand.
So would I retire to Chang Mai? Well it’s certainly an option; the cost of living is very cheap, the people are tolerant and friendly, the climate is good, there is plenty to do and see and there are good connections by air, road and train.
Of course to retire to a country not knowing people and leaving behind family and friends is a gamble so I would suggest one first spends three months there and then make the decision to stay or return home. Either way it won’t be time wasted.
When looking for the cheapest places to retire one is usually faced with two options.
Either to find a relatively affordable place in one’s own country or to go the whole hog and find a much cheaper place in another country.
Although this decision involves very personal choices a growing number of people are now looking at the second option as it usually offers the cheapest places to retire.
While there are many reasons for considering relocation to a cheap country, some compelling ones are:
I see this gaze beyond the borders of your country of birth as the same choice my grandfather made when he came to South Africa from Ireland in the early 1900’s … a move to where there are greater benefits and opportunities.
Many of the cheapest places to retire are located in the most beautiful and exotic locations on earth.
Although these places are often in the developing world they offer a fantastic alternative lifestyle to retirees.
Often these economies are in a better overall state than the highly indebted first world countries and many have been savvy enough to realise that the “retirement market” is an attractive, growing niche.
As you look at this picture you may be wondering where this beautiful place is … South Africa!
To many people this country will conjure up thoughts of murder, mayhem and corruption …. but there are also many tranquil and peaceful places to enjoy. While I know that there are many problems in the country, my point is that we often are too hasty and prejudiced in making our judgments.
In many cases people will be forced to consider one of the cheapest places to retire as the world as we knew it, or thought it would be, has drastically changed. There will some compromises that will have to be made but to many people this will turn out to be an exciting adventure.
One should remember that many of the affordable places to retire are in non-English speaking locations. While this may add to the adventure it will certainly be a challenging hurdle to overcome.
So over the next few years the trend will grow as more and more people consider the world’s cheapest places to retire.
Many of these countries are:
Recreation in these countries is often an attractive feature. For example, within half an hour from my home there are golf courses, bowling greens, tennis courts, horse riding, scuba diving, walking, mountain biking, deep sea fishing, quad biking and river rafting in fact just about any summer outdoor activity is probably available.
Also the really important point is that everything is cheap!
If you are driven by a passion to give back to society you will have many opportunities to fulfill your mission. In many of the cheapest places to retire there are countless ways to contribute to the very poor communities. Anyone with skills, expertise and drive can have a major impact.
The weather in many of these places is ideal. The mild winters and hot summers ensure that outdoor living can be enjoyed all year round.
By considering one of the cheapest places to retire you may put yourself in a position to live out your retirement by taking advantage of the best of both hemisphere’s.
In the event of not moving permanently, house swapping or renting may present an alternative lifestyle. In many countries property rents have plummeted and this offer attractive opportunities for extended visits … often at no more cost than staying at home.
Attractive countries worth considering include:
Open your mind and dream – one of the cheapest places to retire may be your ultimate nirvana!
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