Probably the easiest entry point for the overseas retiree, Southeast Asia is safe and offers the best bang for your slacker buck. Thailand is the centre of action in Southeast Asia, offering easy access to mountainous and very chilled out Laos, intense but architecturally inspiring Cambodia, surprisingly modern Malaysia (possibly the most relaxed Islamic country in the world) and rapidly developing Vietnam.
The millions of tourists streaming in every year into Thailand create a demand for Western comforts and luxuries that are well served by the enterprising locals. Thais are amongst the most liberal people in Asia, and away from the traveller centres, incredibly friendly. If India is a destination for the mind, then Thailand is the place to go to indulge your physical senses. Thais live well, and they like their fun. This means that most leisurely interests, from diving to mountain climbing, from classical dance to eating, are easily available and at a price that is affordable by most Thai middle classes. Certainly, I am under the impression that the average middle class Thai eats out and goes out more than the average middle class Brit.
Bangkok is a huge international city, with many expats working and living there. But its loud, crowded and hot – why live there unless you have to. The mountains around Chiangmai, Mae Hon San, and the reef studded islands such as Phuket and Ko Samui are very popular with longterm foreign residents. With many foreigners setting up dive shops, hotels, bars, and cafes, its also easy to make friends and find things to do. When I was last on Ko Phangan on the east coast, the Swiss owners of the hotel I was staying at were planning to spend two months visiting relatives in Switzerland. Although I had only been staying with them for a week, they asked me if I wanted to take over the management of the hotel while they were away. They offered room, board and $1000/month, which is very good money in Thailand. It’s that easy!
The important thing when renting is to make sure you get a deal through a local or a longterm foreigner who is not making money off you. Although you can get nice two bedroom duplexes for under $100 a month, I have often seen gullible foreigners pay 5-10 times that amount (usually to a slick-tongued fellow foreigner).
Roadjunky recommends Southeast Asia if you like your exotica and your creature comforts without too much hassle, and believe that having fun is the highest form of truth.
Social Options: 8
Visas & Permits: 9
Hassle Ratio: 8
Value for Money: 10