The first 2 posts about the cost of living in Thailand have proven quite popular (Part 1, Part 2). So I thought that I would periodically post an update and describe the cost of the “stuff” that I have been buying in my daily life here. The more one knows about how much you’ll have to spend living here, the better decisions you will be able to make about making your move.

The Baht exchange rate

First a note on currency.  I just looked and the baht today is at 30.23 to the dollar (bangkokbank.com).  I have been semi and fully retired here since 2001. At that time we built a small bungalow and had to transfer quite a few dollars here.  The exchange rate then was about 39.5 baht to the dollar.  About four years ago we bought the house we live in and transferred dollars at 35.50 baht.

If you are living on a pension or Social Security then your available cash has been shrinking since then.  I read in the paper today that the baht will probably continue to rise.  That is going to be hard on anyone who is bringing in money from abroad.

Here is how a $1,000 pension payment has changed in the last few years:

Today = 30,230 baht

2005 = 35,500 baht

2001 = 39,500 baht

That is almost a 25% loss in the last 10 years or so.  if you are thinking of bringing in $100,000, to buy a house, car, setting up a home, etc., take the above numbers and multiply by 100. You see how this can get pretty scary. This means you will have to plan accordingly, although with the constant changes that may prove difficult, in order to assure that you will have enough to live on here.

Internet Connection

There’s lots to choose from depending on where you live and what connection speed you want. Internet cafes cost about 15 baht per hour (except at fancy hotels where they can charge up to 10 times that amount). Regular dial-up from your home computer costs only a few baht per hour. You buy an Internet card, have your modem dial the number given, enter the user/password provided and you are on. The connection will be slow, and when your money is up you have to buy another card. ADSL connection is available in most populated areas. It is provided through the phone company and a few other ISPs. My current connection is about 6 mgs download speed and about .4 upload, and costs about 600 baht per month. Faster speeds are available for a higher price. I find that the connection is quite spotty and unreliable. But it is on 24/7 (when the connection hasn’t been cut) and is fast enough for most uses (downloads, Skype, streaming audio, uploads – to web logs like this one) although some videos, on YouTube.com for example, might give a few problems. BTW, there are an increasing number of places where you can get a free wireless connection.

6 mgps connection (TOT) – 590 baht per month

Router wireless, 4 port – 1,400 baht

Satellite TV

Regular Thai TV channels are available throughout the country for free, although there are a number of satellite TV companies which will offer much better reception for a few thousand baht set up fee with no monthly payments.  But they give only Thai TV and some other stations from neighboring Asian countries. For international TV, including CNN, ESPN, HBO, CNBC, BBC, etc., you will need satellite.  The major carrier in Thailand is True Vision.  For their “Gold” option you will have to pay around 1,600 baht per month. A few HD channels are available for an extra fee, and there is a “Platimum” option which has some extra channels (MGM, The Golf Channel, etc.) for about 500 baht extra.

For those interested in the “Grey Market” there are companies who will set you up with a satellite dish and a box where you can get all of the channels mentioned above.  Set up can range all the way to 25,000 baht for a one time fee and no monthly payments to a few thousand baht but with a small monthly payment.  Please don’t say that I recommended this system since it is “slightly” illegal.  But look around.  When you see those big black satellite dish instead of those small red ones, then you’ll see how much the “grey market” is flourishing.

Plasma TV

We just bought a new plasma TV.  The prices of theses things have gone way way down lately.  A 42″ TV now costs what a 32″ one did only 2 or 3 years ago. The brands Samsung and LG, Korean companies, are assembled here in Thailand now with parts from Korea.  Look for sales (called “promotions” here) and you can save a lot of money.

Prices below are for flat screen, plasma TVs (the LCD models are quite a bit more expensive since they are great for HD – only a few channels offered, cost extra).  The Japanese brands usually cost a little more than the Korean ones (which are assembled in Thailand).

Less than 32″ the prices are quite cheap and will usually be less than 5,000 baht

32″ 13,000 baht – 16,000 baht

42″  18,500 baht – 25,000 baht

50″ 30,000 baht – 50,000 baht

LCD TV

40″ LDC Phillips – 50,000 baht (bought by a friend just yesterday)

DVD players

You can find Blue Ray and HD players but they are very expensive and getting the disk will prove both expensive and difficult to find.  Most DVDs found in Thailand (for sale and for rent) fall under that “Grey Market” area, so are quite inexpensive. DVD palyers can run anywhere from 800 baht to 2,500 baht.  I have had both and they both play fine.  The more expensive ones just have more features.  The cheaper ones, having less features, don’t block .avi files (torrents downloaded from the Internet)  that you can play using a USB port and a flash drive or an external hard disk.

Players – 800 baht and up

Watching movies at home

DVD rental – 10 – 50 baht

DVD purchase 100 – 200 baht

(Can anyone pronounce “copyright infringement”?  How about “piracy”)

Blank DCDs – 275 baht for 50

Blank CDs – 195 baht for 50

Movies at the theater –  100 baht and up (Avatar in 3D was more than twice the normal price.  Here in CM Wednesday is half-price day)

Air Conditioner

If your bedroom at least doesn’t have an air conditioner then you may find Thailand a very uncomfortable place to live.  I am one who does not like “conditioned” air but have had to give in to technology on this one.  “Global Warming” and being 64 years old has taken a toll on me.

The cost of an air conditioner is the first thing to think about and then the cost of the electricity to run it is another.

Air conditioner for a bedroom (4m x 5m), installation and maintenance included – 12,000 baht to 14,000 baht.  More to cool larger rooms of course.

Electricity bill – In the hot season we had 2 bedroom air conditioners going most of the night and sometimes during the day and this about doubled our electric bill, or about 2,000 more per month. In my opinion, well worth it. Because we use some much energy we have planted over 150 trees to balance out our carbon footprint.

Now, we live in Chiang Mai, quite cool in the winter, very hot in the summer. Other areas of the country might be hot all year round (Can anyone say Bangkok?). Consider this when figuring out what your electric bill might be.

This just in:

An old friend just sent me a photo of Chiang Mai he took back in 1969, when I first sojourned here as a Peace Corps volunteer.  So I jumped on the web and looked for a photo taken from a similar angle today.  These were both taken from near the temple on top of Doi Suthep mountain.

The Chiang Mai valley 1969

The Chiang Mai valley today

No wonder I didn’t need an air conditioner back then.

This just in

Chiang Mai has been selected as one of the “12 Places to Go if the World Goes to Hell

The baht is at 29.98 as of Oct 6, 2010.

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Sorry, this isn't me - yet.

It all started when my wife and I were at the local vegetable market.  I was standing off to the side when I saw my wife and the market lady in a serious discussion – pointing over at me.  Later I asked my wife what that was all about.

“She thought that you might be a retired Thai soap opera star” my wife said (which is not that farfetched since I am Eurasian and just about 50% of all Thai soap opera stars are half-Thai and half western).  “She said that you were handsome enough but when she saw your big belly she realized you were just another overweight Farang.” (Note for Expat men just arriving in Thailand: Everyone will call you handsome no matter how old or fat you are. So don’t let it go to your head.)

Eurasian Movie Star

After many years of having a waist line that seems to have had a mind of its own, I have decided to do something about it.  For a long time I had no idea that my belly was doing its own thing without consulting with me.  I would look in the mirror and I thought I looked just fine.  The fact was that I always looked at myself straight on.  Then finally I caught a glimpse of myself from the side. “What the hell was that sticking out of my middle? There used to be a six-pack there.” I thought.

This isn't me either, but close

Well, that market lady let me know.  Now if my belly was holding me back from movie stardom, then it was time to lose the belly and start dreaming of the silver screen.

Caveat:  What follows could be construed as medical advice.  I am not a doctor, even though I play one on the Internet.  So any medical or exercise advice I give you may want to seriously ignore. Better yet, get a real doctor’s advice before doing any dieting or exercise.

The easiest way to describe my miracle weight loss program is to compare it to another thing I am an expert in, giving financial advice. I have found an absolutely flawless system for making money in the stock market.  If you use this system profits will be guaranteed.  Ready?  “Buy low, and sell high.”  No secret, right?  The “what” to do is the easy part.  The “how” seems to be a bit more difficult.  It is the same with losing weight.

I can guarantee that you will lose weight if you follow this simple advice.  “Take in fewer calories than you use.”  Again the “what” is simple.  In fact, if you follow that advice long enough you will lose so much weight that, theoretically of course, you would disappear.

Dr. Hugh’s Miracle Weight Loss program

Step 1: If your weight is stable, but more than you would like it to be, then observe how much you eat during each day.  That means all your meals, snacks, drinks, nibbles, etc.  Be completely honest with yourself.

Step 2: Eat less than that.

Step 3: Do that long enough and you will disappear.

Okay, I’m just kidding.  The above is the “what” you need to do.  What follows is “how” I have been doing it.  There are 2 parts to the miracle diet.  First you need to take in fewer calories than you are used to, and second you need to burn a few more.

Part 1 – Taking in fewer calories

Patience

Take your time.  Since losing weight should lengthen your life span you don’t have to rush.  You have lots of time now.  You won’t lose all the weight you want in a week.  The only way to do that is liposuction.  And I have ruled that out as cheating.  There is another way.  You can lose as much as 5 kilos overnight.  It is called “food poisoning”.  I recommend holding that one back to use only as a last resort.

Achievable goals

Set goals that are achievable.  My goal is to lose 5 kilos and to keep them off.  Sure it would be nice to be like Oprah and wheel in a wagon of 50 pounds of lard and tell everyone that is how much weight you lost.  You know what.  Those 50 pounds of lard are back where they began. I want my loss to be permanent.

Cut out the bad stuff

Cokes, cookies, cakes, potato chips, Thai kanom, Mickie Ds, KFC, eating whipped cream directly from an aerosol spray can, should all be cut down or eliminated if possible. The hardest for me to cut out was Coke.  I think that there are more people in the world addicted to Coke the soft drink than coke the drug.   I was thinking of putting ice cream on this list but I am not that sadistic. Every once in a while I eat something really fatty like ice cream, or fried chicken skin,

Friend chicken skin - To die for

or mangoes with sticky rice, not much but enough to make me feel good.  I mean, a life without fatty foods is not very much of a life, is it?

Cut down

Remember how much you usually eat. Then cut it down.  One scoop of rice becomes half a scoop.  Two bowls of noodles becomes one.  A banana becomes a half.  A half-dozen cookies becomes 3. Instead of the 4 scoops of ice cream at a sitting that you are used to, settle for 2.  When I drink juice, instead of pouring a full glass I pour half a glass and fill the rest with soda water.  Tastes great and is less filling.

Here is what I ate today: 1 small Chinese meat bun and a half glass of pineapple juice for breakfast; a bagel with cream cheese and smoked salmon with a few potato chips for lunch; a papaya salad, chicken thigh and leg and a small baked potato for dinner; and lots of water and a few peanuts.

I want to eat more but don’t need to since am really not hungry.  If you don’t know how yet, meditation can help you differentiate what you “desire” from what you “need”. If you want to know what my normal food intake was, just triple the above.

Alcohol

Try to limit yourself to half of what you used to drink. If you are used to drinking 6 bottles of beer at a sitting (and what Exapt isn’t), then drink only 3.  I know that is a sacrifice, but remember, those movie cameras are waiting.  I myself don’t drink alcohol, used to, then got smart, and it has nothing to do with weight loss.

Alternatives

When you find yourself really wanting to eat, sometimes we want to eat even when we aren’t hungry, go take a shower, have sex, smell some flowers, practice your golf swing, play with your dog, or anything else that is really pleasant to do that doesn’t involved ingesting calories.

Motivation

Have I mentioned that movie star thing?  I am sure you can find some motivation of your own.  And tell as many people as you can what you are up to.  The more people rooting for you, lending support, the better.  And if you have a blog that is read by a couple thousand people you might want to write about it.

Feedback

Weigh yourself regularly to see how you are doing.  Regularly, for me, means every morning, before and after each meal, before going to bed, and any other time I pass by the scale, which I have conveniently placed in the middle of my bedroom.  Your level of obsessive-compulsive behavior is a good indicator of your chances for success.

Part 2 –  Burning more calories

Sun Salutation

The simple answer is to do more than you used to.  If you used to walk for 10 minutes a day, now walk for 20.  If you have stairs in the house, find a reason to go up and down them (except don’t be going down to the kitchen too often).  I have found that a simple yoga exercise called the “Sun Salutation” is very easy to do and will get your heart pumping.  Here is a link to a YouTube video to show you how it is done. Lift a few light weights and do some push ups while watching TV.  Find a project that will make you move around more than you normally do.  I just finished laying paving stones for a walkway.  Tomorrow I mow the lawn.  I think this, more than the weight loss, has made my wife happiest.

So how have I done?

I set my goal at losing 5 kilos (about 11 pounds) – not much but a very achievable goal. I achieved it in about 3 weeks. Not movie star status, Brad Pitt has nothing to be worried about, yet. I haven’t missed much although I think of Coke all the time. But I feel a little better when I look at my side view in the mirror now. I will plateau here for a while and then set another goal of 5 more kilos. Maybe more after that.

I am sure that it won’t be long before I will be able to say the following.

“All right Mr. De Mille, I’m ready for my close-up.”

You should have an achievable goal

Weight Loss Program update:

6 kilos and counting.  Was going to stop at 5 and plateau for a while but it’s turning out to be too much fun.  On to 10 kilos.

Couple of days later:  7.5 kilos and counting.  I am afraid that I might be becoming anorexic.  Told a friend how much I had lost and she said that her son-in-law just lost over 20 kilos.  If I did that I would be the same weight I was in college… ah, maybe… No, better stick to the original goal.

The Cat Lover

September 12, 2010

One thing new Expats experience when they first move to Thailand is how much closer to Nature they find themselves.  The tropics is pulsating with life.  Even in Bangkok there are birds and house lizards and snakes and lots and lots of insects.  If you choose to live up country then you’ll be even closer to Nature.  It is easy to see how the tropics produced the Buddhist teaching that for all of us who are born, we will be subject to growing old, sickness, and death, since we see the complete life cycle here so often.  I for one hope that since I can’t do anything to change the cycle then at least I hope that they come in the right order.

Another thing that happens to us older, retired Expats, is that if you live long enough you will see your friends passing away.  A friend of ours for many years, an old Chiang Mai Hand, just passed away.  Ed Rose lived in Thailand for more than 3 decades.  He taught in Bangkok and then at Chiang Mai University for many years and was well known at the Faculty of Medicine there.  Before that, Ed taught in Vietnam during the war and claims to have been on the 4th to last helicopter to leave the embassy roof.  He also at one time had his own private zoo which contained a number of exotic animals. But I always thought that Ed’s claim to fame was the Chiang Mai Cattery.

Ed and his wife Mali at one time were raising and breeding over 100 pure bred cats, Siamese, Burmese, and Korat breeds.  Before they retired from cat breeding Ed and Mali’s Chiang Mai Cattery became world famous and was well known enough that when Thailand decided to do a series of stamps on Thai cat breeds they went to Ed and Mali for their cat models.

Goodbye my old friend.  You were unique and you lived a good life and one of your own design.  You showed us that living in Thailand can allow us the freedom and opportunity to fulfill many of our dreams.  You lived the life cycle in its correct order.  Thailand was the perfect place for you to do your thing and be happy doing it.  You chose well.  Rest in peace.

Other Stuff

My own cat experiences

As much as Ed loved cats, I myself am having trouble with them.  You see, cats are predators. They are at the top of their food chain.  This is something a neighbor of mine (an Expat) just doesn’t seem to know.  He lets his cats run wild.  And where do they run?  Right to my garden.  All the baby birds in the nests in our trees that we planted specifically to attract them have been killed. The frogs and tree frogs that we love to listen to at night have gone quite.  The beautiful blue throated lizards that used to populate our yard and gave us such pleasure are all gone, and many of our endangered baby tortoises who were born this year, and who we are trying to save from extinction, never made it out of their shells.  The cat got to them first.

Ones first thoughts are to become angry at the cat.  But Ed taught me that that would be wrong. The cat is doing what cats do.  They are beautiful animals and superb predators, and I love the fact that they can never really be owned.  I love the cat.  I do not love its owner. The Expat cat owner needs to realize what kind of a terrorizing impact his animal has on the neighborhood and what the responsibilities of a cat owner are.

I am not going to say anything in this post about his 4 dogs.

Air conditioning

We just had a visitor from back home.  She is a Thai living in America and came back home for a visit. I found it interesting how she suffered from what she felt was oppressive heat. She couldn’t go for more than a few hours and definitely couldn’t sleep without turning on the air conditioning. Right now the temperature is in the mid to high 80s – for us rather cool. I am trying to remember if I were the same when I first returned to Thailand. I think I was. The moral of the story: You will get used to the heat and be able to survive (at least for most of the year) without air conditioning. But the first few months might be a bit difficult.

Thinking of Building?

For a free download of the chapter “Building your Dream House” from my eBook Retired Life in Thailand click here.

Anniversary

On September 11, 2001 my wife and I were having a pleasant evening out with some old Chiang Mai friends. We were on an exploratory trip here to see if we wanted to spend more time in Thailand. While at dinner we got a call from a friend saying that we should get to a TV. That there was a plane crash in New York. We didn’t think much of this at first, not until we got a second phone call.  That is when we rushed to our friends’ house and turned on BBC. As we were taking in the enormity of what had just happened we actually saw the second plane crash into the World Trade Center.

I grew up less than half a mile from “Ground Zero”.

We will never forget what we saw and where we were that day.  It was the day the world changed for all of us.

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