I have written before on Expats buying land and building in Thailand. I have suggested that renting might be the preferred way to go for a number of reasons. A lot depends on your relationships to Thais and Thailand, and how much money you can free up; money that you won’t need for day-to-day living and health care.

(Full disclosure: I have bought and built here in Thailand.)

The biggest problem we Expats face of course, is that foreigners are forbidden to own land in Thailand. So any purchase of land would have to be in a Thai’s name (although there are a few loopholes to these laws). When something you think you own is officially in someone else’s name misunderstandings and trouble often follow. The second is that as we get older it is probably a good idea to have a large part of our cash in liquid form instead of in hard to sell real estate. (My rule of thumb is, Do I have enough cash to pay for a heart bypass operation?) In Thailand many find that buying a property is easy, but when you need the cash, selling, not so much.

If you are like I am, you have lived a life where owning property is what you have dreamed of and striven for most of your life. It is very possibly written into our DNA. I heard someone say once again last week when I broached the idea of renting, “I just feel better when I own something.”

Not sure I agree with that thinking but there is probably no changing that guy’s mind. And there are lots who think the same way. So I thought I might share a bit of experience I have in buying, and building here in Thailand. There are lots of books and posts on buying land and building here, and you should Google all you can.

This post instead, will focus on the hidden and unexpected costs we will incur when building that dream house, or even just a place to lay your weary heads. Not sure I have covered everything but it will at least give you an idea.

Caveat: A lot will depend on if you will be building in a gated community or out in the “real world”. Some gated communities advertise that all you will need is a suitcase to be able to move right in to the house you bought. Much of the following extras I cover below will be incurred if, 1. You decide to change a gated community’s house and garden design specifications, or 2. You decide to buy and build out in the “real world”.

(Full disclosure: I have done both.)

Note: A lot of these costs will be incurred building a house anywhere in the world.

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Transfer fees and taxes

Fees and taxes aren’t too high here but how much you will owe will depend on the official estimate of the price of the land you bought and/or the price you paid.  The fees and taxes can be paid in three ways. 1. The buyer pays the full amount. 2. The seller pays the full amount. 3. The amount is split with the buyer and seller paying an agreed upon part. This will have to be negotiated before money changes hands.

Architect and blue printing costs

You’ll need to get a building permit from the local land office. To obtain this you will need official blueprints from an architect and inspections will have to be made. Architects can charge you in one of two ways. 1. They will charge using an agreed amount, so much per the square footage of the house. 2. They will charge a lump sum. Again, negotiations will determine this.

The land

When preparing the land for the dream house to be built upon there are a number of costs you will incur above and beyond the price of the land. Some of the following will be included in the builder’s estimate, especially in gated communities. Some not.

Land fill

If you buy low lying land, such as rice field land, you may have to raise it up above flood level, or have it reach the level of the road that passes by. This cost will depend on the type of fill you use; top soil, mountain soil (where nothing much grows), clay, sand, etc. You will be charged by the truck load. Also you will need to hire a tractor or backhoe to spread out and even up the land. The cost will depend on the quality of the land fill and how high you will need to go.

Garden and lawn

Once the land is to the level you need you may have to wait a season or two for it to settle. The longer you have the better and more solid your foundation will be. Then you can start your garden. Trees, flowers, hedges, lawn. How much you spend will depend on the cost of your plantings (houses in gated communities will usually include this in the home price although you may want to modify or add to it). The larger the trees the more expensive. One thing to consider, depending on your age and how long you think you have left to enjoy your plantings, is smaller and less expensive trees will take much longer (sometimes many years) to mature and enjoy (especially fruit trees).  A large mature tree can cost 100 times what a seedling would cost. You may have to wait to complete your planting until the house is built but trees and large plantings can go in early.

Wall and gate, automatic gate opener

Almost every house in Thailand, as opposed to say an American house, is surrounded by a large wall. Depending on the safety of your neighborhood (in a gated community, outside in a village, in the countryside, in a large city, etc.). The cost of this wall will depend on the building material, its height, and how large a piece of land you will be surrounding. Then you’ll need a gate and if you want, an automatic gate opener. You can get a very plain gate or one of the fancy “estate” type gates. The costs can differ greatly.

Driveway

Your builder may have added the cost of paving your driveway in the initial estimate, or not. Check carefully. The builder may have given you an estimate for a driveway of simple concrete. You may change your mind and want fancy tiles. Everything will depend on your desires. The cost will of course depend on this.

Garden, gate lighting

For safety and aesthetics, garden lighting is something to consider. You can go with fancy lamps or simple. LED lights or solar powered are good ways to go for the long run as they and will decrease the electricity needs, but the initial costs must be added to your estimate.

Patio and patio furniture, barbecue

You may have included a patio in your design. If you haven’t and decide to build one the cost will be affected. Price will depend a lot on its size, the flooring tiles, (Screen enclosed? Roof covered?). Then it will need to be furnished with patio furniture. You can get simple wooden or plastic furniture or real fancy stuff. Outdoor barbecue? Quite cheap in the west, quite expensive here.

Walkway paving

Your garden may require walkways. Paving stones are good for this but can vary greatly in price. You can install them yourself (almost killed myself doing this) or hire workers.

Water connections

Your land may have city water running right up to it or you may have to pay to get it to you. Another way to go is digging a well (cost will depend on various kinds of wells and the depths you’ll need to go). You can also collect rain water. Because city water can sometimes be sporadic you may also need a large water tank and a pump. See what your neighbors are doing.

Electricity connection, poles

Check to see if the power poles pass right by your house. If they don’t you may have to buy and install these poles and pay for connections. Cost will depend on how far you’ll need to get to the nearest power poles.

Garden tools

Depending on how much gardening you intend doing you’ll need the tools. This can become a considerable cost. There will be things like lawnmowers, weed wackers, shovels, hoes, ladders, saws, axes, hammers, wrenches; the list can go on and on.

 

The house

Your new house will be empty. Some things like closets, cabinets, and the like may have been included in the builder’s estimate. Some will not.

Windows and doors

Drapes, rods, hangers

These are big items in Thailand and are much needed to protect your house from the sun and peering eyes. Drapes can be simple things, even homemade, hung by the home owner, or very expensive and fancy, professionally installed. Count how many windows you have and the quality of the drapes. Costs can vary considerably.

Door knobs and locks

You need to count the number of doors you have. If you choose to go with doors and door fixtures above and beyond those chosen by the builder, the costs can rise big time. You may also want more secure locks than come with the house.

Bars

Almost all houses in Thailand will have bars on their windows. But new houses often don’t have them and it will be your responsibility to buy and install them if you so desire. If you decide on window and door bars, count your windows and doors and hopefully you won’t be too shocked.

Screens

May or may not be included in the initial cost estimates.

 

Kitchen

Some of the following will be included in the builder’s estimate, some not. And these are often changed later depending on the home owner’s needs and preferences.

Sinks and faucets (can go really fancy here)

Hot water heater (normal or higher powered)

Counter top (granite, tile, marble, etc.)

Kitchen Island (built in vs. free standing, electricity connected)

Dishwasher (lots of new homeowners choose this way to go)

Cabinets (teak, vinyl, wood, metal built in vs. ready-made)

Refrigerator (normal, side by side, separate freezer)

Microwave

Stove (electric vs.gas, with or without oven)

Bathroom

Thai bathrooms are very simple affairs. Expat bathrooms can be rather elaborate and of course more expensive. Make sure your architect and builder know your needs and preferences.

Faucets (simple to solid gold, yours to choose)

Bathtub (Very few in a Thai home, Expats love them, choose built in or stand-alone)

Hot water heater (like the kitchen you can choose depending on the wattage)

Bedroom

Beds, sheets, pillows, covers (quality decides the cost)

Closets (quite often not included in the house design and in the estimates, built in vs. stand-alone)

Dresser (teak – particle board, and all in between, your choice)

 

Other

Washing machine (size, with/without dryer)

TV., TV service (70” curved 3D or 24” flat screen, and everything in between, TV service has many prices levels and you may need to buy a satellite dish or get cable connected)

Computer, Internet service (Wi-Fi, boosters, speed)

Carpets, floor covering (few Thai house use carpets, wall-to-wall or otherwise, although straw mats are very popular and comfortable – and smell good too. Expats seem to prefer a softer floor covering especially when they are not used to walking barefoot indoors)

Living room furniture (Thai teak, vinyl, Lazy Boy, Louis XVI, lots to choose from)

Dining room furniture (table for 2 – table for 12)

Bookcases

Wall art

 

Changing your mind (and the house plan)

How big a change and how often plans change will make a big impact on your costs.

“I know the plan calls for the bathroom to be on the right side but let’s put it on the left.”

“I think we could use a sky light right here.”

“The windows are too small. We need to enlarge them.”

“The porch stairs are on the wrong side. We will need to move them.”

“I don’t like these tiles. Tear them out and use the new ones.”

The above are quotes that I have actually heard (and, now I’m not admitting anything, maybe said myself).

 

Cost of renting a home while you wait for yours to be finished.

While your home is being built (6 months – a year or more) you’ll need to live somewhere. A lot of us forget this part. Say you go towards the middle and pay 10,000 a month for rent. Six months will be 60,000 baht; a year will be 120,000 baht. Pay more for rent?  You do the math. This cost will need to be prepared for.

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To conclude, when I remodeled my house back in Seattle (three times), after some experience, I found that I needed to take my initial cost estimate and multiply that number by 1.5 if I were to end up having enough to complete the project. So if I estimated that the work and materials would cost $10,000 I would prepare $15,000. It turns out that that worked out just about right to protect myself from the inevitable shock of seeing the final price.

Buying and building here in Thailand has so many variables (workers’ dependability like leaving for 2 weeks during Songkran or simply not showing up for days at a time, builder working on more than one site at a time and needing to pull workers off your project to work on another, undoing mistakes, redoing changes of mind, rainy season delays, unavailability of the materials you need, your neighbors making legal complaints, inflation in the cost of materials, etc., etc.) It makes it harder to come up with a specific number like I could in Seattle.

But here is a suggestion that worked for me, and I advise anyone thinking of buying and building to talk to as many Expats who have done the same and find out their thinking on this. From my experience it has gone something like:

  1. Land seller gives me the cost of the land.
  2. Builder give me his estimate on what the house I am planning on will cost.
  3. Add the two numbers together, or if buying in a gated community, take the quoted home price.
  4. Multiply this number by 1.5 if you are building in a gated community, at least by 2 otherwise.
  5. Now, with this number in mind, you’ll have prepared enough and you won’t die from a heart attack when you add up the final totals. And you’ll survive and be able to take that suitcase and move right into your dream home.

Lots, and lots of luck.

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Apologies to Arlo Guthrie and Alice

When we were packing our 40’ shipping container on our way to a retirement in Thailand one of the things we thought about was what stuff should we ship that we just couldn’t get here in Thailand. We made a long list, went shopping, packed it all up in boxes, and sent it on its way. It turns out that we were way off with our list, and in today’s Thailand you can get just about anything you want or need – almost.

Thailand is now quite a modern country where just about everything is available. Maybe a little history will help us see why we were so mistaken about what is available here now. We’ll start with an anecdote about coffee.

I choose coffee because it seems that within just a 7-iron drive’s distance from my computer (for me that’s not very far) there are at least a dozen coffee shops. The shops have on their signs (in Thai) “Kafae Sot”. This literally means “fresh coffee”, but should be interpreted as “freshly brewed” coffee.

When I first arrived in Thailand coffee was rarely encountered. Maybe if you had a meeting with a high ranking official he would offer you a cup of coffee in his office. This meant Nescafe instant coffee, at the time the only coffee available. There were no coffee shops as we know them. If coffee was ordered at a hotel or a high end restaurant, it was Nescafe, the brand name that became synonymous with “coffee” itself. The reason the ubiquitous coffee shops today need to emphasized “fresh” is to differentiate it from the instant, powdered, variety so popular in the past.

I remember when the first real coffee shop was opened in Chiang Mai, circa 1970. Its very appropriate name, “First Coffee Shop”. And coincidentally, it was just one or two shops down from where currently sits the Starbucks on Tha Phae Road.

As with coffee, so many of the things we wanted or needed that were unavailable to us back then are encountered just about everywhere in today’s Thailand.  Here is an example.

My son on a visit here saw how much ice we used (it was the hot season) and he decided that we needed an ice maker. We couldn’t find one in the market here so back in the U.S. he checked out Amazon.com and got one for us and the next time he visited he schlepped* it all the way here in his luggage. It was 110 v so we needed a heavy duty electricity converter, but the thing works great.

We later learned that all we needed to do was a little on-line shopping right here and we could have found just about whatever we are looking for. Ice makers are here. So is the food dehydrator that we were thinking would be our next “schlepping” purchase from the U.S. All are available right on a number of Thai web sites and they are of the 220 v variety so no electricity converter is necessary.

The two on-line sites we have used are Verasu and Lazada. They seem to be reliable and fast, with good prices. Besides these two Thai sites there are Chinese on-line stores that ship directly here and so does Amazon and Best Buy and lots of other international companies.  For many items, especially foreign made, their prices are often much lower than the Thai prices. But to the lower prices must be added overseas shipping costs which can be quite high, and the possibility of having to pay taxes. Because of that our son is bringing a new Android tablet for me on his next visit. In this case, schlepping will be worth it. On Best Buy the price for the Android tablet I chose is 1/3 the cost here in Thailand.

The list of what I need from back home is getting shorter and shorter. But there are still some things that are either hard to come by here, are much more expensive, or the specific brand you like may not be available.

Here are a few examples.

 

Foods

Thailand seems to have a plethora of western sausages, none of which for me are edible (although Thai sausages are quite good). I absolutely love American hot dogs. Not to be found here. When in the U.S. I buy about 10 lbs. of Hebrew National Hot Dogs, freeze them, wrap them really well, and put them in my check in luggage when I travel back to Thailand. They make it here fine, still mostly frozen, but with all their nitrates and nitrites they stay fresh and are a great reminder of home.

We also pack a bunch of good quality cheese. You can get good cheese here but the prices are quite high and the selection is limited.

I also love those Blue Diamond almonds you can get on sale in U.S. pharmacies.

But the food I crave most is Trader Joe’s Belgian Milk Chocolate. I bring about a dozen 1 lb. bars back here with me, frozen. I eat two small pieces each night. It lasts me about 6 months that way. I have one 1 lb. bar left from my last trip. Just thinking about what happens when it is finished sends me into chocolate withdrawal. Locally produced Kit Kats just don’t suffice.

 

Clothes

I am a little guy in America, but large for here. Luckily I am right at the maximum range for Thai clothes and shoe sizes so I can usually get what I need. Anyone larger than I am, and that includes most westerners, might need to get their clothes, and especially shoes, back home. This includes both men and women.

 

Electronics and sports equipment

As mentioned above, electronics, computer equipment, tablets, smart phones, computer games, and their like, are quite expensive here. U.S. on-line sites have much better prices. The same goes for sports equipment. I priced a Ping driver at a department store here the other day and it costs more than $1,000. It is more like $300 back home (I ended up buying mine used from a friend for 2,000 baht.). An archer friend of mine said he had the same experience with his bows and arrows.  Best to check prices.

 

Vitamins and supplements

These aren’t considered medication so they carry a big tax. Vitamins, even the one-a-day kind, can be quite expensive. I take one tablet of Glucosamine a day. Keeps my joints lubricated. Very expensive here. They are pricey at Costco back home but still lots cheaper than here.

 

Other stuff

We like good quality American tools, especially Craftsman from Sears.

I like a specific brand of after shave and deodorant that I can’t get here (It’s as Hannibal Lecter said after sniffing the Edward Norton character in Red Dragon, “The one with the ship on the bottle.”)

If I eat spicy foods for dinner I get stomach troubles at night and America’s Alka-Seltzer it’s the only thing that works for me, but it isn’t sold here.

We can get fitted sheets here but for some reason they don’t come with a matching flat sheet, so we buy good quality sets at home and bring them here. Be careful with these since the mattress sizes here can be different from those in the west.

What I really crave is good ice cream. Most Thai-made ice cream has never seen cream and is made with palm oil as a substitute. That is a big no no for an ice cream aficionado. You can get Haagen Dasz Ice Cream‎ here but a quart costs about as much as a good wristwatch and I won’t pay that much for an ice cream with a made up Scandinavian sounding name by two kids from New Jersey. I prefer Breyers Butter Pecan all natural ice cream and if I find a way to bring it in my luggage then the world will be spinning correctly.  (As a substitute, Thai coconut milk ice cream, sold in push carts, is quite good.)

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Request: For those already living here, to help those planning on making the move, please leave a comment if there is stuff that you can’t find here and that you bring to Thailand whenever you return from a visit home.

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I just checked and it turns out that Lazada website carries the stuff with the ship on the bottle.

I did another search and found ice cream makers and scoops but no Breyers Butter Pecan.

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*schlep: to carry or pull (something) with difficulty: to drag or haul (something).  A Yiddish word that is part of the New York vernacular I grew up speaking. No standard- English word seems to carry the same feeling.

 

Time

We know that time is a relative thing. Einstein taught us that time changes depending on the speed in which we are traveling. I now believe that time also changes depending on how old we are. It is my learned opinion that now a day consists of only about 18 hours (4 of which I can sleep if I am lucky), a week has 5 days, a month about 3 weeks, and a year, maybe just 8 months now. Those 90 day immigration reporting requirements come about every 45 days for some reason. That’s the way it appears to me now that I am 70 years old.

In a few months it seems, I will turn 80. Wow! Where did the last decade go?

Youth is wasted on the young.

– attributed to George Bernard Shaw.

When I dream I am always 18 years old (which makes it a pity that I can sleep only 4 hours a night).

And when I dream:

I was eighteen, didn’t have a care

Workin’ for peanuts, not a dime to spare

But I was lean and solid everywhere

Like a rock.

 Like a Rock, Bob Seger

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Friends

Back when I was 18 it seems like I had hundreds of friends. I’m not talking about Facebook “friends”. I’m talking about real people; people I would hang out with, travel with, party with, get high with, dream and love with. I had time for all that because a day had 36 hours back then.

You would think that the older one gets the more time we would have to accumulate more friends. I guess that I have met more than 10 thousand people in my lifetime (I once counted more than 3,000 former students.) But now I find myself spending most of my days with myself (Pikun is outside in the garden), writing, lifting bags of manure, playing music, Internet surfing, binge watching TV shows, and never missing a Seahawks game.

I have about a half dozen friends that I occasionally take a meal with or visit, and another half dozen that I email or Skype once in a while. Living 10,000 miles away from people you know makes anything more than an email/Skype relationship difficult. But once a week I play golf with a friend I have known for 40 years. We’re not getting any better at golf but our friendship continues unabated.

New friends are few and far between.

Those National Geographic shows on the Serengeti told us how things would be.

They would start out with those lion cubs, romping around all day, playing at hunting and fighting. Then the lions grew to adolescence and they did some more serious life-practice at being adults with their ”friends”. Later they would all join and work together, colleagues, to achieve their group goals, antelopes and wildebeests beware. When the male lion was mature and at the top of his game he would lay around all day, the little ones jumping all over him as he tried to snooze, waking only to go eat the food his ladies had prepared. When he got too old to lead the pride he was left to mostly wander about on his own.

I am happy now, and after retiring probably as happy as I have ever been, and if I could sleep for a solid 6 hours I would be ecstatic.  But sometimes I feel like that old lion wandering about alone. Where did all the “young lions” go?

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Older

I used to laugh when stories would depict older people grabbing the newspaper in the morning and opening to the obituary section first. I don’t read the newspapers anymore but I do note when some famous or important person passes away. I never miss the part of the Oscars when they show the pictures of all the stars who have left us this year.

Before I even look to see the reason for their demise I look to see their age. Are they older or younger than I? And if they are younger, then I look to see how they died. And I check to see if I have any of the symptoms of what they died of. So far so good (as I knock on my wooden desk).

So many of my contemporaries are “less-than-well”, or worse. Just the other day, after visiting a sick friend, of which I seem to have more and more lately, I thought to myself how lucky Pikun and I are to be healthy and happy; a few aches and pains, nothing a good session of senior complaining won’t cure. But we know that the Buddha’s truths will always be with us. If we have been born then we have getting older, becoming ill, and then leaving this mortal coil to look forward to. That’s all there is, but it is enough.

We’re okay with that, but at the same time we will continue to “Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”, but we’ll enjoy the light as long as we have it.

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Politics

I wasn’t happy with either candidate. I was a Bernie supporter and over a year ago I posted on Facebook: “If Hilary is nominated then our next president will be named Trump.

Sometimes I hate being right.

I recently posted the following on Facebook. It describes my feelings about the United States’ next presidential term.

Bizarro World: A world in which everything is opposite from the real world, down is up, wrong is right, bad is good.

Now that the president-elect, whose name shall not be spoken, has selected most of his incredibly divisive billionaire-military-general-Wall-Street-banker laden cabinet, we realize that we are living in that Bizarro World.

In this “post truth” era, a time when the truth is not important and “fake news” and fake accusations help to elect a president, and that president is the prevaricator-in-chief, then down is up, wrong is right, and bad is good. Once again Orwell has proven prescient.

How does one live in this upside down world, without rats attacking your face that is? We now know that almost every stance the Republican nominee took has been modified and revised by the president-elect, that all his promises were conditional, that even his top advisors tell us not to take what he says “literally”.  We should realized that we can believe nothing said by this administration, good or bad. It is the “post truth” era so what can we expect.

My suggestion about how to survive the next 4 years is that anytime he, or his minions say anything on TV, switch the channel. Anytime you see an article on the Internet, newspaper, or magazine, about what the administration is planning, turn the page. Don’t listen to or read any of it because it will change with the weather, and if we do, it will only make us heartsick.

In that way your mind won’t be twisted and turned by these Bizarro machination and we might come out at the other end with our sanity, although sadly maybe not our country, intact.

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Annus Horribilis

The horrible year 2016 is over. That’s the good news. Looking forward to 2017. Game of Thrones Season 7 will be upon us. Prediction: Cersei Lanester, the Mad Queen, dies a horrible and much deserved death.  If the football gods are with us, and our defense holds up, then the Seahawks will once again be in the Super Bowl. Pikun and I are going to Hawaii’s Big Island for my Peace Corps group’s reunion (for some reason it is the 48th year reunion), and we have some great friends (2 of the half dozen I still email/Skype) who we once shared a house with in of all places Iran, coming for a nice long visit. It will give us a chance to tour the country and do lots of the touristy stuff we usually put off.

And I just planted a cocoa tree.

If we are lucky then 2017 will be a huge improvement from this year and we will see our first chocolate harvest.

May 2017 be for you happy, healthy, prosperous, and peaceful.

Is “Enough” Enough?

November 17, 2016

His late Majesty, King Rama IX of Thailand, is universally mourned and loved by Thais, especially for the care and guidance of his people which he exhibited throughout his reign. The major suggestion he gave his people on how to live a happy life, which everyone in Thailand knows, from school children to golden age retirees, is embodied in the Thai term “Paw Piang” (พอเพียง).

“Paw Piang” is a simple term meaning “sufficiency, or “just enough” but as a lifestyle it carries so much more meaning. And interestingly enough, besides being a great suggestion about how Thais can live a happy life, it can apply directly to how we, as retirees in Thailand, can also enhance our existence here.

The concept of living a life with the understanding of what is “enough” can be traced way back. Twenty-five hundred years ago, one of the Lord Buddha’s basic teaching tenets was that we find the “Middle Way”. This is spelled out in the “Noble Eightfold Path”, the following of which would lead us to a life of liberation by avoiding extremes and avoiding a too austere life. Wisdom was to understand “moderation”.

At about the same time in history, all the way over in Greece, moderation was being emphasized by another of the world’s great thinkers.   Socrates enjoined us to do “Everything in moderation”, to choose the mean and avoid extremes. One of Plato’s four virtues, moderation, had a similar emphasis.

The concept of “Paw Piang” therefore is not new, but adapted to the Thai people and their way of life, it still works.

To adapt to a “Paw Piang” lifestyle Thais are encouraged to understand their current situation, to not overextend themselves, like not going into debt and buying a top of the line SUV when they really can only afford a Honda Jazz. If you have the money, go for that Honda PCX 150 motorcycle you’ve always dreamed of; if not maybe settle for a Honda Dream. They should do what they can to live more sustainable lifestyles, raising chickens for eggs, having a small vegetable garden for their own use and maybe growing a little more to sell at the market, developing handicrafts. “Paw Piang” doesn’t discourage people from reaching higher, it encourages people to know themselves and reach for the achievable, not for that “pie in the sky”. Many Thais, but not all of course, have taken this philosophy of moderation to heart.

As a young man of 22 living in Thailand I thought that moderation was about the last thing I was interested in. I am not sure what the opposite of “Paw Piang” is in Thai. Some English antonyms for “moderation” are “extreme”, “wildness”, “outrageousness”. The younger me knew them all very well.

I know now that I was lucky to have survived the many extravagances a young man in 60s and 70s Thailand participated in.  But today, as a retiree who really wants to be around a lot longer because I am so curious about how things are going to turn out, I realize that I can achieve that, live contentedly, and learn a lot from the “Paw Piang” lifestyle.

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I have often written on these pages that if one is planning on retiring here in Thailand you should first try a staggered retirement, test the waters, see if Thailand is right for you, see if you have the psyche, patience and flexibility to live in a foreign country, and then see if you can afford a lifestyle here and that you would have “enough” to live a comfortable and stimulating retirement.

It turns out that many retirees, after answering these retirement-prep questions in the affirmative, and then moving here, change.  They decide that they don’t have “enough”.

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Foreign retirees sometimes think that, with the absence of business regulations here, they could make lots of extra money, whether they need the money or not, by starting a business in Thailand. Restaurants and bars are the big dreams of some who ignore the fact that they may be in their 60s and 70s and have never run a restaurant or bar before. As with most foreign-owned business ventures in Thailand they often run into big problems, and they often lose the money they were counting on to get them to the “end”. One example: There are 6 foreign owned pizza restaurants within 1 kilometer of the PC I am writing this post on, and none of them seem to be making a profit.

*****

Then there are the foreign retirees, men in their “golden ages”, who once again feel a young man’s urges that they thought had been long gone. In his 6 or 7 decades on this planet he begins to feel he hasn’t had “enough” of all that.  This occurs especially when a young Thai nubile, who may or may not have ulterior motives, tells him how handsome he is, and who is more than willing to allow him to express those young-man urges once again.

I like the story of the 80 year old Chinese sage when asked what it is like not to have to worry about women and sex anymore answered with ”It’s like getting down from a wild horse.” That’s “Paw Piang”. Nevertheless, you’ll hear more than one story about old foreign “sages”, aided by the latest in chemical assistance, hopping back on to that wild horse, sometimes with marriage, sometimes with another set of children, usually holding on to that wild horse for dear life, often with quite deleterious effects on their health, sanity, and their life savings.

*****

I sometimes wonder why a retired person who could be happy with a small room-with-a-view wants to get back into real estate. I mean, would you join a “fight club” at this age? That’s what real estate is. Even though we as foreigners can’t own land, so many people think that what they currently have is not enough. Land is fairly cheap here so the possibility of becoming landed gentry looks inviting. Often the deeds to the land that they “own” have the names of Thai spouses, almost spouses, Thai companies, or Thai acquaintances.  I have literally seen an older foreign real estate mogul want-to-be end up with life savings gone, pot to piss in gone, along with that small room-with-a-view.

*****

I had drunk my lifetime quota of beer and alcohol by my mid-thirties, and have abstained since then. That is probably one reason I am in pretty good health (knocking on my wooden desk). But so many foreign retirees do the opposite of “Paw Piang” when it comes to alcohol. I have seen many a foreign retiree indulge to the point that they have used up their alcohol quotas for the next few lifetimes. I don’t give much direct advice, I tell stories, but one piece of advice I would give is a bit Socratic. One should consume alcohol in “moderation”.

*****

“Paw Piang” works for me. I have a great life working in my garden, playing golf once a week, Skyping with my kids, drinking Thai Frappuccinos, learning the piano, hanging out with old buddies once in a while, satisfying my addiction to Game of Thrones, watching my Seattle Seahawks, studying the Thai language, going down south to the beaches once a year, writing these posts and maybe occasionally helping an Expat understand this place a bit better, and each morning waking up to my roosters crowing and a brand new day.  It works for me, but we are all different and I find that “Paw Piang” is relative.

We were on a short trip with some Thai friends down in Karbi in southern Thailand. We took a short ferry ride to Kho Yao Noi, an island in the Andaman Sea with a number of resorts and empty beaches, not the white powdery type, but nice. We found a place on the beach with a beautiful view and cabins for 1,200 baht per night. Just about our speed.

While we were there we heard about a number of higher scale resorts around the island, a number going for 30,000 – 40,000 baht per night. You could even rent a luxury yacht for a “nightly rate as low as 365,000 baht”.  We were told that there was a resort up on the hill overlooking us and the bay that charged its guests 400,000 baht per night. And a local showed us pictures of the European football great Renaldo, who had just spent his honeymoon up there. Whereas we took the ferry here, they had flown in by helicopter. We hired a long tail fishing boat to take us island-hopping, they had one of those super-fast luxury speed boats.

Now my first reaction was, “That’s crazy. 400,000 baht per night!?” But then I thought about it. I could afford the 1,200 baht, maybe a little more, and the next morning I would wake up with about $50 less in my bank account than the day before.  That’s no problem.  Since Ronaldo earns $70 or $80 million a year he would probably wake up the next morning, after having spent 400,000 baht the day before, with tens of thousands of dollars more in his bank account than he started with. That is the definition of “an infinite amount of money”, that is, he could not spend all his money no matter what he bought.

This is the essence of “Paw Piang”. I was staying at the appropriate place for someone with a finite amount of assets, and he was doing what was appropriate for someone with an infinite amount of assets. Interestingly I was not in any envy. I am sure that Ronaldo and his bride ate a beautiful gourmet meal that night. We, on the other hand, had given a fisherman some money in the morning and that evening he brought us a bucketful of fresh jumbo shrimp, crabs, squid, and fish that he had caught that day. The cabin owner cooked it all up for us. Holy sea bass, Batman! That was a great meal. I don’t think Ronaldo’s could have been any better.

I went to bed overlooking the view, although at a somewhat lower altitude, of the same Andaman Sea that Ronaldo was seeing, and I was enjoying every minute of it as I am sure he was.

*****

And btw, I am still in lust for that Honda PCX 150, but my 10 year-old Honda Dream still works great. Maybe once it dies I’ll reach for the brass-ring. Until then I have more than enough to be a happy retiree here.

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