Why Chiang Mai for expat retirees

Published:  1 Jun at 6 PM
Want to get involved? Become a Featured Expat and take our interview.
Become a Local Expert and contribute articles.
Get in touch today!
In a recent survey, the Northern Thai city of Chiang Mai was listed as one of the best retirement destinations for expats, but is it all it seems?

Chiang Mai lies in the province of the same name in the far north of Thailand, bisected by the Ping River and boasting a moated, walled Old City. It’s the capital of its province, set in a valley surrounded by mountains reputed to be the foothills of the distant Himalayas. Founded in 1296, the city is culturally and historically of interest due to its being the capital of the former Lanna kingdom. Isolated until the 1920’s, Chiang Mai is now a mix of glittering Thai temples, untidy, crowded suburbs, towering condo blocks, five huge Western-style malls and several mildly red light districts.

The city’s recent survey ranking as one of the best locations for elderly expats comes as no surprise due to its laid-back lifestyle and inexpensive cost of living, but there’s more to the city than meets the eye. Some 40,000 expats live in and around the city itself, mostly American, Australian and British but with a smattering of Europeans and other nationalities. However, it’s rare to see an expat wandering around the many large supermarkets and even rarer to find a large group of 100 or more enjoying an event.

According to long-stay Americans living in the many city condo blocks, it’s just like living back in the States, but with far more predictable weather. Supermarkets provide US foods at a high price, the massive upscale hotels offer even pricier international dining delights and the local expats’ club meets monthly, mostly to host local companies selling their services.

The club also offers outside groups aimed at activities suited to the elderly such as lawn bowls and card games. Other activities such as lunches and a few events are largely aimed at US pension holders, leaving UK retirees out in the cold due to their far smaller pensions. Decent healthcare, available in a number of private hospitals, is also very expensive and there can be language problems.

Small communities of male expats live in villages surrounding the city, and are mostly married to Thai wives. For the real Thailand with its friendly, helpful people and fascinating cultures, the villages are the answer and are as far removed from the city as they are from the tourist traps of the south and Bangkok.

However, there’s no such place as Shangri-La anywhere in the world and Chiang Mai is no exception to the rule. Its practical downsides include poor transportation, an unstable political situation, ever-changing immigration rules and the fragmentation of its expat community based on personal wealth, but its plus-points still make it a home from home to many older refugees from the West.
Like this news?

Comments » No published comments just yet for this article...

Feel free to have your say on this item. Go on... be the first!

Tell us Your Thoughts On This Piece:

Your Name *
Email * (not published, needs verification one time only)
  • Facebook
  • Follow us on Twitter
  • RSS feed
  • Facebook

Latest Headlines

News Links

News Archive