Top Retirement Choice In Southeast Asia
“Earlier this year, a reader sent me an inquiry about Hua Hin, Thailand,” writes Asia Correspondent Wendy Justice.
“My husband and I had never been there, so we put it on our list as a place to take a closer look.
“We’ve just returned from Hua Hin this week, and I have to say that we were impressed.
“Few places in Southeast Asia really meet the classic requirements of a ‘retirement haven.’ Many seaside towns are full of young backpackers looking for the next party. We’ve found that to be the case especially in Thailand. If you’re young and want to meet like-minded people from all over the world looking for a wild time, these beach towns are the place to go. If you’re older, though, and shopping for a place to retire, you might have something a little lower-key in mind.
“Hua Hin really impressed us as exactly that sort of place. It has a population of around 70,000, and 15,000 of those people are foreigners, most of whom have retired here. With its proximity to Bangkok (which is less than three hours north of Hua Hin), you’ve got the convenience of a big city nearby. At the same time, Hua Hin is far enough away to offer a lifestyle well beyond suburbia.
“Because so many foreigners live in Hua Hin, we found English to be widely spoken, and there is no shortage of amenities for Westerners. If you want to learn Thai, there are several schools offering language instruction for English-speakers. There is even an English-language newspaper, Hua Hin Today.
“Hua Hin is right on the beach–and what a beach it is! Very clean, soft sand, warm water, and plenty of nearly deserted stretches, even close to town. It’s a small enough town that you can get away from it in just a few minutes. In the surrounding area are mountains, wetlands, waterfalls, and caves. Several national parks are within an hour’s drive.
“Hua Hin is developed, but it doesn’t have that over-developed feel that is, unfortunately, so prevalent in many Thai beach towns. There are quite a few hotels, resorts, private homes, and condominiums right along the beach, but there’s plenty of public beach access, too. The town has a new shopping mall with a huge grocery store, a cinema, and quite a few good restaurants. There is a second large grocery full of Western foods. We saw foods here that we haven’t seen since the last time we were in the United States. We stocked up on bagels…
“Bangkok Hospital, Hua Hin opened in May, giving Hua Hin its first internationally accredited hospital. We paid a visit and found the facility spotlessly clean and modern. They can handle almost any emergency, trauma, or illness. If the situation is so complicated that they can’t address it locally, they will transport you via med-evac helicopter or mobile ICU ambulance to their main hospital in Bangkok.
“One of the biggest draws in Hua Hin are the golf courses. There are currently 12 courses (that’s almost one golf course per 1,000 foreigners!), and 3 more are under construction. One of them, the Banyan Golf Club, was named among the world’s top golf courses by Rolex in 2010 and the best golf course in the Asia Pacific region by Asian Golf in 2009. No surprise that many foreigners living here are avid golfers.
“Many of the restaurants offer some Western or European food along with local specialties. There’s a sizable population of Scandinavians and Germans living here, and we noticed restaurants offering these cuisines in particular. We also found some of the best and most inexpensive seafood restaurants that we’ve seen anywhere in Asia. You can find cheap market food and high-end 5-star dining, meaning Hua Hin appeals to a wide range of budgets. There are bars in town, catering to the expat crowd, but that isn’t the focus of this place.
“Real estate is a big business here. Homes and condos are surprisingly affordable, and people in the industry we spoke with reported that values are appreciating. I’ll be writing more on that later…
“We were impressed by the quality of roads. Things can get busy in town (where there are only two traffic signals), but as soon as you get outside the city, you find wide lanes, good pavement, and well-behaved drivers.
“If you’re thinking of retiring in Thailand and want to be near the beach, Hua Hin is definitely worth considering. It is easy to get here by plane, train, bus, minivan, or taxi from Bangkok.
“We find the local Thai people to be especially welcoming, another reason to consider this part of the world.”