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Old 04-05-2012, 11:50 PM   #41
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I thought I would update this thread a little bit since I have now been living in Bangkok for eight months and have some reactions.

Bangkok suits us very much. We love our apartment and its location. It has all the amenties. Getting around town is easy with the public rail system as far as it goes. Sometimes we have to take a cab which is cheap and easy. So far, all of the cab drivers have been very polite. I can read and write Thai now and speak haltingly, well enough to direct a cabbie or order in a restaurant, but not enough to exchange opinions very well yet.

Prior to coming I had low expectations for the performance of Thais and there have indeed been occasions when they disappointed. However, most of my interactions have surprised me on the upside. The teachers at the university offering the Thai class have been excellent. They are hard-working, completely fluent in English, and very competent at teaching Thai to foreigners. The management in my apartment building has also outperformed my expectations. They have been helpful, responsible, and have solved some problems that I had initially despaired of. When we have had small problems in our apartment, the handyman, who is both competent and polite, comes right up and fixes it for us.

But the big difference is in health care. Although I certainly understood both how bad and how expensive American healthcare is, I hadn't envisioned what life would be like without it. In Thailand health care is just not a major expense. We don't worry about it. Going to the doctor here means going to a hospital. We have been to a couple of the top hospitals so far. Last week I decided to see an orthopedist for some neck pain. Go to the hospital by taxi for $2. Don't have an appointment, so wait 30 minutes, see a bilingual orthopedist, who sends me to another floor for X-rays, get the X-rays done without waiting, go back to the orthopedist who confirms there are no bone problems, prescribes a couple of medications, which I pick up next to the cashier on my way out. Total bill: $52. Is this heaven or what? Even big ticket surgeries are cheap enough here that we can self-insure. I am still debating whether to buy insurance or not.

I notice among my classmates who are Asians, one Australian and a German, that they simply do not worry about either getting healthcare or being ruined financially by it. The relief that knowledge brings is just immense. I would be very reluctant to put myself back into the mess that is US healthcare and insurance.

There are some downsides, of course. We had to leave Bangkok during the flood last November. I pay daily attention to the exchange rate on which we depend. Thai pop culture is a noisy nuisance. There are topics that one cannot discuss with Thais. Not enough bookstores. We'll soon be entering the hot season which I won't like. Replacing one's circle of friends is a big challenge, but we are making progress. I do miss my friends and family and we will make a trip back to the States for a family birthday next month. Skype helps.

So, far we haven't got out of the city much, but on Monday we are making a day trip to a national park with a couple of my classmates. This means hiring a van and driver to pick us up at 5:00 AM, drive for 2 hours to the park, meet an excellent guide whom we have used before, hike around looking at birds, elephants, gibbons, etc. all day and get home probably around 5:00 PM. Total cost for all four of us including lunch; around $150.

So, my point is, at least to this early stage, if you are considering retiring abroad, you can have a very good life outside of the US.
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Old 04-06-2012, 12:26 AM   #42
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This certainly sounds nice.

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Old 04-06-2012, 03:12 AM   #43
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Did you go to Bumrungrad International Hospital? That place is amazing. I had a physical there a couple of years ago.

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Originally Posted by Khufu View Post
I thought I would update this thread a little bit since I have now been living in Bangkok for eight months and have some reactions.

Bangkok suits us very much. We love our apartment and its location. It has all the amenties. Getting around town is easy with the public rail system as far as it goes. Sometimes we have to take a cab which is cheap and easy. So far, all of the cab drivers have been very polite. I can read and write Thai now and speak haltingly, well enough to direct a cabbie or order in a restaurant, but not enough to exchange opinions very well yet.

Prior to coming I had low expectations for the performance of Thais and there have indeed been occasions when they disappointed. However, most of my interactions have surprised me on the upside. The teachers at the university offering the Thai class have been excellent. They are hard-working, completely fluent in English, and very competent at teaching Thai to foreigners. The management in my apartment building has also outperformed my expectations. They have been helpful, responsible, and have solved some problems that I had initially despaired of. When we have had small problems in our apartment, the handyman, who is both competent and polite, comes right up and fixes it for us.

But the big difference is in health care. Although I certainly understood both how bad and how expensive American healthcare is, I hadn't envisioned what life would be like without it. In Thailand health care is just not a major expense. We don't worry about it. Going to the doctor here means going to a hospital. We have been to a couple of the top hospitals so far. Last week I decided to see an orthopedist for some neck pain. Go to the hospital by taxi for $2. Don't have an appointment, so wait 30 minutes, see a bilingual orthopedist, who sends me to another floor for X-rays, get the X-rays done without waiting, go back to the orthopedist who confirms there are no bone problems, prescribes a couple of medications, which I pick up next to the cashier on my way out. Total bill: $52. Is this heaven or what? Even big ticket surgeries are cheap enough here that we can self-insure. I am still debating whether to buy insurance or not.

I notice among my classmates who are Asians, one Australian and a German, that they simply do not worry about either getting healthcare or being ruined financially by it. The relief that knowledge brings is just immense. I would be very reluctant to put myself back into the mess that is US healthcare and insurance.

There are some downsides, of course. We had to leave Bangkok during the flood last November. I pay daily attention to the exchange rate on which we depend. Thai pop culture is a noisy nuisance. There are topics that one cannot discuss with Thais. Not enough bookstores. We'll soon be entering the hot season which I won't like. Replacing one's circle of friends is a big challenge, but we are making progress. I do miss my friends and family and we will make a trip back to the States for a family birthday next month. Skype helps.

So, far we haven't got out of the city much, but on Monday we are making a day trip to a national park with a couple of my classmates. This means hiring a van and driver to pick us up at 5:00 AM, drive for 2 hours to the park, meet an excellent guide whom we have used before, hike around looking at birds, elephants, gibbons, etc. all day and get home probably around 5:00 PM. Total cost for all four of us including lunch; around $150.

So, my point is, at least to this early stage, if you are considering retiring abroad, you can have a very good life outside of the US.
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Old 04-06-2012, 06:32 AM   #44
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Did you go to Bumrungrad International Hospital? That place is amazing. I had a physical there a couple of years ago.

St. Louis Hospital. I am sure Bumrungrad is very good, too. Apart from the luxuriousness, did you feel that you got a thorough checkup there?
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Old 04-06-2012, 06:44 AM   #45
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Oh definitely! They ran tests that I had never heard of, and that a US health care provider would never do for an annual physical. I also thought my consultation with the physician on the following day was quite useful. He didn't pull any punches in telling me what I needed to do.

Is your wife from Bangkok? The reason I ask is that most expats I know who have relocated there (mostly ex-State Department types) go to Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, or other cities in the north.

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St. Louis Hospital. I am sure Bumrungrad is very good, too. Apart from the luxuriousness, did you feel that you got a thorough checkup there?
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Old 04-06-2012, 06:51 AM   #46
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I notice among my classmates who are Asians, one Australian and a German, that they simply do not worry about either getting healthcare or being ruined financially by it. The relief that knowledge brings is just immense. I would be very reluctant to put myself back into the mess that is US healthcare and insurance.
One of my reasons for planning to retire to the UK is to get away form the US system and back into the NHS. Americans simply don't realize how ridiculous their system is when compared to 99% of foreign systems.
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Old 04-06-2012, 07:09 AM   #47
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I agree completely. The US health care system works best for those with subsidized health care--military, federal workers and the retirees of these groups. Yet I'm always surprised how many of these types I run into that would not permit the majority of their countrymen to enjoy a similar system.

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One of my reasons for planning to retire to the UK is to get away form the US system and back into the NHS. Americans simply don't realize how ridiculous their system is when compared to 99% of foreign systems.
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Old 04-06-2012, 07:57 AM   #48
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One of my reasons for planning to retire to the UK is to get away form the US system and back into the NHS. Americans simply don't realize how ridiculous their system is when compared to 99% of foreign systems.
You know, escaping the US health care system was not one of my main reasons for retiring abroad. Now that I have done so however, it is the single biggest benefit that I have experienced here.
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Old 04-06-2012, 08:06 AM   #49
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Oh definitely! They ran tests that I had never heard of, and that a US health care provider would never do for an annual physical. I also thought my consultation with the physician on the following day was quite useful. He didn't pull any punches in telling me what I needed to do.

Is your wife from Bangkok? The reason I ask is that most expats I know who have relocated there (mostly ex-State Department types) go to Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, or other cities in the north.
She's from Central Thailand, but we are both big city people and Bangkok is the only place that qualifies. It's much cheaper to live up country, of course, but, for just one example, you pretty much need to own a car to live in any of those places. I haven't owned a car in 30 years and wouldn't be willing to.

Is Bumrungrad your regular provider here or was that physical a one-shot deal?
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Old 04-06-2012, 08:41 AM   #50
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It was a one-shot deal. I was working at the US Embassy in Laos at the time and our nurse there recommended it to me. I was very satisfied with the experience and would definitely be a repeat customer.

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She's from Central Thailand, but we are both big city people and Bangkok is the only place that qualifies. It's much cheaper to live up country, of course, but, for just one example, you pretty much need to own a car to live in any of those places. I haven't owned a car in 30 years and wouldn't be willing to.

Is Bumrungrad your regular provider here or was that physical a one-shot deal?
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Old 04-06-2012, 09:58 AM   #51
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You know, escaping the US health care system was not one of my main reasons for retiring abroad. Now that I have done so however, it is the single biggest benefit that I have experienced here.
As I said in a post on another thread, the difference between Europe and the USA is how they view freedom. Europeans want 'freedom from' - things like hunger, poverty, bad health, etc. Americans tend to want 'fredom to' - do things as they wish, when they wish with nobody telling them no.
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Old 04-06-2012, 10:14 AM   #52
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As I said in a post on another thread, the difference between Europe and the USA is how they view freedom. Europeans want 'freedom from' - things like hunger, poverty, bad health, etc. Americans tend to want 'fredom to' - do things as they wish, when they wish with nobody telling them no.
Perhaps, but it seems to me unlikely that the differences in the social welfare systems are the necessary expression of cultural differences. Instead, the political processes have been captured by vested economic interests. With respect to health care, once the providers and insurers have managed to sequester 17% of the the biggest GDP in history, they are more than adequately funded to defend that stake.
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Old 04-06-2012, 11:18 AM   #53
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Not convinced. THIS American would like the freedom to live his life w/o the specter of financial ruin caused by medical catastrophe looming over him...

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As I said in a post on another thread, the difference between Europe and the USA is how they view freedom. Europeans want 'freedom from' - things like hunger, poverty, bad health, etc. Americans tend to want 'fredom to' - do things as they wish, when they wish with nobody telling them no.
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Old 04-06-2012, 08:51 PM   #54
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The reason I ask is that most expats I know who have relocated there (mostly ex-State Department types) go to Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, or other cities in the north.
Do they live there year around? Many of the people I know who live there leave for the 2-3 month burning season.

Feb. this year in Chiang Mai. The official daily stats for particulate matter are scarier than the photo.
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Old 04-06-2012, 09:44 PM   #55
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... Americans simply don't realize how ridiculous their system is when compared to 99% of foreign systems.
I'm tired of talk along those lines. We get it, we get it, we get it. We spend more, we have less to show for it. Too many people need to go to ER to get care. We get it.

Getting something positive done about it is the problem.


I do enjoy all the talk from people living outside the US. Great to her the 'on the ground' details. Lots of pluses, some challenges. Not for everyone, but still fun to listen in.

-ERD50
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Old 04-07-2012, 03:06 AM   #56
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They live there most of the year, with maybe 3-4 months back in the US each year. For the most part, they are males with Thai wives. So the wife can own land and they build really nice homes there. Also, they don't live in the cities, but outside somewhat, so the pollution and traffic issues don't affect them so much. Very lovely countryside up there.

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Do they live there year around? Many of the people I know who live there leave for the 2-3 month burning season.

Feb. this year in Chiang Mai. The official daily stats for particulate matter are scarier than the photo.
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Old 04-07-2012, 05:09 AM   #57
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In Cambodia right now, can't imagine living here for an extended period. But Viet Nam might work. Actually, have to get back to California and tend to DW's mom who is failing. Can't travel much until that resolves. In asia it seems pretty easy to get meds over the counter without a prescription. Not sure if that works for everything but everything we have needed so far.
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Old 04-07-2012, 07:55 AM   #58
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I agree: nothing stands out about Cambodia. It has a wilding element that lurks just beneath everyone's calm exterior. Vietnam would be awesome, I think, especially if you could speak Vietnamese. Laos has great potential as a retirement destination if they could ramp up the quality of health care.

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In Cambodia right now, can't imagine living here for an extended period. But Viet Nam might work. Actually, have to get back to California and tend to DW's mom who is failing. Can't travel much until that resolves. In asia it seems pretty easy to get meds over the counter without a prescription. Not sure if that works for everything but everything we have needed so far.
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Old 04-08-2012, 11:31 AM   #59
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This is a very informative thread and I’m glad to see it here. From our personal experience, the comments made here about the Thai culture and personal relationship approach rings true. Also, the excellent Thai medical care we have received, both in BKK and in Chiang Mai, is a very positive feature of living in Thailand.


Another thing on the topic of medical care which I find to be of value, is the availability of Chinese acupuncture, Ayurvedic medicine and massage therapy. Not every physical condition needs an X-ray, MRI, some pharmaceuticals or surgery. Having these options readily accessible is a plus.


I did have a question for the Australians here on the forum because I don’t know the answer. I did not see this topic specifically addressed so far in the thread, only the Medicare feature of Australia’s benefits. One of our Readers sent us the following note, and I’d like to know more about this subject if someone could inform me.


There are only 17 countries that have reciprocal social security agreements with Thailand. Australia is not one of them which is why we are not entitled to our "Aussie" pension if we continue to live here. Anyone considering retiring in Thailand needs to check if their particular home country is on the list. Americans, Brits are OK they get their pensions wherever they decide to hang their hats which is a wonderful thing. I know most of your followers would be American but as you have followers far and wide it might be worth mentioning to the general population this anomaly in the system so everyone knows to suss it out and do not get a helluva shock like we did.

Cheers!

M


Thanks for any insight.

Best,
Akaisha
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Old 04-11-2012, 09:39 AM   #60
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Interesting read. Your budget blows my mind, and I'm also a ThaiVisa member.

For people reading this thread and thinking of retiring to Thailand, this thread is not a typical story of expats in Thailand that I have met.
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