By Rachel Devlin
“What surprised me about moving here is how much I appreciate Chiang Mai…how different it is from the United States, how different it is… and how much better it is.”
“My biggest fear in retirement is waking up and not having a clue what I’m going to do that day,” says David Lucero.
But David’s fears never materialized…as he set off in search of an adventure abroad.
His journey began with an epiphany in his office. “In 2013, I was working in Houston, Texas, and at the time I was about 62 years old. I was working at a private equity firm and I was tired of spending 10-11 hours a day in front of a computer screen. computer. I always liked to travel so I started looking for things to do outside of the United States”
David discovered a multitude of teaching jobs abroad. “I found a teaching position in Yantai, China (Yentai University) and in early 2014, I went there for a year and stayed for four years.”
During this time, David used China as a base to explore Asia. “I have traveled to Central and Southeast Asia, including Cambodia, Laos and the Philippines. My brother had been to Chiang Mai 30 years ago and he suggested I go there.”
Chiang Mai is a city in northern Thailand known as the “Rose of the North”. With golden temples to explore, international restaurants and festivals to celebrate regularly, Chiang Mai is popular with tourists and expats alike. Although it has a warm to hot climate, Chiang Mai has a cool season and temperatures can dip into the 60s during the winter. It is an hour’s flight from Bangkok and has an international airport that serves destinations throughout Asia.
Nestled among the mountains, Chiang Mai offers a variety of lifestyles, including city living in a high-rise condo, suburban living, and country living with views of rice paddies and banana plantations.
“This city is great because it has a good population of expats. The size of the city suited me. Here you can go anywhere you want in 20 minutes by motorbike. Whatever your interest, go to Facebook and you will find a group in Chiang Mai. Hiking, walking, eating, golfing, whatever,” says David.
“When I got back to China, I realized that I really liked teaching, so when I got to Chiang Mai, I drove around a few schools that I had driven past and just walked in and I asked if they needed teachers. Teaching began to fill a void. I could teach as much or as little as I wanted, so I chose to teach 15 hours a week. I was not only paid about $9 an hour, but it was something I liked.
One day, someone suggested that David attend a Rotary meeting. At the meeting, he was asked if he was good at math. “They told me about a charity school helping Burmese migrant workers and they were looking for a math teacher to volunteer,” he recalls.
This meant that David could stay in Thailand on a volunteer visa. It is illegal to work or volunteer on a retirement visa in Thailand, so reputable places offer volunteer visas and pay the fees.
David’s volunteer teaching schedule is around 10 hours per week and is flexible so he has plenty of time for other travels, which he loves to do.
“My favorite place to travel is Koh Chang, the third largest island in Thailand after Phuket. It’s an eight-hour minibus ride from Bangkok. It has beautiful beaches and it’s relatively sparsely populated compared to other seaside towns.”
When David is not teaching and traveling, he is busy with the many social events that are an integral part of expat life in Chiang Mai.
“I joined a pool league and we play in bars and travel to a new place every week. I got involved through friends. I’ve never really played pool in the United States, but you get better. We play as a team. It’s just people. Getting together over a beer, playing pool.”
David says that when he arrived in Chiang Mai and was looking for activities online, he found a competitive bridge competition. “I used to play bridge when I was younger, but I hadn’t played for 30 years. They have a wonderful club here and they are mostly pensioners, but some are Thai and d ‘others are young digital nomads. They also run tournaments, so you meet players from out of this town and make friends. Some players are competitive but most of us are just there for a beer , make friends and have fun.
A big part of social life as an expat in Chiang Mai is the food scene. There are hundreds of restaurants in and around the city and since the food is so tasty and cheap, there’s never a reason to cook.
“My girlfriend cooks a lot of Thai food, so my favorite restaurant is not a Thai one. Ribs and Rump is my favorite restaurant.
“It’s inside the old town and the chef is Thai but he cooked in New Zealand for 10 years. They have a great rib eye that comes with either mashed potatoes or chips and ‘a salad. It’s about 300 baht or $9.’ David is renting a three-bedroom, three-story townhouse near Old Town for the low price of $537 per month. This means that there is plenty of room for visitors to us. Her water bill is less than $10 per month and, depending on her air conditioning usage, her electric bill ranges from $20 to $75 per month.
David says a good quality lifestyle here costs around $2,000 a month. His medical care is also affordable.
“I’m very lucky that I don’t have any underlying medical issues so it’s not high on my list, but I go to see a very knowledgeable English-speaking doctor at Ram Hospital and they test my blood and have a general health check: the doctor costs around 400 baht ($12) and blood tests and tests cost around 2,000 baht ($60).
“I have enough money in the bank in case I have a heart attack, but my medical insurance is really just a ticket home. I have accident insurance which is very cheap. It costs 6,000 baht ($180) a year and pays up to 300,000 baht ($9,000),” says David.
“What surprised me about moving here is how much I enjoy Chiang Mai,” says David, “how different it is from the United States, how different it is …and how much better it is.”
This story was originally published in International Living
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